Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to Frederic Manning
No, it wasn't Rothenstein: and I cannot get up to London this week. Now-a-days I'm lucky to fetch London once in three months, and it is only a month since I was there. As for the authorship of the book - the preface gives it away. It is pure Scenes and Portraits. How long, I wonder, before everybody knows? You need not worry at their knowing. It is a book everyone would have been proud and happy to have written.
Of course I'm ridiculously partial to it, for since 1922 my home has been in the ranks, and Bourne says and thinks lots of the things I wanted to have said. But don't imagine that I'm anything like so much of a lad as he was. The R.A.F. is as gentle as a girl's school, and none of us drink.
I have read too many war books. They are like drams, and I cannot leave them alone, though I think I really hate them. Yours however, and Cummings' Enormous Room and War Birds seem to me worth while. War Birds is not literature but a raw sharp life. You and Cummings have produced love-poems of a sort, and yours is the most wonderful, because there is no strain anywhere in the writing. Just sometimes you seem to mix up the 'one's' and 'his's': but for that, it is classically perfect stuff. The picture about 2/3rds through of the fellows sliding down the bank and falling in preparatory to going up for the attack, with the C.O.'s voice and the mist - that is the best of writing.
I have read Her Privates We twice, and the Middle Parts of Fortune once, and am now deliberately leaving them alone for awhile, before reading them again. The airmen are reading the Privates, avidly: and E.M. Forster (who sent me a paean about the Privates) has The Middle Parts. Everyone to whom I write is loudly delighted with the Privates. I hope the sales will do you good.
Peter Davies is trying to use my dregs of reputation as one more lever in the sales. Do not let that worry you. Adventitious sales and adventitious advertisements are very soon forgotten: the cash will remain with you, and your book be famous for as long as the war is cared for - and perhaps longer, for there is more than soldiering in it. You have been exactly fair to everyone, of all ranks: and all your people are alive.
This is not a very sensible letter: I am very tired, and this weather gets me down: only I owed it to you to thank you for the best book I have read for a very long time. I shall hope to meet you some day and say more - and bore you by saying it - for what is so dead as a book one has written?
|Last revised:||31 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