Lawrence, T. E. (1888–1935) By Hemmings, Robert
Thomas Edward Lawrence was an Oxford-trained medieval scholar, guerrilla leader, rebel, ascetic and spy. Lawrence was an inveterate self-fashioner in addition to being compellingly mythologized by a coterie of literary friends and romanticized in Lowell Thomas’s (1892–1981) 1919 multi-media show ‘With Allenby in Palestine’. His mythical status was renewed with the popularity of David Lean’s (1908–1991) cinematic epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Lawrence’s involvement with Arab revolt against the Turks, his postwar support for the Arab movement and disillusionment with Britain’s exploitation of that movement, and his subsequent flight from rank and title provide the material for his agonistic autobiographical writing. After the war, he renounced his fame and position, assuming the names John Hume Ross and T. E. Shaw and becoming a dedicated serviceman, a ‘mechanical monk’ in the newly created Royal Air Force (Meyers 124). He was also a classic ‘Orientalist’ and ‘imperial agent’, according to Edward Said (240); a ‘mysterious farrago’ and a ‘fraud’, according to Richard Aldington (35); and remains ‘a prince of our disorder’, according to Irving Howe (qtd. in Mack xvi).