Lawrence of Arabia feud revealed by letter

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The Independent Online
Lawrence of Arabia's mixed feelings about his role in the Arab Revolt in the First World War have been highlighted by a newly-discovered letter.

In the letter, written on 12 September 1932 to Lord Gorell, chairman of the Society of Authors, Lawrence claims credit for leading the Arabs in guerrilla raids against the Turks. But a few paragraphs later he complains that too much was being written about the Revolt instead of letting it be "decently forgotten".

The letter was written six years after Lawrence had first published his own account of the Revolt in Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Lord Gorell was a prominent literary/political figure who had worked at the War Office and on the editorial staff of the Times. He had sent Lawrence a typescript of the war memoirs of Hubert Young, who had also fought against the Turks and after the war worked in the Eastern Department of the Foreign Office.

Lawrence begins by saying that he is not the right person to give an opinion. He emphasises that he had been doing his best to forget about the war and its sequels. But then he goes on to write at length about the war and his role in it. While appearing to praise Young he manages to make a number of digs at him.

He says Young was gallant and capable of any undertaking, but regrets that Young's book "misses so very much".

He says he is pleased that Young gives the Arab regulars due credit. "Naturally the Bedouin ran away with the honours - they are marvellous thieves. I had the largest share of any Englishman in making them ... and only refrained from leading them for political reasons - because I wanted them to lead themselves."

Behind all this was an antipathy between the two men.Young disagreed with Lawrence's plans for the Arabs and did his best to scupper them.

The letter, part of a batch written to Lord Gorell from correspondents including George Bernard Shaw and F D Roosevelt, is expected to fetch up to pounds 8,000 at Sotheby's on 17 July.