Sunday, October 28, 2012
From the minds of the Victorian era, came such ideas as Phrenology, where the shape of a skull hinted at the content, personality and character of a brain. Also, Victorian minds were washed in an idea of the earth as a geography of Human history. Culture, some argued, was dominated by geographic location. A materialism of place, I guess. An Island People, The Continental Mind, Mountain Folk, and so on. The second child of Sir Thomas Chapman, Seventh Baronet of Killua in Westmeath Ireland, and Sarah Junner, the governess to Sir Thomas's first family, was born in 1888. Sarah and Sir Thomas, never married, instead Sir Thomas ran off to Wales with Sarah. They changed their last name to Lawrence, which was the name Sarah Junner had chosen to give her own birth a legitimacy, and there near the town of Porthmadog, Sarah gave birth to their second child, to whom they gave the name Thomas Edward Lawrence. In his book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T.E Lawrence mentions little of this, because he was ashamed of himself. He had lived too long with the intolerance of opinions which saw illegitimacy of birth as an evil, a Devil's stain, and which resulted in his family, moving from this humble abode to the next. From Wales, to Scotland, the New Forrest and the Isle of Wight. They did this, so that no one with upper class-ness might recognize and jeer at Sir Thomas or his love for Sarah Junner. A servant.
In his book, T.E Lawrence digresses upon an idea of the deserts of the Arabian Peninsular as the seed bed for the cultures that developed up and down the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. He saw the cleansing influence of desert peoples, disciplined by cruel desert living, moving north in conquests that refreshed the richer northern lands, which were so prone to the corruption of wealth and ease. And as the Ottoman Empire fell, T.E Laurence saw himself as Lawrence of Arabia, playing a role in an historical process that went back through the generations to the dawn of what Victorian minds, Edwardian minds and even some of the minds today, call Civilization. The shape of the world, its rivers, its mountains, its rolling hills and its plains may well be a Phrenology of culture. The Swiss for example are dull and yet very dangerous in their mountains, so are the Afghans. Coastal people eat sea food. The inland Steppes, long years before the Mongol of the 13th Century, had already produced terrifying hordes of Scythians, Huns, Turks, and would have continued merrily to do so had Russian Tsars not decided to put an end to it all sometime in the 16th Century, a mission Peter The Great finally accomplished two hundred years later.... So maybe T.E. Laurence was correct, Earth has a phrenology. And I wonder what its geography has in store for my own adopted county, with its Midwest and its Bible Belt, the planets of Texas and Maine. All the same I can't help but remember, that Sir Thomas's first wife, Edith, when her husband left her, turned Castle Killua into a God-sopped place, filled with ghosts, prayer and terrible punishment for servant girls and other mortals deemed lesser.