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T. E. Lawrence Studies list

July 1997

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Threads: July 1997

TEL Studies List: 1, 2, 3
Pre-history: 4, 7-9
Questions: 5-6

0001) Date: Thu, 3 Jul 1997 08:11:11 +0100 (BST)
Subject: the T. E. Lawrence Studies List

List Owner: Jeremy Wilson

This is a private moderated list, open to anyone interested in T.E. Lawrence provided that they agree to the following:

1. The TELStudiesList is intended for serious discussion of matters connected with:

  • Any aspect of Lawrence's life and interests.
  • Relevant aspects of events or activities in which he was directly involved.
  • Interpretation and criticism of his motives, personality, ambitions, failures and achievements.
  • Public reactions to his reputation.
  • The bibliography of writings by and about him.
  • Information about portraits and photographs of him.
  • Recent and forthcoming books, articles, TV/radio productions, etc., about or referring to him.

Any other subject, provided that it is directly related to Lawrence.

2. The TELStudiesList will accept brief announcements drawing attention to auctions, booksellers' catalogues, etc., that include material related to Lawrence which may interest collectors or librarians; but lists of books for sale will not be posted.

3. I hope that subscribers will use this List to seek answers to questions and to discuss differing interpretations of the evidence. My aim as owner and moderator is to provide a tolerant and good-humoured environment in which people will feel encouraged to contribute.

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6. Messages that I judge to be discourteous will be rejected, with a warning. A further attempt to post such material will lead to exclusion from the List. I also reserve the right to bar any individual from joining the List, without explanation.

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[The list guidelines have been modified since 1997, see current version]

0002) From: Jeremy Wilson
Subject: TELstudies

Several people are subscribing to this List each day, so I will wait for a day or two longer before trying to tempt you into discussion.

What I aim to do over the months is to lead the discussion slowly through Lawrence's life, comparing the major accounts - mine, John Mack's, and others where they are especially relevant - drawing attention to the sources, including some that may not be well known, and reflecting on the biographical questions that have yet to be answered. Queries, comments and contributions will be very welcome.

So, if you are very bored, why not have a look at some of the accounts of Lawrence's life from birth to the end of his schooldays?

This said, if you have a question or a thought you wish to share on any other period or aspect of Lawrence's life, feel free to go ahead.


0003) Date: 05 Jul 97 08:36:07 EDT
From: JM, France
Subject: TELstudies

Dear Jeremy and future TELstudies-listers,

I hope this new List will provide a forum for friendly and constructive discussion on T.E.Lawrence. Is he indeed an inexhaustible topic? We should find out over the next few months!

0004) Date: 14 Jul 97 16:30:36 EDT
From: Jeremy Wilson
Subject: Pre-history

We seem to have a quorum, despite the holidays. I shall be in Cornwall next week, so will try to start people thinking this week.

What about Lawrence's life before the family moved to Oxford?


  • S. Lawrence (mother) in Friends - about a page
  • Maurice Lares, T.E. Lawrence, la France et les Francais - well researched on the English community in Dinard, and the family's stay there.
  • Various biographies (including Mack and The Secret Lives of Lawerence of Arabia) which display some digging about the Chapman family in Ireland.

Apart from that, not a lot - which is surprising, since many biographies were written while there were still people around who could have told much more.

Queries about this period:

  • Exact dates for the family's various moves?
  • Did TEL really know about his parents' relationship when he was very young? If so, what did he know, and when?
  • What do we know about the relationship between T. R. T. Chapman and his family, and the 'Lawrence' family's true financial state?

Maybe life for a young boy is quite simple - but I think that a lot is in place by the age of eight. People see TEL as a product of Oxford - which, of course, in a way he was - but to what extent was TEL's personality formed BEFORE the family moved to Oxford?

More queries? over to you


0005) Date: Mon, 14 Jul 1997 19:30:17 -0400 (EDT)
From: DHS, USA
Subject: Questions

I have a number of questions, the first of which I posted already, but it was probably lost in cyberspace:

1. In  Images of Lawrence, I believe, there is the crossed-swords logo, with the words "The sword also means cleanness and death." I couldn't read this at first, but I read it somewhere else and forgot the source. Did Lawrence say this? Is this his handwriting? What does it mean, or what did it mean to him?

2. Did Lawrence ever fly a plane- I read somewhere (in Tabachnick?) that he did (perhaps a Moth?). He said at one point that the RAF wouldn't let him have a plane. Why?

3. Since he was so fearless on a motorcycle, and may have flown a plane, why wouldn't he drive a car? Did he ever drive one? I was surprised, upon reading The Golden Reign, that he felt he couldn't drive, even when Clare was ill.

Any insights appreciated!


0006) Date: 15 Jul 97 03:47:22 EDT
From: Jeremy Wilson
Subject: Re: Questions

1) the crossed swords with writing between:

a. The writing is Lawrence's. It comes from a letter to Eric Kennington. However, it would take me a while to find which letter. Perhaps Cliff Irwin will recall.

b. When Seven Pillars was first published, by Jonathan Cape in 1935, Eric Kennington was artistic adviser (or whatever) to the edition, as he had been for Lawrence's 1926 subscribers' edition. He drew the crossed-swords device as a block for the front cover, and added the words from Lawrence's letter, in facsimile. The context for the words may tell us more about why Kennington chose them.

[2015. The quote comes from TEL's letter to Eric Kennington, 27 October 1922. For the context see the complete letter]

Somewhere I have seen something written by Kennington about his choice of these words for the design - but I have forgotten where.

2) To the best of my knowledge Lawrence never trained as a pilot, but he did a fair amount of flying in small aircraft, as passenger. I think it possible that he tried-out taking the controls of a private aircraft he flew in, with a friend, in the 1930s (name of friend temporarily forgotten, but it will come to me).

3) There was no driving test in Britain at the time that Lawrence would have learned to drive, assuming he did so. Anyone could drive who felt able to take the controls (there was probably a lower age limit). This said, I do not know when the UK driving licence was introduced. It seems to me very improbable that Lawrence could not drive a car, though he never owned one. Moreover, it would surprise me if he was not formally instructed to drive during an armoured-car course in the Tank Corps. I would have thought that all members of an armoured-car crew would have known how to drive, in case the driver was killed or injured.

I don't recall the incident mentioned with Claire Sydney Smith. However, Lawrence's relationship with CSS was complicated by her very strong and undisguised affection for him. It is conceivable that - for this or some other reason not mentioned by CSS - he felt it impolitic to drive on that occasion. It is also possible that licencing had by then been introduced, and that he did not hold one. Finally, there could have been a technical problem such as insurance (even a car insured for all drivers can lose comprehensive cover if the driver does not hold a licence, while some cars are insured only for named drivers).

I'll try to complete this information at a later date if no-one else does: we are a bit busy this week getting SP 22 Vol. II to the printers.


0007) Date: Tue, 22 Jul 1997 06:26:07 -0400
From: JM, France
Subject: Re: Pre-history

Re Jeremy's questions last week, to get the discussion started:

It's logical enough to begin even before the beginning, and the Chapman family history is an intriguing aspect of TEL's own biography. However, apart from re-examining Maurice Lares's investigations into the "Dinard connection," there isn't much one can do on this side of the Channel, for the moment, but add to the questions about on the little that has appeared in print.

I assume Jeremy himself had to leave out much valuable supporting evidence from the authorized biography, despite its 1188 pages. For example, how much uncertainty is there about "exact dates for the family's various moves"?

Jeremy suggests (p. 30) that TEL "might not have believed, before 1919, that Mr Lawrence was actually his father": is the only evidence for this the notes by C.F. Bell quoted earlier on the same page? I remember someone taking Jeremy to task (in the TEL Society Newsletter, perhaps) for citing only "third-hand evidence" on this important point, but maybe that's all we've got at the moment.

Can Jeremy tell us more about any research that *has* been done on the Chapman family? Thomas Chapman's daughters: what happened to their letters or archives? The only identified photograph of T.R.T.C. is the portrait exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery TEL exhibition in 1988-89 (item 3), but it's not reproduced in the catalogue. The provenance is given as "album purchased from the surviving daughters of Sir Thomas Chapman... 1955."

Isn't it odd that none of the "Lawrence" family photographs includes the father, even though he and his sons were keen photographers? Didn't Bob or A.W. keep any pictures of him? To be continued...


Two unrelated queries:

(1) Jeremy's announcement that subscribers to the SP22 would be getting an unexpected treat - color reproductions of the 1926 portraits - sent me back to my (battered) copy of the U.K. limited edition of Revolt in the Desert (315 copies, 1927). The nice thing about this edition is that it contains 19 plates, many in color. Maggs's special T.E. Lawrence catalogue #1055 (1985) states that "the plates for this edition were printed from the original lithographic stones for Seven Pillars. To incorporate the plates, which did not always match up with the new revised text, Lawrence wrote several new passages, making the book rather more than just an abridgement." Were the new passages intended for the limited edition, the trade edition (which lacks the color plates), or both? Could Jeremy identify these passages for us? I suppose they might be of some marginal relevance to 1922 text edition.

(2) One area of research that doesn't appear to have been methodically explored is the steady stream of European and American visitors to Carchemish, 1911-1914. Some are clearly identified by L in his letters (Home Letters, Letters to E.T. Leeds), but others are more obscure. He makes Carchemish sound like a major tourist attraction! Maybe there weren't all that many uninvited visitors, but it would be interesting to find out how many Westerners, in those days, traveled to Beirut (or Constantinople) and then on to Carchemish and other sites. Who knows? maybe in the States or Scandinavia or France there are some yet-to-be-discovered accounts of such visits. One promising lead is the published diary of the French writer Maurice Barres, whose Un Jardin sur l'Oronte may have been inspired by an Arab tale told to him by Lawrence (see Weintraub, The Literary Impulse; Tabachnik, The T.E. Lawrence Puzzle). I'll retrieve the references from my archives when I get a chance...


0008) Date: Date: Tue, 29 Jul 1997 12:02:45 -0400
From: AM, USA
Subject: Re: Pre-history

JM, France asks about more evidence that TEL suspected TRTC was not his real father, and laments that third-hand evidence is all we've got for the moment. At least we have lots of first-hand speculations!

TEL may have wondered about that third-hand information himself, hence his conversations with Bell. Surely there was talk in Oxford about Mr. & Mrs. Lawrence. Mack says "the fact that the Lawrences were unmarried was not known in Oxford while Mr. Lawrence was living (in London it was gossiped about from the time the couple left Ireland)." AWL is the source for Mack's information there. But I can't imagine that the circles who gossiped about this in London didn't gossip about it with their Oxford friends. Think of all the landed gentry and Old Etonians with Oxford connections. Bad news travels fast and far. Perhaps TEL was trying to get a handle on such talk by confiding with CF Bell.

Mack also cites Basil Blackwell, "a classmate of TE's at Oxford - that the family was ostracized. Blackwell and the other undergraduates knew 'something was odd' in the Lawrence family." Did Mack pursue which other undergraduates knew, and also what they knew? Surely the Lawrence boys weren't oblivious to their peers' attitudes towards them.

I suspect that TEL's misgivings about his parents' relationship stemmed not only from the mysterious annual appearances of lawyers in the family parlor, but also from the "third-hand evidence" available then - oblique comments, people's coolness towards the family, and such behind-the-back talk as he was able to glean from people like Bell.

I too have wondered about the lack of photographs of TRTC despite the keenness for photography in the family. Perhaps TEL's affinity for "places and things, not people" is a family trait! One would think there'd be lots of candid photos of the family, and yet all we see published are

1. one good photo of Sarah & the kids on the front step of their house at Langley Lodge,

2. one very fuzzy photo of the kids in the back yard in Oxford (didn't you have a better picture to use than that one, Mr. Wilson?),

3. some studio portraits of the kids. Funny that the penny-pinching Mrs. Lawrence would use a professional photographer for portraits of the boys when her husband was capable of doing the job for free. None of my photographing friends have studio portraits of their children.

Maybe TRTC like to dabble with a camera but wasn't all that good with it?

Perhaps Carchemish was a major tourist attraction. In the Home Letters, Will writes to Arnie (12/2/14) "I wonder if you saw the Illustrated London News of January 24. M. shewed it to me the other day, and it had four pages about Carchemish, pictures and an article." Four pages in the Illustrated London News is a lot of coverage - and publicity.


0009) Date: 30 Jul 97 15:46:29 EDT
From: St.John Armitage
Subject: Re: Pre-history

There is no evidence to suggest that Carchemish was a tourist attraction as distinct from a place visited by serious travellers with professional commitments or interest in the area. These included engineers, archaeologists, soldiers, a "stray English consul" and and a teacher. The latter, who wrote the first popular account (which mentioned Lawrence) was Maynard Owen Williams who made such a great contibution to the National Geographic magazine for over half a century.

There was nothing unusual about four page coverage in the ILN. Archeological coverage was a major feature of that publication. The BM held the copyright for photographs of the Carchemish dig and no doubt sold publication rights - if not the whole article - to the ILN to help fund the work.

St.John Armitage

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