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



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The disturbances in Transjordan do not appear to have been very urgent, or at any rate Lawrence did not particularly hurry himself to deal with them, since, after his failure with Hussein at Jidda, he went on to Aden, and then on his return spent some time with his mother and brothers in Jerusalem. The eldest of the Lawrence sons then proceeded as a missionary to China, where he was joined by his mother a year later, after Lawrence himself had enlisted in the R.A.F. Without giving away any details, Mr. Churchill suggests a splendid energy in Lawrence's work for Transjordania: saying that a vigorous assertion of his authority eventually restored complete calm. 52
Order reigned in Warsaw. Unfortunately, very little has been recorded about Lawrence's actions at this period. Only a bare mention is made of the arrival of his family who had given up Polstead
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Road and followed him to the Middle East. His panegyrists are not anxious to record his failure with Hussein, and may have felt that a mere Colonial Office Resident's job in a nook of the desert was rather a come-down for the uncrowned King of Arabia. And only two letters from Amman have been printed, one of them full of the usual anti-French venom, in which Lawrence thanks whatever gods he has he is not as other men are, Arabs and Frenchmen. 53 Yet even after he had taken in hand the dramatic clean-up hinted at, he had leisure to continue work on his book, and to make a visit to Cairo in October ( 1921), when he evidently had asked to be relieved since the offer of his post was made to his successor in the middle of that month.
The successor was St. John Philby, who had resigned from his post as British Adviser to the Baghdad Ministry of the Interior in protest against what he calls "rigging the elections" for Feisal. Philby was not one of the A. T. Wilson faction who wanted to turn. Irak into a British colonial possession. He was in fact a "more uncompromising champion of Arab independence" than Lawrence himself; and Philby as Resident allowed Abdulla so much independence that the King got hopelessly into debt, and Transjordan had to be virtually taken over by the Palestine Government with a much sterner Resident ( 1924-39), Colonel Cox; which as Abdulla remarks sadly was "a difficult time" when "much patience and wisdom was necessary." 54 Perhaps it may be added that in August, 1922, Sir Percy Cox in Irak ( Feisal being ill with appendicitis) was issuing a proclamation, arresting and deporting "agitators" and persuading over-critical Moslem holy men to leave the country "voluntarily." It was by no means so simple a situation as the self-determinists assumed. The split between Lawrence and Philby was that the former, following the Arab Bureau policy, initiated by Kitchener and Storrs, believed that Sharifian leadership was essential to the future of Arabia, while Philby believed that the real leader was Ibn Saud; and thirty years later he was able to claim with some reason that events had proved he was right and Lawrence (and Mr. Churchill) wrong. 55 I think I have read everything Philby wrote about Lawrence in book-form, and have found no bitterness there, on the contrary, a generous effort at appreciation. What Philby said in private or wrote about Lawrence in the newspapers, I don't know. But Lawrence
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was bitter against the man he had himself chosen to take over his post in Transjordania. Later he asserted Philby was resentful at Lawrence helping him to get two jobs, and was angry at the success of his policy in Arabia. 56
It is not true that Lawrence got him two jobs or that Philby found anything "galling" at succeeding Lawrence (the out-going official is usually asked to suggest a successor) or that he was angry or bitter. And, with the Hashemite encirclement of Ibn Saud completely smashed by his conquest of the Hejaz, and Irak, Palestine and Syria only protected from Ibn Saud by British and French arms, Lawrence's claim that "his" policy was succeeding is rather fanciful. The Lawrence remarks on Philby are simply one untruth after another, for even Philby's books, though carelessly written, are far from uninteresting.
There is nothing unfriendly in Philby's remarks on the month he spent with Lawrence at Amman. True, he was astonished to find Lawrence living in a "hovel," which served him as home and office, with one Arab clerk. He was also surprised and amused by Lawrence's idea of handing over, which consisted in tearing up all papers except Lawrence's own secret copy of the Hussein-McMahon letters and a half-sheet of paper showing that in three months he had spent about ?100,000 in gold, including "?10,000 -- lost, I forget how or where." (That "phenomenal memory" again!) At that time the total annual revenue of Transjordan was ?100,000 a year, plus a subsidy of ?80,000 to Abdulla. Thus, in a few months Lawrence had distributed in gold a sum approximately equal to the country's whole revenue. Lawrence carried all his possessions in a small suitcase, but always wore a stiff collar and dicky which were always clean, as they were made of celluloid. Philby pays tribute to Lawrence's competence as administrator: "He seemed to know everything and everybody . . . a month with him was an exhilarating experience, but he did all the work." 57 It is to be hoped that the straitened British tax-payer remains content with this experiment in lightning king-making, for in exchange for benefits which are not easy to discover, he still retains the privilege of paying Transjordania an annual subsidy which is said now to have risen to three millions sterling.
Thus ended Lawrence's activities in the Middle East. Eleven years
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had passed since he first arrived as an undergraduate in the summer of 1909. During that period he had been cast or had cast himself for several parts. He had been student and sthete, assistant-archologist and organiser of native labour for Hogarth and Woolley, a more or less mysterious wanderer with Daboum in the off seasons during which, for some unexplained reason, he acquired a venomous grudge against France. The Turks he had always disliked, and whatever his propaganda feelings, he grew in time to hate his life as an "amateur barbarian" among the Bedouins. But in fact he was, in that respect, a very common type of chauvinist, liking no country and no people 'but his own and -- the German army. Where he differed entirely from the pukka sahib or Blimp type was that he did not share their Wog and Gippo attitude to Arabs. Yet he had enough racial prejudices to feel "hurt" that mere negrocs "should possess exact counterparts of all our bodies." 58 His accidental connection with the Newcombe survey enabled him to begin the war an immense stride ahead of most of his contemporaries, as a staff captain, a rank which was attained by fighting soldiers on the Western Front only after long experience of battle. The friendship and influence of Hogarth, so important yet so occult, found and kept him in a perfectly safe post for two years in a Cairo untouched by war. When the combing-out process of late 1916 (there were 50,000 casualties on the first day of the first battle of the Somme) extruded him into the Hejaz, he developed unsuspected gifts for intrigue and action, establishing an easy mastery over Feisal's rather weak character, and fostering at once the raids and sabotage and the political influence of the Hashemites. There will always be disagreement as to the military value of "the Arab revolt," and still more as to the part played by Lawrence in it. The outside evidence seems to show that he and his friends grossly exaggerated his achievements and his importance, and that he was not the isolated unique leader, but merely one of a number of officers who lacked his personal associations with Feisal and the Arab Bureau and his skill in despatch-writing. As it can be shown that Lawrence "touched up" and highly improved with invented stories every other phase of his life, there seems a very strong likelihood that he did exactly the same thing for the period 1917-18. We have only Lawrence's account of Tafileh; and only his account of the whole Akaba expedition was known until Mr. Antonius published
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the Arab version, 59 which put it in a very different light. Then the camera of Chase and the imaginative eloquence of Lowell Thomas made Lawrence the best-advertised Briton of his age. With this prestige and the power of immense notoriety, his powerful and pertinacious will, his ability in propaganda and wire-pulling, he succeeded in finding a throne for his friend Feisal, though not in "biffing the French out of Syria." He failed to secure the co-operation of Hussein, and fatally misjudged the power and character of Ibn Saud who easily crushed the projected Anglophile Hashemite hegemony.


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CHAPTER FIVE


THE STORY of the production of Seven Pillars of Wisdom is long and complicated, and highly characteristic of Lawrence's pretentious egotism. To write a clear, straightforward account of the Arab war and of his own share in it did not suit him at all. While affecting a shrinking modesty and protesting how much was owing to others, he was all along casting himself for the leading part. Then the book had to be a literary masterpiece, a "titanic book," self-consciously and pretentiously planned as such, according to Lawrence's Oxonian ideas of what constituted a masterpiece, looking to literature, not to life. People influential in the literary world were enmeshed as advisers and approvers during the revision; and, according to Lawrence, Bernard Shaw improved every paragraph. 1 So we are left uncertain as to how much of the book was in fact rewritten by Shaw over Lawrence's rhetoric. The completed work then had to be illustrated by colour reproductions of specially commissioned portraits and pictures, and produced in accordance with Lawrence's notions of typography. By a series of brilliant manuvres, he contrived to enjoy the reputation of having sacrificed his fortune to produce a book beautiful for the happy few, while arranging for a popular cut-down edition which sold in tens of thousands and repaid all his losses. After which, he gave all his royalties to charity; but, when the book was withdrawn in England, these royalties can only have continued from abroad.
Lawrence had considerable gifts as a rhetorical and propagandist writer, though he lacked spontaneity and naturalness and the "tact of omission." He was a persuasive and plausible advocate with a decided taste and ability for descriptive writing. He was not naturally
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an observer, but could force himself to note and to remember when he felt that it was called for, and must have kept elaborate notes during 1917-18. (His private 1911 diary of his walk is one of the most jejune travel productions ever printed.) It is Lawrence's perpetual conscious effort to write up to this artificial level which puts a strain on the admiration of his readers. At the same time Lawrence was clever enough to see that his contemporaries were mostly in reaction against his models and striving for what is loosely called "realism." And so in a work which is almost all murex-tinted, we come upon anti-purple patches of horror or nastiness or brutality or sadism. Let me repeat that Lawrence said himself he only wrote well when he was excited, and that it was exactly such repulsive things which excited him, for though they are far from being the only well-written passages in his long book, they are the best in point of view of vividness and gusto. It is necessary to remember this striving for complicated literary and typographical aims in order to understand why five or six years were occupied with the book. It is also necessary to remember that for much of that time he was in the ranks, and that the production of the book was carried out from a barrack-room.
Mention has already been made of Lawrence's statement that six and a half books of the original draft were written in Paris in 1919. Lawrence also explained that this part of his script was "nearly lost" in the plane crash at Rome. 2 At a much later date, Lawrence explained to Captain Hart his method of work at this early stage of his book. He said that he first wrote a draft from memory, and then "referred to his diaries and notes, and rewrote his narrative on the opposite page with the aid of this historical check." 3 What was gained by this topsy-turvy method of work is not explained. From Graves we learn that Lawrence -- surely unfortunately? -- destroyed, as he wrote, most of the notes he had made during the war. 4 Yet in a letter written to a fellow-soldier in September, 1920, Lawrence says that he was "too busy or too lazy to write down what happened properly," and asks if any of the others kept diaries. 5 It shows the curious amateurishness of that front or its laxity of discipline that they apparently did not know war diaries were forbidden in the Army.
At this point the anecdotes about Seven Pillars start to give out the familiar ring of the dramatic and the extraordinary. Just as the
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an observer, but could force himself to note and to remember when he felt that it was called for, and must have kept elaborate notes during 1917-18. (His private 1911 diary of his walk is one of the most jejune travel productions ever printed.) It is Lawrence's perpetual conscious effort to write up to this artificial level which puts a strain on the admiration of his readers. At the same time Lawrence was clever enough to see that his contemporaries were mostly in reaction against his models and striving for what is loosely called "realism." And so in a work which is almost all murex-tinted, we come upon anti-purple patches of horror or nastiness or brutality or sadism. Let me repeat that Lawrence said himself he only wrote well when he was excited, and that it was exactly such repulsive things which excited him, for though they are far from being the only well-written passages in his long book, they are the best in point of view of vividness and gusto. It is necessary to remember this striving for complicated literary and typographical aims in order to understand why five or six years were occupied with the book. It is also necessary to remember that for much of that time he was in the ranks, and that the production of the book was carried out from a barrack-room.
Mention has already been made of Lawrence's statement that six and a half books of the original draft were written in Paris in 1919. Lawrence also explained that this part of his script was "nearly lost" in the plane crash at Rome. 2 At a much later date, Lawrence explained to Captain Hart his method of work at this early stage of his book. He said that he first wrote a draft from memory, and then "referred to his diaries and notes, and rewrote his narrative on the opposite page with the aid of this historical check." 3 What was gained by this topsy-turvy method of work is not explained. From Graves we learn that Lawrence -- surely unfortunately? -- destroyed, as he wrote, most of the notes he had made during the war. 4 Yet in a letter written to a fellow-soldier in September, 1920, Lawrence says that he was "too busy or too lazy to write down what happened properly," and asks if any of the others kept diaries. 5 It shows the curious amateurishness of that front or its laxity of discipline that they apparently did not know war diaries were forbidden in the Army.
At this point the anecdotes about Seven Pillars start to give out the familiar ring of the dramatic and the extraordinary. Just as the
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first script of Carlyle's French Revolution was destroyed by Froude's servant, so Lawrence lost the script of the greater part of his book in its first version. The first mention of this occurs in the postscript to a letter written to Charles Doughty on the 25th November, 1919, in which Lawrence says: "I lost the MS. of my own adventures in Arabia: it was stolen from me in the train." 6 This statement of the disaster was given in more detail to Graves for his book. From this we learn that the statement that six and a half of the present "books" only had been written may have been a mistake, since Graves's version assumes that the whole book had been written, and that in the theft eight of the present ten were lost. This had occurred while changing trains at Reading, 7 and was still further elaborated. The script had been carried in a bag similar to those used by bank messengers. Lawrence went to the refreshment room at Reading station and, dazed by the quality of the fare after the comparative luxury of the Arabian desert, forgot his bag; and when he telephoned from Oxford it had gone, and has not since been found. 8 Stories were then put about that the manuscript was hidden in the archives of a foreign power, or -- less dramatically -- that the thief had "probably" thrown it into the Thames. How anybody could discover the truth of either of these alternatives is not stated. And there seems no particular reason why the French government would want it, since it merely demonstrated what they had known all along -- that British officers were secretly and openly doing all they could to make the French unpopular in Syria and to gain control of the country for themselves.
The news of this unlucky accident naturally caused consternation among the chosen few who had been allowed at that date to know that the great work was in progress. Dr. Hogarth who, it is said, had insisted that Lawrence should write the book, was most upset when he heard the sad news, and insisted that it must at once be re-written. 9 The most extraordinary measures of self-discipline were applied by Lawrence in order to comply with this requirement. He did not spare himself and wrote for hours at a stretch going without food, sleep and warmth. 10 He did not, however, remain unwashed, but took sixpenny hot baths in the Westminster public baths. The problem of dealing with used clothes did not escape his mind, and he informed Mr. Richards (gratuitously, one supposes,
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since few of us anxiously ask our friends how they get their washing done) that he put everything into an immense sack. When it was full, Lawrence took it in a taxi to the Savoy Hotel, stayed the night, and in the morning received everything back beautifully laundered. The economy of time and money is obvious. And then, as he informed Mr. Richards, a strange and tremendous experience befell him. That "phenomenal memory" forgot that all shops would be closed during the Easter holidays of 1920, so that he was totally without food for four days, during which period -- and throughout most of the nights as well -- he wrote incessantly, having forgotten also that many of the popular restaurants would be open. The new draft on which he worked with such concentrated and ascetic energy was "very nearly half a million words," 11 and Lawrence informed Graves that on one occasion he wrote 34,000 words in 24 hours, but that his average was some four to five thousand words a day. 12 This did not leave him much time to take pains with his style, he added.
But at this point we begin to run into some of the usual difficulties with these ex-post-facto anecdotes of extraordinary prowess. If, in November of 1919, he had written the first draft of the whole ten books, had lost eight of them in Reading (as Graves and Hart relate) and, by the spring of 1920, had written a second draft of the eight books, how does it happen that at the time, 27th February, 1920, to be precise, Lawrence wrote to Mr. Richards:
About the book-to-build-the-house. It is on paper in the first draft to the middle of Book VI; and there are seven books in all." 13
A first draft is a first draft, and apparently in February, 1920, it was written in seven books, not in ten, and nothing whatever is said about the loss. Doubtless, Lawrence considered this re-writing from memory as still the first draft, though it is hard to see why he got stuck before the end or why he did not profit by the opportunity to improve his text. He apparently told Captain Hart that the whole book was done in February, 1920, yet he wrote Richards that he meant to finish by 30th September, and not in a London attic but in All Souls. 14 These statistics of re-writing solely from memory (the notes, it will be remembered, had been destroyed as the original
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draft proceeded) are prodigious, and calculated to raise envious admiration in all professional authors, journalists and even shorthand typists. Sixty words a minute for fifteen minutes is, I believe, the test for an average stenographer merely copying, and I don't think that this could be kept up for ten hours. It was certainly a terrific feat to remember and write down by hand, without getting writer's cramp, the text of this complicated prose work at the rate of 1,400 words an hour for 24 hours without a moment of rest. * The story of the lost script was told first by Lowell Thomas (who staged it at Paddington) and then by the anonymous author of the Introduction to the American edition of Revolt in the Desert. At this time it was not known that Lawrence himself had given out this information, which excuses the crisp comment of Sir Andrew Macphail:
"One cannot say that no such theft occurred, although Lawrence makes no mention of it. Only a fool would expect to be believed when he says that the author rewrote the book from memory." 15
Now, of course, we know from Lawrence and from Captain Hart and Mr. Graves that Lawrence passed both stories. Indeed, through Graves we have further testimony. One privileged person who read both texts was Colonel Dawnay, and he reported that "one chapter at least that he read more carefully than others in the original seems to be the same, word for word and almost comma for comma, in the second version." 16 Some might draw a deduction from this fact not so far distant from Macphail's, while others will content themselves with an awed wonder as to which of the two Arabian Colonels had the more "phenomenal memory."
This second version, remembered so miraculously and written down with such stupendous speed, was destroyed by Lawrence in 1922. This is unlucky, for such a record-breaking manuscript should surely have been deposited either in the British Museum, the Smithsonian Institute or Madame Tussaud's. A third text was completed by February, 1922 (soon after Lawrence returned from Amman), and eight copies were roughly printed off by the staff of the Oxford Times, as being cheaper than typing and a method more likely to

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* In fairness I should add that Sir Walter Scott as an "apprentice" to his father, a Writer to the Signet, claims to have copied 120 folio pages within 24 hours.
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ensure secrecy. But was secrecy all that Lawrence wanted? Of course it wasn't, what author does want it? He merely wished to discourage unauthorised readers, while having the book in a form less discouraging than a mountain of typescript, which he could show to a chosen few among the right people, and interest them personally in the book by a humble request for advice and correction. Whatever Lawrence's gifts as a practical and theoretical military strategist, there can be no doubt that he was a literary strategist of the highest order. He had observed that the usual method of advertising books was outworn. No use just writing your own book in your own way and letting a publisher solicit purchasers for an unlimited number. The obvious though exacting method was to start a curiosity in the work through the flattered commendations of the influential happy few, and then refuse to satisfy the resulting demand until it had reached an approximate maximum through deliberate frustration. Something of the sort had been done pre-1914 for Tagore, with a remarkable success which rather faded out when Tagore became an ardent admirer of Gandhi. Obviously a book by T. E. Lawrence could not in any event be given to the world as if it were the production of some vulgarian with absolutely nothing to recommend him but literary genius. Lawrence further showed his flair for success by choosing as his sponsors Bernard Shaw and Edward Garnett.
Meanwhile, the completion of his work and the setting up by the Oxford newspaper had taken time, and in 1922 -- dramatically on the 14th August, the eve of his 34th birthday -- Lawrence had joined the ranks of the R.A.F. To avoid distracting the account of that psychological and material crisis by references to book-production, it will be taken up later and separately. Thus, Lawrence's letters to Shaw about his book were written not from the Colonial Office or an Oxford College, but from an Army hut of recruits. Lawrence had realised that if he could persuade Shaw on to his side, the reputation of his book with the official politico-literary world was safe.


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