T. E. Lawrence & Lord Byron

Steve Newman Writer
6 min readJun 25, 2022

I sometimes wonder if Lawrence styled himself on the Warrior Poet?

Painting of Byron in Albanian dress by Thomas Phillips, 1813. Image: Greek Reporter

With the death of the poet, Lord Byron, in Greece, on April 19, 1824, as he fought alongside those seeking independence from the Ottoman Empire, elements of the British public became aware (maybe for the first time) of a part of the world that would remain (in one way or another) pertinent to their lives, and the lives of their families going forward. This was certainly true of T. E. Lawrence, who studied ancient Greek literature and history (he translated Homer for instance), the Middle East, and the Crusader Castles, and was a reader of the Romantic poets, including Byron.

Lawrence, an extremely well-read man, had on his bookshelves at Clouds Hill the works of Shelley and Keats, and a copy of the Sisley 1819 edition of Byron’s epic poem, Don Juan, which would have appealed to Lawrence, at the same time undoubtedly increasing his ‘hatred’ of sex. He would most certainly have appreciated Byron’s twist that made Don Juan the seducee, and not the seducer. And after Lawrence’s haunting episode at Deraa, there must have been something that still fascinated him about Byron’s sexuality.

Lawrence’s brother, A. W. Lawrence, the editor of the 1937, T. E. Lawrence by His Friends, has written of his older brother and his attitude to sex:

“His friendships were comparable in intensity to sexual love, for which he made them a substitute. He could not compromise easily with Nature but rejected its government as far as was humanly possible; he thought it better to die than submit to growing old, and against sex in particular he rebelled unceasingly. His hatred of sex was an irrational instinct which went far beyond reason’s limits, as he himself recognized. While he may have been endowed in childhood [by his mother, and possibly his older brother] with a realization of sin in this respect, I think that its action was seldom perceptible before the War and held dominance only during the following years of ill-health and turmoil. In 1925 he could write half-seriously of prostitution being marriage à la carte, as though he admitted no distinction of kind between relationships into which sex entered…”.

Lawrence biographer, Richard Aldington, wrote in his 1955, Lawrence of Arabia: A Biographical Enquiry:

Steve Newman Writer

Playwright and Freelance Writer…