T. E. Lawrence ftontispiece The bungalow at No. 2 Polstead Road, Oxford, facing page 48



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1LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. A Biographical Enquiry by RICHARD ALDINGTON
Untruthful! My nephew Algernon Impossible! He is an Oxonian. OSCAR WILDE
COLLINS ST JAMES'S PLACE, LONDON 1955
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PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN COLLINS CLEAR-TYPE PRESS: LONDON AND GLASGOW
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TO J. L. BROWNING
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CONTENTS

Introductory Letter to Alister Kershau, Page 11

PART ONE

CHAPTER ONE 17

CHAPTER TWO 33

CHAPTER THREE 45

CHAPTER FOUR 55

CHAPTER FIVE 70

CHAPTER SIX 84

CHAPTER. SEVEN 106

PART TWO

CHAPTER ONE 117

CHAPTER TWO 139

CHAPTER THREE 160

CHAPTER FOUR 177

CHAPTER FIVE 194

CHAPTER SIX 208

CHAPTER SEVEN 222

PART THREE

CHAPTER ONE 247

CHAPTER TWO 265

CHAPTER THREE 277

CHAPTER FOUR 296
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CHAPTER FIVE page 313

CHAPTER SIX 331

CHAPTER SEVEN 340

CHAPTER EIGHT 354

List of Sources 392

Bibliography 421

Index 425


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ILLUSTRATIONS

T. E. Lawrence ftontispiece

The bungalow at No. 2 Polstead Road, Oxford, facing page 48

Lowell Thomas meets the Emir Feisal 81

Lowell Thomas 81

"He would turn away when he saw the lens pointing in his

direction" 96

"Lawrence occasionally visited enemy territory disguised as a

gipsy woman of Syria" 96

"Lawrence usually dressed in robes of spotless white" 129

Same picture -- different caption 144

Programme of the Lowell Thomas travelogue, Covent

Garden, 1919 257

A page from the Sphere 272

Clouds Hill 369

In the ranks 384
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MAPS


ARABIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST page 389

THE HEJAZ 390

THE PALESTINE CAMPAIGN 391

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INTRODUCTORY LETTER TO

ALISTER KERSHAW


MY DEAR ALISTER,
You will remember how startled I was when you suggested that I should gratify your admiration for a hero by writing a life of Lawrence of Arabia. I pointed out my unfitness for the task, the enormous amount of work involved, my lack of enthusiasm for military heroes, and above all the fact that Lawrence's life has been written over and over again. What more would there be to say? With that grace of persuasion which few are able to resist you remarked that after the astonishing and unwelcome revolutions of the past fifteen years some new appraisal of Lawrence might be acceptable. And had I not found the Duke of Wellington a far more interesting and attractive character than I had expected? That was true, and I started on my task with doubts of my ability to perform it worthily but certainly with the hope of investigating a hero and his deeds.
In Part III of this book you will find in more detail the account of my investigations into Lawrence's assertion that in 1922. and again in 1925 (when he was a private in the Tanks) he had been offered the post of High Commissioner for Egypt. On investigation I came to the conclusion that this claim was unfounded. I thought it well to obtain the evidence of those most likely to know the truth, and therefore applied to a former Cabinet Minister, Mr. Amery, to the present Lord Lloyd (son of the man actually appointed by the Cabinet as High Commissioner when Lord Allenby resigned) and to Lawrence's friend, Sir Ronald Storrs, who was Governor of Jerusalem after the first war. They were unanimous in dismissing the claim as highly improbable,
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and though I may not quote I received indirect but equally emphatie disavowal from still higher quarters that Lawrence was ever offered the post. (You will find all the evidence in Chapter Eight of Part III and the references at the end.)
Gradually as I went more closely into the material available I came to the conclusion that this Egypt affair is not a regrettable exception. on the contrary it is but one more example of a systematic falsification and over-valuing of himself and his achievements which Lawrence practised from a very early date. In other words the national hero turned out at least half a fraud. The scope of my projected book was insensibly changed and from a biography it became a biographical enquiry, the facts for which had to be tracked down with the minute care of a literary detective. My enquiries were not helped by the fact that the record is very incomplete and statements are often contradictory. But if this book leads to their publication it will have achieved something, and I am confident that nothing can be produced to shake the exposition of the main facts given here, whatever might have to be modified in detail through the publication of material at present unavailable. In any case nobody is competent to contradict the most important revelations in this book until he has read the MS. letters of T. E. Shaw (formerly Lawrence) to Charlotte Shaw (Mrs. Bernard Shaw) now available in the British Museum.
As I investigated the strange and tortuous psychology of this extraordinary man I felt more and more convinced that sometime in his early life he had been dealt a terrific blow by Fate, some humiliating and painful wound which he was always trying to compensate. In spite of the newspapers, he was something of a mystery man, there was a secret somewhere. You will recollect that a friend of ours hinted strongly to us of a family scandal, and that I refused at first to believe it. Further investigations showed that these hints were well-founded, and the secret which so much oppressed Lawrence's life was the fact of his birth. You will find the evidence in the first chapter of Part I and later chapters on Lawrence's early life.
It is a most invidious and disagreeable task to make public these occurrences in the history of a once fairly well-known family, some members of which still are alive. But without this clue all writings on Lawrence are valueless -- or virtually so -- for this is undoubtedly the clue to a character which has puzzled two generations. If I have been
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guilty of bad taste, well, I have been; but I have not betrayed anyone's confidence; the facts I discovered entirely by my own researches. In extenuation I would add that I have presented the evidence as objectively and quietly as possible, avoiding any attempt to exploit a scandal and its personalities, limiting myself to a mere establishing of the fact and its consequences for T. E. 'Lawrence.'
You may feel that I have not devoted much space to the "Arab war," and in comparison with my English predecessors this is true. And yet I have drawn on material which has been neglected by those writing from a purely partisan and nationalist view-point as hero worshippers. Whatever its literary merit (which may be very high) Seven Pillars of Wisdom is rather a work of quasi-fiction than of history. In addition to Lawrence's so-called Secret Despatches and the British Official War History, I have consulted the writings of Jemel Pasha and General Liman von Sanders (neither of whom, however, so much as mentions Lawrence in his account of the Arab war), the various reminiscences in T. E. Lawrence by his Friends, the books of Sir Hubert Young and Major N. N. E. Bray who were eye-witnesses, the important and very well-documented work by General Brémond. on the Arab side I have had the Memoirs of King Abdulla of Transjordania (an amiable fantasist) and the more serious though not impartial book of Mr. Antonius, who received much information from King Hussein and King Feisal I. His account of the Akaba expedition from the Arab point of view is especially interesting. I think you will find that even so warm an admirer of the great Lawrence of Arabia as yourself may be forced by the bleak evidence of facts to modify your enthusiasm.
The legend of Lawrence has been built up by nearly all those writers who have taken Lawrence as their subject, whether for a fullscale biography or for a three-page reminiscence. The edifice shows a fairly solid front to the uncritical reader but once it has been examined it is shown to be an inverted pyramid at the base of which stands Lawrence himself on whom the legend rests. My book is therefore a criticism of those writings which have fostered the Lawrence legend. The truth about the man was harder to come by, as no one crack in the edifice revealed the whole truth. I have gleaned the facts by comparison of the sources of the legend first among themselves and then -- a more valuable comparison -- with writings which were
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not primarily concerned with Lawrence. So you will see my research has been arduous, and first involved Lawrence's own writings and what has been written about him. Then I tried to cast my net as wide as possible among the works not devoted primarily to a study of Lawrence, and you will see from the list of acknowledgments to be found elsewhere in the book which of these works I have quoted at all extensively. The full extent of my researches will appear from the bibliography and list of sources at the end of the book.
As a book of this sort is bound to invite criticism, I would like to reiterate its purpose and its limitations. I do not pretend to have written the definitive biography of Lawrence, nor is this in any sense a final portrait of the man. Much of the evidence that is necessary for such a task is still not available.
My book is, as the title states, a biographical enquiry and not a biography, and, like John Locke, I have considered it "ambition enough to be employed as an under-labourer clearing the ground a little and removing some of the rubbish that lies in the way of knowledge." The book is primarily an analysis of the career of Lawrence the man of action and of the establishment and growth of what I have termed the Lawrence legend. If I have found that the first was of much less significance than is generally supposed, and the second was largely Lawrence's own doing, this is not to deny that Lawrence was a man of peculiar abilities. If The Seven Pillars of Wisdom is to be regarded as a work of the imagination rather than of history, it may well be considered by its admirers all the more remarkable for that fact.
I can't close without especially warm and personal thanks to J. L. Browning and John Holroyd-Reece, to Denison Deasy and to Alan Bird of Wadham for aid, comfort and much valuable research, and, especially, to William Dibben for his patience and skill in finding rare books. But above all, dear Alister, to yourself.
RICHARD ALDINGTON
P.S. The quotations from, and references to, T. E. Lawrence by his Friends, are always taken from the original longer edition,
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PART ONE
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CHAPTER ONE
THE FACTS recorded of T. E. Lawrence's parentage and upbringing are scattered and fragmentary, and the task of tracking them down, and fitting them into some order, is complicated and delicate. More is involved than a conventional curiosity which biographers always have felt or feigned about the antecedents of famous men and women. Rightly or wrongly many of us believe that early influences acting on heredity determine the character of a whole life. In all cases the more we can understand these influences, the better we shall be placed to pass judgment. A narrative which tries to give the facts about this Oxonian Ishmael should begin in the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Not that he would care! Or would he?
There is of course the unresolved debate of Nature v. Nurture, Morgan v. Pavlof, Heredity v. Environment; from which not much is to be deduced except that too little is known for anyone to dogmatise. Still, when a family culminates in a personality so curious as T. E. Lawrence obviously something more is involved than influences which were shared with his brothers. We must invoke heredity, a lucky or unlucky shuffle of the genes. It is surely false, though, to think of any man -- or living organism -- as the sum of his ancestry, he is a selection from that ancestry at the hazard of "chromosome divisions," a set of unique inherited qualities which the chances of environment will encourage or suppress, neutralise or warp. If this sounds pedantic, it can't be helped. A stand must be made against attempts to explain Lawrence as a result of "mixed blood," whatever that may be, and such fancies as the assertion that a knack for learning foreign languages may be "inherited" because among the ancestors a man has never
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seen were some whose native languages differed from that spoken by his parents and those about him. This is like Herodotus's nonsense about the Egyptian baby who spontaneously spoke Phrygian, just as the "mixed blood" theory is a hangover from Aristotle.
These notions may be safely placed in the area of popular mythology (a potent factor in Lawrence's career) along with the theories that he was the son of Bernard Shaw (because he took the name Shaw in the Air Force), or was a son of Thomas Hardy (presumably because he went to tea at Max Gate), or was descended from an imaginary "Sir Robert Lawrence, alleged to have crusaded with Richard of Anjou, or that among his "predecessors" (nice distinction!) were the British Indian soldiers, Sir Henry and Sir John. Lawrence.
Let us look at the evidence available and try to put together a few facts. In January 1926, when Lawrence was stationed at the R.A.F. Cadets' College, Cranwell, he received a letter from his old friend and patron, D. G. Hogarth, asking what he was to say in an article on Lawrence commissioned by the Encyclopdia Britannica. Lawrence returned a characteristically baffling reply, writing alternately in black and red ink -- what was written in black ink might be repeated but what was in red ink was not to be published.
Hogarth' might say that Lawrence's family did not originate in Ireland but must not say it came from Leicestershire; he might say that it had settled near Dublin but not sixty miles to the north-west and not that this happened in the reign of Queen Elizabeth; he might say that Lawrence's ancestors included Henry Vansittart (a member of the Hell Fire Club and one of the early misgovernors of Bengal) but not that Vansittart was a "rogue" nor that Sir Walter Raleigh was an ancestor. 1 Why the mystery? In any case the prohibition did not last very long, since next year Robert Graves was given the Leicestershire and Raleigh information and County Meath was specified. The same information is given by Liddell Hart in 1934. Graves says that Lawrence was Irish, Hebridean, Spanish and Norse; Hart says part English, part Scandinavian. Graves is vague about his mother, and so is Captain Hart. Though it is anticipating and though I shall have more than once to call the reader's attention to the fact, both these biographies were produced in constant communication with Lawrence who read and passed every line of them. Some of the passages in Captain Hart's book from which I shall quote were in fact written by
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seen were some whose native languages differed from that spoken by his parents and those about him. This is like Herodotus's nonsense about the Egyptian baby who spontaneously spoke Phrygian, just as the "mixed blood" theory is a hangover from Aristotle.
These notions may be safely placed in the area of popular mythology (a potent factor in Lawrence's career) along with the theories that he was the son of Bernard Shaw (because he took the name Shaw in the Air Force), or was a son of Thomas Hardy (presumably because he went to tea at Max Gate), or was descended from an imaginary "Sir Robert Lawrence, alleged to have crusaded with Richard of Anjou, or that among his "predecessors" (nice distinction!) were the British Indian soldiers, Sir Henry and Sir John. Lawrence.
Let us look at the evidence available and try to put together a few facts. In January 1926, when Lawrence was stationed at the R.A.F. Cadets' College, Cranwell, he received a letter from his old friend and patron, D. G. Hogarth, asking what he was to say in an article on Lawrence commissioned by the Encyclopdia Britannica. Lawrence returned a characteristically baffling reply, writing alternately in black and red ink -- what was written in black ink might be repeated but what was in red ink was not to be published.
Hogarth' might say that Lawrence's family did not originate in Ireland but must not say it came from Leicestershire; he might say that it had settled near Dublin but not sixty miles to the north-west and not that this happened in the reign of Queen Elizabeth; he might say that Lawrence's ancestors included Henry Vansittart (a member of the Hell Fire Club and one of the early misgovernors of Bengal) but not that Vansittart was a "rogue" nor that Sir Walter Raleigh was an ancestor. 1 Why the mystery? In any case the prohibition did not last very long, since next year Robert Graves was given the Leicestershire and Raleigh information and County Meath was specified. The same information is given by Liddell Hart in 1934. Graves says that Lawrence was Irish, Hebridean, Spanish and Norse; Hart says part English, part Scandinavian. Graves is vague about his mother, and so is Captain Hart. Though it is anticipating and though I shall have more than once to call the reader's attention to the fact, both these biographies were produced in constant communication with Lawrence who read and passed every line of them. Some of the passages in Captain Hart's book from which I shall quote were in fact written by
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Lawrence himself. 2 The book contains mysterious little hints, such as the assertion that if his father's family felt inclined Lawrence's dream of a certain three hundred pounds a year might come true, and that much of the land round Bovington (Dorset) was owned by relatives of his father from whom he rented a ruined cottage with five acres of land. 3
Lowell Thomas makes him Scotch, Welsh, English and Spanish, but places his "original home" in Galway. 4 I should perhaps interject that I have Mr. Thomas's personal assurance that Lawrence worked with him on his book.
What are we to make of this mysterious farrago? No Lawrence family can be traced either in Galway or in County Meath, which of course might be due to lack of records; but the article on Lawrence in the Dictionary of National Biography, written by his friend the Oriental scholar and diplomat, Sir Ronald Storrs, tells us that Lawrence's mother was Sarah Maden, the daughter of a Sunderland engineer, brought up in the Highlands and afterwards in Skye. She appears in T. E. Lawrence's birth certificate as Sarah Lawrence, née Maden. His mother, "S. Lawrence" gives her date of birth as 1861. 5 No Sarah Maden appears in the national records for 1861, but registration was not then compulsory. The Sarah Maden registered in the County of Lancaster in October 1863 is quite a different person, daughter of a stone-mason. The birth certificate of one of Lawrence's brothers gives the mother's name as "formerly Sarah Junner," and a Sarah Junner was born on the 31st August, 1861, in Sunderland (as Sir Ronald Storrs says), the father being described as a "shipwright journeyman" which a genteel imagination may easily glorify into "engineer." 6 In the same D.N.B. article Storrs tells us the important fact that Lawrence's father was "the younger son of an Anglo-Irish landowning family" and that he was "Thomas Robert Chapman, who had assumed the name Lawrence."
One of T. E. Lawrence's beliefs -- or at any rate assertions -- is to the effect that the best way to hide the truth is to tell half-truths; so there seems a reasonable possibility that some of the information he gave to his friends was true. The reputation of so distinguished a witness as Storrs suggests that the Chapman clue is worth following up. And interestingly enough, the social registers of Burke and Debrett, which know nothing of any family of Irish landed gentry by the name of Lawrence, do know a Chapman family.
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The story begins towards the end of the 16th century. At that time there were living two brothers, John and William Chapman, who came from Hinckley in the county of Leicestershire, England, and were distant cousins of Sir Walter Raleigh. Through Raleigh's patronage John Chapman obtained large grants of land in the county of Kerry, Ireland. When Raleigh lost the royal favour John Chapman, it is said, got into money difficulties. At all events, he sold his land to the Earl of Cork for £26,400, which we are told was a large sum of money for that epoch. This John Chapman appears to have died childless, but we are not informed whether he did or did not leave his fortune to his brother William who survived him. In any case, William's son Benjamin was the real founder of the family and its fortune.
This Benjamin was a Roundhead, and during the Great Rebellion joined as Cornet a regiment of horse raised by the Earl of Inchiquin for the Parliament. Benjamin Chapman became a Captain and received from Oliver Cromwell the grant of a large estate in the county of Westmeath. This had been called St. Lucy's, and had been confiscated from the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, and renamed Killua. Benjamin married Anne, daughter of Robert Parkinson of Andee, and by her had two sons, William who succeeded him, and Thomas who went to America, where possibly his descendants still live. William Chapman 2nd married Ismay, daughter of Thomas Nugent of Clonlost.
We now begin to get definite dates. William Chapman 2nd died in 1734, bequeathing his estate to his eldest son Benjamin Chapman 2nd, who was High Sheriff of Meath in 1733 and of Westmeath in 1751. He married Ann, daughter of Robert Tighe of Mitchelstown (Co. Westmeath) and died in 1779, being succeeded by his eldest son Benjamin Chapman 3rd, under whom the family achieved fresh distinction. He was a Doctor of Laws of Dublin, a barrister, a Member of the Irish Parliament, and in 1782 was created a Baronet for services not specified. In his time the family home at St. Lucy's was renamed Killua Castle. He married Anne, daughter of John Lowther of Staffordstown (Co. Meath) and in 1810 died without children.
The title did not then become extinct, but went to his brother Sir Thomas Chapman, knight, who in 1808 married Margaret, daughter of James Fetherston of Bracklin Castle (Co. Westmeath), by whom he had several children. Their eldest son, Sir Montagu Lowther Chapman,
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3 rd Bart. died in 1852. Their second son, Sir Benjamin James Chapman 4th Bart. died in 1888. This 3rd Bart. was a B.A. of Trinity College, Dublin, High Sheriff and Member of Parliament. His brother, the 4th Bart. was also B.A., a barrister, High Sheriff, and a Member of Parliament. He married Maria, daughter of Richard Fetherstonaugh of Co. Westmeath, and had two sons. The elder, Sir Montagu Richard Chapman, 5th Bart. was a B.A. (Oxon.), a Captain in the 9th battalion of the Rifle Brigade, a Justice of the Peace and High Sheriff of Westmeath. He married his cousin, Caroline Chapman, but had no children, and died in 1907. Benjamin Rupert, their second son, was the sixth baronet and died in 1914, without children.
This looks as if it might be the end of the family's history, but from the point of view of this enquiry the most interesting facts are about to appear. The second baronet, Sir Thomas Chapman, had a son William born in 1811, who was a Justice of the Peace and High Sheriff, and married Louisa Vansittart, daughter of Colonel Arthur Vansittart and his wife the Hon. Caroline Eden, daughter of the 1st Lord Auckland. They had three sons; William Eden, who was a major in the 15th Hussars and died at the age of 26; Thomas Robert Tighe; and Francis Vansittart who died unmarried in 1915. Thomas Robert Tighe Chapman was born on November 6th 1846, married in 1873 and had four daughters; in March 1914 he succeeded to the title which became extinct at his death on the 8th April, 1919. 7
Now if these public reference books are accurate and Lawrence's story and the D.N.B. hints not wholly imaginary Thomas Robert Tighe Chapman and Thomas Robert Lawrence must be the same person. T. R. T. Chapman, 7th Bart., was born in November 1846; his title became extinct on the 9th April 1919, and the Assistant Registrar of the Baronetage at the Home Office writes that in 1924 Lady Chapman informed the Home Office that her husband died on the 8th April 1919, exactly the day on which his death certificate says Thomas Robert Lawrence died. 8 According to Debrett ( 1616) Sir Thomas Robert Tighe Chapman married in 1873 and had four daughters between 1874 and 18 -- (date left blank in Debrett but actually 1881), while between 1885 and 1900 Thomas Robert Lawrence had five sons by Sarah Junner. 9 It will be noted that Lady T. R. T. Chapman was still alive in 1924. Her address was South Hill, Delvin, Westmeath, a house which had belonged to her father-in-law.
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