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



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Pillars is not pseudo-Elizabethan. On the other hand, Doughty's influence may be to blame for the confused structure, the long-winded digressions, the ruthless translation into the chosen idiom of every detail jotted down as notes. Yet Lawrence was aware of the drawbacks to Doughty's style. He rightly regrets Doughty's use of foreign constructions, his archaic vocabulary and his use of hundreds of Arabic words which have perfectly good English equivalents. Lawrence's dictum: "Camel is a better word than thelul," should be noted and obeyed by all writers tempted into verbal local colour. On the other hand, Lawrence, like Doughty, sometimes forgets -- or rather does not care -- that his reader may not share his interest in endless descriptions of obscure desert features and persons. There is always a moment, too often several, in these books on the Arabian Desert when we are called on to thrill, Robinson Crusoe-like, to such a transcendent revelation as the spectacle of dried camel dung fretted by the drifting sand. And Lawrence's narrative is apt to be loaded with unknown or forgotten names, almost like those "begat" chapters in the Old Testament:
"In the afternoon, Nuri Shaalan appeared, with Trad and Khalid, Faris, Durzi, and the Khaffaji. Auda abu Tayi arrived, with Mohammed el Deilann, also Fahad and Adhub, the Zebn leaders, with ibn Bani, the chief of the Serahi, and ibn Genj of the Serdiyeh . . ." 58
On the other hand, there is certainly a considerable literary talent here, especially that talent for persuasive and plausible propaganda so noticeable in his Arab Bulletins and in his political reports and letters to the Press. Only a man widely conversant with literature, and in possession of a genuine gift for fitting words to thought and experience, could have worked out a style so high-flown and exacting and have maintained it through so long a book. This virtuosity in words, this meticulously mannered type of style had been much admired in the tardily sthetic Oxford of Lawrence's youth. And is it too fanciful to see in him something of that Irish or Celtic love of playing with words, which has produced how many verbal preciosities down to the enormous word-bog of Finnegan's Wake? But, however that may be, Lawrence as a writer was also skilful in the art of using words so as to suggest or to imply something more or something less than
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is actually stated. This was often a useful defence, making it as hard to lay hold of his real meaning as to grasp a naked man smeared with grease. But that kind of verbal dodging is the virtue of a politician and intriguer, not of a writer. Almost the hardest and least often achieved triumph of the heart-breaking craft of words is to use them so that they will mean to the reader exactly what they meant to the writer. Suggestion is too easy. One example among many -Lawrence used the appeal to puritan prejudice of the word "clean" in the most unscrupulous way. Thus he warmly recommends his Farraj and Daud (who, on his own showing, were a couple of unwashed desert homosexuals) as "so clean." He praises "the sword" -- i.e., the archaic symbol for War, with all its filth and degradation -- as "clean." He tries to place Allenby above question or discussion by calling him "clean-judging." And elsewhere we hear that Lawrence admired a private soldier because he was "the rugged clean" type of Englishman, which leaves one musing over those dirty, slick English types one sees furtively bolting about all over the world.
May it be questioned whether a style so mannered, so literary and so inexact was really the most suitable for an honest war narrative? True, every personal war narrative is autobiography; but War is action, whatever it may involve of plans and preparations, and however much the neurotic intellectual who is writing may have been plagued by mental conflict and divided aims. Action does not ask a too sophisticated style, but rather a speech which is vigorous, direct, and unaffected, where the very existence of the sayer is forgotten in the vividness and meaning of the thing said. Is there a page of Seven Pillars in which we are allowed to forget Lawrence of Arabia? He might have written much better if he had not striven so painfully to write too well.
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CHAPTER SIX


A CIRCUMSTANCE Which has to be recorded is that Lawrence had no known love affairs. He was never married or engaged, and, from the sexual point of view, there are no women recorded in his life. He himself claimed that he had lived his life in complete sexual ignorance of women. More than once he spoke of his temperament as "cold," and indeed there is an absence of warmth of expression in all his letters, even the early ones. He told Robert Graves that he had never been able to fall in love, and that even as a boy he had never had much to do with women. 1 He allowed Graves to say in his biography that Lawrence did not like "children or dogs or camels in the usual sentimental way." 2 But there were certainly some children he liked, from his own youngest brother in boyhood to the young daughters of two of his Air Force officers in the later years. Moreover he certainly was on friendly terms with women, both before and after the war -- Mrs. Rieder and Mrs. Fontana in Syria, and in later years Mrs. Clare Smith and Mrs. Charlotte Shaw. Graves thought that he liked practical, middle-aged women, the type that would make a good home. 3 By far the most intimate of these friendships was with Charlotte Shaw, and it was in his letters to her that he made the most revealing disclosures about himself. But she was much older than he was, and it is a natural inference that what he was looking for in these passionless relations, and what he found in Mrs. Shaw, was a substitute mother. One or two women, of no particular standing, have been ready to hint that "T. E." felt for them a warmer passion than these quasi-maternal relations, but those may safely be dismissed as yet more examples of the very common snobbish wish to be thought on terms of intimacy with the famous Lawrence of Arabia.
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Yet if Lawrence was incapable of falling in love, he was obviously very much exposed to the accident of other people falling in love with him. He was forty-five when he wrote, after Christmas from camp, to Violet Astor, not without a touch of coquetry and possibly of romantic arithmetic, to complain that during the festive season he had received declarations of "carnal love from four women and two men." 4 The addition of two men is curious, but Professor Lawrence tills us that Lawrence's friendships were "comparable in intensity to sexual love," and were in fact his substitute for sex. Lawrence, he goes on, rebelled unceasingly "against sex with a hatred which was "an irrational instinct which went far beyond reason's limits." I shall have occasion to refer again later on to this very revealing appreciation, and for the moment only record that the Professor adds that Lawrence may in childhood have been "endowed" with the idea of sex as sin, but that this thoroughly irrational attitude developed after the war. It was there all along, but became more vocal and uncompromising as Lawrence felt himself immune from retaliation and secure in his notoriety as national hero.
It was inevitable that a man who openly declared his hatred of women's sex, and indulged in friendships with men "comparable in intensity to sexual love," should have been suspected of homosexuality. Sir A. T. Wilson obviously hints at it in his Journal of the Central Asian Society notice of Revolt in the Desert. There is also a curious passage in E. M. Forster's notes on him, where he speaks of meeting Lawrence by chance at Queen's Hall in the company of men "whose faces I instinctively distrusted. All his friends will agree that he had some queer friends." 5 This is a bit mysterious, and perhaps was not meant to say what it seems to say. On the other hand, friends and relatives have been eager -- perhaps too eager -- in denying a suggestion which must have occurred to many people.
The reader will recollect the strong friendship in pre-war days between Lawrence and the Arab boy nicknamed Dahoum, otherwise Sheik Ahmed, and how greatly their living together aroused the suspicions of the Arab villagers. Sir Leonard Woolley, conceding that Dahoumk was "remarkably handsome and not particularly intelligent," goes on to deny any homosexual relation. Lawrence, he says, had a "very strong vein of sentiment," but was in no sense" a pervert," indeed he had "a remarkably clean mind." He was, of
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course, interested in Greek homosexuality, of which his classical reading had made him tolerant, but the interest was not "morbid." Moreover, Lawrence never made "a smutty remark," and would have objected if one had been made. 6 The notion that all homosexuals have "filthy minds," but that Lawrence had not, is rather a dangerous argument to use to anyone who has read The Mint, which in parts is almost insane in its attack on female sex.
Mr. Lowell Thomas is naturally more splendidly sweeping. He states that anyone who has been in lengthy contact with "pathologues" knows that they will give away their secret eventually. He himself had met all types of them, and his father was a doctor. He had never found the faintest trace of the homosexual in Lawrence. 7 But the difficulty with these assertions on either side is that there is no real evidence for or against. Mohammed decreed the punishment of death for adultery, but added the proviso that there must be four witnesses who will swear to having taken the guilty ones in the very act, with the consequence that in the Moslem world a daily occurrence is visited with its penalty once in a blue moon. * Norman Haire, with his thirty-five years' practice as "sexologist," points out that, in his experience, relatives and friends are the last persons to hear of or to suspect homosexual practices. The opinions of those who without any concrete evidence assert that Lawrence was a homosexual cancel out the opinions of those who thought he wasn't. So far as I can discover, there is no legal or medical evidence whatsoever.
The obvious course would be to leave it at that, but, though there is no evidence as to Lawrence's sexual actions, he has unconsciously left a record of his sexual sympathies. In his letters and other writings, he has left a good deal of evidence as to what sexually repelled him, what he tolerated, and what excited his preference and sympathy. And, although it would be easiest just to pass by, the service of truth demands that this indirect evidence should be cited. Lawrence's published pre-war letters are few, but most of them are addressed to staid elder women -- his mother, his nurse, a woman missionary -- or to his patron Hogarth, and therefore unlikely to contain any sexual information whatever. But significantly there is not one letter to a girl. Writing to a fellow student he refers sneeringly

____________________

* There is a curious story of an Arab woman who -- probably insane -- insisted on accusing herself of adultery to Ibn Saud's Wahabis, who with great reluctance at last put her piously to death.
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to odalisques as "upper housemaids," 8 but having the good fortune to visit Arles while Mistral's revival of the beautiful local costume was still effective, Lawrence writes briefly of the Arlésiennes as "glorious." 9
The war brought a great change, and, when Lawrence came to write Seven Pillars, he abandoned his former reticence and wrote several passages of a highly sexual sort which were omitted from the public Revolt in the Desert. For some reason, that popular production also omitted the Dedication "To S. A." This is a rather unsuccessful attempt to write a poem in the free verse style introduced to England and America by the Imagists, and shows that Lawrence had not understood their aims. It is not surprising that when Robert Graves saw the poem in manuscript, his immediate impulse was to re-write it. But, from the point of view of our present enquiry, it has some interesting lines:
"I loved you, so I drew these tides of men into my hands and wrote my will across the sky in stars to earn you Freedom; the seven pillared worthy house, that your eyes might be shining for me when we came. . . . Love, the way-weary, groped to your body, our brief wage, ours for the moment before earth's soft hand explored your shape. . . ." 10

Whether we are to take these words literally or metaphorically, it is undeniable that the language and sentiment are erotic. "S. A.'s" eyes are to be shining for Lawrence, Love groped to this body, "our brief wage "before earth in its turn explored with its "soft hand" the shape of the beloved now dead. As usual when Lawrence had something to conceal, he told different stories about this dedication and its object. Presumably Graves was the first to be allowed to see it, and it was sent to him in the week following a conversation in which Lawrence had denied that he had ever been in love. 11 He later wrote Graves that this was "not altogether true," and explained that his dedication to S. A. had been "dictated" by one who "provided a disproportionate share of the motive for the Arabian adventure." 12 Graves goes on to say that in 1927 one of Lawrence's oldest friends had said that S. A. was "Sheik Achmed, an Arab with whom L. had a sort of blood-brotherhood before the war." 13 This old friend may have been Vyvyan Richards, who thinks that S. A. was


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" Dahoum himself, whose real name was Sheik Achmed." 14 Dahoum is said to have died of typhus in Syria early in 1918, which agrees well enough, since Lawrence told Liddell Hart that S. A. had died "some time before" they reached Damascus. 15 And again that the "unhappy event" occurred "long before" they got to Damascus. 16 Possibly growing restive under questioning, Lawrence then tried to throw Captain Hart off by saying "S" was a person, and "A" a place. 17 Professor Lawrence, who at one time seemed to accept the identification with Dahoum, later changed his mind and thought the poem had "little personal significance." 18 Looking to the phrasing of the dedication, this seems unlikely, though of course nobody can say for certain that Dahourn was the person meant. On the other hand, if S. A. was not Dahoum, who was he or she? Taking this together with the many references to the boy in Lawrence's notes and letters and the absence of any erotic reference to girls, the inference seems clear that Dahourn was Lawrence's main pre-war interest and affection.
Quite early in the text of Seven Pillars, we come upon a paragraph which has caused a good deal of comment since it is such a downright if not defiant statement of Lawrence's disdain for heterosexual and sympathy with homosexual relations. Although he says elsewhere that between raids the married Arab men returned to their wives 19 (and in Moslem communities unmarried men are very exceptional), he here speaks only of "the public women" and how their "raddled meat" was not "palatable" to what he calls "a man of healthy parts." Such was the horror of "our youths" for such "sordid commerce" that they "began to slake one another's few needs in their own clean bodies," which process seemed "sexless and even pure." (Thus we see the meaning Lawrence attached to his favourite adjective "clean," and may remember that he always spoke of himself as "sexless.") He then dwells with sympathy and approval on a lurid vision of "friends quivering together in the yielding sand with intimate hot limbs in supreme embrace," which Lawrence says was" the sensual co-efficient of the mental passion, which was welding our souls and spirits in one flaming effort." 20 You would have to go a long way before finding in other respectable writers so outspoken a declaration of preference for homosexuality. We may link this with his gibe that there was "nothing female in the Arab movement, but the camels" 21
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-- an interesting admission -- and his comment on the "little vices and luxuries -- coffee, fresh water, women." 22
The Howeitat chieftain, Auda, who led the Akaba expedition, had acquired a "latest wife, a jolly girl," who "whisked away like a rabbit" when Lawrence entered their tent and began jeering at the Sheik for "being so old and yet so foolish like the rest of his race, who regard our comic reproductive processes not as an unhygienic pleasure, but as a main business of life." 23 Yet the "quivering" male "friends" were "clean" and "even pure." And, while expressing this unqualified disdain and even horror of Auda's young wife, Lawrence felt the greatest admiration for the young camel-drivers, between 16 and 25, who, he thought, were so "keen-looking, handsome, mannered, often foppish in habit," talking "a delicate and elastic Arabic," while elsewhere he remarks that these "white-handed Aegyl " were "too beautiful to be made into labourers." 24 This is surely carrying sthetic appreciation a little far, in war time, and on a front of such importance?
One is tempted to ask how it was that so many quivering male lovers were recruited in the Arab army. Burton and Doughty agree that the practice of homosexuality did not exist among the Bedouins of their time. Doughty says that the desert tribes had "purified their bodies" from all excess except coffee-drinking, adding: "Marriage is easy for every man's youth; and there are no such rusty bonds in their wedlock, that any must bear an heavy countenance." 25 On the other hand, Burton Terminal Essay is almost too lavish of detailed information about the existence of homosexuality among those Arabs and other Mid-Eastern peoples living outside the desert areas. Johann Burckhardt reported "unnatural propensities" as "very common" among the Druses, and Burton says much the same of the Damascenes, and considered that "the evil" was "deeply rooted" among the Kurds. 26 The Bedouins being thus exempted, we should have to look for these "male lovers" among the enlisted deserters from the Turkish army or Lawrence's own bodyguard. But since Lawrence had no command in the Arab army, and in any case could not from lack of training have manoeuvred even a small number of regular troops, the probability seems that they must be looked for among the thirty or forty members of his own bodyguard, "the too
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beautiful ones "who, in their coloured robes, looked to him like a row of tulips. 27
This inference is borne out by the affair of Farraj and Daud, two members of Lawrence's bodyguard to whose behaviour he devotes a disproportionately large space, especially for a book supposedly occupied with great historical events and the unfolding of profoundly original views on warfare -- as if the Emperor in the Memorial of St. Helena had dwelt long and affectionately on the jeunes ébats of two drummer boys in the Young Guard. Lawrence introduces them as "an instance of the eastern boy and boy affection which the segregation of womenkind made inevitable." Such friendships, he thought, led to" manly loves, which were "of a depth and force beyond our flesh-steeped conceit." When these relationships were "innocent they were" hot and unashamed, but when sexuality entered in they "passed into a give and take, unspiritual relation, like marriage." 28 It is a little surprising to read that a Christian-bred man like Lawrence thought of marriage as an "unspiritual" relation, seeing that for the largest body of Christians it is one of the sacraments, but it must be remembered that Lawrence looked upon marriage, in his peculiar way, merely as a kind of licensed prostitution.
Lawrence's description of Farraj, the "love-fellow" of Daud, is luscious, for the boy is described as "a beautiful soft-framed, girlish creature," who possessed an "innocent, smooth face" and "swimming" eyes. The couple came to volunteer for Lawrence's bodyguard, and when Sharif Nasir refused, the beautiful young Farraj knelt at the Sharif's feet in supplication, "all the woman in him evident in his longing." Lawrence at once accepted them, because they were so "clean" and "young," and they turn up frequently in the pages of his great, volume. They "gave him great satisfaction," he says; they were "two imps," yet of an sthetic sort, from their habit of "dancing along, barefooted, delicate as thoroughbreds." 29 Later they had to be punished, and this disciplinary measure was carried out in a very curious way. The boys were seated on rocks made intolerably hot by the fierce sun until they begged for mercy. 30 There is a marked contrast between Lawrence's sympathy for these boy lovers and their "fopperies" and quiverings, and his contempt for Sheik Auda's passion for his young wife. Such instances from Seven Pillars could easily be multi-
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plied, but these should suffice to show that whatever Lawrence's actions the trend of his sexual preferences was anti-female and pro-male. A similar impression comes from the occasional mention of these topics in his Letters, a few examples of which may be given.
Intellectual women have naturally been offended by his repeated assertion that English literature would not have suffered if every woman who had produced original work never lived. 31 He thought women upset his friends. 32 In writing to a friend about the poetry of Charlotte Mew, he produced this curious judgment: "I'm frigid towards woman so that I can withstand her." 33 Yet there is nothing erotic, and not much that is obviously feminine, in her poems. But Lawrence not only disliked women who possessed literary gifts -- he even objected to their acting as naked models for sculptors. "Do you really like naked women? They express so little," he wrote to Kennington; and at once proceeded to describe to him and to praise a clay-sketch for a war memorial, consisting of four or five "earthbound, naked" (male) figures marching in step close together, carrying a huge weight. 34 "Women?" he wrote. "I like some women. I don't like their sex. It's as obvious as red hair: and as little fundamental, I fancy." 35 Less than three weeks later he repeated this with added absurdity:
"Surely the sex business isn't worth all this damned fuss? I've met only a handful of people who really cared a biscuit for it." 36
We must surely agree with E. M. Forster that "T. E." must have had a lot of queer friends. And if the reader wants to see how really low Lawrence could drop in his vindictive attack on women, he should borrow a copy of The Mint. Lawrence always thought of ordinary sex relations as prostitution. He praised a correspondent for having written a "demolition" of David Garnett novel No Love whose exciting of the spirit he regarded as prostitution. 37 He told Charlotte Shaw, to whom he felt he was able to unburden himself as to no other, that he hated and despised physical pleasures; so much so that he regarded sexual intercourse as degrading to a woman, although it might occasionally be compensated for by childbearing! Yet, measured by his own experience and imagination, the experiences described in Lady Chatterley's Lover were mild. Nor did
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he believe that love affairs must necessarily be between persons of opposite sex; his own observations of life bore him out in this. And he saw no objection to the love experienced in the mind finding expression through the body. 38
Footnote : I have not included in the body of this chapter any mention of or any quotation from the short piece on Lady Chatterley's Lover which appears on page 687 of the Letters under date 25th March, 1930 (i.e. soon after D. H. Lawrence's death) and is given as addressed to Henry Williamson. Mr. David Garnett describes it as "the best criticism I have seen of Lady Chatterley: one which shows complete sympathy and understanding of the author." 39 This is no doubt true, but the piece in question was written by Henry Williamson, and not by T. E. Lawrence. Mr. Williamson wrote it originally as a protest against the obituaries of D. H. Lawrence, but did not publish it. He was moving from one home to another when he sent in his T. E. Lawrence letters to the editor, and by accident included with them his own piece on Lady Chatterley. When the papers were returned he did no more than slit open the envelope without looking through the contents, and did not notice his mistake until the Letters were in print. He gave the story to a newspaper with specimens of the two hand-writings. Lawrence's hand-writing, like that of many neurotics, varied constantly -- it is quite amazing to see the varieties in any collection of his hand-written letters. Occasionally his hand-writing resembles Williamson's so closely that anyone might be deceived. I have had the original of this Lady Chatterley note in my possession and have studied it with specimens of Lawrence's hand-writing. The hand-writing is certainly Williamson's. Moreover, the note is wholly in keeping with his line of thought and at variance with Lawrence's, and in Williamson's style.

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