Tuesday, March 12, 2013


  I do not profess to have understood T.E. Lawrence fully, still less to be able to portray him ; there is no brush fine enough to catch the subtleties of his mind, no aerial viewpoint high enough to bring into one picture the manifold of his character.

    Before the war I had heard of him from D.G. Hogarth and so many of my friends,  like Alan Dawnay, George Lloyd and Aubrey Herbert, served with him in the East that he became a familiar  name to me ; but I do not think that I met him before the summer of 1920.  Then we found that we had much in common besides Hogarth’s friendship – and admiration for the work of C.E.Doughty, including his epics ; similar tastes in literature ;  the same philosophy of empire. [1]

    Until his death I saw him perhaps half a dozen times a year while he was in England.  He had gathered round him a pleasant coterie, most of whom I knew.  But we never worked together, though we once projected a joint-editing of the Gadarene poets – there were others from Gadara to Meleagar.  He would turn up without warning at Elsfield at any time of day or night on his motor-cycle Boanerges, and depart as swiftly and mysteriously as he came.  

    Yet in a sense I knew him better than many people whom I met daily.  If you were once admitted to his intimacy you became one of his family, and he of yours ; he used you and expected to be used by you ; he gave of himself with the liberality of a good child.  There was always much of the child in him.  He spoke and wrote to children as a coeval.  He had a delightful impishness.  Even when he was miserable and suffering, he could rejoice in a comic situation, and he found many in the ranks of the R.A.F. and Tank Corps.  What better comedy than for a fine scholar to be examined as to his literacy by the ordinary education officer?  And the game of hide-and-seek which he played with the newspapers amused him as much as it annoyed him.

[1]  "I think there’s a great future for the British Empire as a voluntary association, and I’d like to have Treaty States on a big scale attached to it  . . . We are so big a firm that we can offer unique conditions to small businesses to associate with us." (Letters, p. 578).

John Buchan, Memory Hold-The-Door, London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1940.

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