Lawrence of Arabia - Not with a whimper...
A Rare Beast
|TO D. G. HOGARTH
Easter Day [April 1]  Tank-town
Yesterday fatigues for us ran short at 10 A.M. (usually their ingenuity keeps us at it till near noon): so I leaped for my bike, & raced her madly up the London road: Wimbourne, Ringwood, Romsey, Winchester, Basingstoke, Bagshot, Staines, Hounslow by 1.20 P.M. (three hours less five minutes). Good for 125 miles: return journey took 10 minutes less! *
I should have said that I bust the bike, just
outside camp. Ran over a broken glass bottle at speed, burst front tyre,
ran up a bank & turned over. Damage to self nil; to bike somewhat.
There goes my power of breaking bounds!
|TO E. (Posh) Palmer
August 25th 1925
On Friday early they sent me to a doctor. He
said 'Have you ever had... ... ....?' 'No sir' 'Have you ever had... ...
....?' 'No' (less confidently). 'Have you ever broken any bones?' This
was my chance: I poured over him a heap of fractured fibulae, radii, metatarsals,
phalanges, costes, clavicles, scapulae, till he yelled to me to stop. So
I stopped, and he made clumsy efforts to write them all down
Letters No. 271
A Melancholy Joy
|TO LIONEL CURTIS
.... When my mood gets too hot and I find myself wandering beyond control I pull out my motor-bike and hurl it top-speed through these unfit roads for hour after hour. My nerves are jaded and gone near dead, so that nothing less than hours of voluntary danger will prick them into life: and the 'life' they reach then is a melancholy joy at risking something worth exactly 2/9 a day.
The Phantom Hacker
|TO LIONEL CURTIS
27.VI.22 (but actually 1923)
...... That's as irrational as what happened on our coming here, when I swerved Snowy Wallis and myself at 60 m.p.h. on to the grass by the roadside, trying vainly to save a bird which dashed out its life against my side-car. And yet had the world been mine I'd have left out animal life upon it.
|TO BERNARD SHAW
20.xii.23 Clouds Hill
My noble cycle, the poor beast who allayed my 'shrinking nerves' was taken out secretly by a beast who left her broken, in a ditch: and she is too ruined to mend, even if I could like her again. So I'm not able to go abroad without public leave and a rail-ticket, now. Yours ever
The Thieving Beast Revealed
|TO E. PALMER
10.xii.25 Clouds Hill
Crashed off the Brough last monday: knee: ankle:
elbow: being repaired. Tunic and breeches being replaced. Front
mudguard, name-plate, handlebars, footrest, renewed. Skid on ice
at 55 m.p.h. Dark: wet: most miserable. Hobble like a cripple
S.(post script omitted)
The Annual Step-off, 1926
|TO DICK KNOWLES
3.xii.26 Uxbridge Depot
I managed to squeeze out 1/2 an hour in Clouds Hill: and 1/2 an hour at the Hardys. I had meant to come to you last Sunday, and started about 7.30 A.M. but Islington streets were greasy (I had to see G.B.S. on the way) & I got into a trough in the wood paving, and fell heavily, doing in the off footrest, kickstart, brake levers, 1/2 handlebar, & oil pump. Also my experienced knee-cap learnt another little trick. Alb Bennett took the wreck for £100. I limp rather picturesquely ...... Yours
Lawrence rode into Bovington Camp on his Brough motorcycle and sent off this telegram:
and was riding back to Clouds Hill when he came on two errand boys, riding pedal cycles in a dip in the road. He swerved violently to avoid them, lost control, was thrown over his handlebars and received severe injuries to the brain. His physical vitality was so great that he lay unconscious for nearly five days before he died of congestion of the lungs and heart failure.
|I am not a very tractable person or much of a hero-worshipper, but
I would have followed Lawrence over the edge of the world. I loved him
for himself, and also because there seemed to be reborn in him all the
lost friends of my youth. If genius be, in Emerson's phrase, a "stellar
and undiminishable something", whose origin is a mystery and whose essence
cannot be defined, then he was the only man of genius I have ever known.
|" - the popular verdict that he is the most remarkable living Englishman,
though I dislike such verdicts, I am inclined to accept - "
|Most of the letter excerpts and quotes above are from
Letters of T. E. Lawrence of Arabia Jonathan Cape 1938, and
Letters of T. E. Lawrence Jonathan Cape 1938, both edited by David
Photographer of the Kennington effigy unknown.
Photograph top of page from Lawrence and the Arabs Jonathan Cape 1928 by Robert Graves.
Brough Superior Motorcycles
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