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T. E. Lawrence to Jonathan Cape


Miranshah Fort,
Waziristan

30.6.28.

Dear Cape,

Garnett has my second book The Mint, an agony of the Royal Air Force, which he will offer you for publication, as it stands, soon. This is in accordance with the terms of our Revolt in the Desert contract. I am not offering it to any other publisher, if you refuse my terms, since I do not, really, want it published at all. So don't get huffed that I'm changing my publisher. I'm not: I'm just proposing to live without one, in future!

By the way I'm asking £1,000,000 down in cash, in advance of royalty, on The Mint. I hope you will regard that sum as a compliment to the firm. I wanted to make sure they would refuse it: and I feared that any lesser figure might be within your reach. They say you had five of the six best-selling books of last year. You've made your own firm, out of nothing at all, in just a very few years: and must be very proud of it: for it has a character, as well as a credit balance. Your books are the most workmanlike in London.

I've left Karachi, for good: and have, I hope, settled in this queer little place, a brick and barbed-wire fort on the Afghan border. We are not allowed beyond the wire: so that we have few temptations except boredom and laziness. I'm never bored: and for the laziness I've just done a sample 400 lines of a prose translation of some Greek poetry, for an American firm, that wants to produce something de luxe. If they like it, they'll ask me to do more. My ambition is to earn £200 in the next 19 months, and then come home and buy a motor-bike!

If the Yanks fail me, I'll pester you and Doubleday for some job of anonymous translating. I write quite decent English prose, they say, and it seems a pity to let a talent like that rust.

Yours,

T. E. Shaw

Sharp practice, I think, this Mint: but as you lose no money over it, and I gain none, honours are even: and I may want to undertake this Greek job.

Source: DG 613-614
Checked: dn/
Last revised: 27 February 2006


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