This morning’s bookstore find, as it turns out, is from the second impression of this publisher, the same year they first published it. And in near-perfect condition, except for the outer dust jacket. Woot!
Also, I think this note may well be the single most egotistical thing Lawrence ever wrote…. And yet it may shed light on his insistence that he is a poor artist. It’s well noted that he was obsessive about detail, and yet here he says:
"Crafty, exquisite, homogeneous - whatever great art may be, these are not its attributes."
T.E. Lawrence translated The Odyssey, which was published in 1932 under his pseudonym T.E. Shaw.
I have been Homering all morning and afternoon, and must not delay for long: only there is so much I should say to you: first of all thanks for reading that XIth Book. I am afraid it is very difficult. I have been over it three or four times since it came back, and have managed about 100 minor alterations. That is for the good. I changed, so far as I could, all the places you had marked. It is very difficult.
What you say about it is about what I feel: a sense of effort, of hard work: of course there must be this. I never wrote (for printing) an easy line in my life. All my stuff is tenth-thoughts or twentieth-thoughts, before it gets out. Nice phrases in letters to you? Perhaps: only the difference between nice phrases in a letter (where one nice phrase will carry the thing) and an Odyssey where one phrase not-nice will spoil it all, is too great to carry a comparison.
-T.E. to Charlotte Shaw, January 1930
One grinds again and again over each passage till the corrections begin to restore former readings. Then it is finished.
-T.E. to Charlotte Shaw, December 1930