Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to Robert Graves
I cannot remember when I wrote to you last, for often I think of doing it and my mind gets confused. I, Claudius, which I shrank from when I read it, you described as a crime-book, and I was confirmed in my dislike of crime. But Claudius the God is utterly different - the sun has risen. I put much of my pleasure in it to your sympathetic picture of Herod. In the other volume there was nobody (not even battered Cassius Chaerea) whom one could like. Herod is charming: and even Claudius wins a battle. I am so glad the gamble came off, for a historical novel is a desperate gamble, I think... unless, perhaps, it is translated from German!
Other books that I have liked lately? Two that Cape published, one called Winged Victory, by Yeates, which is a handbook to air fighting on a Sopwith Camel (so you can see why I like it) and the other Desert and Forest, by Nesbitt. That was travels in Abyssinia, and I found it curiously restful. The party seemed to have left themselves behind before they started; so they saw the country and people objectively: and there was a curiously old-fashioned dignity about the prose. It felt like a classic of some while ago.
Also I have read and liked It Was the Nightingale, some autobiography by Ford Madox Ford. Wry, witty, humorous stuff, done with all the ease of carpet-slippers, and with great skill, in all the major requirements; but with a clumsy handling of many sentences, and with the word 'that' excessively prominent.
That is not a great bag of reading for a year; but I am feeling all the while now that my R.A.F. time is almost over (March, it ends) and I'm like a miser trying to make much of the little left. Till it ends, I shall not value anything else. I am very sad that it ends.
My plans, afterwards, are a blank. I go to Clouds Hill and try to hold out there on the 25/- a week which will be my saved balance. I had set aside £2 a week, for reserve: but the rate of interest dipped and dipped. It looks like going to 20/-, soon! Instead of trying to make more, I am going to try to need less. People offer me jobs, but I've never had much leisure yet, and want to try it. If I like it, I shall try to keep it. My address will be Clouds Hill, Moreton, Dorset.
Selfishly I go on wishing you would come back to England. Not for keeps, I mean, but for a visit.
I think the public now expect you to write a life of Nero. I would like you to spend some imagination, instead, in early Galilee: those Greek-Syrians have been overlooked.
|Last revised:||7 February 2006|
T. E. Lawrence chronology
1888 16 August: born at Tremadoc, Wales
1896-1907: City of Oxford High School for Boys
1907-9: Jesus College, Oxford, B.A., 1st Class Hons, 1909
1910-14: Magdalen College, Oxford (Senior Demy), while working at the British Museum's excavations at Carchemish
1915-16: Military Intelligence Dept, Cairo
1916-18: Liaison Officer with the Arab Revolt
1919: Attended the Paris Peace Conference
1919-22: wrote Seven Pillars of Wisdom
1921-2: Adviser on Arab Affairs to Winston Churchill at the Colonial Office
1922 August: Enlisted in the Ranks of the RAF
1923 January: discharged from the RAF
1923 March: enlisted in the Tank Corps
1923: translated a French novel, The Forest Giant
1924-6: prepared the subscribers' abridgement of Seven Pillars of Wisdom
1927-8: stationed at Karachi, then Miranshah
1927 March: Revolt in the Desert, an abridgement of Seven Pillars, published
1928: completed The Mint, began translating Homer's Odyssey
1929-33: stationed at Plymouth
1931: started working on RAF boats
1932: his translation of the Odyssey published
1933-5: attached to MAEE, Felixstowe
1935 February: retired from the RAF
1935 19 May: died from injuries received in a motor-cycle crash on 13 May
1935 21 May: buried at Moreton, Dorset