- T. E. Lawrence:The Castle Hill Editions
The reputation of Lawrence of Arabia continues not only to grow and spread, but to deepen. This is because we have discovered that he deserves his reputation over and above the myth created by journalist Lowell Thomas's publicity in the 1920s, Peter O'Toole's interpretation of Lawrence's character in the David Lean epic film of 1962, and a series of popular biographies of varying accuracy and quality that continue to be published to the present day. By means of the diligent work of serious researchers in many fields, including history, political science, and English literature, it has become clear that Lawrence—who excelled at archaeology, spying, strategic military thinking, guerrilla operations, diplomacy, translation, autobiographical writing, and mechanical work—did more things well than almost anyone else of his period. And his Middle Eastern experience and the important lessons he derived from it continue to reverberate because of our own ongoing and tangled experience with that part of the world. The most recent sign of Lawrence's continuing international fame is the excellent [End Page 94] exhibit devoted to him at the Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch in Oldenburg, Germany (November 2010 through March 2011), which then moved to the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum in Cologne (through September 2011). And there has been a steady series of doctoral dissertations written on Lawrence at universities around the world.
In terms of ongoing textual scholarship, the most important project underway for the past several years has been authorized biographer Jeremy Wilson's Castle Hill Press editions of all of Lawrence's works, ranging from his relatively minor reports through his major writings and his correspondence. Wilson's most important contribution in this series is his editing and publication of essential works that would have been otherwise unavailable outside of rare books libraries, particularly the early 1922 draft of Lawrence's masterpiece, Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1926), Wilson's edition of which appeared in 1997. Prior to that the only place to see the 1922 manuscript was in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, or in one of the rare books libraries, including the Houghton Library, Harvard, that own one of the eight copies of the 1922 manuscript that Lawrence had printed up on the press of the Oxford Times so he could distribute it to friends and colleagues for comment. For the publication of this 1922 draft alone, our debt to Wilson is great.
In 2003, Wilson republished the 1922 text in a single "library" volume as opposed to his 1997 three-volume boxed set (reviewed in ELT, 42.2, 1999). The difference between Wilson's 1997 and 2003 editions of the 1922 text is that the 2003 one-volume edition incorporates in the text itself all of the revisions that Lawrence made in the 1922 manuscript when it was printed up on the press of the Oxford Times, while Wilson's 1997 edition lists these revisions in an appendix but does not incorporate them in the text. Moreover...