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Biography



Who was 'Lawrence of Arabia'

Introductory biography

T. E. Lawrence as writer

Chronology of Lawrence's life

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Reference

Maps

Memorials to Lawrence

Some quotations

T. E. Lawrence manuscripts

Books dedicated to Lawrence

Research and discussion

The state of T.E. Lawrence scholarship

Rejected legend

David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia

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Jeremy Wilson

 

Page updated May 2012

T. E. Lawrence as Writer

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Lawrence's writings fall into two categories, each almost equally important. The first consists of his books and minor essays (prefaces, articles in periodicals, etc).  The second consists of his enormous correspondence.

The correspondence is fascinating, first, because of the range of his friends and acquaintances, and secondly because the letters are often interesting and give many insights into his personality and interests.

The two categories are outlined below, with links to pages containing more detailed information. 

Lawrence's writings online
In 2006 a large number of Lawrence's works and letters went out of UK copyright. We are putting them online in the Writings section of this website. If you would like to know more about Lawrence, this is well worth a visit.


WORKS


Lawrence wrote two major works, each very different. Both have achieved widespread recognition.

  • Seven Pillars of Wisdom describes Lawrence's experiences while serving as a British liaison officer during the Arab Revolt of 1916-18. The book exists in two texts. The earlier, completed in 1922, runs to 334,500 words. Sometimes called the 'Oxford' text, it remained unpublished until 1997.

    From this 1922 text Lawrence made a revised abridgement, cutting the length to 250,500 words. This he issued in a private edition for subscribers in 1926. After his death in 1935, it was published for general circulation.

    The subscribers' abridgement has since become a world classic. It was the principal source for David Lean's film Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Well over a million copies have been sold and the book has been translated into many languages.


    For a more detailed  history of the Seven Pillars texts see Seven Pillars of Wisdom - triumph and tragedy

1926 subscribers' abridgement online>>

  • Lawrence also made a further abridgement, called Revolt in the Desert. This was published in 1927 in order to pay off debts that he had incurred producing his lavishly illustrated subscribers' Seven Pillars. Revolt was a best-seller, but was superseded after his death when the whole subscribers' text was published for general circulation. There have, nevertheless, been a number of recent editions of Revolt

Revolt in the Desert online>>

  • The Mint, a much shorter book than Seven Pillars, is in three parts. The first two describe Lawrence's experiences as an enlisted recruit in the RAF in 1922. The third part describes a later period of his service life, when he was serving at the RAF Cadet College, Cranwell, in 1925 and 1926. This book too has been translated into several languages.

The Mint online>>

In addition to these original works, Lawrence completed two translations for publishers:

  • The Forest Giant, commissioned by Jonathan Cape and published in 1924. It is a translation of a prize-winning novel by Adrien Le Corbeau called Le Gigantesque. The novel is an allegory based on the life of a giant sequoia. Lawrence's free translation is better-written than the original.

The Forest Giant online>>
Preface to The Forest Giant (2004)>>
 

  • The Odyssey of Homer, commissioned by the American book designer Bruce Rogers, was published in 1932. It was an immediate success. Although there have been several more recent translations, it has been continuously in print ever since.

T.E.Lawrence and the translating of the Odyssey>>

See also:


CORRESPONDENCE


T. E. Lawrence's correspondence is the most important biographical source for his life. The Letters of T. E. Lawrence, a general selection edited by David Garnett, was published in 1938 and is widely available second-hand. A further selection, edited by Malcolm Brown, was published in 1988. There have also been editions of Lawrence's letters to particular correspondents. These are listed in the Checklist of editions of Lawrence's letters

Lawrence corresponded with a great many people, including writers such as John Buchan, E. M. Forster, David Garnett, Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon, and Bernard Shaw; artists such as Augustus John, Eric Kennington, and William Rothenstein; archaeologists and travellers such as Gertrude Bell, C. M. Doughty, D. G. Hogarth, and E. T. Leeds, and public figures such as Nancy Astor, Winston Churchill, and Lord Trenchard. 

New definitive edition

In 2000, Castle Hill Press began publishing a scholarly subscription edition of Lawrence's correspondence. This fine-press edition is likely to remain the major scholarly source.The aim is to publish all of Lawrence's worthwhile correspondence, accompanied by detailed editorial notes on matters referred to. There is further information about the series on the main Castle Hill Press website.

Cumulative listing and index

Lists of the correspondence published in the T. E. Lawrence Letters series are linked below. For a fuller listing of Lawrence's published correspondence see the chronological and alphabetical contents lists in the Writings section

See also:



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