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



Download 1.73 Mb.
Page4/40
Date23.04.2018
Size1.73 Mb.
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   40
A break in his studies may perhaps have taken place at just this time, since Lawrence said he changed from mathematics to history when he was "nearly 18." 32 At the same period (i.e., just after his presumed release from the Artillery), his parents seemed to have realised that they had to deal not only with an exceptionally gifted, but also exceptionally self-willed and independent youth, who, if he was to be kept from further rash adventuring of this truant sort had to be given exceptional treatment and freedom. It was when he began to read history that his parents had built for his exclusive use a two-room bungalow in the garden of Polstead Road, where at the time of writing it still exists. 33
The usual explanation for Lawrence's changing from an attic in the house to this bungalow is that the growing boys over-filled the housebut, if so, why was it not given to the eldest son? Lawrence allowed
-43-
Graves to write that "to avoid surveillance later he refused to sleep in the house," but also passed the statement that he built the bungalow with his own hands, which is obviously untrue. The only thing he did was to hang the walls with sheeting of the type used in workhouses to make them sound-proof, but the place was much more comfortable than the average room in an Oxford college, having running water, electric light, a house telephone and a stove. Here, it is said, he did all his University work, wrote his thesis, and (in 1914), wrote his share of The Wilderness of Zin. 34
His mother says that there is "not a word of truth" in the stories that after reporting in at midnight he would be "out at night till all hours, and come and get in by a window." Vyvyan Richards, his closest Oxford friend at that time, has a very different story. Lawrence, he says, woke up at night like a cat -- there is plenty of confirmation of this detail in later life -- and on winter nights would go and dive into an icy river and run back dripping and grinning all over his face. On being introduced by Lawrence to his mother, Richards had the pleasant experience of hearing himself derisively introduced as the performer of Lawrence's own midnight and clandestine irregularities. 35
Such trivialities may seem hardly worth recording, but their significance lies not in the episodes themselves but in the psychology they reveal, the reactions of Lawrence's highly susceptible temperament to the fate imposed on him at birth. Already, at 18, he had developed his farouche independence and personal loneliness, selfdiscipline and self-punishment -- sometimes real, sometimes imagined -- a reckless derision and almost clownish mockery at life's futilities and pretences.
It is easy to understand Lawrence's view that such a couple as his parents would have been well-advised not to produce children. 36
-44-

CHAPTER THREE


THE INFLUENCE of Oxford -- by which of course they mean the University and its institutions -- on Lawrence was decisive, as most of his friends agree. The attraction of University life induced him while still at the High School to enjoy -- a little fearful of the risks perhaps -- breaking the school regulation forbidding the pupils to visit undergraduates' rooms in college. 1 Lowell Thomas thought that Oxford had "left its indelible mark" on Lawrence, and a fellow-graduate feelingly describes him as "the perfect Oxonian." 2 Yet his entrance to the University was not quite so smooth and effortless as might be supposed from the stories of his alleged success in passing examinations. Lawrence, as already mentioned, told Liddell Hart that he had "worked at mathematics until nearly 18," and then changed to history. 3 Perhaps we may infer that he did not work very hard or had not much aptitude for mathematics, since he had "encouraged" his schoolfellow, T. W. Chaundy, to do his algebra for him. 4 And if he had spent six months away from school by running away from home to join the Artillery, the loss of time may have affected his work adversely. At all events, the change to history was not a success, and he failed in the examination for a History Scholarship at St. John's College. 5
The date of this John's examination is not recorded, though possibly it was in June, 1906. In August of that year he made his first independent trip to France, and on his return either began or continued to receive lessons from a history crammer, L.C. Jane, who later became a lecturer in the international politics school at Aberystwyth. 6 The crammer reports that Lawrence would not read the obvious books, but only the more obscure ones, and that while his interests were very
-45-
wide, they were chiefly medieval. He took no interest in later periods, though he did once read a work on the French Revolution. Jane did not think Lawrence was "a scholar by temperament" and thought his work always unusual without any sign of conscious effort to make it so. Lawrence liked to ask him unexpected questions and then watch his crammer's expression without comment. He usually visited Jane between midnight and 4 a.m. 7 So much for the good obedient son who was always in at midnight. Another friend adds that Lawrence often went on excursions after midnight and then returned home climbing in quietly through the window and steeping himself in a hot bath till daybreak. 8 It is perhaps worth recording that Lawrence always kept in his miscellaneous collection of books a copy of a work edited by Jane. This was the King's Classics edition of a translation of Jocelin de Brakelond's Chronicle, 1907, in which the editor wrote the inscription: "He who strives to please all men, deserves to please none." 9 As late as 1922 Lawrence occupied himself in trying to obtain for his former crammer a post, possibly the lectureship just mentioned. 10
In February, 1907, after this intensive course of history cramming, Lawrence tried again, and this time won an exhibition at Jesus College, perhaps given preference by the examiners over other candidates because he had been born in Wales. 11 It is a possible inference, that Lawrence, after his neglect of the obvious books, would not have won the exhibition on his historical scholarship alone, though an enthusiastic friend asserted soon afterwards that "he knows all the history there is." 12 At all events, from 1906 until 1910, Lawrence's life conformed to the usual university pattern -- he kept his terms at Oxford and spent the summer holidays abroad, in France or in Syria.
Very little is recorded of Lawrence's studies as an undergraduate. He spent only one term in College, after which he lived in the Polstead Road bungalow, cultivating his reputation for eccentricity and reading per diem whatever number of books unconnected with his official studies the reader's credulity will allow. A fellow undergraduate visiting Lawrence's rooms in College during his first term records with awe that Lawrence was out and "the only signs of him at all were a few strange books -- of early French poetry chiefly." 13 It gives one a melancholy idea of what an English undergraduate of 1907 thought "strange books" when you reflect that (for instance) the
-46-
Chanson de Roland is now read in class by French schoolgirls. About the same time that he was devouring voraciously 50,000 books of the Oxford Union Library he "spent nearly three years reading Provençal Poetry and medieval Franch chansons de geste." 14 His only reference to Provençal literature, so far as I recollect, is when he tells his younger brother, William, if you can read history and Bertrand together you would not dream of following Ezra Pound." 15 "Bertrand" of course is Bertrand de Born (whose castle Lawrence afterwards visited) and the other reference presumably to Ezra Pound's poem Altaforte. At his death Lawrence's library contained no works of Provenqal literature either in the original or translated. On the other hand it contained no less than seventeen authors of the langue d'oil up to Villon, of which eight are original texts, eight translations, and one text and translation. But of course he read many library books, and A. W. Lawrence mentions his possessing translations of Huon of Bordeaux and The Four Sons of Aymon, now no longer in the library. These, and no doubt others, must have been discarded or lost. The dates of purchase or publication show that Lawrence still kept his interest in medieval French after the war.
Lawrence's tutor at Jesus has left no opinion on his attainments in scholarship, unless his answer to Lawrence's apology for missing an appointment that it had given his tutor time for an hour's useful work is considered as such. 16 The remark is something of a chestnut in academic snootiness, so need not be taken too seriously. Professor Ernest Barker, who gave Lawrence special tuition in medieval history towards the end of his undergraduate course, could not remember any of Lawrence's essays but came to the conclusion that Lawrence was not an "historical scholar" in the normal sense of the phrase. The professor thought Lawrence was not interested in history for its own sake, but that he took the Oxford History School "because it was the next hurdle in his path at the time." The same, he thought, was true of Lawrence as archologist, for whom that field of academic research, like history, was "not an end or a career, but a phase and an experience." 17 With this may be compared Lawrence's claim to "the practice of my ten years" study of history" in the Synopsis to his war book. 18 On the other hand the tradition at Oxford is that he was considered one of the most brilliant students of his year, 19 and if he behaved with studied eccentricity he was merely imitating the example
-47-
of some of his intellectual pastors and masters. Lawrence's own remarks on his studies are very characteristic:
"I left my special subject (the Crusades) till the last two weeks of the last term. It was mostly done while the examination was actually in progress in three all-night sittings: special subjects, if you know all but the facts, are a matter of simple cram." 20
Knowing all about subjects except for the facts seems dangerous knowledge. But if little is recorded about Lawrence's official studies, there is luckily a good deal of scattered information about his unofficial activities; and though there is the usual difficulty, if not impossibility, of sorting out the facts from the "knowledge," the attempt must not be shirked. These may be roughly sorted out as adventurous, antiquarian and sthetic.
Like other outstanding individualists Lawrence disliked the organised games which form so essential a part of the English "public school " system. In one of his Letters 21 Lawrence expresses disapproval of "the public school type," though one would say he possessed and even exaggerated some of its characteristic traits. But he certainly was not what in the schoolboy slang of his day was called a "muff." He excelled at such individualist efforts as revolver shooting, cycling, photography, and canoeing. He was reckless about getting himself hurt, or beaten up, and careless of his own health to an extreme degree with an only too public school disregard for precaution.
His accident in wrestling has been already discussed, and his cycling feats will be mentioned later. Cycling, transmuted to motor-cycling, lasted his life-time. Canoeing did not outlast the immediate pre-war days when he took a canoe to the Euphrates and upset himself and two Arabs at the hazard of their lives. Before that epoch, about 1908, he and a friend, H. F. Mathers, upset their canoe on the Cherwell during a winter flood, and as Lawrence had his legs wrapped in a rug he would have been drowned if his friend had not pulled him to the bank. The same friend was present at the over-advertised canoe trip down the under-ground Oxford sewer, the Trill Mill stream. From published accounts I had reached the baffling conclusion that there must have been two or even three first occasions on which this exploration took place. It seems that earlier accounts simply failed to mention that there were three canoes. According to Mr. Mathers's recollection,
-48-

of some of his intellectual pastors and masters. Lawrence's own remarks on his studies are very characteristic:


"I left my special subject (the Crusades) till the last two weeks of the last term. It was mostly done while the examination was actually in progress in three all-night sittings: special subjects, if you know all but the facts, are a matter of simple cram." 20
Knowing all about subjects except for the facts seems dangerous knowledge. But if little is recorded about Lawrence's official studies, there is luckily a good deal of scattered information about his unofficial activities; and though there is the usual difficulty, if not impossibility, of sorting out the facts from the "knowledge," the attempt must not be shirked. These may be roughly sorted out as adventurous, antiquarian and sthetic.
Like other outstanding individualists Lawrence disliked the organised games which form so essential a part of the English "public school " system. In one of his Letters 21 Lawrence expresses disapproval of "the public school type," though one would say he possessed and even exaggerated some of its characteristic traits. But he certainly was not what in the schoolboy slang of his day was called a "muff." He excelled at such individualist efforts as revolver shooting, cycling, photography, and canoeing. He was reckless about getting himself hurt, or beaten up, and careless of his own health to an extreme degree with an only too public school disregard for precaution.
His accident in wrestling has been already discussed, and his cycling feats will be mentioned later. Cycling, transmuted to motor-cycling, lasted his life-time. Canoeing did not outlast the immediate pre-war days when he took a canoe to the Euphrates and upset himself and two Arabs at the hazard of their lives. Before that epoch, about 1908, he and a friend, H. F. Mathers, upset their canoe on the Cherwell during a winter flood, and as Lawrence had his legs wrapped in a rug he would have been drowned if his friend had not pulled him to the bank. The same friend was present at the over-advertised canoe trip down the under-ground Oxford sewer, the Trill Mill stream. From published accounts I had reached the baffling conclusion that there must have been two or even three first occasions on which this exploration took place. It seems that earlier accounts simply failed to mention that there were three canoes. According to Mr. Mathers's recollection,
-48-

The two-roomed bungalow in the garden of No. 2 Polstead Road, Oxford.


ROBERT GRAVES in Lawrence and the Arabs
"To avoid, surveillance he refused to sleep in the house at all, but used a summer-house in the garden (he built it himself) as his bedroom.
S. LAWRENCE (mother of T. E.) in T. E. Lawrence by His Friends
"When he began history a separate study was needed, so we had a very pretty well-built bungalow of two rooms made for him at the end of the garden."

[This page intentionally left blank.]


the party included, besides Lawrence and himself, a future bishop ( A. T. P. Williams), a future canon ( E. F. Hall) and V. Richards. The sixth person was probably T. W. Chaundy, who has also left an account. The main purpose of the trip seems to have been to épater les bourgeois of Oxford by firing blank pistol-shots under the gutter gratings in the streets. It cannot have been very perilous since it was afterwards frequently repeated by Oxford girls, but then il n'y a que le premier pas qui coúlte. 22
As to climbing -- Graves made the statement that Lawrence was said to have invented the now classic climb from Balliol College to Keble College" 23 but when questioned by Liddell Hart, Lawrence made the much more guarded statement that he "climbed towers and roofs to get photographs." 24 That is certainly supported by his photographs and contemporary letters. Speaking of Lawrence's lack of interest in natural science, C. F. C. Beeson says that Lawrence found nothing worth studying in Jurassic cliffs or plantations of trees -- they were to him only material for climbing. 25
As we shall see when we come to glance at his undergraduate trips overseas, Lawrence liked to mingle his antiquarian and sthetic hobbies with strenuous exercise, and if he could find an opportunity for some unnecessary feat of endurance, so much the better. (Even as a schoolboy he had enjoyed smashing some -- presumably flimsy -church pews which interfered with his access to a monumental brass). As he grew older and the spirit of the place acted on him he developed more and more into the typical Oxford sthete without losing the antiquarian interests which indeed played a dominant part in Oxford medievalism and stheticism. He enjoyed the sensation of lawlessness when discovered trespassing with a friend in search of a tumulus or, in the style of Harrison Ainsworth, collecting mouldering human bones in a church crypt. Another friend was made to visit ancient stones near Oxford or the prehistoric earthworks of Dorchester or a Roman road. 26
Almost inevitably, at that period, Lawrence became a Pre-Raphaelite sthete, and the influence of William Morris lasted in one form or another all his life. The modern myth which makes William Morris an etiolated and languishing dreamer of dreams is inexact. His contemporaries thought he looked like a sea-captain, and his friends noted with encouragement that when he went down into his cellar he always
-49-
returned with two bottles in each hand. At one time he turned himself into a socialist stump talker; at another interest in the sagas took him to Iceland. He was an Oxford medievalist with a difference, a man who worked with his own hands to build and furnish the house he dreamed of for his beautiful wife, an artist-craftsman in literature, the main inspirer of what used to be called art nouveau, the reviver of fine printing. In his old age he turned from narrative poems to prose romances of imaginary past times written in a style of mannered archaistic simplicity. His News From Nowhere is a roseate dream of the past thrown into an improbable future, for what he was really attacking was not so much capitalism as ugliness, and what he wanted to destroy was not class distinctions but industrialism. He ended up as a master printer producing books, mostly reprints of medieval works, at socialist prices running from ten to thirty pounds, at his Kelmscott Press.
Like Oxford and Morris, Lawrence looked back wistfully to the past. "He lived in a world of old things, castles, churches, memorial brasses, pottery and books -- books" 27 Among the books were those of Morris, of which he still retained sixteen at the time of his death. Morris's name often turns up in his letters, and in answering a questionnaire he gave Morris as his favourite author. 28 During the war he wrote to Vyvyan Richards: "I'm always trying to blow up railway trains and bridges instead of looking for the Well at the World's End" -- the title of a Morris romance about the search for the fountain of youth. But, Richards tells us, the Morris book which Lawrence most enjoyed was The Roots of the Mountains.
The idea of that book no doubt came from the scanty traditions of the Teutonic tribes about the period of the Hunnish invasions. The "folk" of Burgstead are shown leading a Nordic-Arcadian life as pastoralists, woodsmen, hunters and craftsmen. They dwell communally in "halls" and sleep in "shut-beds," hold "things" and "folk-moots," parade with tribal banners like a Swiss braderie, and blow mightily on anachronistic "slug-horns." Their young women are called "mays" and fight gallantly in battle. The hero is called "Face-of-God" and the rival heroines "The Bride" and "SunBeam." A love-story is woven into the military tale of the redemption of lost tribes of the "kindred" from the Huns who are massacred to the last man with platonic bloodthirstiness. 29
At intervals throughout his life Lawrence dreamed and talked of
-50-
setting up and himself working a hand-press in a "hall" modelled after Burgstead and similar Morris fantasies. To this end he bought some of the 14th-century timbers from an old Oxford Hall when it was pulled down, but never used them. He bought the land in Essex where his friend Richards -- the sharer of this dream -- had actually built himself a hut for a printer's press. That was after the war, but in undergraduate days they had planned a hall with the carved king-posts, rafters and purlins from the old Oxford Hall like those of old Lisieux, 30 and with "shut-beds," labelled 'Meum' and 'Tuum.'
In the undergraduate days he and his friend combined the cult of Morris with a strenuous expedition through mud and snow to visit what they had heard was "the perfect Morris house" at Chipping Camden in the Cotswolds. There Lawrence exulted over "the large living-room with the old open chapel roof," the "low galleries screened with Morris chintz," the "long refectory tables and shelves full of the Kelmscott printings," the "Morris tapestries," the "special oak lectern" displaying the Kelmscott Chaucer, and the "very handpress Morris himself had used." 31 Later, after his first visit to Syria, the Morris hall idea was abandoned, and he and another friend were to live in a windmill by the sea, printing "rather precious books," by Pater and Arnold, each copy to be bound differently for each improbable customer "in vellum stained with Tyrian dye." 30 And when long afterwards he produced the special edition of his war book each copy was indeed differently bound, not in vellum stained with Tyrian dye and not by Lawrence, but in expensive designs by the best-known London book-binders.
Yet when it came to the point Lawrence always backed out at the last minute from any such joint undertaking. In 1912, for instance, he wrote Vyvyan Richards from Carchemish about his "superb scheme for building a wooden house in Epping Forest," begging him to "do everything, and let me come home at Xmas to rapture over all. I have more hopes than ever before. Sail in, and carry out all to your content and I will be more than acquiescent. How is the type-cutting? If you are hewing logs in a forest, your hands are probably ruined for six months. No matter in the world." 33 Fifteen months later all his enthusiasm has ebbed away in an awkward confession that "I cannot print with you when you want me. I have felt it coming for a long time, and have funked it. You know I was in England for a fortnight
-51-
this summer, and actually found myself one afternoon in Liverpool Street coming up to you . . . and then went back again" 34
The persistence of this sthetic dream of emulating the poetcraftsman-printer and dwelling in a William Morris world is as curious as the failure to carry it out, except in odd details or amateurishly, is pathetic. That he obstinately held to his preference for Morris against the current opinion in the 1920'S is the more remarkable since he usually followed docilely the fashions of literary London. Lawrence was not a poet, he was a high-brow with an immense respect for poets, as romantic as Swinburne. E. M. Forster relates how Lawrence was scandalised by the suggestion that another world war would destroy all civilisation and all poetry, and remarked primly "that poetry is indestructible." 35 Graves records that Lawrence thought of poetry as a mastery of the technique of using words rather than of the poet's special approach to life and thought. 36 (It is surely a happy alliance of the two?) Neither was he a craftsman nor a printer. He tried his hand at wood-carving, at copying in brass the lantern in Holman Hunt's Light of the World, (or in Paton's The Man with the Muck Rake), at sculpting a naked Arab boy in stone, at sketching castles. They were all more or less failures. Most competent printers agree with David Garnett (a director of the Nonesuch Press) in thinking Lawrence's production of his own book "a monstrous example." 37 Yet, in 1927, he wrote Graves: "I've wished all my life to have the power of creating something imaginative: sculpture, painting, literature: and always I've found my gift of expression inadequate to the conception I felt." So much did he want achievement even in the lower activity of printing that he persuaded himself he had actually done what he only dreamed. In an unpublished letter to Henry Williamson, Lawrence apologised for typing: which he says he hated as he claimed that his long experience with print had taught him to respect it. 38 He should have said that his experience was not with print but of talking about printing, for all he ever did as a printer was to have one book set up by the "Monotype" process.

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   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   40




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

    Main page