Seven Pillars of Wisdom
Overview
 
Seven Pillars of Wisdom is the autobiographical
Autobiography
An autobiography is a book about the life of a person, written by that person.-Origin of the term:...

 account of the experiences of British soldier T. E. Lawrence
T. E. Lawrence
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, CB, DSO , known professionally as T. E. Lawrence, was a British Army officer renowned especially for his liaison role during the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule of 1916–18...

 ("Lawrence of Arabia"), while serving as a liaison officer with rebel forces during the Arab Revolt
Arab Revolt
The Arab Revolt was initiated by the Sherif Hussein bin Ali with the aim of securing independence from the ruling Ottoman Turks and creating a single unified Arab state spanning from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen.- Background :...

 against the Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 Turks
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 of 1916 to 1918.

Charles Hill
Charles Hill (diplomat)
Charles Hill is the Diplomat-in-Residence and a lecturer in International Studies at Yale University. A career foreign service officer, Mr. Hill was a senior adviser to George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, and Ronald Reagan, as well as Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the sixth Secretary-General of the United...

 has called the Seven Pillars "a novel traveling under the cover of autobiography," capturing Lawrence's highly personal version of the historical events described in the book.
The title comes from the Book of Proverbs
Book of Proverbs
The Book of Proverbs , commonly referred to simply as Proverbs, is a book of the Hebrew Bible.The original Hebrew title of the book of Proverbs is "Míshlê Shlomoh" . When translated into Greek and Latin, the title took on different forms. In the Greek Septuagint the title became "paroimai paroimiae"...

, 9:1: "Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars" (KJV).
Encyclopedia
Seven Pillars of Wisdom is the autobiographical
Autobiography
An autobiography is a book about the life of a person, written by that person.-Origin of the term:...

 account of the experiences of British soldier T. E. Lawrence
T. E. Lawrence
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, CB, DSO , known professionally as T. E. Lawrence, was a British Army officer renowned especially for his liaison role during the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule of 1916–18...

 ("Lawrence of Arabia"), while serving as a liaison officer with rebel forces during the Arab Revolt
Arab Revolt
The Arab Revolt was initiated by the Sherif Hussein bin Ali with the aim of securing independence from the ruling Ottoman Turks and creating a single unified Arab state spanning from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen.- Background :...

 against the Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 Turks
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 of 1916 to 1918.

Charles Hill
Charles Hill (diplomat)
Charles Hill is the Diplomat-in-Residence and a lecturer in International Studies at Yale University. A career foreign service officer, Mr. Hill was a senior adviser to George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, and Ronald Reagan, as well as Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the sixth Secretary-General of the United...

 has called the Seven Pillars "a novel traveling under the cover of autobiography," capturing Lawrence's highly personal version of the historical events described in the book.

Title

The title comes from the Book of Proverbs
Book of Proverbs
The Book of Proverbs , commonly referred to simply as Proverbs, is a book of the Hebrew Bible.The original Hebrew title of the book of Proverbs is "Míshlê Shlomoh" . When translated into Greek and Latin, the title took on different forms. In the Greek Septuagint the title became "paroimai paroimiae"...

, 9:1: "Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars" (KJV). Prior to the First World War, Lawrence had begun work on a scholarly book about seven great cities of the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

, to be titled Seven Pillars of Wisdom. When war broke out, it was still incomplete and Lawrence stated that he ultimately destroyed the manuscript.
Later, during the Arab Revolt
Arab Revolt
The Arab Revolt was initiated by the Sherif Hussein bin Ali with the aim of securing independence from the ruling Ottoman Turks and creating a single unified Arab state spanning from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen.- Background :...

 of 1917–18, Lawrence based his operations in Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum also known as The Valley of the Moon is a valley cut into the sandstone and granite rock in south Jordan at to the east of Aqaba. It is the largest wadi in Jordan. The name Rum most likely comes from an Aramaic root meaning 'high' or 'elevated'. To reflect its proper Arabic...

 (now a part of Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

), and one of the more impressive rock formations in the area was named by Lawrence "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom". In the end, Lawrence decided to use this evocative title for the memoirs he penned in the aftermath of the war.

While the title might seem better suited to the former book than the latter, a line from the dedicatory poem (to "S.A.", possibly Selim Ahmed
Selim Ahmed (Dahoum)
Selim Ahmed also called "Dahoum", meaning "little dark one", was a Syrian Arab who worked with T. E. Lawrence at a pre-war archaeological dig at Carchemish. They met while Lawrence was working as an archaeologist at Carchemish, where Ahmed had been hired as a water boy...

) at the start of the book helps explain Lawrence's interpretation of the Biblical
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 "seven pillars" and their relevance to the Arab Revolt:


I loved you, so I drew these tides of

Men into my hands

And wrote my will across the

Sky and stars

To earn you freedom, the seven

Pillared worthy house,

That your eyes might be

Shining for me

When we came



Death seemed my servant on the

Road, 'til we were near

And saw you waiting:

When you smiled and in sorrowful

Envy he outran me

And took you apart:

Into his quietness



Love, the way-weary, groped to your body,

Our brief wage

Ours for the moment

Before Earth's soft hand explored your shape

And the blind

Worms grew fat upon

Your substance



Men prayed me that I set our work,

The inviolate house,

As a memory of you

But for fit monument I shattered it,

Unfinished: and now

The little things creep out to patch

Themselves hovels

In the marred shadow

Of your gift.



A variant last line of that first stanza—reading "When we came"—appears in some editions; however, the 1922 Oxford text (considered the definitive version; see below) has "When I came". The poem originated as prose, submitted by letter to Robert Graves
Robert Graves
Robert von Ranke Graves 24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985 was an English poet, translator and novelist. During his long life he produced more than 140 works...

, who edited the work heavily into its current form, rewriting an entire stanza and correcting the others.

Manuscripts and editions

Lawrence kept extensive notes throughout the course of his involvement in the Revolt. He began work on a clean narrative in the first half of 1919 while in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 for the Peace Conference and, later that summer, while back in Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

.
By December 1919 he had a fair draft of most of the ten books that make up the Seven Pillars of Wisdom but lost it (except for the introduction and final two books) when he misplaced his briefcase while changing trains at Reading railway station
Reading railway station
Reading railway station is a major rail transport hub in the English town of Reading. It is situated on the northern edge of the town centre, close to the main retail and commercial areas, and also the River Thames...

. National newspapers alerted the public to the loss of the "hero's manuscript", but to no avail; the draft remained lost. Lawrence refers to this version as "Text I" and says that had it been published, it would have been some 250,000 words in length.

In early 1920, Lawrence set about the daunting task of rewriting as much as he could remember of the first version. Working from memory alone (he had destroyed his wartime notes upon completion of the corresponding parts of Text I), he was able to complete this "Text II", 400,000 words long, in three months. Lawrence described this version as "hopelessly bad" in literary terms, but historically it was "substantially complete and accurate".

With Text II in front of him, Lawrence began working on a polished version ("Text III") in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, Jeddah
Jeddah
Jeddah, Jiddah, Jidda, or Jedda is a city located on the coast of the Red Sea and is the major urban center of western Saudi Arabia. It is the largest city in Makkah Province, the largest sea port on the Red Sea, and the second largest city in Saudi Arabia after the capital city, Riyadh. The...

, and Amman
Amman
Amman is the capital of Jordan. It is the country's political, cultural and commercial centre and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The Greater Amman area has a population of 2,842,629 as of 2010. The population of Amman is expected to jump from 2.8 million to almost...

 during 1921. Upon completion of its 335,000 words in February 1922, Lawrence burned Text II. He then proceeded to have eight copies typeset and printed on the presses of the Oxford Times, and this private edition became known as the "1922 Edition" or the "Oxford Text" of Seven Pillars. He made painstaking hand-written corrections to six of these copies and had them bound. (In 2001, the last time one of these rough printings came on to the market, it fetched almost USD $1 million at auction.) This time, instead of burning the manuscript, Lawrence presented it to the Bodleian Library
Bodleian Library
The Bodleian Library , the main research library of the University of Oxford, is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, and in Britain is second in size only to the British Library...

.

By mid-1922, Lawrence was in a state of severe mental turmoil: the psychological after-effects of war were taking their toll, as were his exhaustion from the literary endeavours of the past three years, his disillusionment with the settlement given to his Arab comrades-in-arms, and the burdens of being in the public eye as a perceived "national hero". It was at this time that he re-enlisted in the armed forces under an assumed name (first the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

, then the Royal Tank Corps), in an attempt to "lie fallow" and develop a new identity. Concerned over his mental state and eager for his story to be read by a wider public, his friends persuaded him to produce an abridged version of Seven Pillars, to serve as both intellectual stimulation and a source of much-needed income. In his off-duty evenings, "Aircraftman Ross" – or, later, "Private Shaw" – set to trimming the 1922 text down to 250,000 words for what would be a very limited, exceedingly lavish subscribers' edition.

The Subscribers' Edition – in a print run of about 200 copies, of which only 100 were for public sale, each with a unique, sumptuous, hand-crafted binding – was published in late 1926. It was printed in London by Roy Manning Pike and Herbert John Hodgson
Herbert John Hodgson
Herbert John Hodgson is regarded as one of the most skilled printers of the twentieth century. After serving in the First World War, with Roy Manning Pike he printed the rare 1926 subscribers' edition of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence...

, with illustrations by Eric Kennington
Eric Kennington
Eric Henri Kennington RA was an English Sculptor, artist and illustrator, and an official war artist in both World Wars.-Early life:...

, Augustus John
Augustus John
Augustus Edwin John OM, RA, was a Welsh painter, draughtsman, and etcher. For a short time around 1910, he was an important exponent of Post-Impressionism in the United Kingdom....

, Paul Nash
Paul Nash
Paul Nash is the name of:* Paul Nash , British artist* Paul Nash , South African sprinter* Paul Nash , Jamaican Sportsperson of the Year 1969, Father of Brendan Nash...

, Blair Hughes-Stanton and his wife Gertrude Hermes
Gertrude Hermes
Gertrude Hermes, RA OBE was a British wood engraver, print maker and sculptor..She was born in Bickley, Kent.She studied at Leon Underwood School of Painting and Sculpture, from 1921 to 1925.She won the Prix de Rome in 1925....

. Copies occasionally become available in the antiquarian trade and can easily command prices of up to USD 100,000. Unfortunately, each copy cost Lawrence three times the thirty guineas
Guinea (British coin)
The guinea is a coin that was minted in the Kingdom of England and later in the Kingdom of Great Britain and the United Kingdom between 1663 and 1813...

 the subscribers had paid. Intellectual stimulation it may have provided, but the cure for his financial woes it was not.

The Subscribers' Edition was 25% shorter than the Oxford Text, but Lawrence did not abridge uniformly. The deletions from the early books are much less drastic than those of the later ones: for example, Book I lost 17% of its words and Book IV lost 21%, compared to 50% and 32% for Books VIII and IX. Critics differed in their opinions of the two editions: Robert Graves
Robert Graves
Robert von Ranke Graves 24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985 was an English poet, translator and novelist. During his long life he produced more than 140 works...

 and George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60...

 preferred the 1922 text (although, from a legal standpoint, they appreciated the removal of certain passages that could have been considered libellous, or at least indiscreet), while E. M. Forster
E. M. Forster
Edward Morgan Forster OM, CH was an English novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society...

 preferred the 1926 version.

Literary merits aside, however, producing the Subscribers' Edition had left Lawrence facing bankruptcy. He was forced to undertake an even more stringent pruning to produce a version for sale to the general public: this was the 1927 Revolt in the Desert, a work of some 130,000 words: "an abridgement of an abridgement," remarked George Bernard Shaw, not without disdain.

After the 1926 release of the Subscribers' Edition, Lawrence stated that no further issue of Seven Pillars would be made during his lifetime. Lawrence was killed in a motorcycle accident in May 1935, at the age of 46, and within weeks of his death, the 1926 abridgement was published for general circulation. The unabridged Oxford Text of 1922 was not made publicly available until its UK copyright expired in 1997.

Editions in print

  • ISBN 0-9546418-0-9 Seven Pillars of Wisdom, 1922, unabridged Oxford text.
  • ISBN 0-385-41895-7 Seven Pillars of Wisdom, 1926, Subscribers' Edition text.
  • ISBN 1-56619-275-7 Revolt in the Desert, 1927, abridgement.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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