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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence to Edward Garnett

13 Birmingham St.


So long since I wrote. So long since I went to Hilton. "Mr. Garnett" said the village postman importantly "is gone to Spain". "Mr. Garnett is unfortunate" I replied, for it was a lovely green day under the trees; and the postman deflated.

Now one advantage of writing so seldom is that I have two things to say. The first concerns The Mint, whose copyright vests in the R.A.F. Chief of Staff for the time. Geoffrey Salmond, who was unlike any other Chief of Staff, was reading it when he died, and in the confusion of his papers The Mint was lost. So there goes one typescript. I amuse myself imagining some scandalised staff officer filing it away in the Ministry.

And my other thing is an airman poet. I do not know if he is good or not. Both, I think, in patches. But he is a mechanic, and clouds and engines enter his verses naturally, as things he feels. I get warm then: but chill off again when he gets magniloquent, or chalice-ridden. He has read too much of Hopkins (G. Manley. H) and finds sense in his imagery, where I see only formation. Dunn, his name is. I have asked him to type out some of his poems, and they will come to you for judgement. I know you do not much read poems, but all the better. It will be a change.

My reading this year? In poetry the new de la Mare, which is an advance: and Auden (in spots) Spender (ditto) Archibald McLeish (fluid and good). By the way, did anything ever happen to one Henderson (?) who published through Cape a long poem of W. Raleigh sailing amongst the stars?

In prose. Eimi by Cummings. Not so good as The Enormous Room, for his style disintegrates and not integrates, this time. Too pointillé. But the best things I've ever read on modern Russia, all the same. Then The Book of Talbot, an act of worship by Violet Clifton. Very whole-hearted. A life of his boyhood, by a Blasket Islander: too full of unshed tears, but good enough. Log of the Sea by Felix Riesenberg. His notebooks, re-written by a sea captain who had taken pains to learn writing. Captain Bottell by Hanley. Not quite a success, but nearer it (damn him) than any book he has hitherto written. Rather a vintage year, for books.

John Buchan puzzles me. Did you read his latest? He takes figures of to-day and projects their shadows onto clouds, till they grow surhuman and grotesque: then describes them! Now I ask you - it sounds a filthy technique, but the books are like athletes racing: so clean-lined, speedy, breathless. For our age they mean nothing: they are sport, only: but will a century hence disinter them and proclaim him the great romancer of our blind and undeserving generation? You have only to try and read Walter Scott, after Buchan, to feel the rolling of the years.

Enough rubbish. My pen will dry before I get the envelope written.


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Source: DG 772-3
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 20 January 2006


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