Monday, May 23, 2011

Professor A.W. Lawrence

This short essay/reminiscence from T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) is one of my favorite pieces of motorcycle writing. It's from his book 'The Mint', published posthumously in 1955. 'The Mint' is a collection of notes and essays penned by Lawrence while serving in the Royal Air Force (1923-35), and edited by his brother, Professor A.W. Lawrence, who inherited T.E.L.'s estate (and who had to sell the American rights to 'The Seven Pillars of Wisdom' to pay inheritance taxes in England on Lawrence's death in 1935, aged 46).

Lawrence gained his 'of Arabia' during the First World War, where his adoption of Arab dress, language, and custom gained him the respect of King Faisal, and convinced British brass to give T.E.L. a free hand to conduct commando raids on Turkish positions, using Arab tribesmen as his soldiers. After his rampant successes during the War (and promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel), he returned to England and sought the anonymity of enlisted military service to escape his fame, which partly resulted from cooperation with journalist Lowell Thomas during the Arab Campaign (Thomas sent frequent, romantic/heroic stories about Lawrence to the English press, and made him a hero). 'The Mint' chronicles those years spent in the RAF.

Lawrence published two original books during his lifetime; 'The Seven Pillars of Wisdom' (1926) and 'Revolt in the Desert' (1927), which was an abridged version of 'Seven Pillars'. Interestingly, Lawrence refused payment for his writing, feeling that he had already been paid by the government for his service in the military, on which the books were based. 'Revolt' was a best-seller, and profits went to a fund for children of RAF officers killed in action. If you're interested in reading his work, I'd suggest 'The Seven Pillars of Wisdom'; Lawrence had a natural gift for writing, and his dear friend George Bernard Shaw helped him edit the the book. It's a classic.

Of course, Lawrence writes here about his experience riding his Brough Superior S.S.100 model!.

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