Cookie policy: on we use analytics cookies to understand how visitors use the site. The anonymous information they provide suggests improvements and alerts us to technical errors. For more information, see our cookies page, which also explains how to block or remove cookies.  Search T. E. Lawrence Studies

Contents lists

Updated July 2012

T. E. Lawrence to his mother


6 April 1934

There, it is a Saturday and late in the evening. I am at Southampton, in my lodging, with a little fire against the cold of the night. At Clouds Hill Mrs. Roberts is inhabiting the cottage. She arrived unexpectedly, after a holiday at Weymouth which exhausted her money and drove Roberts himself back to London to raise more. She moved to Winfrith to await it - and came to see Mrs. Knowles on the Thursday when I was at last able to reach Clouds Hill after three weeks in the North and at sea. I suggested she move to the cottage for a few days, till the money comes. It will not be long - for on the 14th Chambers (ex R.A.F.) comes to the cottage for a fortnight’s camping-holiday.

Two letters of yours came, almost together. By them I learn that your two years abroad may lengthen. I had been expecting you home soon, and was beginning to wonder where you would settle to live. The cottage will be my home, then; and I have arranged it accordingly, to fit me. It will be difficult even to put up a visitor, the place is so 'one-man' now. Probably when you come to see it, I shall give you the cottage, and camp myself in the little work-room by the pool.

The cottage is nearly finished. The book-room lacks only its fender-cum-log-box. Then it is complete. The bath-room lacks only its bathmat; and the boiler its final lagging of asbestos plaster. The upstairs room is complete, but for its beam-candle-sconce. The food-room alone remains to arrange. I plan to sheath its walls with aluminium foil: to fit an old ship's-bunk across the dark end, complete with drawers: to arrange its food-shelf, its table, perhaps a chair. Then Clouds Hill cottage is finished - no, I forgot a cast-iron fireback for the book-room, and an air-vent to make the fire draw. But these are all small jobs, and could be finished in two months, if I had the time for them. As it is, I can attend to the place only by fits and starts, and so it drags on interminably.

Our last doing was to sheath the bath-room walls in sheet cork, laid on in slabs twelve inches by seven, and a sixteenth of an inch thick. These were glued to the walls and partition and doors and frames, bonded like bricks, in their vertical courses, with the horizontal courses shingled - the upper course overlapping the lower by about an eighth of an inch. The cork cost about 15/-, and has done the job excellently. Its grain and colour are beautiful. I do not know how age will change it. Today it is as good as any room I've seen. We have also hung the door-leathers to the book-room and the upstairs room, on hinged door-rods of wrought iron. They are in natural cow-hide, and very successful. Pat works steadily at roofing the water-pool, which has now been full for six weeks, and does not leak at all. That is 7,000 gallons of water. Your letter asks how would we make it flow up-hill, if there is a fire? Why, by the camp fire-engine, which is a powerful pump. In an hour it would pump the whole pool dry - but that hour's water would probably save our places.

The pool is not finished: it has still to be rendered over inside in fine cement; but we will not do that till the roof is finished, as rain or cold or the dust of a high wind would damage the final cementing.

So Pat is now roofing it, slowly and single-handed. He has nearly finished the wooden framing and the sash-bars. Next week the floors of my little study at its N. end, and the entrance-porch at the S. end will be laid. Then the Jeddah gates go in, to form the N. wall. They are just the right width, though unnecessarily high. However we cannot cut them down, so we have made the study too high, instead. Then the glass will arrive, and be fixed into place. Then the pool is finished. About May 15, I think. The last act will be to visit my Bank and find out what income I shall have left, to live on, after it all. Of course, at the worst, I can do some sort of editing or translating work, to help me out.

Meanwhile I have the tanks running back and forward along my hill-. top boundary, to tear a bare way through the heather and heath. This will make an efficient fire-guard, against fires sweeping in across the plain. So between this and the water-pool I shall feel safer, this year. The weather is still dry, and it bodes badly for the summer, from the point of fires. Already there has been a fire near Bere Regis, besides several in Hampshire and Kent. My spring is improving a little, thanks to rains in March. It is up to about 450 gallons a day, as against 350. Normal is between seven and eight hundred. I fear we shall not see that this year; but I feel that a total failure of the supply is now unlikely. If we have a normal summer, with some wet spells, we should get through successfully.

Easter I passed in a little R.A.F. ship, of 300 tons, which took us for her trial trip from Liverpool to Devonport. Three of us, as passengers, and a crew of 19. Now she has gone on, towards Singapore, her final station. A slow little cargo-ship, to ferry R.A.F. stores from the port there to the R.A.F. Base. I have not done anything else of note, lately. That newspaper report of my training crews for a target boat referred, I suppose, to a week I spent at Bridlington in 1932. At least I can think of no other ground for the story.

I'd better repeat, in case the last batches of letters have been lost (many obviously are, by the irregular arrival of what do come to me) that your two cheques both came - many thanks. Also the Odyssey arrived, none the worse for wear. I gave it to Arnie, who happened to arrive at Clouds Hill almost as it did and as I did.


Back to top

Source: HL 389-90
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 15 February 2006


Copyright, privacy, contact | Cookies help