Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to C. M. Doughty
14 Barton Street,
23. 3. 22
Dear Mr. Doughty,
I did write to you too soon. The group last night sent me a final offer of only £400. There is precedent for this figure in the case of another living poet: and that has outweighed my arguments for £500. If I could have used the argument that you really needed the money they would have given the five: it is the price paid for nice feeling. I'm very sorry for the false expectation. In your yesterday's letter you hope they are not your friends. I have seen five of them. One says he once met you, but he can advance no details, and I think flatters himself. The others know only your work. They are an informal group, like the Amis du Louvre, and acquired e.g. the MS. of The Dynasts, a long poem by Hardy, for the Museum. The principals each assume responsibility for a fraction of the price. Perhaps they pay it themselves, perhaps they ask friends to help them. Anyway they do not tell, and I'm not supposed to mention even their names. The objects are put in the Museum labelled 'from a body of subscribers'. I do not think you need fear their making appeals to anyone not very able to pay.
Of course the transaction is not possible to class commercially. The manuscript is unique, and made rarer by the destruction of most of your others. It is worth as little as you will sell it for: as much as anyone will give: only in this case you preferred the British Museum as the repository, and that limited competition. The offer made is an act of faith, or a gamble, as you look on it. They estimate that the eventual popular reputation of your poetry will be what their expert opinion now thinks it. Work merely good does not always prevail, and no one on earth can say what your manuscripts will be worth fifty years hence: possibly much more than £400 put out at compound interest: possibly less.
Will you let me have your reply, if possible this week? If you agree to sell (and in spite of that missed hundred I think it a fairly good offer) I'll tell the people. They say they will send me the money in a week after, and I could bring it down in one of my tea-time excursions to Eastbourne, and carry off the book when I go.
People I meet are delighted at the Observer article. Hogarth should take a leaf out of my bad book, and ask you to let him use it as a preface to the second edition of his history, which will probably be one of its results!
I hope Mrs. Doughty continues to improve.
T E Lawrence
We can discuss other ways of making money when we meet. It is rather fun. If I had been appointed your press-agent about 1900 I'd have grown fat on my commission long ago!
Note. Learning that Doughty was in financial difficulties, Lawrence had organised the purchase of the MS for the British Museum (now the British Library). It is thought that he contributed much of the money himself.
|Last revised:||5 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