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Updated July 2012

T. E. Lawrence to C. Day Lewis

Royal Air Force,


Dear Day Lewis,

It feels odd to write to a book or two: which is, I suppose, what I am doing. You could say 'ancestor worship', which is admirable, or would be, if ancestor aforesaid was not having to address the present. Let's forget it.

The Hope for Poetry isn't a bad book at all: you dislike it because it's your latest. Give it seven years and you will enjoy it as much as I did.

My Latin wasn't ever much good, so that I have never enjoyed Catullus. I suppose that means that I have never justified the time I spent trying to learn the beastly language? There seem to be ten good Greek books to every Latin one.

Your point about the metaphysicals interested me. Perhaps I don't read them because the sciences are closed books to me. I can't feel that knowledge matters at all. There must be theories, apparently: but one can spend the few active years one has so much more enjoyably out of doors on practicalities - like my R.A.F. boat-building. So I try not to want to think.

By 'recantation' I didn't mean a change of politics, but that I hoped you were getting bored with politics. The ideals of a policy are entrancing, heady things: the translating them into terms of compromise with the social structure as it has evolved is pretty second-rate work. I have never met people more honest and devoted than our politicians - but I'd rather be a dustman. A decent nihilism is what I hope for, generally. I think an established land, like ours, can do with 1% monists or nihilists. That leaves room for me. The trouble with Communism is that it accepts too much of today's furniture. I hate furniture.

Your inclination to re-value theme is very significant. I shall enjoy your next book. I feel that Ulysses (slightly) and Proust (enormously) depend on social conditions for their public, which means their value.

Ozone Hotel is not a permanent address. I doubt whether I have one. Perhaps 'Clouds Hill, Moreton, Dorset'. But I shall enjoy buying your book, so please don't send it. After all, you don't write so many as all that!


T E Shaw

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Source: DG 838-9
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 7 February 2006


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