Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to G. W. M. Dunn
When I got to Engines I said 'Hullo, this chap can write' and wondered who it was. Eventually I turned up your letter, to check if it was by yourself. I think this is about the best thing I can tell you about it. Detailed criticism is the only stuff worth having - plain praise being the most useless and boring stuff in the world - but the only people who can give you detailed criticism fit to help you are other craftsmen working themselves upon your job. Not being a poet I cannot venture towards you.
Yet this cannot be a phoenix - the only product of its sort from
your brain. Will you entrust me with other things, however surpassed and out-of-date they now feel to you? I should like to read more.
Next time I see Eddy Marsh I will tell him what you want about Brooke's letters. Brooke seems to have been a personality so dazzling that he took away his friends judgements. At least so I do read it, from what they said, and what poems he left behind him. I only saw him once. He looked startling.
I have been intending to write to you for long enough, but one thing and another soon make me put off the letter business. It seems to convey nothing when done.
Irruptions of R.A.F. work into my spare hours have prevented the finishing of that Odyssey translation upon which I depend for my spare cash, this summer. So I am tied here indefinitely till it is over. After that some road-burning, I hope. You may be yet within reach.
So please, more poems if permitted.
Use the adjectives which seem to your senses best fitting: it will then depend on the sanity of your senses whether others find them significant or not. Don't forget that a strain of vulgarity, in its best sense, is indispensable in the greatest art. Your precious artist, however real, comes second to the common man.
Heed no advice or criticism except from your peers.
T. E. Shaw.
|Last revised:||2 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