YARDLEY, Michael. Backing into the Limelight. A Biography of T.E. Lawrence. London: Redwood Burn Limited for Harrap, 1986. 

Octavo (233 x 154mm), pp. 267, [5 (blank)]. 16 plates with half-tone illustrations recto-and-verso. 5 maps in the text, 3 full-page. (Some ll. very lightly creased at corners.) Original printed wrappers. (Spine faded, lightly rubbed and bumped at extremities.) A very good copy. ProvenanceJeremy Michael Wilson (1944-2017, booklabel on inside of upper wrapper).

Second, revised edition. A biography by the soldier and author Michael Yardley, which examines the (often misleading or inaccurate) reporting of Lawrence and his actions in the media, both during his lifetime and afterwards, and is based on both documentary sources and personal interviews. The first edition was published in 1985 and this second, revised edition appeared in wrappers the following year. In his ‘Preface to Paperback Edition’ Yardley comments that ‘I have made no significant changes to the text of Backing into the Limelight for this new edition’ (p. [16]) and explains his biographical standpoint while complaining that ‘over fifty years after his death, there are still those who believe it in their interests to withhold information about Lawrence and his political involvements’ and noting the ‘obsessive interest’ of some of Lawrence’s devotees.

This copy was previously in the collection of the distinguished Lawrence scholar Jeremy Wilson, the editor of T.E. Lawrence’s Minorities (London, 1971), the author of the National Portrait Gallery catalogue T.E. Lawrence: Lawrence of Arabia (London, 1988) and the authoritative biography Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorised Biography of T.E. Lawrence(London, 1989), and the co-founder, with his wife Nicole, of the Castle Hill Press, which has published scholarly editions of works by Lawrence and the definitive edition of Lawrence’s letters. In his discussion of Lawrence’s posthumous reputation and biographers in the final chapter, Yardley considers the question of access to Lawrence family material and A.W. Lawrence’s reluctance to collaborate with biographers and researchers, while stating that Lawrence ‘has […] appointed Jeremy Wilson as his brother’s official biographer’ (p. 235) and in his ‘Bibliography’ Yardley also lists Wilson’s edition of Minorities and T.E. Lawrence ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, a set of slides issued by the Ashmolean Museum in 1976 with a printed commentary by Wilson (pp. [251]-257). Three years after this edition was published, Wilson would comment on the ‘danger of research which focuses too narrowly on Lawrence without seeking a fuller understanding of contemporary events’ in Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorised Biography of T.E. Lawrence and use a passage on pp. 70-72 of Yardley’s biography to illustrate his point: ‘[n]ote that Yardley does not, as he claims, print Lawrence’s report [‘The Politics of Mecca’] in full: the extract he uses is from pp. 4-5 of the original document, and amounts to about a quarter of the text’ (p. 1021, n. 79).

Although O’Brien lists a paperback issue of the first edition under entry E398, he does not record this second, revised edition.


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