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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence to Robert Graves


Plymouth

24.1.33

Come off it, R.G.! Your letter forgets my present [state]. It is so long since we met that you are excused knowing that I'm now a fitter, very keen and tolerably skilled on engines, but in no way abstract. I live all of every day with real people, and concern myself only in the concrete. The ancient self-seeking, and self-devouring T.E.L. of Oxford (and T.E.S. of the Seven Pillars and Mint) is dead. Not regretted either. My last ten years have been the best of my life. I think I shall look back on my 35-45 period as golden.

Enough of myself: but understand that I enjoy books and pictures and sights and sounds more than I ever did: and new books and new sounds, still. Taste with me has not yet stood still, nor retreated into its past. I am alive and capable with most of our daily emergencies.

Now regard yourself. Recall the hundreds of times we have met and talked. You cannot know how much I have seen in you, and learned of you - but please take it for written. R.G. has been a main current influencing my life, for nearly 15 years.

Wherefore it is, and always will be, that any line from you matters more than screeds from others. I know you – almost: and I do not know S.S. or any of my other past. I think Frederic Manning, and an Armenian, called Altounyan, and E.M. Forster are the three I most care for, since Hogarth died.

Of course, there are many people here, in the R.A.F., with whom one lives. And they are well enough: but it is the life of the mechanic: concrete, superficial, every-day: unlike that past excitement into which the war plunged me. I know the excitement in me is dead, and happier so: but the three or four big contacts remain as memories at least.

I said 'as memories', for in my new life I am grown hard of hearing. It is disuse of the pineal ear! . . . I read the the thing* several times before answering: and now I have read it and your letter again, carefully: and I'm damned if I have the foggiest idea what it and you are driving at. Further, I'm prepared to swear that did the Air Ministry similarly word their instructions issued in A.M. W.O.'s, not a station in the R.A.F. would comprehend.

Be merciful, Lord, and explain it again, but very plainly, in text-book language. A text-book was the last thing I wrote. A Handbook to 37½ foot motor boats of the 200 class… and I pride myself that every sentence in it is understandable, to a fitter.

Now then, preach -

Yours

T.E.S.

* The reference is to what Graves described as 'some critical work that Laura Riding, myself and some others were engaged in' [B:RG p. 169]

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Source: DG 759-60, B:RG 169-70
Checked: dn/
Last revised: 19 July 2008


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