A Prince of Our Disorder (Magill's Literary Annual 1977)
“Lawrence of Arabia”—the romantic images of desert warfare, of the young British “colonel” in Arab dress leading the tribes against the Turks of the Ottoman Empire, are all the sharper in contrast to the deadly, unromantic stalemate of trench warfare as World War I knew it. When Lowell Thomas’ account appeared in 1924, the starting-point for widespread interest in Lawrence, the English-speaking world may have been ready for glamor and heroism; individual bravery and skill seemed antiquated and irrelevant, yet here such qualities were still alive and effective, and set in that especially “romantic” world of The Arabian Nights, Valentino’s The Sheik, and The Desert Song.
The fifty-odd years since Thomas’ book, and nearly sixty since the fighting in Arabia and Syria, have added complications to the story. If events and biographers have tried to reduce the cloud of legend, others have added to it. Lawrence’s own books, especially Seven Pillars of Wisdom, reveal a great literary artist, but also a complex personality, and a story more profound than boyish adventure. After the blaze of glory, he sought obscurity in the Royal Air Force, then the Tanks Corps, then the Air Force again as an enlisted man, using the names of Ross and Shaw. He died—fittingly—in a crash on his motorcycle.
Politically, Lawrence and his campaign involved the British in the Arab world, and especially in promises of...
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1977)
America. CXXXIV, May 1, 1976, p. 386.
Atlantic. CCXXXVII, May, 1976, p. 111.
Best Sellers. XXXVI, June, 1976, p. 82.
Christian Science Monitor. LXVIII, May 5, 1976, p. 27.
Commonweal. CIII, December 3, 1976, p. 791.
Critic. XXXV, Fall, 1976, p. 91.
Economist. CCLIX, May 15, 1976, p. 121.
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