T. E. Lawrence to Emery Walker and Wilfred Merton
Dear Mr. Emery Walker and Wilfred Merton,
A most solemn, business letter this must be;- copy to Bruce Rogers, copy to Isham, copy to me:- it is a comment on your letter of August 31 to B.R.
Your terms suit me - if Isham agrees - and I'll do my best to earn the money you offer for a version of the Odyssey, which shall be as good a version as I can do. It will not satisfy Homer or you or me or B.R., but if you print it as nobly as I expect, the critics' eyes will be too dazzled to pick holes in it.
One proof will suffice for my corrections. My dirty work is done in manuscript and typescript. I want the Press to consider itself entitled, empowered and entreated to alter anything in my text which displeases it. There is no sanctity in 'copy,' nor arteries nor bones. Cut it to fit the inelasticity of your type, without reference to me.
I will endeavour to be prompt with the instalments. You are wise to keep the half-fee till it is finished. My life is not one to guarantee or insure. I asked for two years to give room for minor accidents or engrossments.
I will ask you to promise each other not to associate, in public or private, any of my names (Shaw is real, Ross and Lawrence were assumed ones) with the translation, during my lifetime, without my permission. The twenty-fifth English version of the Odyssey is hardly a literary event; so I hope to get away with it, without publicity, of which I have had a surfeit. We must think out some humdrum name to put to it, if anyone asks a question about the person who did it.
Also, I am not a scholar. If I read Greek, it is for pleasure. I fear my version will inevitably try harder to convey my pleasure than to be an exact mould of the Greek. Yet accuracy is a good thing, in its way. Will you try to find a hide-bound scholar, and ask him to snout through the sample chapter for literal errors? I'd like to avoid bowlers.
The sample, by the way, is provisional only. A revised version of it will accompany the first batch of books sent you four months from now.
It will be an expensive book. May provision be made for me to have two free copies?
I think that is all the business. I feel that the invitation to work with Mr. Bruce Rogers, and to be produced by you is a great step up in the world for me, bookily speaking, and I'll do my best to give as little trouble as possible.
T E Shaw
|Last revised:||5 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