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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence to G. W. M. Dunn


Dear 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 Will you entrust me with other things, however surpassed and out-of-date they now feel to you?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.


Source: DG 715-716  
Checked: dn/  
Last revised: 2 February 2006  

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