T. E. Lawrence to Jonathan 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.
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.
|Last revised:||27 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