LAWRENCE, T.E. Typed letter signed ("TE Shaw") to Emery Walker and Wilfred Merton, Miranshah, Waziristan, India, 10 October 1928. 1 page, folio, typed by Lawrence on thin, slighty tanned paper, single-spaced, minor fold crease; in very good condition.
AGREEING TO TRANSLATE 'THE ODYSSEY'
"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.[ruce] R.[ogers]. 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 & typescript. I want the Press to consider itself entitled, empowered and entreated to alter any thing in my text which displeases it. There is no sanctity in 'copy,' nor arteries nor bones...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...
"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 howlers. The sample, by the way, is provisional only. A revised version of it will accompany the first batch of books [of the Odyssey] sent you in four months or so 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, an I'll do my best to give as little trouble as possible."
In the Spring of 1928, Lawrence was transferred at his request, from Karachi to Miranshah, a small and isolated R.A.F. outpost on the North West Frontier. It was here that he completed the translation of the first three of the twenty-four books of the Odyssey, before he left for England in January 1929. Sir Emery Walker was the distinguished printer of Lawrence's translation of the Odyssey; Wilfred Merton was his associate, mainly in charge of financial affairs. Walker had worked with William Morris at the Kelmscott Press and was co-founder of the Doves Press. Not in Letters, ed. D. Garnett. (See lot 123 for a copy of the Odyssey.)