T. E. Lawrence ftontispiece The bungalow at No. 2 Polstead Road, Oxford, facing page 48



Download 1.73 Mb.
Page26/40
Date23.04.2018
Size1.73 Mb.
1   ...   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   ...   40
Even during his arduous campaigns, Lawrence had never made the blunder of under-estimating himself. We have already seen that after the capture of Akaba -- of which such contradictory versions are given -- Lawrence claimed to General Clayton that the whole plan and action had been his and modestly asked for command of British operations in Arabia. Similarly, when newcomers appeared on the scene, Lawrence turned on them all the eloquence and winning charm of manner to which we have 279so many testimonies. Paren-
-278-
thetically, those who did not share Lawrence's high opinion of himself usually did not last long in Arabia. True, in spite of that diplomatic démarche of the British Ambassador in Paris (inspired by Lawrence's "spiteful report"), Brémond had stayed on until it was time for him to return to the war; but Vickery vanished, Bray (who was a personal friend of Mark Sykes and had intervened at the Foreign Office on behalf of Hussein's rebellion in July, 1916 5 ) somehow slid towards oblivion, Newcombe moved to another front, and his reminiscencesof Lawrence halt significantly at December, 1914; even Young, who retained some critical faculty, is treated with marked displeasure in Seven Pillars, but could not so easily be got rid of since Lawrence himself had asked for this officer. When Young arrived at Akaba, Lawrence had assured him that there was "plenty of honour and glory to be picked up without any great difficulty," and then had proceeded to tell so many thrilling stories of his own deeds that Young ironically did not know "whether to be more alarmed or excited at the prospect of what lay before" him. 6
Young, a regular soldier, seemingly bore up "in spite of this spate of propaganda, but it is interesting to note the reaction of another officer, Major Buxton of the Camel Corps. In a letter written from Rumm, he says:

" Lawrence has started all this Arab movement. . . . He is known to every Arab in this country for his personal bravery and train-wrecking exploits. I don't know whether it is his intrepidity, disinterestedness and mysteriousness which appeal to the Arab most, or his success in finding them rich trains to blow up and loot. . . . His influence is astounding not only on the misbeguided natives, but also I think on his brother officers and seniors. Out here he lives entirely with the Arabs, wears their clothes, eats only their food, and bears all the burdens of the lowliest of them. He always travels in spotless white, and in fact reminds one of a Prince of Mecca more than anything. . . ." 7


On the face of it, this looks unimpeachable evidence of Lawrence's feats, coming as it does from an honourable soldier. But, if we look at the Official History of the War, we shall discover that Major Buxton reached Akaba from the Palestine front for the first time on the 30th July, 1918 8, while his letter was written on the 4th of August
-279-
of the same year. 9 Thus all these important discoveries were made by this officer within the space of five days at the utmost; and since it is obviously impossible that in so short a time he could personally have witnessed what he relates, we can only conclude that he was merely passing on to his correspondent the very favourable opinions of Lawrence which somebody had passed on to him. Much of what he says is inaccurate or exaggerated. Thus, as the evidence adduced earlier in this book shows, it is simply not true that Lawrence "started all this Arab movement," though undoubtedly he tried to make people think he had. And while it is true that he eventually became known throughout the Middle East, that was only "after the event, from the publicity which he received in books, newspapers and cinemas." 10 The origin of all which was the Lowell Thomas filmlecture we are investigating.
Before the United States entered the war in April of 1917, Mr. Thomashad been an instructor on the faculty of Princeton, which, it will be remembered, was the University of President Wilson. Eager to get at the enemy, Mr. Thomas applied to the authorities at Washington for military employment. There it was pointed out to him that the very considerable British contribution to the war had been reported in the United States with piteous incompleteness, and he was told to go out and cover British operations on all fronts, pick up interesting news, and come back and tell it snappily to the home folks. The idea was, as Mr. Thomas explains with a most pleasing candour, by beating the drum loudly enough, to work up a hundred per cent enthusiasm for a war which America across the wide Atlantic still viewed with a certain aloofness. 11 Unluckily, the drab butchery of the Western Front did not lend itself either to thrilling photography or to eloquent narrative. There, Chase and Thomas found only mud and blood, wounds and death, monotony and devastation, where the discomforts of trench warfare were only varied by gigantic and endless battles in which you couldn't hear yourself think. For the newspaper-fed civilians of those days war was still "romance," culminating in charges of cavalry dressed in full ceremonial uniform, our side triumphantly sweeping "them" into defeat and surrender -- in short, popular war had to be, as Seven Pillars of Wisdom announces itself, A Triumph. Where was "romance" to be found in this colossal turmoil of artillery barrages, this racket of machine-guns,
-280-
this endless deadlock of slaughter? Mr. Thomas was more and more discouraged, and with reason -- the world was not yet ripe for Ernie Pyle. At length Mr. Thomas, in something approaching despair, applied to John Buchan, afterwards Lord Tweedsmuir; and he, grasping at once the prosaic horror of the situation, arranged that Mr. Thomas should be accredited to General Allenby. 12
Thus, towards the end of February, 1918, in consequence of Buchan's help, Mr. Thomas arrived in recently captured Jerusalem. Wandering in the streets one day, he suddenly was aware of a clean-shaved, magnificently robed Bedouin with a curved gold dagger, looking, as Mr. Thomas coined the phrase, "every inch a king," or perhaps "a Caliph in disguise," or, since it was in Jerusalem, "one of the younger apostles returned to life," complete with dagger.
Unable to find the exact information he craved from the passersby and merchants of the bazaar, Mr. Thomas went direct to Ronald Storrs whom he somewhat unfairly describes as "the British successor to Pontius Pilate," and put a plain, homely, American question: "Who is this blue-eyed, fair-haired fellow wandering about the bazaars wearing the carved sword of a prince of ----?" The sentence was not even completed when Storrs suddenly threw open a door and disclosed "the Bedouin prince," wholly "absorbed in a ponderous tome on archology," with the thrilling announcement: "I want you to meet Colonel Lawrence, the Uncrowned King of Arabia." 13 As was natural, one might say inevitable, the young Princeton scholar instantly made friends with the riper Oxonian.
During these heart-to-heart talks, Lawrence would always squat on the floor; and the first time he did so "blushed in his peculiar way," and remarked negligently that he had now lived for so long in the desert that he found chairs uncomfortable. 14 From these talks, Mr. Thomas learned that his bazaar hero, this "Prince of Mecca," had "virtually become the ruler of the Holy Land of the Mohammedans, and commander-in-chief of many thousands of Bedouins mounted on racing camels and fleet Arabian horses." 15
As a young man straight from a mining camp in the Rockies, Mr. Thomas had been particularly "intrigued" with the idea that Allenby
-281-
might "liberate the Holy City." And then, quite by accident, without one word of prompting from any human being, he had stumbled on this Lawrence epic, and instantly felt that he was on to "one of the greatest scoops in history." 16 What more natural, more inevitable than that he should follow up this story? But difficulties cropped up, which of course made him only the more anxious to pick up his news and pictures. Allenby, he heard, did not like reporters; and did not want the Moslem world to know that there were European officers in "the Arab forces" -- a fact which must surely have been known throughout the Middle East since December, 1916, at latest. But, now Lawrence himself, in his generous and disinterested way, came to the rescue, and helped to get Allenby's permission for Thomas to go to him in the desert "for the Damascus campaign." 17 (Note the Damascus campaign.) Following this intercession on the part of Lawrence, Allenby lunched with Mr. Thomas and the Duke of Connaught, and graciously announced that if Mr. Thomas was interested in what was going on in Arabia, why "he would be glad to have me join King Hussein's army and afterwards tell the world a little of what the Arabs had done towards helping win the Great War." 18 But, such was the stress on that fighting front, that none of the usual transport facilities for war correspondents could be granted; and the two young Americans lost a great deal of time through having to proceed 1,500 miles up the Nile, then across the desert to Port Sudan, and at last by overcrowded tramp steamer to Akaba. 19
When did Thomas and Chase reach Akaba, how long were they with Lawrence and what did they personally see? Unluckily, the members of the Lawrence Bureau have not been lavish with dates, and Lawrence himself was never anxious to give information about the visit of these enthusiastic Americans. He liked to pretend that the Lowell Thomas lecture and book had been produced virtually without his knowledge or consent, and definitely without his aid and approval. In 1927, Lawrence asserted that he did not know when Thomas reached Akaba, because he was "up country" when he arrived, spent "perhaps three days" with him at Akaba, and was again "up country" when the Americans left. Ten to fourteen days, he thought, covered their whole stay. 20 The Duke of Connaught, with whom Mr. Thomas lunched, was at Jerusalem in March, 1918. 21
-282-
Young mentions condescendingly the arrival at Guweira of an American maker of cinema films at a date after 7th April, and adds that he "had perforce to content himself for the present with listening to the stories which were told him by the various British officers," 22 which seems the obvious source of some of Mr. Thomas's tales, though many of them clearly came from Lawrence himself. According to Lawrence's table of movements, he was at Guweira on the 30th-31st March, on the 13th April, and at Akaba on the 26th April; after which he was away in Egypt until the 21st May.
The photographs of Lawrence by Mr. Chase in Thomas With Lawrence in Arabia are carefully posed studies, and were taken either in Jerusalem, Cairo or possibly Guweira. But the fact is that Lawrence personally did not take the two Americans "up country," they never saw him on the Damascus campaign and indeed witnessed few if any of the alleged exploits Mr. Thomas has recorded so graphically. But Feisal did take the Americans up to Waheida, a place not far from Maan, and there gave them a dinner on an improvised table at which they sat on boxes -- not having lived so long in the desert that they "preferred to squat." They were then sent on a war-time Cook's tour to Petra under the guard of two of Feisal's men, with Hassan Khalil, a fierce-looking interpreter, with "flashing eyes and fierce moustache." 23 He wore a red headdress, multi-coloured robes, and carried two daggers and a pearlhandled revolver. This wild and romantic son of the desert introduced himself to the two Americans as Charley Kelley, "machine-operator in a tobacco factory" in New York; and fairly shattered them with such Arabian Knight's remarks as: "Say, cul, will youse slip me de can opener?" 24 Under his guidance they safely visited Petra, where Mr. Chase took some admirable photographs. Petra -- if you will look at the map -- is to the west and north of the then supposedly heavily Turkish-occupied Maan, which suggested that camel rides in the country out of range of the Turkish posts may not have been so thrillingly dangerous after all. Sharif Feisal would hardly have risked the awful responsibility of losing two American journalists.
Mr. Thomas had barely completed his first-hand study of the war theatres when the Armistice upset all his plans, and he then went to Germany to study the Revolution. Consequently, his lecture, With Lawrence in Arabia, was not delivered until the 9th March, 1919, at
-283-
the Century Theatre, New York. As a matter of fact, there were five lectures, but Mr. Thomas discovered that his audience was not in the least interested in the ordinary war fronts, but only in Allenby's campaign and above all in the Arabs. "Because the Allenby and Lawrence shows were full of sweeping cavalry, Arabs, camels, veiled women, Holy cities, they caught on and attracted great crowds." 25 What could be more honest than that statement? But Mr. Thomas fails to give the credit due to Chase's photography and his own eloquence -- which was virtually unfettered since his proclaimed object was propaganda and picturesque reporting, not the drab factual pedantry of history and biography.
The Allenby-Lawrence lectures were so great a success that Mr. Thomas moved from the Century Theatre to Madison Square Gardens, after which he had arranged for a year's tour across America. On his last night in New York, his show was seen by a British impresario, Percy Burton, who invited Mr. Thomas to bring it to England. The lecturer explained that he had American engagements, but added that he intended to take August off and would come to England (he said jokingly) if he received an invitation from the King and was given either Drury Lane or Covent Garden. 26 It is perhaps not without significance that both conditions were met. Mr. Thomas opened his film-lecture at Covent Garden on the 14th August, 1919. Burton with his subtle devices had filled the theatre with the finest first-night audience seen in London since before the war. 27 And Mr. Thomas did not fail his hero and (secret) collaborator. From Sir Thomas Beecham he had borrowed an opera set, the Moonlight-onthe-Nile scene from " Joseph and his Brethren," and hired the band of the Welsh Guards to provide a "half-hour of atmospheric music to get the audience in the right mood." Then there was a prologue, which most fittingly included a Dance of the Seven Veils. Even this was not considered sufficient psychological preparation, so Mrs. Thomas -- who was a musician -- composed a musical setting for the Mohammedan call to prayer, which was sung off-stage by an Irish tenor. 28
And then came the film and the lecture. Unluckily, the lecture was never written down, and each time it was given it was a fresh creation, following of course the same general lines, and built round the accompanying motion pictures. Mr. Thomas tells me that the
-284-
films have now so much shrunk with age that they can no longer be shown, and that the scrap-books he owns of contemporary reviews contain none which give a summary of his lecture, while all these very numerous notices dwell on the same topics -- the film and the anecdotes. And, as Mr. Thomas says he has now forgotten his lecture, it cannot be reconstructed except by doubtful inference from the tone and matter of his book. Lecture and book (which sold approximately 200,000 copies in the English edition) were the first means of introducing Lawrence to large audiences, and so strong was the original impression created that for the whole of his life Lawrence was seen through this golden mist of spurious glamour. I must repeat that Lowell Thomas personally saw few, if any, of the exploits he relates with such sensational emphasis; he had to rely on what he was told by Lawrence, by Lawrence's associates and by the Arab Bureau. Yet he clearly went to great pains to interview as many of them as possible, and his book includes notices of Newcombe, Wilson, Cornwallis, Dawnay, Hogarth, Joyce, Stirling, Young, Marshall, and even the demolition experts Garland and Hornby. He also certainly met some of the Arab chieftains who figure with so much bravura in the pages of Seven Pillars.
I must also repeat that Lowell Thomas was sent out to find news to make propaganda, not to collect material for history. He seems to have been given what must have looked like the impossible task of discovering a contemporary British hero who would be acceptable to the American public. He succeeded in doing this, and in discovering him for the British, too. Up till that time, the most successfully publicised British war hero was Rupert Brooke, a tribute to the high prestige of authors at the beginning of this century. What was now wanted was a success story, and who could give it better than an American, for whom success is a national duty? The technique was hardly understood at all in England, where advertising seldom rose above a flat monotony of uninventive mendacity -- "Ponsonby's Pickles are the Best." With the aid of moonlight on the Nile, the atmospheric music of the military band, the Dance of the Seven Veils and the Irish tenor, the tale of the "Prince of Mecca" became a triumph. Triumph was so successfully sounded as the keynote that Lawrence adopted "A Triumph" as the sub-title of his own book.
The result at Covent Garden was startling. The whole theatre
-285-
was sold out from the first night, and the show eventually had to be transferred in turn to the Albert Hall, the Philharmonic Hall and the Queen's Hall. It ran for just under six months and then set off on a tour of the English-speaking world. The film, of course, remained the same, but as Mr. Thomas was constantly picking up new hints he was able to vary his extempore talk, which was actually delivered some two thousand times. In London the show was patronised by Allenby and Feisal, and among others involved in its action, who are recorded as having seen it, were Generals Chetwode and Bartholomew, Colonels Joyce, Dawnay and Cornwallis. It was seen by Mr. Lloyd George, most of the Cabinet, and many members of both Houses of Parliament. In Australia, distinguished members of the audience mounted the platform after the performance to congratulate the lecturer on his just tribute to their merits and it is related that "Brigadier General Fighting Charlie Cox" was roused to such enthusiasm on the edge of the platform that he fell into the orchestra stalls, breaking his leg. 29
Behind the success and aiding it was a strong if secret political motive. This irresponsible panegyric was just what the Government sorely needed to try to pass off its enormous expenditure and casualties in the Middle East, and to gain popular support for its policy of "Brown Dominions" and trying "to diddle France out of Syria." Mr. Lloyd George was so much pleased that he sent Mr. Thomas a message through Lord Riddell asking him to write and publish the story of "the Arabs" immediately. Lord Northcliffe, John Buchan, and Walter Duranty agreed that Mr. Thomas's "story" was "one of the greatest scoops in history." This favourable verdict was endorsed by Lord Burnham and Major Astor at a public reception given for Lowell Thomas by the London newspaper proprietors at the Criterion Hotel. Clearly, the whole splendid epic had been lifted out of the squalid surroundings of mere history and literature to the serene and opulent heights of popular journalism. 30
The effects of the Chase- Thomas film-lecture on far less exalted personages was also striking. From many testimonies we may select that of Lawrence's favourite painter and sculptor, Mr. Eric H. Kennington. This eminent artist records that his first acquaintance with Lawrence was through Lowell Thomas's film shown at the Albert Hall. He was tremendously impressed by the photography
-286-
and glamour. 31 And beyond and below these were the unknown million of British admirers of whose dazzlement nothing has been recorded, though it can be inferred from the indisputable fact that for the rest of his life Lawrence was front page news. Of course, they were children in the sway of a conscious or unconscious master of mob psychology. Every American entertainer tries to lull his audience by getting an early laugh out of them at his expense. Mr. Thomas began: "It never had occurred to me that the British people might be interested in the story of their own campaigns told through the nose of a Yankee." Is there a radio or advertising man in the world who does not envy Mr. Thomas that gambit? All that he was going to show and tell the British was "their own campaigns," and the moment he had them genially laughing from the height of their superiority at the funny little American, he had got the grip on them he needed. Anyone who has seen a Japanese judo expert throwing hundredweights of London policemen about a stage will realise what Lowell Thomas did mentally and emotionally with those nave British audiences.
While it is now impossible to reconstruct this hero-making lecture, something of its nature may perhaps be inferred from the book which followed it up and which Mr. Lloyd George so warmly encouraged. Mr. Thomas evidently acted on the sound journalistic principle that while he might not be a high authority on Arabia and its affairs, he knew more about them than most of his audience or readers. He doubtless calculated that what little they thought they knew came from hazy memories of the Arabian Nights and the Bible, a reading of sensational novels of "The Sheik" kind, and the newspapers. Snappy slogans and picturesque anecdotes would obviously be more effective than laborious expositions of tedious fact. "Arabian Knights" as a title for Lawrence and his associates seems a little daring and open to ridicule, but evidently was found acceptable in the general enthusiasm. "Shereef" or "Sharif" was plainly ridiculous as a title or description for an Anglo-Irishman since it is restricted to descendants of the Prophet, but possibly most people didn't know this; and, after all, that gold dagger must have meant something. Lawrence told Graves that the title of "Prince of Mecca was conferred on me by Lowell Thomas," but it appeared in his Who's Who record for 1921 and it was certainly used in August, 1918 (months before
-287-
and glamour. 31 And beyond and below these were the unknown million of British admirers of whose dazzlement nothing has been recorded, though it can be inferred from the indisputable fact that for the rest of his life Lawrence was front page news. Of course, they were children in the sway of a conscious or unconscious master of mob psychology. Every American entertainer tries to lull his audience by getting an early laugh out of them at his expense. Mr. Thomas began: "It never had occurred to me that the British people might be interested in the story of their own campaigns told through the nose of a Yankee." Is there a radio or advertising man in the world who does not envy Mr. Thomas that gambit? All that he was going to show and tell the British was "their own campaigns," and the moment he had them genially laughing from the height of their superiority at the funny little American, he had got the grip on them he needed. Anyone who has seen a Japanese judo expert throwing hundredweights of London policemen about a stage will realise what Lowell Thomas did mentally and emotionally with those nave British audiences.
While it is now impossible to reconstruct this hero-making lecture, something of its nature may perhaps be inferred from the book which followed it up and which Mr. Lloyd George so warmly encouraged. Mr. Thomas evidently acted on the sound journalistic principle that while he might not be a high authority on Arabia and its affairs, he knew more about them than most of his audience or readers. He doubtless calculated that what little they thought they knew came from hazy memories of the Arabian Nights and the Bible, a reading of sensational novels of "The Sheik" kind, and the newspapers. Snappy slogans and picturesque anecdotes would obviously be more effective than laborious expositions of tedious fact. "Arabian Knights" as a title for Lawrence and his associates seems a little daring and open to ridicule, but evidently was found acceptable in the general enthusiasm. "Shereef" or "Sharif" was plainly ridiculous as a title or description for an Anglo-Irishman since it is restricted to descendants of the Prophet, but possibly most people didn't know this; and, after all, that gold dagger must have meant something. Lawrence told Graves that the title of "Prince of Mecca was conferred on me by Lowell Thomas," but it appeared in his Who's Who record for 1921 and it was certainly used in August, 1918 (months before

Directory: fileadmin -> uni -> fakultaeten -> split lehrstuehle -> englische literatur -> Materialien -> Houswitschka -> Lawrence of Arabia
fileadmin -> Comparative Politics Central Europe Mgr. Juraj Marušiak, PhD. course coordinator
fileadmin -> Annex 1 to the Interim Report
fileadmin -> Review of projects and contributions on statistical methods for spatial disaggregation and for integration of various kinds of geographical information and geo-referenced survey data
fileadmin -> An overview of land evaluation and land use planning at fao
fileadmin -> Contact information
fileadmin -> Review of the literature
fileadmin -> Sigchi extended Abstracts Sample Adapted to mamn25
fileadmin -> Communication and Information Sector Knowledge Societies Division
Lawrence of Arabia -> Lawrence of arabia and american culture

Download 1.73 Mb.

Share with your friends:
1   ...   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   ...   40




The database is protected by copyright ©ininet.org 2020
send message

    Main page