T. E. Lawrence to Bruce Rogers
Dear Bruce Rogers
This blessed project of the Odyssey has profited me, beyond my hope, by enabling me to write to you, and receive letters. That is a considerable gain, on my credit side, even if no more comes of it than this.
I see now (baying done the first, sample, book, and posted it to Isham today) why there are no adequate translations of Homer. He is baffling. Not simple, in education; not primitive, socially. Rather a William Morris of his day, I fancy.
There's a queer naivety in every other line: and at our remove of thought and language we can't say if he is smiling or not. Samuel Butler thought he was: and Butler's version lacks dignity, therefore, as much as it lacks poetry. Palmer is altogether the best, I think.
My version runs to 5000 words of this first book. I have tried to squeeze out all the juice in the orange; or what I thought was the juice. I tried to take liberties with the Greek: but failed. Homer compels respect. I confess he has me beaten to my knees. Perhaps if I did much more I might be less faithful.
The work has been very difficult: though I'm in a Homeric sort of air; a mud-brick fort beset by the tribes of Waziristan, on a plain encircled by the hills of the Afghan border. It reeks of Alexander the Great, our European fore-runner: who also loved Homer.
But, as I say, it has been difficult. This which I have sent is the sixth copying-out: so I shall not be a whit sorry (except in pocket) if your backers cry off the project, at sight of the sample.
You will realise, on the minor points of name-spelling, punctuation, paragraphing etc, that I don't care the least little bit what changes you make, to please yourself, to please your audience, to fit your type or page. The printer should use the MS of a new book (not a reprint) as raw materials to be cooked into decency.
T E Shaw
|Last revised:||7 July 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