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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence to Lady Astor


13 Birmingham St.,
Southampton

31.XII.33

Yours, MI PIRESS, was the only Christmas greeting that I sent: and likewise this shall be my only conveyance for the New Year. O si sic omnes! Confess that my Christmas has been quieter than yours. As for warmth, my cottage (where I went, and by good fortune, for late one night an airman arrived 'to spend the holiday with me') depends for its degree of warmth upon the quantity of firewood its occupant cuts. That other airman and myself cut heaps of logs, and roasted and toasted - ourselves.

My cottage is lovely: but the drought has dried up all the other springs on the heath. So every neighbour draws, by bucket and cask and tub, from mine: and to satisfy their thirsts, I must forgo my bath. So it wasn't, probably, as clean a Christmas as yours.

On Christmas day it was mild and grey: so we walked for fourteen miles and dinnered off a tinned chicken. The long walk made it taste good.

And talking of Christmas presents, those of last year, the two heating lamps, have been doing great service all this cold spell in my cottage. I cannot light the bath-heater, because of the lack of water. So they alone have combatted the chill and the damp, most successfully. My books are as dry and well-off as ever in their poor lives.

One day last week (Wednesday I think it must have been) I came to London and registered my motor-bike for 1934. Also I asked after Sir Herbert Baker, who is going on well, regaining himself: and then a memory of a half-deciphered sentence in your last letter caused me to ring up St. James' Square. You were reported absent. I felt glad that you had better things to do.

I am sorry about the dark lady, and rather frightened. Where is safety, if I am rumoured to have lost my heart to a lady of sixty, upon once visiting her after lunch to apologise for not lunching? A lady whom I had met for the first time at Lympne in the summer? It is rather hard, I think. Probably it would be wholesome for me to lose my heart - if that monstrous piece of machinery is capable of losing itself: for till now it has never cared for anyone, though much for places and things. Indeed I doubt these words of 'hearts'. People seem to my judgement to lose their heads rather than their hearts. Over the Christmas season two men and four women have sent me fervent messages of love. Love carnal, not love rarefied, you know: and I am uncomfortable towards six more of the people I meet, therefore. It's a form of lunacy, I believe, to fancy that all comers are one's lovers: but what am I to make of it when they write it in black on white? If only one might never come nearer to people than in the street. Miss Garbo sounds a really sympathetic woman! The poor soul. I feel for her.

I would now like to turn to happier things, and be brisk for a last paragraph: but no use. Those two in China have been silent for a month, which means lost letters or uncivil unrest across their line of communications. They were wrong to court martyrdom thus inaccessibly.

As for my boats - do not credit all that you read in the daily papers, or even the weekly one. I ran that first boat two seasons ago, indeed, but only till I saw she worked. Mute inglorious airmen took my place and have carried on since. (Not so mute either!)

I enclose a fragment of some daily paper, sent me by Augustus John. It made me laugh.

Ave atque vale

T.E.S.

O'Casey? Shawn? Indeed yes, I have just finished his new play. The second act of The Silver Tassie was my greatest theatre experience, and here is a whole play in that manner. It will play better than it reads.

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Source: DG 787-9
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 21 January 2006

 



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