T. E. Lawrence to Noël Coward
I was at the second night, and wondered to see how perfectly the finished product went. Just once it slipped, when she drew the curtains and the daylight took 20 seconds to come! Yet I'm not sure that the bare works you showed me that afternoon were not better. For one thing, I could not tell always when you were acting and when talking to one another. So I would suggest my coming to another rehearsal, only there seems nothing to prevent these plays of yours running for ever, and so you probably will never write any more.
Gertrude Lawrence is amazing. She acts nearly as well as yourself. I was sorry for the other two. They were out of it.
The play reads astonishingly well. It gets thicker, in print, and has bones and muscles. On the stage you played with it and puffed your fancies up and about like swansdown. And one can't help laughing all the time: whereas over the book one does not do worse than chuckle or smile. For fun I took some pages and tried to strike redundant words out of your phrases. Only there were none. That's what I felt when I told you it was superb prose.
You'll be sick of letters about it, so I'll shut up. Yet I had to tell you how much delight it gave me.
T. E. Shaw
Note: Lawrence had seen Coward's play Private Lives
|Last revised:||1 February 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