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Updated July 2012

T. E. Lawrence to S. L. Newcombe

[aged 14]

R.A.F., Bridlington,

20. XII. 34

Dear James, (alias Stewart a word I only cry out when about to be sick - alias Monster, plus or minus other things

Dear James, as I said before Ahem

Dear James

Third time lucky. We're off. Merry Christmas. No, I don’t really mean that. I follow the Golden Rule. May you have a quiet Christmas with nothing abnormal to eat. Avoid gluttony, above all. Remember your figure, and the figures your parents ought to have. If you observe them over-eating clear your throat gently, to attract attention, and say 'A bit high, this bird?' That will put them off it. If they bring in plum puddings and things, remark in a blasé accent... the normal speech, I mean, of Eton... 'Isn't it jolly, papa, to keep up these old customs? It's like Dickens, isn't it, I mean, what?' That will throw a chill over the whole meal-time - I mean orgy. You owe a duty to your family at Christmas.

Will you please congratulate your male parent on the balance sheet of Turner and Newall. I think it reflects great credit on his colleagues. Will you also ask him where I can buy the beastly stuff they make? It's no good a private person writing to their head office for some asbestos slates, or a sack of magnesite or a roll of foil. I want a shop address, preferably in London, Bournemouth, Dorchester or Poole. I want advice about roof-slates, by the way. Neighbour possesses a tin roof. I want it sheathed in something less visually offensive. Recommend...? What?

Will you please congratulate your female parent, on whatever in your judgement is her most salient merit of the past twelve months? Be discreet: select some merit likely to have come into my notice, and congratulate her on that in my name. If you have difficulty, owing to richness or penury of choice, please tell her that I think she's looking very well... and add a hint about the digestive severities of the festive season.

Don't wish them any particular sort of a celebration of the birth of Christ. I only do one Xmas letter per year, and that's not really a letter. I send Lady Astor a reply-paid wire of 'Merry Xmas' and she wires back 'Same to you.' If I was Hore Belisha I'd standardise it at a special tariff for quantities. Or do I mean Kingsley Wood?

Yours ever


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Source: DG 837-8
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 7 February 2006


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