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Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence

Seven Pillars of Wisdom (original 1926; edition 1935)

by T. E. Lawrence

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3,311461,644 (4.03)1 / 168
Title:Seven Pillars of Wisdom
Authors:T. E. Lawrence (Author)
Info:Jonathon Cape of London (1935), Hardcover, 672 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:first edition, biography, war, Arab, history

Work details

Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence (1926)

  1. 40
    Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorized Biography of T.E. Lawrence by Jeremy Wilson (KayCliff)
  2. 10
    Lawrence: The Uncrowned King of Arabia by Michael Asher (amerynth)
  3. 10
    Setting the Desert on Fire: T. E. Lawrence and Britain's Secret War in Arabia, 1916-1918 by James Barr (arethusarose)
    arethusarose: covers the politics and policies that led to Lawrence's activity, and work done by others in more detail than I have seen in other books. The author appears to have examined the territory covered in 1916-1918 as it is today
  4. 00
    Crusader Castles by T. E. Lawrence (BINDINGSTHATLAST)
    BINDINGSTHATLAST: includes a small selection of letters
  5. 00
    T. E. Lawrence: The Selected Letters by T. E. Lawrence (BINDINGSTHATLAST)
    BINDINGSTHATLAST: Affordable and robust book of letters.
  6. 00
    1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West by Roger Crowley (John_Vaughan)
  7. 00
    More Great Railway Journeys by Benedict Allen (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: Chapt 1 for more on Hejaz - Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph, T E Lawrence
  8. 00
    Eden to Armageddon: World War I in the Middle East by Roger Ford (Artymedon)
  9. 12
    T. E. Lawrence: An Arab View by Suleiman Mousa (Sylak)

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English (42)  Dutch (4)  All languages (46)
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
Tonight I finished [Seven Pillars of Wisdom], a book I've started reading half a dozen times before without making it to the end. It's very long, and can be tedious at times, but then there will be a thrilling scene of setting explosives while the enemy is near or a painfully beautiful description of the desert.

Lawrence's account of the revolt in the desert should not be taken as the definitive--or even reliable--history of the conflict, but he never intended it to be. As he writes in the introductory chapter: "In these pages the history is not of the Arab movement, but of me in it. It is a narrative of daily life, mean happenings, little people. Here are no lessons for the world, no disclosures to shock peoples. It is filled with trivial things, partly that no one mistake for history the bones from which some day a man may make history, and partly for the pleasure it gave me to recall the fellowship of the revolt." It is the romanticized, deeply personal truth of one man.

Throughout the book, Lawrence comes off as a very complicated person: self-aggrandizing and self-deprecating; highly intelligent, but inexperienced; romantic, but often clear-sighted and cynical. By the end, I found myself even more fascinated by this quixotic figure who found himself torn between conflicting loyalties.

I shall leave off with one of my favorite passages:

Later I was sitting alone in my room, working and thinking out as firm
a way as the turbulent memories of the day allowed, when the Muedhdhins
began to send their call of last prayer through the moist night over
the illuminations of the feasting city. One, with a ringing voice of
special sweetness, cried into my window from a near mosque. I found
myself involuntarily distinguishing his words: "God alone is great: I
testify there are no gods, but God: and Mohammed his Prophet. Come to
prayer: come to security. God alone is great: there is no god--but God.'

At the close he dropped his voice two tones, almost to speaking level,
and softly added: 'And He is very good to us this day, O people of
Damascus.' The clamour hushed, as everyone seemed to obey the call to
prayer on this their first night of perfect freedom. While my fancy, in
the overwhelming pause, showed me my loneliness and lack of reason in
their movement: since only for me, of all the hearers, was the event
sorrowful and the phrase meaningless. (Chapter CXX) ( )
1 vote amanda4242 | Jul 2, 2016 |
The book that created the movie Lawrence of Arabia" that wonderful adventure story." ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
Seven Pillars of Wisdom is T.E. Lawrence's classic memoir of his time in the Arabian desert helping the many tribes try to coalesce into an effective fighting force in order to run the Turkish Empire out of the area, where they had been for centuries. Of course, Lawrence's real agenda was to help destroy the Turkish Army forces in the area and thereby help England and her allies win World War One. As Lawrence continues to gain ever greater trust and prestige among the Arab tribes and their leaders, his sense of fraudulence grows, as well. For the Arabs' cooperation is based in large part on English promises to ensure Arab independence after the war has been won, and Lawrence is fairly certain that the rulers of the Empire are dead set on colonization rather than independence for these people. Still, Lawrence's first loyalty is to king and country, so he carries on.

The tale is long in the telling, checking in at 660 pages. Lawrence was a very good writer, and his diaries were very detailed. The hardships and splendors of his many long trips on camelback through extremely arduous terrain and weather, the details of Beduin desert life, the personalities of the people he comes in contact with, influences and commands and their daily lives and mores, and the frustrations, follies and terrors of individual battles and war in general are all effectively and compellingly related. Sometimes the physical aspects journeys that turn out to be of relatively minimal import are described in such detail that they leave a reader wondering what the point of that particular description was. But in the end, the breadth and length of these details helped me get a real sense of the vast distances being traversed in a way that a more rushed exposition would not. Again, both the physical world of the desert in all its glory and appalling hardship, and the chaos of battle, are very, very well described. The inner-workings of the British high command on the Middle Eastern front, and the personalities involved there as well, are also revealed. So, although this book needs a commitment in time and psychic energy, I feel it is well worth both for anyone interested in the topics described here. The only areas in which I felt Lawrence went astray were in his often agonized reflections about human nature and the relationship between physical and moral desires. There is in particular a pages-long segment of such contemplations towards the end that was pretty much incomprehensible to me. All in all, though, these passages make up a very, very small percentage of the tale.

As I understand the wikipedia entry on Lawrence, it was early on assumed that he had embellished his tale freely, but that as biographers have researched the story they have come to think of Lawrence as a relatively trustworthy narrator after all. I could have that wrong, though.

There was an edited-down version of this memoir, published as Revolt in the Desert, made available during Lawrence's lifetime and still available today. This may be more to the liking of many readers, and, really, I couldn't blame anyone for sticking to the shorter version. Personally, though, I'm glad I made space for the long version.

wikipedia also mentions that fact that Lawrence refused to profit from the sales of either version of his memoirs, choosing instead to donate proceeds to charitable organizations. ( )
1 vote rocketjk | Jan 4, 2016 |
Seven Pillars of Wisdom is T.E. Lawrence's account of his actions in leading the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Turks in WWI. One reviewer called it a "novel traveling under the cover of biography," and I think that's accurate. After a new account of Lawrence's war was popularized this year, I became intrigued and decided to watch the epic Lawrence of Arabia, which I'd never seen before. We watched it a couple weeks ago.

I thought it would be helpful in understanding some of the formation of Syria and the current tribal fighting from there across the Middle East.

The movie is essentially a recreation of Lawrence's account. Peter O'Toole not only looks like Lawrence but also does an incredible job portraying Lawrence's obvious discomfort in his own skin, something that often front-and-center in the book. Lawrence admits his own inferiority complex, how much he dislikes himself, and his conflicted emotions leading the Arabs in the pretense of independence knowing full well the Allied powers will never allow it.

Without more detailed knowledge of the map and the Arab divisions, it is somewhat difficult to follow all of the book; having seen the movie beforehand helped (even with the liberties taken with the timeline). Uncomfortable parts include Lawrence having to kill his own comrades either out of mercy or to prevent a blood feud, and Lawrence being sexually assaulted by a Turkish Major when he was captured (from reading other books on Turkey in WWI, I know sexual abuse of prisoners by the Turks was widespread).

Lawrence's previous history in Arabia and how he obtained his knowledge of Arabic is left out, Lawrence only mentions it in passing. Unlike the movie, there was much more participation and coordination of the British and Australians with the Arab fighters, Lawrence was not a Lone Ranger out there.

The book ends with Lawrence being granted leave, and he expresses regret. But regret for what? Taking leave? Regret for his participation in the war? Regret for not staying? It's up to the reader, I suppose. History tells us that Lawrence was mentally and psychologically shaken by his war experience, something very real in the book.

In all, I give it 3.5 stars out of 5. I look forward to reading a historical documentation of Lawrence's role in WWI. ( )
  justindtapp | Jun 3, 2015 |
“I loved you, so I drew these tides of
Men into my hands
And wrote my will across the
Sky and stars
To earn you freedom, the seven
Pillared worthy house,
That your eyes might be
Shining for me
When we came

Death seemed my servant on the
Road, 'til we were near
And saw you waiting:
When you smiled and in sorrowful
Envy he outran me
And took you apart:
Into his quietness

Love, the way-weary, groped to your body,
Our brief wage
Ours for the moment
Before Earth's soft hand explored your shape
And the blind
Worms grew fat upon
Your substance

Men prayed me that I set our work,
The inviolate house,
As a memory of you
But for fit monument I shattered it,
Unfinished: and now
The little things creep out to patch
Themselves hovels
In the marred shadow
Of your gift.”

This book is the Odyssey of the desert war in world war one. Lawrence of Arabia tells the story of his adventures in his own style and view. Having recently read Lawrence in Arabia (by Scott Anderson) I found some of this dull feeling I had just read this same info.

However, one of the things Anderson did not capture well in his analysis of Lawrence is his education. Lawrence was not merely an Oxford grad, but a scholar. His word choice and usage shows a high degree of learning and some of phrase turns are excellent. For instance: "The staff knew so much more of war than I did that they refused to learn from me of the strange conditions in which the Arab irregulars had to act; and I could not be bothered to set up a kindergarten of the imagination for their benefit."

Some self-reflection: "I quickly outgrew ideas. So I distrusted experts, who were often intelligences confined within high walls, knowing indeed every paving-stone of their prison courts: while I might know from what quarry the stones were hewn and what wages the mason earned. I gainsayed them out of carelessness, for I had found materials always apt to serve a purpose, and Will a sure guide to some one of the many roads leading from purpose to achievement."

While these passages jumped out at me they by no means form the way the whole book reads as he relates his history with the Arabs and the battles of minds, cultures, and war that he helped guide. I wished that he had written about his efforts after the war to divide the Middle East differently but he ends his tale near the end of the desert war and doesn't talk much of his life before the war either. A good read but not one to read to soon after another book about Lawrence's life.

P.S. The Folio Society printing of this book is very beautiful and includes the parts later redacted or added by Lawrence.
( )
  Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
That is what the book is about, and it could only be reviewed authoritatively by a staff officer who knows the East. That is what the book is about, and Moby Dick was about catching a whale. For round this tent-pole of a military chronicle T.E. has hung an unexampled fabric of portraits, descriptions, philosophies, emotions, adventures, dreams.... He has also contributed to sociology, in recording what is probably the last of the picturesque wars. Camels, pennants, the blowing up of little railway trains...
added by KayCliff | editAbinger Harvest, E Forster (Oct 18, 2014)
The author himself had described Seven Pillars in these terms, in a letter to Charlotte Shaw in 1923:
... it's more a storehouse than a book - has no unity, is too discursive, dispersed, heterogeneous. I've shot into it, as a builder into his yard, all the odds and ends of ideas which came to me during those years ... (Lawrence, 2000: 33)
And he proved himself no indexer's friend in the matter of consistency. He wrote:
Arabic names won't go into English, exactly ... There are some 'scientific systems' of transliteration... I spell my names anyhow, to show what rot the systems are. (Lawrence, 1935: 19)
added by KayCliff | editThe Indexer, Hazel K. Bell (Aug 3, 2009)

» Add other authors (46 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
T. E. Lawrenceprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gatrell, AnthonyMapssecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kennington, EricIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lawrence, A. W.Prefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To S.A.

I loved you, so I drew these tides of men into my hands and wrote my will across the sky in stars
To earn you Freedom, the seven pillared worthy house, that your eyes might be shining for me
        When we came.
Death seemed my servant on the road, till we were near and saw you waiting:
When you smiled, and in sorrowful envy he outran me and took you apart:
        Into his quietness.
Love, the way-weary, groped to your body, our brief wage ours for the moment
Before earth's soft hand explored your shape, and the blind worms grew fat upon
        Your substance.
Man prayed me that I set our work, the inviolate house, as a memory of you.
But for fit monument I shattered it, unfinished: and now
The little things creep out to patch themselves hovels in the marred shadow
        Of your gift.
First words
Mr Geoffrey Dawson persuaded All Souls College to give me leisure, in 1919-20, to write about the Arab Revolt.

Author's note, Cranwell, 15 August 1926.
The seven pillars of wisdom are first mentioned in the Bible, in the Book of Proverbs (ix. I)

Preface by A. W. Lawrence.
The story which follows was first written out in Paris during the Peace Conference, from notes jotted daily on the march, strengthened by some reports sent to my chiefs in Cairo. Afterwards, in the autumn of 1919, this first draft and some of the notes were lost. It seemed to me historically needful to reproduce the tale, as perhaps no one but myself in Feisal’s army had thought of writing down at the time what we felt, what we hoped, what we tried. So it was built again with heavy repugnance in London in the winter of 1919–20 from memory and my surviving notes. The record of events was not dulled in me and perhaps few actual mistakes crept in—except in details of dates or numbers—but the outlines and significance of things had lost edge in the haze of new interests.

Introductory Chapter.
Some Englishmen, of whom Kitchener was chief, believed that a rebellion of Arabs against Turks would enable England, while fighting Germany, simultaneously to defeat her ally Turkey.

Introduction : Foundations of revolt.
Some of the evil of my tale may have been inherent in our circumstances

Chapter I.
Tallal had seen what we had seen. He gave one moan like a hurt animal; then rode to the upper ground and sat there a while on his mare, shivering and looking fixedly after the Turks. I moved near to speak to him, but Auda caught my rein and stayed me. Very slowly Tallal drew his head-cloth about his face; and then he seemed suddenly to take hold of himself, for he dashed his stirrups into the mare's flanks and galloped headlong, bending low and swaying in the saddle, right at the main body of the enemy.
Later I was sitting alone in my room, working and thinking out as firm a way as the turbulent memories of the day allowed, when the Muedhdhins began to send their call of last prayer through the moist night over the illuminations of the feasting city. One, with a ringing voice of special sweetness, cried into my window from a near mosque. I found myself involuntarily distinguishing his words: 'God alone is great: I testify there are no gods, but God: and Mohammed his Prophet. Come to prayer: come to security. God alone is great: there is no god--but God.'

At the close he dropped his voice two tones, almost to speaking level, and softly added: 'And He is very good to us this day, O people of Damascus.' The clamour hushed, as everyone seemed to obey the call to prayer on this their first night of perfect freedom. While my fancy, in the overwhelming pause, showed me my loneliness and lack of reason in their movement: since only for me, of all the hearers, was the event sorrowful and the phrase meaningless.

Last words
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Book description
Copy 1169 of a 1,225 limited edition of the 1922 text of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, by T.E. Lawrence. The text was edited from the manuscript in the Bodleian Library and T.E. Lawrence's annotated copy of the 1922 Oxford Times printing. The full text was first published in 1997 by Castle Hill Press in an edition of 752 three-volume sets. Copies 1-45 of this printing are bound in full goatskin, copies 46-225 are bound in quarter-goatskin. Copies 226-1225 are bound in cloth.

The 1922 text is a full 25% longer than the version known to readers since Lawrence's death in 1935.
Haiku summary
Camel riding in the desert
can be fun whilst shooting
Turks left in the dirt
white skin and all looting
while blowing up little railway trains

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385418957, Paperback)

This is the exciting and highly literate story of the real Lawrence of Arabia, as written by Lawrence himself, who helped unify Arab factions against the occupying Turkish army, circa World War I. Lawrence has a novelist's eye for detail, a poet's command of the language, an adventurer's heart, a soldier's great story, and his memory and intellect are at least as good as all those. Lawrence describes the famous guerrilla raids, and train bombings you know from the movie, but also tells of the Arab people and politics with great penetration. Moreover, he is witty, always aware of the ethical tightrope that the English walked in the Middle East and always willing to include himself in his own withering insight.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:06 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

The classic account of the Arab tribes' guerrilla warfare against Turkish forces during World War II and of Lawrence's part in and reflections on that warfare.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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