T. E. Lawrence to E.M. Forster
We have had an idyllic two and a half months here, under the best and kindest C.O. of my experience. Now he is on the point of going. We hope the new C.O. will be easy on our comfort-loving souls. When Miranshah is good, it is very good. In August and September it was horrible.
The last sentence of your letter wants me to ask you to return the 'Oxford' Seven Pillars to Wilson. Why should you, except to rid yourself of an incubus? It is large, and, I fear ugly: and very hard to read: but curious, too: don't forget it's what's called a 'collector's piece'. Some swine would call your Blake a collector's piece: but they are wrong. I wish I could sit under your small (or big) trees and read a song or two songs of innocence, tomorrow.
Probably it's icy cold, and you are sitting near the fire, feeding the cat on buttered toast - if cats eat buttered toast. Cats are wiser than dogs. Yes, I assure you, it is cold here. Our ring of mountains has 4000 feet of snow on it: but we have tons of wood, and I have a fire all to myself in the office, where I do everything but sleep. Life is good.
Did I tell you I'm making the 25th (rotten) translation of the Odyssey into English? They offered me £800 to do it all*, and I fell for the cash, and do not yet regret it, though it is an impossible job to do well, and a heart-breaking job to botch. However botched it certainly is.
I think the Odyssey is mock-heroic: a sort of Selfridge-Epic: more like Sigurd the Volung than Marmion. It's awfully well written: clever as seven devils: and very hard to put into clear English. It's Wardour Street, itself, in Greek and all rings false. But gorgeous. I wish I had written the Odyssey and not the Seven Pillars. I say, the S.P. won't be easy to translate!
I read The Well of Loneliness: and was just a little bored. Much ado about nothing.
As you say, happiness doesn't 'write' well. I don't know any entirely happy book: - unless it's The Private papers of Henry Rycroft.
Can you give me Posh's address? I must write to the little sinner.
Middleton I did write to, lately.
|Last revised:||20 January 2006|
T. E. Lawrence chronology
1888 16 August: born at Tremadoc, Wales
1896-1907: City of Oxford High School for Boys
1907-9: Jesus College, Oxford, B.A., 1st Class Hons, 1909
1910-14: Magdalen College, Oxford (Senior Demy), while working at the British Museum's excavations at Carchemish
1915-16: Military Intelligence Dept, Cairo
1916-18: Liaison Officer with the Arab Revolt
1919: Attended the Paris Peace Conference
1919-22: wrote Seven Pillars of Wisdom
1921-2: Adviser on Arab Affairs to Winston Churchill at the Colonial Office
1922 August: Enlisted in the Ranks of the RAF
1923 January: discharged from the RAF
1923 March: enlisted in the Tank Corps
1923: translated a French novel, The Forest Giant
1924-6: prepared the subscribers' abridgement of Seven Pillars of Wisdom
1927-8: stationed at Karachi, then Miranshah
1927 March: Revolt in the Desert, an abridgement of Seven Pillars, published
1928: completed The Mint, began translating Homer's Odyssey
1929-33: stationed at Plymouth
1931: started working on RAF boats
1932: his translation of the Odyssey published
1933-5: attached to MAEE, Felixstowe
1935 February: retired from the RAF
1935 19 May: died from injuries received in a motor-cycle crash on 13 May
1935 21 May: buried at Moreton, Dorset