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

29/1/2  "The feelings of inferiority and shame that relationship [with his mother] generated contributed to the painful shyness which was noticed by almost everyone who met him". Here is Asher's amateur psychology from Chapter I, repeated yet again. Lawrence's shyness doubtless had many causes, among which would have been his illegitimacy, his short stature, his personality, etc., etc. This point is made by the quote Asher then uses from Seven Pillars
   By the way, the reference for this Seven Pillars quote (reference 17) even gives a page number: page 57 in the 1935 edition - but this is completely wrong. The passage comes from the "Myself" chapter and the words "abnormally shy" with which Asher's quote begins appear only in the 1922 text (Fordingbridge, Castle Hill Press, 1997, page 692). The second part of the quote, after the ellipsis, is indeed from the 1935 text, but appears on page 562 not page 57. One word has been carelessly omitted ("and of my solitary").
29/1/9  I do not recall a source for the statement that Lawrence played cricket for the OHS at least once, though it is possible. In this connection, A. W. Lawrence pointed out to me a danger in looking for references to TEL in the OHS Magazine. In the early years, Bob Lawrence was "Lawrence i" and TEL was "Lawrence ii". However, when Bob left the school, TEL became "Lawrence i" and Will, who played sports, took over as "Lawrence ii". Consequently it is easy to assume mistakenly that the sporting achievements attributed to Lawrence ii were T.E.L's.
29/1/three lines from end.  Reference 20 is wrong. The quote comes from Friends page 46, not page 62. The paraphrase from AWL seems to be from Friends page 591 (middle para). Although Asher's résumé does not exactly correspond to anything AWL said there, it is probably a reasonable deduction.
29/2/1  I don't doubt that Sarah (and Thomas Lawrence) tried to be good parents. It is nevertheless true that Sarah and Bob later painted an idealised picture of their family life. In Sarah's case, the motive was surely more complex than Asher suggests. First, she had by then for many years presented a fundamentally false image of her family to the public, because in reality she and Thomas were not married. With that habit of deception as a starting-point, it was probably second-nature to polish out any blemishes in comments about their day-to-day lives. In any case, as the saying goes, "you don't hang-out your dirty linen in public". 
   Secondly, by the time TEL died he was a national hero. Sarah evidently wished to represent him as a model for other children, and hence she insisted that he had had an ideal childhood. For Bob too, this worthy "end" clearly justified the means, as is shown by his attempts some years later to censor the published text of Home Letters
   The quote from Bob's contribution to Friends printed by Asher on pp 29-30 contains an improbable claim that there was not "a single quarrel between any of us" (Bob is presumably referring more to the boys than the parents), and that his parents had "made the home the place of peace it was". This is inconsistent with TEL's testimony. Nevertheless, the quote may well be true in some respects. Doubtless behaviour in the household was ruled by a strongly Christian code of conduct. The Home Letters provide an interesting insight into the way members of the family communicated with one another. In all probability, disagreements were reflected in suppressed tension rather than open quarrelling. By the way, Asher has modified Bob's statement that the parents were "the greatest influences in our lives" to "the greatest influence on our lives". Maybe the plural "influences" conflicted with Asher's theory that Thomas Lawrence was dominated by his wife.
30/1/10 Asher does not give a location for the letter he quotes here, from A.W.L to H. S. Ede, so I cannot check it. However, AWL expressed similar sentiments to me.
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