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Review commentary by Jeremy Wilson on Lawrence, the Uncrowned King of Arabia by Michael Asher

(London, Viking, 1998)

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Chapter 1: Apparent Queen Unveiled Her Peerless Light
Early Childhood 1888-96 (13 pages, pp 7-20)

9/1/1 "unkempt park". On what evidence does Asher think that the grounds of South Hill were "unkempt"?
9/1/2 Thomas Chapman "forsook his inheritance and his culture for ever". He did not. He had personal investments and received a substantial income from the family estate for the rest of his life (as Asher notes on pp. 14-15). As for "culture", it is difficult to see what definition of the word would fit Asher's dramatic implication.
9/1/4 "in defiance they". A minor point, but this is sloppy writing or copy-editing. "They" could refer to any combination of Thomas, Sarah, and Edith.
9/  The commentary on English morality at that period, as a setting for the Thomas/Sarah relationship, makes a point worth making. Asher was possibly inspired here by Victoria Ocampo's footnote (338171 T.E., London, Gollancz, 1963, p. 19) on which he draws elsewhere. Regrettably, he does not later apply a similar historical approach in order to understand the kind of indoctrination about girls and sexuality that English society imposed upon middle-class boys at that time.
10/2/13 "First they made a heady jump to the English home counties, settling at Fawley on Southampton Water." Why is this move from Dinard to Southampton - a ferry-journey apart - a "heady jump"? A copy-editing point: Hampshire is not one of the English Home Counties.
pp.11-12  The portrait of the Lawrence family life on these pages seems to be based mainly on Celandine Kennington's unpublished memoir of Sarah Lawrence. This draft was intended as part of a longer book, never completed. It was written in the closing years of Mrs Kennington’s life, and one of the author's chief motives was to defend Lawrence against attacks by Richard Aldington. Internal evidence shows that the "memories" it contains drew on published sources - as is common if not inevitable in documents written many years after the event.
   Celandine Kennington, wife of the artist Eric Kennington, was not a neighbour of the Lawrences, as is incorrectly suggested here - either at this or at any other period. She did not meet the Lawrence family until after the Great War, when the father and two of the brothers were dead and two of the other sons had left home. Therefore, her observations can only be based on later knowledge - for the most part much later knowledge - of Sarah Lawrence. Her comments about the relationship between Sarah Lawrence and T.E.L. must be based mainly on her observation of the relationship - under very different circumstances - between Sarah and her eldest son Bob, who was not in the least like T.E.L.. Finally, in reading Celandine's account, one must remember that her attitude towards TEL had a very strong emotional element (she believed that he had saved her life, see T. E. Lawrence by his Friends p. 311).
   While the Thomas and Sarah did not socialise at Oxford in the "socialite" sense, they certainly had friends. However, their friends (as in many families) were often different. For example, Thomas was a member of the Oxford Union, a status open to certain local residents. He used the Union regularly as a convenient central-Oxford club, and met people there. Next page

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