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For ever England

John Lucas, 16 June 1983

Sherston’s Progress 
by Siegfried Sassoon.
Faber, 150 pp., £2.25, March 1983, 9780571130337
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The War Poems of Siegfried Sassoon 
by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Faber, 160 pp., £5.25, March 1983, 0 571 13010 0
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Siegfried Sassoon Diaries 1915-1918 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Faber, 288 pp., £10.50, March 1983, 0 571 11997 2
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... With the appearance of Sherston’s Progress in 1936, Siegfried Sassoon completed what Howard Spring, writing in the Evening Standard, called ‘the most satisfying piece of autobiography to be published in our time’. Other reviewers and commentators, then and later, seem to have agreed with Spring’s assessment ...

Roses

Stephen Wall, 27 June 1991

Regeneration 
by Pat Barker.
Viking, 252 pp., £13.99, May 1991, 0 670 82876 9
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Rose Reason 
by Mary Flanagan.
Bloomsbury, 388 pp., £14.99, April 1991, 0 7475 0888 7
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Rose 
by Rose Boyt.
Chatto, 182 pp., £13.99, April 1991, 0 7011 3728 2
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... because it was taken over as a military hospital in 1916. Wilfred Owen was sent there, and so was Siegfried Sassoon. That their meeting, and the place itself, had a catalytic effect on Owen’s poetry has long been recognised. When, in her new novel, Pat Barker shows Sassoon and Owen discussing the diction and title of ...

Hairy

E.S. Turner, 1 October 1987

The war the Infantry knew 1914-1919: A Chronicle of Service in France and Belgium 
by Captain J.C. Dunn, introduced by Keith Simpson.
Jane’s, 613 pp., £18, April 1987, 0 7106 0485 8
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Passchendaele: The Story behind the Tragic Victory of 1917 
by Philip Warner.
Sidgwick, 269 pp., £13.95, June 1987, 0 283 99364 2
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Poor Bloody Infantry: A Subaltern on the Western Front 1916-17 
by Bernard Martin.
Murray, 174 pp., £11.95, April 1987, 0 7195 4374 6
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... Second Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers could muster Robert Graves (Good-bye to All That), Siegfried Sassoon (Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer) and Frank Richards (not, as some have supposed, the creator of Billy Bunter but the author of Old soldiers never die, an excellent view of the war by a Regular in the ranks). As ...
... have given us a conceit about death being glad to have got him at last. A tender-hearted chap like Siegfried Sassoon might have shaken his head, on the other hand, and regretted that those who were young and hated war should have to die ‘when cruel old campaigners win safe through’. Epitaphs apart, what will survive of Graham Greene? Not ...

Trouble down there

Ferdinand Mount: Tea with Sassoon, 7 August 2003

Siegfried SassoonThe Making of a War Poet 1886-1918 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Duckworth, 600 pp., £9.99, September 2002, 0 7156 2894 1
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Siegfried SassoonThe Journey from the Trenches 1918-67 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Duckworth, 526 pp., £30, April 2003, 0 7156 2971 9
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SassoonThe Worlds of Philip and Sybil 
by Peter Stansky.
Yale, 295 pp., £25, April 2003, 0 300 09547 3
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... the lock, stock and barrel of which were barely connected, and my father then asked his neighbour, Siegfried Sassoon, who lived in the next village, whether we could loose off a few cartridges in his woods. They had become friends through a shared interest in steeplechasing, cricket and poetry and also perhaps through a shared experience of war, though my ...

Gosserie

J.I.M. Stewart, 5 April 1984

Edmund Gosse: A Literary Landscape 1849-1928 
by Ann Thwaite.
Secker, 567 pp., £15, April 1984, 0 436 52146 6
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... he retains for something like sixty years. Swinburne is devoted to him at the start, as is Siegfried Sassoon at the close, and Henry James is going to address over four hundred letters to him. He weathers two major storms, one emotional and the other resulting from a rash claim that if not a poet he is at least a scholar. Becoming Librarian of the ...

Snouty

John Bayley, 4 June 1987

The Faber Book of Diaries 
edited by Simon Brett.
Faber, 498 pp., £12.95, March 1987, 0 571 13806 3
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A Lasting Relationship: Parents and Children over Three Centuries 
by Linda Pollock.
Fourth Estate, 319 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 947795 25 1
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... attractive, even seductive, in imagination is certainly a diary solace. Unexpected people, like Siegfried Sassoon, reveal a sort of solitary skittishness. ‘Rainy weather. Does the weather matter in a journal? Lunched alone; does that matter? (Grilled turbot and apple pudding, if you want full details.)’ To whom is he talking? His other ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Rough Guiding, 1 June 2000

... where he died in 1988. I don’t know whether or not he was insured. After the First World War, Siegfried Sassoon became literary editor of the Daily Herald. In the first piece he wrote for it, he said: The life of a literary editor is like a fairytale. He gets up at a not unreasonable hour; on his way to work he pops in to see a few eminent and ...

Walking like Swinburne

P.N. Furbank, 12 July 1990

Serious Pleasures: The Life of Stephen Tennant 
by Philip Hoare.
Hamish Hamilton, 463 pp., £20, June 1990, 0 241 12416 6
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... a hostess accused him of gate-crashing, and a louder one when, round 1928, he began an affair with Siegfried Sassoon. These were his halcyon days. He had become an institution, and an institution he remained throughout the next chequered sixty years, when – the affair with Sassoon having broken down – he ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: David Jones’s War, 19 March 2015

... Somme, he and his comrades in the Royal Welch Fusiliers were finally committed (they had relieved Siegfried Sassoon’s battalion on 5 July). Once the attack on the wood begins the allusion thickens like an archaic undergrowth through which the reader struggles in a state of hyper-attentive dismay, one eye on the ground for ‘dark hidden ills’, the ...

The Beast on My Back

Gerald Weissmann, 6 June 1996

The Harmony of Illusions: Inventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 
by Allan Young.
Princeton, 327 pp., £28, March 1996, 0 691 03352 8
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... numbing, amnesia, insomnia or other forms of automatic arousal. Readers of Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon or Pat Barker should not be surprised that this description of PTSD turns out to have a strong resemblance to the description of shell-shock that has become part of the modern literary tradition: the psychiatrists are, after all, simply ...

Coats of Every Cut

Michael Mason, 9 June 1994

Robert Surtees and Early Victorian Society 
by Norman Gash.
Oxford, 407 pp., £40, September 1993, 0 19 820429 9
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... even on the few occasions when he has come under the notice of fairly ambitious critics, such as Siegfried Sassoon, Quentin Bell and Anthony Powell. There is very little published comment on Surtees from his own day, but what there is tends to be emphatic about his fidelity to life. ‘The account of the medical worthies who first made the Handley ...

Gotterdämmerung

Christopher Hitchens, 12 January 1995

... to say, who ever is actually faced, or has been faced, with such a choice? In 1917 or thereabouts, Siegfried Sassoon confided to his friend Robert Graves that he was planning to ‘go public’, as a decorated front-line officer, with what he knew about real conditions on the Western Front. Graves had him put away for ‘shell-shock’, for his own ...
... all the more compelling for its quiet understatement, its gentle but remorseless irony. Some like Siegfried Sassoon shouted themselves hoarse in trying to penetrate the carapace of ignorance which protected the illusions of the population at home. And there were some, like the master of them all, Wilfred Owen, who found the high poetic diction of ...

Women

Christopher Ricks, 20 May 1982

My Sister and Myself: The Diaries of J.R. Ackerley 
edited by Francis King.
Hutchinson, 217 pp., £8.95, March 1982, 9780091470203
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... When Ackerley took a break, he contrived a busman’s Roman holiday, since he went to stay with Siegfried Sassoon, who was fully occupied loathing his wife, as she him. ‘He was obviously very wrought up over her emotional persecution of him, and described at much length her jealous rows, resentments, emotional blackmail, etc. He was describing ...

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