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Updated July 2012

T. E. Lawrence to Lord Lloyd



Dear G.L.,

I find the following notes tucked into the back of your very-much-enjoyed-and-valued Vol II:

Eloquence of p. 1. Pity G. didn't oftener let himself go in pure writing. He does it with rhythm and selectivity.

And his biblical suggestion for our Middle East interest is subtle and persuasive. The decay in bible reading may lie at the root of some of our present incuriousness.

P.9. He apologises for a subjectivity of narration - would that it were so. He writes with the far-away and rather regretful omniscience of the gods.

He does not make any too clear the very mixed reception by the Cabinet of the Milner report - and the way it was deliberately shelved by Winston etc.

He gives some life to that procession of dummy frock-coats called 'Ministers' in Egypt  - Rushdi, Said, Adly, Nessim, Tewfik and the rest. Not one of them ever mattered for a moment. There were only 3 parties, us, the King's, and Zaglul. In politics (as apart from statesmanship) the moderate is a vehicle only, a negligible quantity, expressing or conveying only the impulses of the minority that knows what it wants - or does not want. I think one of the faults of the High Commissioner system was that he met too many pashas.

1. My statement, when they offered me the succession to Allenby, was that I'd shut up the Residency, except as offices, take a room in Shepheards, and ride about Cairo and the Delta on my motor-bike:- and yet 'run' the Government of Egypt, from underneath! Out-Eldoning Gorst, if I may put it so.


p. 51. G. slates Curzon -  excellently - for his silly letter.

p. 58. Winston tried to get my consent to take Allenby's place, and so to accept his resignation at this moment. I think G. ought to have said what Allenby did in London, subsequently.

p. 76. Did anybody really care a hang about the Election?

p. 79. The High Commissioner couldn't meet Zaghlul, and wouldn't (quite rightly) support the King. No third course was open to him. To coquette with the Moderates was a waste of time. Zaghlul was so big that till he died no other Egyptian could hope to lead.

p. 102. George puts his finger on the weakness of our position in Egypt. We cannot assist our cause by using force, which is our only final resort. If our army and navy are helpless, what can the High Commissioner do? His chapter on Stack's murder is good - barring the relegation of Antonius to the Preface. Our ultimatum erred profoundly in two ways - by putting the half million indemnity in our pocket (we had not morally earned it - except by our mistakes) and by introducing the Gezira irrelevancy. A nation of shopkeepers, even at moments of high tragedy.

p. 113. Goodbye to Allenby. It was a pity that the old soldier ever took on the political job. You are kind to him, here.

2. Your book is too consistently kind. The Black Panther should spring, often, and kill sometimes. This Dickensian bonhomie can be overdone. Odd that you should be thought a case-hard reactionary!

It was a pity that G.L. did not write a plain page to tell his unskilled readers the truth about the Egyptian Monarchy. I know and he knows: but the public don't - and should. It explains much of our impotence in Egypt, I think.

p. 122. 'Selected' - not the right word.

p. 123. The Sudan was a detail. I'd have cut this chapter by 900/0, and kept to my main line.

p. 140 onwards. Yes, I know. You harp ever so often on the Declaration of 1922. It gets almost like the Head of King Charles. I wonder when it became so much your foreground: not till after your leaving Egypt, I fancy. To select one of our 46 or so Declarations upon Egypt, and elect to fight upon it is tactics: and you are above all a man of principle. I had rather have seen you declare 'My object in accepting Egypt was to save as much from the wreck as I could, by playing for time, by keeping our official mouth shut, by strengthening our position in Egypt, by cold-storing the F.O.' Your professions upon 1922 read like lip-service.

p. 150. You should have been blunter about Jarabub, and how you put it across the Palace: and you take just the right note, I suppose, about Nashaat. At both these points I should have sunk the Proconsul in the Person, and uttered yawps of some vigour.

p. 156. Admirable. I only wish you had had someone like me out there with you. Your dignity, with a merry devil of an assistant on the staff, might have stirred up an agrarian movement that would have side-tracked politics in Egypt for a generation.

p. 164. Good. Your dry humour tells. Your narrative of the crisis in the next few pages is lively, clear, worthy. A very good chapter. Chapter xi also good writing. Excellent thumbnails in the portraits of Ministers. If only you didn't keep yourself so neat, always. The book is too judicial, too sober, too good.

3. At this juncture let me remind you of the eleven hats, (hats for the Court, for the Play, for the walk-round-the-park, for the train, for grouse-shooting, for golf for the House of Lords, for Cowes, for going to the Pictures) which are to be counted on the marble table to the right of your hall door. They are significant.

p. 188. I should have welcomed, here, an attack upon the absentee landlordism of Egypt, and the ineptitude of the tenants: with an economic digression upon the financing of the cotton crop.

The Army Crisis. Two chapters is a lot for this. My opinion of the Egyptian Army wouldn't take that much to express. I fancy you deal with it so elaborately because you want a hit at poor Baldwin: and to exemplify the deepening rifts between you and Downing Street. It is the beginning of your down-curve. I wonder who the F.O. critic of you was? You ought to have named him, I think, and explored his motives.

4. Nobody lets daylight into the corridors of the F.O. Why not? Why should those clerks be kept in cotton wool? A little fresh air and exercise would colour their pallid faces.

You are very good on the stupidity of the Sarwat and other negotiations with H.M.G. Your picture of our Cabinet is damning. Very good, too, on the death of Zaghlul. Egypt has marked time since, awaiting a new tyrant.

5. Of course Zaghlul was echt-Egyptian: it just shows how the natural leader will be of Nile blood, and not a Turk or Albanian pasha. First Arabi, then Zaghlul.

p. 233. 'I could entertain little hope of a treaty.' In fact, you were getting on quite nicely without one, and saw no need of it.

p. 235. You should have quitted at this point. You and London were walking different, and diverging, roads.

p. 274. Assemblies Bill. A curious history. What did you intend to do if the Ultimatum had not been accepted? I think you were too greedy in your advice. The Egyptian Cabinet gave way, and your success would only have embittered them. We gained the substance.

p. 277. You and Austen probably rubbed your hands over the action of King Fuad -  but he's a poor creature. I prefer the Wafd! To be complete the book needed an outspoken pen-portrait of Fuad.

p. 295. Awful storm-in-a-teacup, this question of local taxation. It gives the notion that Whitehall were determined to pick a quarrel with you - or were looking with grave suspicion at your views.

p. 303. 'The Egyptian Government was convinced'... yes: but the Labour Government didn't esteem your Egyptian Prime Minister. Their leaning was towards the Wafd. Muhammed Mahmud wasn't, in their eyes, much more of a democrat than yourself. Your ideal of administrative stability and no politics was their notion of hell.

I don't pay much attention to your next pages. No Labour Government could resist the temptation to recall you. It meant so much credit in the Daily Herald, at no cost to themselves. You overstate it when you complain that 'grave charges' were brought against yourself. Your recall did you more good than your appointment - and you know it. If Winston had kept his mouth shut, your pinnacle would have been even higher than it is. What has harmed you, politically, has been your breach with Austen and Baldwin. To be sacked by the Labour Government was glorious: to have been at odds with the Tory chiefs is less assuring.

Your selection of the 1922 Declaration for your basis does not convince me. You ignore the Declarations of 1919, 1920 and 1921. You flout the Declarations of 1923 and 1924. If there were few in 1925 and 1926 and 1927 that was your fault: as High Commissioner you very selfishly refused to let the British Government go on declaring itself. They managed a couple as soon as you went; but since then the fashions have changed, and declaring is becoming a lost art. I suspect you of liking the 1922 model.

6. You can write pages of moving, sonorous, and yet nervy prose. It is a very good book. Egypt has been fortunate in her historians.

The concluding chapter slowly rises in tone to a really touching height. Nobody can finish it without rather liking you, for the truth is that you are a fundamentally likeable person, quite human, quite modest, and disarmingly unsure of yourself. You only pontificate and snarl and thump the table to convince your own mind. By nature G.L. is a little bit of a poet, [seven words omitted] and liberal. He has made himself, is quick-minded, eager in well-doing, and not patient. He suffers stupid people too long, and is too anxious to do the right thing, to the sacrificing of his own wishes. If he were slightly more selfish, and had fewer loyalties, he would be a great individual success in politics. As it is, he will always be the despair of his friends and the chief target of his enemies. One of his queer traits is to like his enemies and to be liked by them - more than his friends. 'Friends' and 'enemies' used only in respect of politics. No parallel is to be drawn as concerns such private people as his


Who very much enjoyed the book, and is very proud to be on (occasional) writing terms with him.

Caveat. The original notes were quite short, and had to be translated to be intelligible. But this fairly copies them.


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Source: DG 819-24
Checked: mv/
Last revised: 7 March 2006


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