Thursday, 14 July 2016

Hounded to death: the last years of T. E. Shaw. 24. B. V. Jones as critic (i)

"Critic", wood engraving by Allen Robert Branston, 1817

My intuition told me that I should wait some time before tackling the notes written after B. V. Jones' reminiscences about T. E. Shaw. After yesterday's post, that time is now ripe.

The first critical note concerns Aircraftman A. E. Chambers who first met, the then, J. H. Ross in 1922 and specifically references the first page of Chambers' contribution for "friends.." as an example of how "This article is full of misstatements". Jones abbreviates the following passage about the arrival of one of Shaw's motorcycles: "which after the first run had to be fished out of Frensham Pond" to which Jones comments "A ditch I was there" If this was typical of the misstatements there is little to be concerned about; fifteen year old memories can easily have a few flaws among them.

Jones writes much more about Vyvyan W. Richards who met T. E. Lawrence when Lawrence was 20 and Richards was about two years older. In criticizing what Richards said, Jones must have been working from he had learned from Shaw, or from other accounts (initials after the entry) as Jones did not meet Shaw until India. For the first quote, I will include what preceded it for clarifications sake:

"The rest of my life at Oxford was spent in almost daily companionship with my new exciting friend. Nightly, too, I might have said; so often would his little racing bicycle come silently after midnight into the Iffley road where I lived in lodgings for my fourth year. Regulations required him to be home before 12 — and so he was; he paid his calls and went on manifold other excursions after 12, returning home by some quiet window to lie in a hot bath till dawn and then sleep an hour or two."
Jones comments:  "pure imagination".

Richards was a homosexual and had admitted to falling in love with Lawrence, Richards was referenced by Malcolm Brown/Julia Cave, ... Touch of Genius,pp 20,22:

"in Knightley and Simpson's Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia, published in 1969, [...] But he met with no response from Lawrence 'He had neither flesh nor carnality of any kind; he just did not understand. ... He never gave the slightest hint  that he understood my motives or fathomed my desire. ... I realize now that he was sexless — at least that he was unaware of sex.'

It is important to note that Richard's attitudes toward Lawrence/Shaw changed frequently over the years. Today we would say "He had issues...". I think Jones was right.

Jones clarifies with a "not true" to Richards:

"One need go little further to understand his attitude towards sex than this resolve to keep the body out of the way. Men who do not need the love of women so much as others do, may even judge that sexual love is an animal business, and offence against the spirit"
The following quote from Richards gets a "never." from Jones:
"sometimes sitting naked and placidly drawing his own foot and leg"

I think it highly likely that Richards projected far too much in his accounts of Lawrence/Shaw over the years.  The other two comments by Jones are more clarifications on Richards text: the Hypnos head was bought in Naples and the library was about a thousand volumes at that time.

Having a number of things to do, I will continue with Jones notes tomorrow.

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