T. E. Lawrence to Edward Marsh
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.
|Last revised:||22 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