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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence to John Buchan

Mount Batten


Dear J.B.

This is disastrous. A day or two ago I got a letter from St. Andrews, asking if I'd take a Doctor of Laws in May next. I naturally concluded it was a student leg-pull, and sent it cheerfully back to the address given, saying that it was no go. How could I be expected to imagine it was serious?

Now it seems you were at the bottom of it, and they meant it. It feels an incredible thing to have happened. I thought that honorary degrees were only given to more or less important people. St. Andrews is a charming little spot, and I loved its University: I'd have liked to have wrapped it up in a clean napkin, like a Stilton, and kept it on my side-table for an ornament. It seemed to me almost the ideal spot for taking learning to one's mistress.

How am I to get out of it now? It would mean endless trouble.

1) Leave for the occasion.
2) Plain clothes? - only airmen are now forbidden plain clothes.
3) A lot of money... calculated on my pay of 27/- a week.
4) A lot of publicity. Lord Thomson put all sorts of silly restrictions on me last September: to stop flying, and drop Winston and Philip Sassoon and Lady Astor and Austen and Birkenhead: he would undoubtedly sack me if I appeared in public at St. Andrews.

Of course I can see that these things can be got round - but only by influence, which leaves always a soreness behind its application. The Labourites think I'm an imperial spy, and the Die-hards thought I was a bolshie, and Lord T. says I'm a self-advertising mountebank. So it would be better for me if the matter could quietly drop. The mere being taken into consideration for an honorary degree it is the honour of it. They've conferred that on me: won't they drop the actual degree, as it would do me harm? You can wangle that as you have (undoubtedly) wangled the other! Try... please.

It was exceedingly nice of you. I don't think I have ever been so surprised in my life.

Plymouth remains excellent. We live most excellently and amusedly, and the whole situation is happy. This R.A.F. is a good solution of most difficulties. That is why I cling to it so closely, and do not want to imperil myself.


T E Shaw

[3 lines omitted]

Source: DG 685-6
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 2 February 2006

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