Monday, 13 June 2016

Hounded to death: the last years of T. E. Shaw. 4. The Mint

A 1919 pencil sketch by Augustus John.

We have to ask ourselves why T. E. Shaw would have wanted to use the portrait illustrated here as had been claimed in Wikipedia (See comment from Tobi, below, about having it removed). The Mint started out as a series of notes about his service in the R. A. F. in England from August until December of 1922. He had enlisted as "John Hume Ross". His previous job (as T. E. Lawrence) is described by J. M. Wilson in his preface to the Penguin edition of The Mint as " the Colonial Office as adviser to Winston Churchill on Middle Eastern affairs." He had planned to leave that post as he wanted to put his former identity as "Lawrence of Arabia" far behind him. He could have used the pencil portrait by William Rothenstein (1920) which did not show him in Arab  garb, or he could have commissioned another.

The bookplate on the left had been pasted in my first edition of T. E. Lawrence by his Friends, Ed. A. W. Lawrence, Jonathan Cape, London, 1937. It bears a T.E.L. monogram; the Latin motto of the R. A. F. and a desert scene with camels (I placed the coloured square on the graphic to prevent forgery). The only T. E. Lawrence bookplates apparently known are posthumous, made for his estate and are on books from his Clouds Hill library. In a letter to Edward Garnett of October 5th, 1933 Shaw is discussing someone else's bookplate and says "I'm not able to put any mark in my books - unless, sometimes, T.E.S. in pencil on the fly-leaf...". The incongruity in design of the bookplate puzzled me: the normal format for a monogram contrasted with the T.E.L. used by his fans to this very day but the R. A. F. motto is odd for a fan fantasy bookplate. I contacted Nicole Wilson about it and she thought it was curious and that they (her and J. W. Wilson) had never came across any statement in his letters about him thinking of having one printed.  She also said "One can only think that this plate was the work of some artistic person who wished to represent Lawrence's life in that way. We haven't seen it anywhere else".  I had about the same thoughts, thinking, too, that it was an odd design to use.  I did expect, though, that it would be a well-known "fantasy" piece, so I was surprised to hear that they had not encountered it before, even though I could find no record of it through Google. If anyone would have known about it would have been them. Now, I am thinking that the iconography of the bookplate is no more strange than the iconography in what was claimed as Shaw's choice of a frontispiece for The Mint.

I can add nothing substantial to the description of this book and its history to what is covered already by J. M. Wilson in the link I gave for the book and in the Wikipedia entry for it, but I can say that I think the iconography of both suggests the meaning of transition. That Lawrence had twice changed his name and had become an enlisted man in the military is more than just trying to lose the "Lawrence of Arabia" identity. He could have become anything at all and still have done that. The first part of his process was to obliterate the old and that is explained in the use of the word "mint".

We will start to look at the second part tomorrow. It becomes especially clear with the absence of unpleasant distractions which his service in India gave him.

John's Coydog Community page


  1. My goodness, perhaps my entire, careful comment disappeared whilst I translated the book plate. But I mentioned the wrong drawing for the Mint...per Patrick Knowles,"An Handful With Quietness."

  2. I never saw another comment coming through - must be a Google glitch.

  3. I just had the amazing experience of correcting Wikipedia! What you've posted, the John drawing of Ned in Arab kit is not the one he intended for The Mint. I backtracked, found the Wikipedia page for The Mint had so listed it, joined Wikipedia and had them take it down. I have the correct drawing in the Knowles book but it isn't public domain, so can't be added into the Wikipedia database. Considering that, in February 2016, I did not know who Lawrence of Arabia was, I have come far.

    1. Well done! I've made the corrections in the text (directing to your comment) and removed part of the caption.



    2. Thank you. The reason you were confused was because you were right, something hadn't made sense. I think even Jeremy Wilson was at one point confused and misidentified the proper portrait in his Portrait Gallery exhibition book.

    3. The key is always to come to an understanding of the psychology of the historical person being studied.

    4. My goal for the past two years has been to "come to an understanding of the psychology" of this particular historical fellow, though I do not use your filters, with which I am familiar from studies decades back. I want to understand how a brilliant boy became someone David Garnett called "the most aberrant" man he'd ever known; and I want to understand how the trauma of rape can be combatted so it needn't result in total psychological devastation.

    5. I don't remember the Garnett quote, where does it appear?

      My current impression is that T. E. Shaw had worked very hard to reinvent himself and that started before he went to Arabia, and going there was for that purpose.

      The observation that he exhibited the puer aeternus archetype seems close to the mark, but not exactly. He had the physical aspect of "boyishness" and this must have bothered him. Being intuitive, and without any need to have studied Jung he was in touch with his unconscious and knew that the stages of development of the male would be to part from the mother he had to depend upon as an infant, to become The Hero, and (as he might have discovered if he had lived long enough) to become the Wise Old Man.

      But his physical appearance and innate mannerisms of shyness and giggling gave the impression of the boy, so it was not so much a psychological "puer aeternus" where the mother dominates and he never seemed to even address his mother as "Mother" or any variation. There seem to be no such salutations in his letters. Instead, he seems to be trying to gain recognition as the successful adult male "hero", but this was not his ultimate goal and was just a stop along the way.

      Once achieved, it had to be cast off, just as his impression to others as being "boyish" had to be cast off. He changed his name and his occupation and what was then revealed was the proficient workman, whether expressed in his literary pursuits or in his engineering skills. He was happiest as "just one of the guys".

      Of course, society, being stuck, itself, in the hero archetype would have none of this and he was preserved, like a pinned butterfly, as "Lawrence of Arabia" and it was destroying him.

      Admiration is a violent act when not kept reasonably private but acted upon to the exclusion of criticism -- you can see this expressed in Oscar Wilde's "The Ballad of Reading Gaol". It does no one any good as it "fixes" the person in a single state so it is destructive to anyone trying to progress, because progress requires the recognition that all is not perfect. His torture in Turkey gave him one more thing to overcome and it was the one setback to passing beyond "The Hero", but his heroism in warfare had been achieved and he did not need it to be fixed in the public mind. He had passed that stage enough to go onto the next. The violence was an "i" to be dotted or a "t' to be crossed and was a personal, not public, thing. Nevertheless, it was a still a stumbling block, although eclipsed by the harassment of admiration by the press, the public, and even his own brother (A. W. Lawrence, who was the editor/creator of _T. E. Lawrence by his Friends_ and who did not respect T. E. Shaw) which he could not overcome. Incidentally, David Garnett referred to T. E. as "Shaw" and only as Lawrence when talking about the time of his life before he changed his name.

      So, I think that the trauma of rape should also be an "i" to be dotted and the focus should become the natural development of the personality that would have no part of that experience and would not be influenced by it. By ceasing to allow oneself to be seen as a victim fully realizes the hero quest and allows a person to move on.

      Btw, I see that the removal of illustration in the Wikipedia entry for The Mint did not take, or has been returned. Is this another example of negating Shaw's self identity?

  4. The Garnett quote is in one of his autobiographies, if I remember correctly, might have been picked up in the recent biography by Sarah Knights, which I thought was well done. I can't track it much better as both books were interlibrary loan and they don't show properly in my borrowing history. And I might agree – I did agree in 1977 when I read the Ted/Old Man correspondence and knew nothing of “Lawrence of Arabia” – except that Garnett was no sheaf of virgin snow himself.

    I just finished two hours "debate" over the Wikipedia issue. I have Knowles referring to one drawing, Wilson to another, and a query out to the Ashmolean. The fellow who put the Arab Kit Portrait back wants it proven that this couldn't possibly be "the intended frontispiece," but there are other references to this, including Garnett, just not on line, Wilson's National Portrait Gallery exhibit catalog, for one. So I continue to fight for it. What is curious is that the drawing identified by Knowles as the one intended for use in TEL's hand press version of "The Mint" is different than the one identified by Wilson. seems to show the correct drawing, in that it is the one from which "collotypes" were made...

    I didn't get the feeling that A W disrespected the use of "Shaw," though certainly the older brother, Doctor Bob, didn't want Knowles using Shaw in his book which Knowles references. Like David Garnett, Knowles only knew the man Shaw. I suspect A W understood his brother's celebrity was uncomfortable. A W's generation also wasn't so horribly affected by the scandal of illegitimacy that bothered TEL -- TEL was offended by the need for "Lawrence," not just the use of it. Friends of TEL seemed to be willing to use Shaw, as we do now when someone decides to change their gender -- we recognize the importance of identity, and we struggle along with the individual to find the right name for themselves.

    (As you point out from your own experience, name changes are their own challenge. I, too, changed my name, made it legal with TEL's inspiration, and still Microsoft just won't accept me -- can't get the old name off my computer without wiping away all the programming.)

    1. I would think that ample evidence for the Wikipedia drawing being wrong is the Bonham's catalogue together with A.W.L's note to the first edition of The Mint:

      "He intended, in, fact, to print a limited edition himself on a hand press, and had already obtained enough copies for its frontispiece of a reproduction (by Messrs Emery Walker) of a portrait drawing by Augustus John now in the Ashmolean Museum."

      J. M. Wilson's Preface to the Penguin Edition gives:

      "After his retirement from the R.A.F. in March 1935 he had intended to set up a private printing press at Clouds Hill, where he planned to print a small edition of The Mint. The project was stillborn, since he died in May, and of the proposed edition only a hundred collotype reproductions of the projected frontispiece -- Augustus John's final sketch of Lawrence in uniform -- survive.

      Altogether, these items provide very strong evidence, much better, I gather than any presented to support the Arab pencil sketch (which just does not make any sense).

      As for name changes, I am rather strict about using such.

  5. (Cont.)
    Society wanted their archetype "hero." TEL knew he wasn't that fellow. Wanting to be a “hero” is a boys' game. Worse, he knew that what he really was (whatever it was, a rape victim, illegitimate, possibly homosexual), deep inside, would be incomprehensible, even offensive to them. He did so desperately just want to be "one of the guys," and friends like GBS or Graves found that incomprehensible as well. I agree with you -- celebrity "pinned him like a butterfly." But what conscientious man wants to be lionized for (what he feels is failure and betrayal?

    I'm not sure if most personalities choose to "have no part of that experience and would not be influenced by it." That a hero could be raped creates such cognitive dissonance that many folks feel the need to deny the rape completely, and in order to do so, would rather damage the victim's credibility in all things.

    The “natural progression of a personality” is interrupted by rape, by the way one handles the trauma. Sometimes it is never resumed. I have disabling PTSD not from sexual assault, but I have had it from sexual assault (more than once) and recovered because my sexuality was healthy going in.

    TEL's "bodily integrity" was forcibly stolen. Hero or not, I don't know that he ever really recovered, because he wasn't whole and healthy sexually before the experience. Another reference I am not laying my hands on this morning is his writing (I believe to Charlotte, from Karachi, but can't find it) about his ghost, wandering, calling out "Unclean..." Rape is such a personal tragedy that folks don't heal from it. Like giving birth to a child that's given up, decades later some folks are still searching for closure. Losing a child, being raped -- some women never heal, certainly true also for men, especially true for Lawrence.

    The “puer aeturnus” state (noted by Mack though not in those words) )psychologically if not physically can account for some of the desire to join the military. Plenty of boys want to break loose from their mothers in a manly way but not truly take responsibility for themselves. Marrying young is one path, obviously not open to Lawrence/Ross/Shaw.

    I think Ned had plenty of “good” reasons, as a boy, to not want to become an adult. I think they may have been so “good” that he convinced his own body not to enter puberty. I don't sense that he is really motivated by healthy, manly thoughts until, after the Smiths were transferred away from Mount Batten, he realizes that it actually does matter to him that he should have meaningful work. He suggests leaving but fortunately the powers-that-be protect him, give him a proper assignment. He leaves the barracks. Officers salute him. Enlisted men are told not to speak to him. He was still a celebrity, he just wasn't Lawrence. At 47 he was finally becoming a man...and whammo! We all are cheated of what he could have become, with his new-found maturity. (This is usually where I start crying...)

    1. Overcoming any great tragedy is not easy, but it is not impossible, either. From 1999 to 2003, my business was being systematically destroyed by the Canadian government in association with a $3 billion corporation (who we had sued for contract violation and intellectual property theft) and my wife was dying from cancer brought back from the stress of it all. My own "punishment" came afterwards with a heart attack. What I am mostly left with after all of that, and being less than four weeks from my 69th birthday, is a sympathy for people who have never been so tested and can never be fully confident of what sort of person they really are.

      Ned was a very small boy even at about 4 years old and he set to work to constantly test himself and face hardships and endurance. There was a girl he liked, but he was too shy to do much about that. The life of an introvert is often very difficult in their younger years but is a boon in old age (which, sadly, was never part of his perception as he dreaded the thought of being old). For an extravert, things can be reversed and the younger years are often far better than the older years (especially when someone gets "stuck" in the hero quest, experiences a long "mid-life crisis" or identifies themselves too strongly with the career they lost at retirement. As an introvert, what I experienced as loneliness when I was young, I now experience as pure joy and that only becomes lessened when anyone tries to drag me into some romantic entanglement or puts me into some sort of hero image. Perhaps this is why I can appreciate the troubles that Shaw faced when he was trying to move on.

      I can also appreciate the joy he experienced at Miranshah and he really should have been allowed to remain there.

  6. The vagueness in the A W intro is what they're using as justification to have put the wrong portrait back. It almost feels like they're being obtuse, like putting up something that can't be ruled out based on having no information. The Wilson reference is great because it identifies "uniform" but unfortunately, like my Portrait Gallery reference, because it is a hard-copy book and not available on line, it doesn't meet the Wikipedia reference rules about easy access! So we'll see if they take the Bonhams reference. I told them I have yet to check the Society or TEL Studies to see what they might have already on line. And I've heard back from the Ashmolean.
    What if the drawing in Knowles is the "missing" second drawing? That was thought not so good, so the original gifted to Knowles as the other drawing went to Emery Walker for reproduction?

    1. With this sort of thing, I have seen demands for proof being a justification for belief, sometimes in really outrageous examples of "fringe archaeology". Such people can never be convinced otherwise. The Wikipedia reference rules about easy access are absurd.

      I have needed to spend large amounts of money (sometimes hundreds of dollars) to obtain books for my research and specialist works, because of their narrow audience, are most often priced high. I have even spent more than $100 for an e-book. Right now, I am waiting to start another project but cannot proceed because the book I need is not yet published and will not even exist for about two more years (at a conservative estimate). The last book in this series that I purchased was published in 2000 and I had been waiting for it since its author told me he was "currently finishing" in 1989! He died before it was completed and it was finished by a colleague. The current book on my waiting list was a joint effort of a man and his wife (it was her idea to start) but she, also, died before it was completed and he works on it on his own now (at the age of 83).

      Happily, I have another project I'm working on (about 30,000 words into it) and I expect that it will fill my time until the new book is available to buy.

      There are many Wikipedia references to such expensive books that are even difficult to obtain if one has the money, so I really don't get that criteria, and "prove me wrong" should really set off an alarm that the claimant is dealing with only a belief.