210 THE MICHIGAN QUARTERLY REVIEW Man's Fate and The Royal Way echo this existential conception of Lawrence as does the principal character of Terrence Rattigan's play, Ross. Like Robert Bolt's screen-play of Lawrence of Arabia, Ross is based on the events of Lawrence's life but the episodes show a violent alteration of history to suit artistic ends. In Rattigan's play, as in Bolt's film, Lawrence's external heroism is set in the context of agonizing self-doubt and dry-eyed seriousness. The defenses in playfulness that Lawrence so carefully raised are stripped away and forgotten. For the audience fifty years after, the great adventure has been turned into a mock-Shakespearean allegory of man in a lonely universe. It is hard to recapture the sense of Lawrence's achievement that caused his contemporaries to regard him with such awe. B. H. Liddell Hart thought Lawrence more interesting and gifted than Churchill, and he knew both men well. Churchill himself called Lawrence "one of the greatest beings alive in our time." Even the publication of an abusive "biographical enquiry" designed to expose Lawrence as a fraud and poseur did little to diminish the flow of admiration. "People persist in romancing about him," Bernard Shaw wrote. "They will keep on at it until the end of history." Between the wars, he provided the stuff for a soothing myth about the world war; his contemporaries could see in him an embodiment of individual valor that had been obscured in the carnage of the trenches. Shortly after his death, he was memorialized in an epic poem praising the humane virtues in a way reminiscent of the elegies of an earlier day: All who know him now Attest his goodness: never have they known, They say, such goodness in one man, Such selfless serving, generosity, Such dearth of every mean or petty vice, Such lack of pride except in common worth. Today, we denigrate his real achievements but elevate him to the role of soldier on the battleground of the soul. To make sense of the kaleidoscope of conflicting views presented to us by history and literature, we must clarify the events in which Lawrence took part, a difficult task and one that sometimes leads to a confusing haggling over details. In T. E. Lawrence: An Arab View, Suleiman Mousa gathers a great variety of such details in an attempt to destroy the Lawrence myth. He is offended by Lawrence's egotism and has worked hard to restore the historical record to its proper proportions. Seven Pillars of Wisdom, a sympathetic reader has re cently written, is of extraordinary value as a biographical document: "As a source for the history of the Arab revolt, on the other hand, the book must be used with caution; one runs the risk of encountering a view that is poetic rather than historical." As an Arab patriot, Mr. Mousa fails to appreciate this distinction between history and poetry. He is angered by Lawrence's "poetic" view and rightly claims that the achievement of the Arab Revolt has been smothered in misplaced admiration for Lawrence's minor military exploits. To those acquainted with recent literary and biographical treatments of Lawrence, such phrases as "uncrowned King of Arabia" merely reflect the early adulation of the man. To such readers, Mr. Mousa's strong reaction against them comes as something of a surprise. But a closer look at the current popular conception of the man seems to justify his anger. In an otherwise well-informed essay in Esquire, for example, we find the astonishing claim that Sherif Feisal, the commander of the Arab Northern Army, was Lawrence's "great friend and ally"! Lawrence himself is described as "a mysterious British agent, operating alone in the most exotic corner of World War I, who, dressed as an Arab, inspired the desert tribes to revolt, led them in a brilliant guerilla campaign that drove the Turks out of Arabia, and took Damascus in triumph at the head of his devoted Bedouin army." Such preposterous claims suggest that Lawrence was alone in an effort that was in fact supported by many European advisors and more than three hundred thousand British troops. Most outrageous, from Mr. Mousa's point of view, is the assumption that Lawrence was the commander of the Arab armies instead of the active subordinate to Feisal that he really was. Perhaps he can take some consolation in the fact that Sir Edmund Allenby, the commander of the entire theatre of war, is the subject of a recent biography subtitled Lawrence's General. In such works, perspective disappears and Lawrence bids fair to dwarf the memory of all other participants in the First World War. If Mr. Mousa had reflected a little longer an Lawrence's exotic personality, he might be less angry. Surely the proper perspective is achieved in Lawrence's early letters about his experience: "I act as a sort of advisor to Sherif Feisal, and as we are on the best of terms, the job is a wide and pleasant one." That Feisal knew little of warfare at the beginning of the Revolt must be admitted, and there can be no question of Lawrence's importance in coordi
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