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Perspective: Lowell Thomas on Lawrence

Remarks from Lowell Thomas in an excerpt from A.W. Lawrence’s T.E. Lawrence By His Friends, 1937.

“In various places I have written and all over the world I have related most of what I know about T.E. Lawrence. Indeed, some have been good enough to proclaim that I have said more than I know. On the contrary, I kept several things to myself during his lifetime. In themselves they were innocent enough. But they were of that fatally innocent kind that might have shown him in a false light to people lacking sympathy and understanding. I admire the man beyond any other human being I have ever met in a lifetime of travel around the Seven Seas. Naturally, it was my constant desire that the entire world share that admiration. That desire failed of fulfillment for the human but rather unhandsome reason that for every man who loves a hero there is another who resents him. And the resentment is of a venomous and virulent kind. But the more virulent it was the more it, too, failed of its object. The more serpentine the tongues of Lawrence’s detractors the farther they thrust him, victim of twentieth-century hydra-headed publicity, unwilling into the limelight.

Now Lawrence is dead, his reputation beyond assail and there is no longer any need, real or fancied, to withhold any truth, particularly if it may help to throw a brighter illumination into the sometimes labyrinthine depths of his unique mind. ...

It was during this time that I decided to set down the story on paper. Magazine and book publishers had been constantly on my doorstep. I consulted T.E., who told me he did not intend to write a book although he was working on his notes. But he added that when he finished those notes he probably would stick them away somewhere in a vault, to be published after his death. This is a fact of some importance, since my book has been the source of considerable controversy not only among Lawrence’s enemies but also his partisans. I made a particular point of asking him whether he had any objection to my doing a bit of writing about him. ‘Not the slightest,’ he replied, and specifically authorized me by all means to go ahead. What was more, he helped me. My physician had ordered me to move out of London to the edge of Richmond Park where I could get out into the open every morning. The physical strain of speaking to thousands of people twice a day for four solid months had rather knocked me up. From his own digs near Westminster Abby T.E. walked out regularly, some twelve miles or more and worked with me. In the course of these consultations I frequently asked him whether certain anecdotes I had gathered were true, anecdotes concerning his experiences before the War. He would laugh with glee and reply: ‘History isn’t made up of truth anyway so why worry?’ I mention this because in recent years other writers have accused me of including a number of yarns in my book which were really apocryphal.”