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

(London, Viking, 1998)

previous page | Page 13 | next page 

Chapter 2: Dominus Illuminatio Mea
Schooldays, 1896-1905 (10 pages)

page/para/line
26/2/1 At this point Asher tries to link his conclusions in this chapter with those in the first, in yet another wholly unsupported statement: "Lawrence's sensitive traits grew out of the deep imprint of his mother's personality." Really?
26/2/2 et seq. Asher goes on to develop his case that Lawrence was homosexual - a case which, remember, has failed all the tests thus far. He writes that Lawrence "had a great capacity for friendship with both men and women. His most profound ties would be with other men, and according to Arnie, these friendships "were comparable in intensity to sexual love, for which he made them a substitute".
   The words used in the quotation are correct (though in this case the order of the close-quote and full-stop is again wrong, since this is the end of a sentence in the original. Do Viking employ copy-editors?). However, the use of the quote again displays Asher's lack of intellectual integrity. In the original, A. W. Lawrence did not specify, as Asher clearly implies here ("these friendships"), that he is talking only about Lawrence's friendships with men.
   Furthermore, when writing in Friends, A. W. Lawrence was considering the full range of his brother's friendships (about which more anon). By contrast, this second chapter in Asher's book purports to deal with Lawrence's development between the ages of 8 and 17. It is extremely unlikely that A. W. Lawrence had any relationship from that period in mind when he wrote those words.
26/2/7 Having characterised Lawrence's friendships in such a manner, and on such good authority, Asher goes on  to transfer the implications to one particular relationship, with Leonard Green, who was certainly not Lawrence's closest friend during that period. In fact, the evidence suggests that, at this or any other period, Green could more accurately be described as an acquaintance than a friend.
   Green was three years older than Lawrence, and was an undergraduate friend of Lawrence's elder brother Bob (both were at St. John's College). In Green's brief contribution to Friends (pages 67-9) only the first two paragraphs refer to Lawrence's schooldays, and the second of these merely repeats general information about the Lawrence family. There is nothing in either paragraph to suggest that Lawrence knew Green well at that period. In the third paragraph, Green writes "The next impression is of Lawrence after his first visit to Syria" - i.e. in 1909, at the end of Lawrence's second year at university, and outside the scope of this chapter.
   However, Green is more useful to Asher here than the people who really were Lawrence's school-friends: Beeson, Chaundy, and Hall - all contributors to Friends. Why? Because we know (from a source unconnected with Lawrence) that Green was homosexual.
   In this section Asher draws heavily on The Golden Warrier by Lawrence James, who also cites the friendship with Green. James in turn drew much of this from the earlier biography by Desmond Stewart (T. E. Lawrence, London, Hamish Hamilton, 1977). Although the fact was not widely known when his book was published, Stewart was himself openly homosexual. His book - which contains much innuendo, factual error, and debatable argument - goes to some length to portray Lawrence as homosexual also. I do not think that this conclusion is justified by the evidence that Stewart presents. (Continued next page)


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