T. E. Lawrence : biography
Thomas Edward Lawrence, CB, DSO (16 August 1888His official birth record, according to his father’s statement, lists 15 August 1888, as birth date (no time of birth). However, his mother stated he was born in the early hours of 16 August, and according to extant documents it was on this date his birthday was celebrated.19 May 1935), known professionally as T. E. Lawrence, was a British Army officer renowned especially for his liaison role during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign and the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule of 1916–18. The breadth and variety of his activities and associations, and his ability to describe them vividly in writing, earned him international fame as Lawrence of Arabia, a title which was used for the 1962 film based on his World War I activities.
Lawrence was born illegitimate in Tremadog, Wales, in August 1888 to Sir Thomas Chapman and Sarah Junner, a governess who was herself illegitimate. Chapman had left his wife and first family in Ireland to live with Sarah Junner, and they called themselves Mr and Mrs Lawrence. In the summer of 1896 the Lawrences moved to Oxford, where in 1907–10 young Lawrence studied history at Jesus College, graduating with First Class Honours. He became a practising archaeologist in the Middle East, working at various excavations with David George Hogarth and Leonard Woolley. In 1908 he joined the Oxford University Officer Training Corps, undergoing a two-year training course. In January 1914, before the outbreak of World War I, Lawrence was co-opted by the British Army to undertake a military survey of the Negev Desert while doing archaeological research.
Lawrence’s public image resulted in part from the sensationalised reportage of the revolt by an American journalist, Lowell Thomas, as well as from Lawrence’s autobiographical account, Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1922). In 1935, he was fatally injured in a motorbike crash in Dorset.
In popular culture
- Lawrence was portrayed by Peter O’Toole in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia.
- Peter O’Toole’s portrayal of Lawrence was the inspiration for the android David character in Ridley Scott’s 2012 science fiction film, Prometheus.
- He was portrayed by Judson Scott in the 1982 TV series Voyagers!
- Ralph Fiennes portrayed Lawrence in the 1990 made-for-TV movie A Dangerous Man: Lawrence after Arabia.
- Joseph A. Bennett and Douglas Henshall portrayed him in the 1992 TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. In Young Indiana Jones, Lawrence is portrayed as being a lifelong friend of the title character.
- He was also portrayed in an Arabic series, directed by Thayer Musa, called "Lawrence Al Arab". The series consisted of 37 episodes, each between 45 minutes and one hour in length. Online at Istikana.com]
- Lawrence was the subject of Terence Rattigan’s controversial play Ross, which explored Lawrence’s alleged homosexuality. Ross ran in London in 1960–61, starring Alec Guinness, who was an admirer of Lawrence, and Gerald Harper as his blackmailer, Dickinson. The play had originally been written as a screenplay, but the planned film was never made. In January 1986 at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth on the opening night of the revival of Ross, Marc Sinden, who was playing Dickinson (the man who recognised and blackmailed Lawrence, played by Simon Ward), was introduced to the man that the character of ‘Dickinson’ was based on. Sinden asked him why he had blackmailed Ross, and he replied, "Oh, for the money. I was financially embarrassed at the time and needed to get up to London to see a girlfriend. It was never meant to be a big thing, but a good friend of mine was very close to Terence Rattigan and years later, the silly devil told him the story".Western Morning News 1986
- Alan Bennett’s Forty Years On (1968) includes a satire on Lawrence; known as "Tee Hee Lawrence" because of his high-pitched, girlish giggle. "Clad in the magnificent white silk robes of an Arab prince … he hoped to pass unnoticed through London. Alas he was mistaken." The section concludes with the headmaster confusing him with D. H. Lawrence.
- The character of Private Napoleon Meek in George Bernard Shaw’s 1931 play Too True to Be Good was inspired by Lawrence. Meek is depicted as thoroughly conversant with the language and lifestyle of tribals. He repeatedly enlists with the army, quitting whenever offered a promotion. Lawrence attended a performance of the play’s original Worcestershire run, and reportedly signed autographs for patrons attending the show.Korda, p. 670-671
- T. E. Lawrence’s first year back at Oxford after the Great War to write his Seven Pillars of Wisdom was portrayed by Tom Rooney in a play, The Oxford Roof Climbers Rebellion, written by Canadian playwright Stephen Massicotte (premiered Toronto 2006). The play explores Lawrence’s political, physical and psychological reactions to war, and his friendship with poet Robert Graves. Urban Stages presented the American premiere in New York City in October 2007; Lawrence was portrayed by actor Dylan Chalfy.
- Lawrence’s final years are portrayed in a one-man show by Raymond Sargent, The Warrior and the Poet.