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T. E. Lawrence to William Rothenstein

Mount Batten


Dear W.R.

I did get the Cresswell book: long ago: and I am a miserable sinner. Only not without redeeming feature, for the book made me write to Ede about it, and he told Cresswell, who has sent me his Poems as well: (and I have not yet written to him about them. Another sin. Alas).

The book was queer. Something real to say, and a borrowed voice to say it in. That was queer, because Cresswell is not young enough to be permitted affectations. I felt, however, all through that behind the style a quite honest personality was hiding. He has, I'm told, won a good deal of credit and some abuse for the book. So perhaps he will be encouraged to go further. Anybody who writes a very good first book is doomed.

Have you read Other Man's Saucer? My last sentence brought it suddenly to mind. If its characters are imagined, then he's a coming author. If they are his own circle, then he's not. It is as striking, in its way, as The White Peacock of 1912, was it? Heinemann published it, this year.

In the other direction I commend Algernon Blackwood's Dudley and Gilderoy. Yes, I know that normally he is no good: but this and his Autobiography and The Centaur are different. This is much the best. Very distinguished indeed.

Geoffrey Dennis I do not think I know at all. I shall taste him with pleasure. Often I ask people for the names of 'under-30's', fellows whose second book is better than their first, and who are not yet thirty. Only they will so seldom tell me of one. There must be several promising things in the offing; for the war is, thank God, at last over and done with. The poor old war creatures bore everybody so much that we give them too little credit, I fancy. Yet Sassoon's books; Manning's; War Birds; Ermytage and the Curate; all those stick in my mind: and so will Salute to Guns, I fancy, though I read it too lately to say for sure. Sassoon comes out on top of all us war-timers, I think. More vigour, more grace and swiftness of movement, more fire and heat - that's in his poetry - and more tranquil charm, in his prose. S.S. strikes me as probably a great writer, all in all.

Wasn't it delightful to find Manning coming out so suddenly as a real flesh-and-blood figure. Beautiful as are Scenes and Epicures, ever so much more worth while is Her Privates We.


T.E. Shaw

Source: DG 703-4
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 31 January 2006

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