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T. E. Lawrence to Edward Marsh


Cattewater
Plymouth

19.3.29.

Dear E.M.

I can't do that. It would be to arrogate to myself a claim to literary judgement, on the strength of one book produced under stress of external circumstances. A castaway on a desert island might similarly build himself a raft - without being a shipwright in after life. Writers are people who go on spinning their experiences into books, for sheer love of it, or inability to refrain. It's for this feeling that I wasn't really of the craft that I've stopped reviewing.

I hope S.S. will understand. I enjoy his work, because it touches nearer to my own train of mind than the work of anyone else publishing. Every verse of his makes me say 'I wish to God I'd said that': and his fox-hunting gave me a shock of astonishment that he was so different and so good to know. If I was trying to export the ideal Englishman to an international exhibition, I think I'd like to choose S.S. for chief exhibit. Only I wouldn't dare, really, to give him a prize. Some day, perhaps, if I wrote more, I might qualify for one at his hands. Only I have nothing to write, now.

If that happy day arrives I shall cut the ceremony: which would be rather a spavined ceremony, perhaps, without a prize-winner. I hope S.S. will turn up, this year. It is a very good thing you are honouring him. There have been some good Hawthornden books: but none better than these two. Yet what a horrible ordeal for him to sit there, eating, while people get up and say so!

Cattewater has been very cold, so far, but is a friendly-feeling and tiny camp, with sea on three sides, and barbed wire across the root of the peninsular. I think it is going to be all right. The sea is only 30 yards from my window!

I should thank you for the honour of your invitation: and shall feel that way about it so soon as it is safely refused.

Yours

T.E.S.

Source: DG 643-644
Checked: dn/
Last revised: 22 January 2006


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