"We've been censored!" - Censorship in T.E Lawrence's 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom'


by Georg Kastl

Whilst reading T.E.Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom in the first trade edition of 1935, I was baffled by an obvious lacuna on page 321, line 14 from the bottom of the page.

Was the typesetter sloppy? Surely not, as the book is a masterpiece of typography. Did censors intervene last minute? Any typesetter could have coped with this unpleasant intervention and redistributed the text of the page anew, to 'even out the gaps' as they frequently announce on London Underground. Clearly some text was omitted and the editors wanted this to be visible. This lacuna is the best way to make the statement 'look, we have been censored'. The lacuna was not closed in later printings of the very successful book.

What was omitted can be supplied from the unabridged Oxford text of 1922, published in 1997.
The missing text is: while Murray in headquarters worked for a perfectly safe defeat, loosing enough men to show he had tried, and not enough to be disastrous - another good example of the utter cynicism as the norm in warfare.

It seems ironic that the rarely seen dustwrapper states on the spine 'complete and unabridged' and that none of the readers commented publicly on the obvious omission, made so clear by the typesetter that he even left the full stop at the end of the partly deleted sentence.


  • Excellent detective work, Georg!
    Best to you!

    Perlow Joan
  • No need to be baffled. The editor, Lawrence’s brother A.W.Lawrence, explains in his Preface, p.24: “The text of the present edition is identical with that of the thirty-guinea edition of 1926, except for the following omissions and alterations. The omissions are necessary to save hurting the feelings of persons still living; they come on pages 61, 62 and 321, where gaps of the same length are left in the present text …” The omitted passage is restored in the Penguin edition (General Murray having died in 1945), though the idiots at Penguin (in my 2000 copy, at least), still retain the mysterious blank space and hanging full stop!

    Graham Chainey
  • This omission, plus two others, are referred to in the preface by A.W. Lawrence. Apparently, “necessary to save hurting the feelings persons still living”.

    Tony Barnard

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published