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T. E. Lawrence, The Mint

PART III


 

Nearly three years pass


 

AN EXPLANATION

I had the ambition - before I turned back in 1923 and saw the inadequacy of my Seven Pillars in the cold light of revision - to write a real book: and I thought to find its subject in the Royal Air Force.

The foregoing fifty chapters were noted down night by night in bed at the Depot, as foundations for the intended book: not exactly word for word: - in their natural state sentence was twisted over sentence like the entrails in a man's belly; and here I've pulled them out into one string, like a pound of sausages: - but essentially these are my depot notes.

Depot would have been a porch, a short porch of selected scenes, to the book I meant to write for the incomparable Hogarth upon Life in a Flying Flight, which is the veritable air force: but my sudden dismissal from Farnborough knocked that experience on the head. When, three years too late, I was allowed back to what has since been my element and fellowship, things could not be the same as they had been in 1922.

Therefore I've rearranged for you (Hogarth is gone, so you must be Edward Garnett, to whose sense of form I owe so much) every single sentence of my Depot notes. Not a recorded word is missing, nor a word added, yet. But I cannot leave the tale at this point. The Depot I knew was a savage place. That is now changed: so for fairness' sake I've picked out the few following extracts, mainly from letters to my friends: in the hope that they may give an idea of how different, how humane, life in Cadet College was. There is no continuity in these last pages - and a painful inadequacy: but perhaps some glint of our contentment may shine from between my phrases into your eyes.

How can any man describe his happiness?




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