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Lawrence's life and mind were impressive by any standard, British historian James admits, but the real Lawrence should now be seen plain, not as the figure drummed up by his autobiographical romance, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and by newsman Lowell Thomas, whose 1918 picture-show about Lawrence's desert exploits made souffle royale out of what should have been hard-boiled eggs. For a while, at least, Lawrence fed and embraced the legend: he liked its drawing him into the company of great artists and movers and shakers, companions like G.B. Shaw, Thomas Hardy, and Winston Churchill. Sadly, the historical truth needed juggling: where Lawrence explained in Seven Pillars how he'd blown up his 79th bridge, 'analysis from all available sources,' James reports, shows merely an honorable 27 bridges demolished. James also documents that the homosexual rape and torture scene in Seven Pillars was made up, since Lawrence couldn't have been where he said he was during the incident. And where Jeremy Wilson's titanic Lawrence of Arabia (1990) finds Lawrence dying, at 47, quite likely a virgin, James repeats broad hearsay that Lawrence was an active homosexual while riding with the Arabs. James attests that, by age 37, deep guilt had brought about in Lawrence an addiction to flagellation and his consequent total self-abasement, change of name, and need to hide among the lowest ranks of the RAF. Despite all degradings, though, James's Lawrence, at his best, still comes off as a noble, literate man, and is perhaps even more gripping a figure than the various mythical and movie versions. A lesser but still magnificent Lawrence.