Monday, 18 July 2016

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

North London Collegiate School The school as
seen from within Canon's Park from the west.
Photo: I M Chengappa (
The reference to Sir Ernest M. Dowson on the last page of Jones's notes is puzzling: it is to a section in ...friends containing Dowson's first impressions of  Lawrence and covers so many different statements it is impossible to know which one (or more) is not a fact (according to Jones. The range is defined by the excerpts which not only continue to page 133, but it ends with the start of where Woolley is first mentioned but does not include any information on Woolley past that fragment. The initials that follow might be "A.L." and are certainly the same as the note about Chambers but in the earlier part of the document Jones used a rounded upper-case "A". the date 1937, however, does seem to refer to the first edition of ...friends where A. W. Lawrence writes the Preface and final entry but A.W.L. refers to neither Dowson nor any details that are within the quotes.Jones also crosses out this note and perhaps it was a half-thought idea subsequently abandoned.

Similar problems arise with the reference to Leonard H. Green's entry:

"His parents were remarkable people who trusted their sons implicitly, and as each long vacation occurred gave them a lump sum, such as they could afford, for they were not rich, and let them fend for themselves and go as far their  money would take them. The household would go to bed each night, and in the morning the servant would report that the bed of the missing boy was occupied — he would appear at breakfast just as if there had been no lacuna, and would tell his story in his own way when the mood seized him without parental pressure"

Jones gives "Pure invention no truth in this M. R. L." The initials refer to T.E.'s older brother who was a classmate of Green's and there is nothing in M. R.L.'s own entry bearing on this matter so it must have come from a different source. We also do not know if Green invented this or whether it was T.E.'s own invention that he passed on to Green. Nor do we know if all parts of it were dismissed by M.R.L. Again, it is crossed out.

The envelope notes, in Jones' hand but unsigned gives dated excerpts from Seven Pillars of Wisdom. In the 1922 Oxford text these are excerpts are also dated but only to the month and year and not to the day as they are, seemingly, only in these notes. I can only speculate on where Jones obtained  the day. Jones does use the same way of writing the dates as did Lawrence, right down to the exact positioning of the dots between the elements. This was either copied from Lawrence or was a standard format used by the Aircraftmen in India at the time Jones and Shaw served there. There is a single error in the note: "raised his eyes in a flash..."should be "raised his eyes like a flash..." which is understandable because of the commoner "in a flash" usage.

I am indebted to and most grateful to Mrs Jenny Bartlett, Librarian at the North London Collegiate School which runs the Old North Londoners Association with providing me with the details on the person to whom the envelope is addressed and whose receipt is contained within. She writes:
"...Constance H is known to us, Connie Hurran, an ex pupil (ONL) who was indeed treasurer of the ONLA for some time. She died relatively recently. ...
"...I think the H MacDonald refers to Heather MacDonald, a pupil here from 1941-48. The address on your envelope tallies with the address on her admission record. She left here to go to Westfield College to study Classics. (This was a constituent college of the University of London.) She later taught at Reeds School, Basingstoke and was Classics Mistress at Parliament Hill School. I can find no record of her death, so there may be a thread of hope you could track her down personally. Of course, she could have married and changed her surname, or the school may have not been notified of her death.
"The receipt, I imagine, would have been for her subscription fees to the ONLA. ..."
I sent an email to Parliament Hill School for further information through their website inquiry form, but got no reply at all. Such things, unfortunately, happen from time to time with certain institutions. Curiously, I have never, ever, had any response to such a query saying something like "Unfortunately we cannot provide you with this information because..."  not everyone is as helpful as Mrs. Bartlett.

Mrs. Bartlett also asked me about the mystery of the flowers that regularly appeared on his grave over some years. Following is the answer to that question from Rodney Legg, Lawrence of Arabia in Dorset, 1988,  P. 106:

"The American lady's flowers 

"T.E. Lawrence's devoted latter-day admirer was Theodora Duncan who worshipped his memory in California. In 1968 she admitted to me that she had been the mystery lady who had added another wrapping to the Lawrence enigma by arranging for flowers to be placed on his grave. Theodora Duncan wrote to me: "there is one more bit of information that might interest you. Another friend was 'doing Dorset' about four years ago, and she was on a bus that passed the Moreton graveyard where T.E.L. is buried. The bus driver was telling the passengers about various things they were seeing, and he commented that 'a mysterious lady from America' had put flowers on Lawrence's grave every year. 
"My friend knew that I was that 'mysterious lady'. My friend Commander Frampton took care of the matter for me, for about five years. 
"After that I stopped, since I felt that T.E. would rather the money went to feed some hungry person.""

Tomorrow, conclusion and reflections.

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