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Updated July 2012

T. E. Lawrence to Sir Ronald Storrs


13.IX.34.

Dear R.S.,

I have been away for a while, during which your p.c. sat on the edge of Southampton Water, peacefully, in blazing sunshine. If all of the years were like this, no man would need to go abroad.

I hope you are comfortably settled in London, without the urge to gad about.

Here are your K. articles, which I return because I know how rare fugitive writings become in time. Once I did three or four columns in the same paper, but I have never seen them since; they gave me the idea that newsprint is a bad medium for writing. The same stuff that would pass muster between covers looks bloodless between ruled lines on a huge page. Journalistic writing is all blood and bones, not for cheapness' sake, but because unnatural emphasis is called for. It's like architectural sculpture which has to be louder than indoor works of art.

So I'd say that these articles of yours read too 'chosen' for press-work; but that in a book they would be charming. You write with an air (as you talk: your conversation is a work of deliberate art, modelled on Harry Cust, and polished to perfection by long practice, great pains and great gifts) and airs need the confinement of walls or end papers or what-nots to flourish. But do airs flourish? I think they intensify, suffuse, intoxicate. Anyhow they are one of the best modes of writing, and I hope you will try to write, not fugitive pieces, but something sustained or connected by the thread of your life. Look, for instance, at Coleridge Kennard. There is a man of poses and artifices - yet his work, when set in an architectural frame, carries itself. If you can only find a line on which to string your stories you will make a very good book.

I've often said to you that the best bit of your writing I ever read was your dictated account of the report of an agent's interview, pre-revolt, with the Sherif of Mecca on his palace roof at night. If you could catch atmosphere and personality, bluntly, like that, it would be a very good book. These K. articles might be blunted. You'll have to use the word 'I' instead of the bland 'secretary': get more speed and harder hitting into your sentences. You talk superbly. It's only a matter of writing not more literarily than you talk, but less even. Anglo-Saxon words and the thumping surprises and brevities which you can bring off so well in speaking. Forget the despatch and the F.O. and try for the indiscreet Proconsul !

Yours

T.E.S.


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Source: DG 817-8
Checked: mv/
Last revised: 7 March 2006

 



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