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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence to Edward Garnett

13 Birmingham St.,


Dear E.G.,

I am back from an extended Bank-holiday-with-work to find your letter waiting. It alarms me rather, for I read a note of urgency into your wish to arrange yourself. This I hope is not true. I am not young enough any longer to see Time as an infinity before me: and God knows that life's goodnesses are too rare to be worth delaying for. But I would like myself and those I care for to pack off all together. Your going too soon would leave another such emptiness as is Hogarth's place always in my mind.

So this begins by wishing you not long life, but longer.

The picture is due now, for my cottage is being Odyssey-finished into the perfect place for my living. By the end of summer (surely this is the finest summer in the history of England?) it will be complete and need only its inhabitant who has yet 18 months of R.A.F. service to do.

If you have packers at all (a pastel is very delicate) then Wool Station on the Southern Railway is the spot. Any article that arrives there, addressed to Mr. Shaw, Clouds Hill, is delivered to my door.

If you have no packer, then please send it by hand to No.2, Smith Square, Westminster, where Sir Herbert Baker affords me a London home. I will find it there when I next come to London, and will take it over and home by hand.

You know I already possess John's picture of Feisal, the sketch: so thanks to your goodness in reserving me the Allenby I shall have my dual mastership preserved in my cottage for all my time. It will be a queer, rich feeling. In the flesh that double allegiance was difficult: but the two quiet heads on the wall will let me do what I please. I shall grow philosophical, at finding that problem solve itself.

I tried to thank you before. You are not rich enough to fairly make me a present of that size (only by splitting will that infinitive suit my taste) but it is a present that never left me any choice. As unlikely would be the drowning man's asking to know the price of straw. It is so good of you: so happy.

I hark back to the first paragraph, and hope you are not feeling like that. You must not stay here just to please us: but I hope you still want to stay a while. Hearts usually last a man out, if he is kind to them. We grow old, Sirs: all of us grow old. Have I done my best, do you think? My prime is past. In it I worked my hardest at digging Hittites (that labour went unrecorded down the stream), at the war (history is written after 100 years), at The Seven Pillars (which I feel is partly theatre), at The Mint, which was my purest achievement, though still-born. May I rest now? All the heat in me is gone out, and the endurance that was tougher than other men's.

Bother the New Statesman, and the Odyssey, and all manufactured writing. Only the necessary, the inevitable, the high-pressure stuff is worth having. If the regiment of authors agreed, how easily would readers keep abreast of output! By your standard Buchan is nowhere: or rather he is with all but three or four living names.

Irishmen are disappointing men. They go so far, magnificently, and then cease to grow. They bring forth more promise and less fruition than the rest of the English world massed against them. Give me the man whose first book is not marvellous, whose second is better, and whose third is different. Greatness in writing is a tree with many branches. You do not see it till the tree is old.


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Source: DG 773-5
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 20 January 2006


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