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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.

Yours sincerely

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. 

Source: DG 338-9
Checked: jw
Last revised: 5 February 2006



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