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NA301012 - LAWRENCE, T.E.: Seven Pillars of Wisdom (Abridged)
English 

T

T. E. Lawrence

Seven Pillars of Wisdom

 

At the funeral of T.E. Lawrence, Churchill wept and called him ‘one of the greatest beings of our time. Whatever our need we shall never see his like again’. For the generation who experienced the mud and horror of the trenches in Flanders, Lawrence offered a view of the war in Arabia, which was at once more romantic and exotic. But the reality of Lawrence was more complex than the courageous, blue-eyed British hero, risking his all for the love of his country and his commitment to the Arab cause against their Turkish oppressors.

Thomas Edward Lawrence was born on August 16, 1888. His father, Thomas Chapman, was heir to an Irish baronetcy, but he had left his wife and four daughters to live with their governess, Sarah Maden. He and Sarah changed their name to Lawrence and Thomas Edward was the second of their five sons.

In 1907, Lawrence won a scholarship to Jesus College, Cambridge, to study History. He later undertook a 1,000-mile walking tour of Syria and became fascinated by the country.

 

In 1914, he was recruited by military intelligence and, when Turkey joined Germany in the war against the Allies, he was posted to Cairo. His subsequent role in the war in the Middle East is described in Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

It is clear throughout the book that Lawrence was well aware that his promises of freedom to the Arabs were hollow; that his job was to get them to fight the Turks at all costs. It is possible that this sense of betrayal and guilt dogged him for the rest of his life.

 

After the war, he withdrew from public life and became an ordinary

aircraftman with the Royal Air Force under the assumed name of Shaw. Here he devoted himself to the development of high-speed launches and

a primitive forerunner of the hovercraft.

 

In 1935, he left the RAF and retired to his cottage in Clouds Hill in Dorset. On May 13, 1935, only ten weeks after his retirement, Lawrence was injured in a motorcycle accident and died six days later. He has become one of the legendary figures of the 20th century; his bust stands in St. Paul’s Cathedral, along with those of Nelson and Wellington. Although he was a reluctant leader, and never felt that he fully belonged either in Arabia or as part of the British establishment, he has become, nevertheless, the epitome of the swashbuckling British adventurer.

 

Notes by Heather Godwin

 

 

Jim Norton

 

Jim Norton, one of Ireland’s leading actors, has worked regularly on Joycean topics, and particularly Ulysses, during his long career in film, TV, radio and theater. Born and brought up in Dublin, he spent his early acting years in Irish radio. He now divides his time between London and Hollywood — where, among his many parts, has been the role of Einstein on the popular TV serial Star Trek. Norton's film credits include Hidden Agenda, Into the West, and Straw Dogs.

 


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