1888-08-15

T.E. LAWRENCE, English writer and soldier was born (d. 1935) As was common for his class and generation, Lawrence did not discuss his sexual orientation or sexual practices, and his actual orientation and experiences are debated. Writers working to elucidate the history of same-sex erotic relationships identify a strong homoerotic element in Lawrence’s life, while scholars, including his official biographer, have been accused of “attempt[ing] to defend Lawrence against ‘charges’ of homosexuality.” There is one clearly homoerotic passage in the Introduction, Chapter 2, of Seven Pillars of Wisdom: “quivering together in the yielding sand, with intimate hot limbs in supreme embrace.” The book is dedicated to “S.A.” with a poem that begins:

“I loved you, so I drew these tides of men into my hands

and wrote my will across the sky in stars

To gain you Freedom, the seven-pillared worthy house,

that your eyes might be shining for me

When I came.”

It is unclear whether “S.A.” identifies a man, a woman, a nation, or some combination of the above. Lawrence himself maintained that “S.A.” was a composite character. On the subject of the war, Lawrence once said: “I liked a particular Arab, and thought that freedom for the race would be an acceptable present.”

If “S.A.” does refer to a particular person, a likely possibility is Selim Ahmed, nicknamed “Dahoum” (“Dark One”), a 14-year-old Arab with whom Lawrence is known to have been close. The two met while working at a pre-war archaeological dig at Carchemish. Lawrence allowed the boy to move in with him, carved a nude sculpture of him which he placed on the roof of the house in Greco-Roman style (Lawrence being a scholar of classical literature), and brought Ahmed on holiday to England.