Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lawrence and Lewis

Last week I watched, over the course of several nights, Lawrence of Arabia (1962). They just don't make movies like that anymore. I don't think they even make theaters big enough to show movies like that anymore.

And it reminded me of something I read a while back, that T. E. Lawrence met C. S. Lewis at Oxford in the early '20's. Neither of them had any idea of who the other one was (and indeed Lewis was far from achieving any fame at this time). Here's the entry from Lewis's diary for August 11, 1922:

I lunched with Beckett in All Souls. He advised me to try for a fellowship there. We fed in the buttery with a man called Lawrence (formerly of Jesus) and an older one whose name I did not catch. Both were most interesting and agreeable. We drank beer bottled in the 19th century: it is clear red, tastes and smells like toffee, and is very strong.

At this time, Lawrence must have been in the process of writing Seven Pillars of Wisdom, published in 1926. In 1924 (March 14), Lewis heard more about Lawrence:

During tea Beckett talked of his mysterious colleague Lawrence. He started the Hejaz business and got a job in the Foreign Office, which he held for a time, refusing to take any salary, but soon dropped it. He then took his Fellowship, but again refused the money and hung about All Souls, never dining in Hall, and haunting the Common Room of evening in ordinary clothes, talking very well when he did talk, but far more often silent. Now he has gone back to the army as an infantry private soldier under an assumed name. He is believed to have no private means to speak of: no man is intimate with him.

Beckett was Eric Beckett, later legal adviser to the Foreign Office, who helped shape British policy in the Middle East. File this under "Conversations You Wish You'd Heard."

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Walter Hooper, ed., All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C. S. Lewis, 1922-1927. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991.

1 comment:

solarblogger said...

Some years back they had Oscar week at a local art theater and Lawrence of Arabia was one of the greats they showed (also Ben Hur and On the Waterfront). It is better on the big screen.

I love the meeting at the well in the first hour of the movie. That dialog is just wonderful. Omar Sharif's character is a revelation in itself, which makes Lawrence all the more impressive.