Gladness and Good Luck
Sportsman to Soldier
Hell Let Loose: The Somme
War Poet
The Slog up to Arras
Poor Heroes!
Games of Ghosts
Fictionalized Reality, Essayized Autobiography
Life’s Illuminings



Gladness and Good Luck

David Sassoon (1792–1864)
Letter to Messrs Jardine, Matheson & Co.
Bombay, 24 January 1844

Siegfried Sassoon’s great-grandfather David Sassoon was born in Baghdad but moved his family and business interests to Bombay, in British India, around 1830. The family firm prospered hugely in the trade with China in cotton and opium, and diversified into manufacturing, property development, banking and tea-planting. In 1858 it opened offices in London under David’s son, Sassoon David Sassoon, Siegfried’s grandfather. This letter was sent by David Sassoon to the Scottish trading company Jardine, Matheson & Co. in Hong Kong. It is signed in Hebrew, since David Sassoon wrote no English.

MS JM B6/4/4342
Courtesy of Matheson & Co., Ltd


Theresa Thornycroft (1853–1947)
Letter to ‘Dear Gull’
London, 4 September 1870

Sassoon’s mother studied painting in classes given in his studio by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Ford Madox Brown, and, like her brother Hamo and sisters Alyce and Helen, attended the Royal Academy Schools. She specialized in paintings of literary and biblical subjects, and in the 1870s and 1880s exhibited work at several London galleries, including those of the Royal Academy. This sketch illustrates a letter probably addressed to one of her siblings.

MS Add. 9375/851


Edward Henry Corbould (1815–1905)
Letter to Mary Thornycroft
London, 22 February 1878

Mary Thornycroft, Siegfried Sassoon’s maternal grandmother, lived for the last year of her life with her daughter and grandsons at Weirleigh, their home near Matfield in Kent. Sassoon remembered her there ‘dignified in the serene consolations of old age… and looking away into the past as though it were somewhere beyond the double windows’. In her hey-day she had been the leading female sculptor of the Victorian era. This letter from the watercolourist E. H. Corbould (who, like Mary Thornycroft, had given art lessons to Queen Victoria’s children) advises on scale and perspective in a painting of ‘The Beggar at the Gate of the Rich Man’ by one of Mary’s daughters—probably Sassoon’s mother Theresa.

MS Add. 9375/856


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
‘The Poems’
Weirleigh, Matfield, March 1897

‘More Poems’
Weirleigh, Matfield, October–December 1897

‘My mother had a strong maternal feeling that I was destined to become a great poet’, Sassoon wrote in The Old Century, while admitting that his brothers ‘considered that my talents were overrated. Putting it plainly, they told me that what I wrote was tommy-rot.’ These two volumes of manuscript poems were birthday and Christmas presents from Sassoon to his mother. They are extensively decorated, since the young Sassoon ‘believed in copious illustration, however incongruous.’ The smudging of the silver ink of the title of ‘More Poems’ may perhaps have been the mishap caused by Siegfried’s older brother Michael kicking the leg of the table: ‘I accused him of doing it on purpose and punched him on the nose.’

MS Add. 9852/6/1
MS Add. 9724/1/2


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Notebook recording cricket matches
England, 1899–1905

Sassoon was an enthusiastic cricketer from childhood into his seventies. This notebook preserves records of matches played in his teens, mostly in Kent during school holidays when he turned out for local village sides or for scratch elevens assembled by his brother Michael or himself. Ivan Beauclerk Hart-Davies, in whose sides Sassoon also played, had been his schoolmaster at the New Beacon in Sevenoaks; he went on to hold the motorcycle speed record between John o’ Groats and Land’s End before being killed in 1917 while a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps. The ‘T. Richardson’ listed on these pages was the Sassoon family’s groom, the ‘Tom Dixon’ of Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man.

MS Add. 9852/3/1


Renshaw’s Almanack and Diary 1903, with notes on book collecting by Siegfried Sassoon
London: published by H. W. Crane & Co., [1902]

Programme of entertainments at the Cotton House leaving supper
Marlborough, 25 July 1903

Sassoon began collecting books at 16, during a term when he was kept out of school on account of a strained heart. Although he started with a capital of only £1, his mother allowed him to make exchanges with booksellers using volumes from his father’s collection, and he ‘set to work to amass a real library’, aiming at ‘a large cosy collection of leather-bound tomes…. I wanted my books to be as old as possible or else to be mentioned in Mr Gosse’s History of Eighteenth Century Literature’. Sassoon recorded his transactions in this diary; in The Old Century and Seven More Years he quoted ‘a few specimen entries’, although the printed versions were much modified from the originals.

At the annual leaving supper of his House at Marlborough College later that year, Sassoon recited Thackeray’s burlesque ballad ‘When moonlike ore the hazure seas…’.

Courtesy of the President and Fellows of Hughes Hall
Donated by Professor Masatsugu Ohtake


T. J. & J. Smith’s Small Scribbling Diary, with an Almanack for 1906, with a summary of activities by Siegfried Sassoon
London: T. J. & J. Smith, Son & Downes, [1905]

The memoranda pages of Sassoon’s 1906 diary give a digest of his main interests and activities during his only full year spent as an undergraduate. On the left-hand page he listed his literary work, including several poems published in the University journals Granta and the Cambridge Review. Other projects are noted as ‘destroyed’ or ‘abandoned’. The right-hand page demonstrates Sassoon’s continuing book-collecting pursuits, some of the volumes being acquired from the Cambridge booksellers Heffers and Deighton Bell. Below this is a summary of his intensive but only modestly-successful endeavours on the cricket field: 18 matches inside eight weeks over the summer, with a batting average of nine and three-sevenths and a bowling average of 26.

MS Add. 9852/1/2

Walter M. May and Arthur W. Coaten
The Hunting Annual for 1908–9: A Guide and Handbook for Followers of Hounds, with diary entries by Siegfried Sassoon
London: printed and published for the proprietors by Messrs Love & Malcomson, Ltd, 1908

In the years after coming down from Cambridge, Sassoon’s main diversion during the winter months was fox-hunting. He rode mainly with the Eridge hunt (the ‘Dumborough’ of Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man), and later with the Southdown (‘Ringwell’), which had kennels at Ringmer near Lewes in Sussex. He kept track of his hunts during the 1908–9 season in this diary.

MS Add. 9852/1/3


William Hamo Thornycroft (1850–1925)
Letter to Siegfried Sassoon
Kensington, 12 May 1909

In the Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man the Sassoon character, George Sherston, receives admonitory letters from Percival G. Pennett, his ex-guardian and acting trustee, giving well-intended but unheeded advice not to abandon his university education or spend large sums on horses, and regretting that the young man should be ‘content to potter around and not take up some serious calling and occupation.’ Sassoon himself received this letter from his own trustee, his uncle Hamo—the Royal Academician sculptor Hamo Thornycroft—urging that ‘some kind of work (not for self) is an advantage to a young man of 23’, and that Sassoon should ‘avoid expenses which would cripple your power to help your mother.’

MS Add. 9375/866


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Privately printed, 1909

After having several poems accepted for publication in The Academy, in June 1909 Sassoon spent most of the nine guineas he was (vainly) expecting to receive as payment on 25 privately-printed copies of a volume entitled Sonnets and Verses. The work only had a brief life-span, for Sassoon burnt all but four of the copies after a close friend’s tepid reaction to it. Within a few months he had reworked eleven of the poems, and had them printed alongside six new verses under the simple title Sonnets. In 1942, in The Weald of Youth, he described this volume as ‘drastically revised and rather sumptuously reprinted from the destroyed edition’. Revision of the poems continued after the printing, as these annotations demonstrate.

Keynes.J.1.11, pp. 12–13


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
‘Details of point-to-point races –1911–12–13–14–’
England, 1911–1914

Having fox-hunted since childhood, in 1911 Sassoon turned to point-to-point racing on his newly-acquired horse Cockbird. The description in the Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man of George Sherston carrying off the Colonel’s Cup in the Ringwell Heavy Weight Race is based on Sassoon’s experience competing for the Southdown Heavy-Weight Cup in April 1911. This was Sassoon’s first victory, in his third point-to-point. Details of his races in the years leading up to the First World War were recorded in this notebook. The third-placed rider in the Southdown race, Gordon Harbord, was Sassoon’s ‘greatest friend’ before the war; he was killed near Ypres in 1917, aged 27.

From MS Add. 9852/3/2


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Sportsman to Soldier

David Thomas (1895–1916)
Letter to Siegfried Sassoon
Llanedy, Pontardulais, 26 August 1915

Photograph of David Thomas
July 1915

David Cuthbert Thomas, with whom Sassoon shared rooms in Pembroke College, Cambridge, during their officer training, was the son of Evan and Ethelinda Thomas of Llanedy Rectory, Glamorgan. This letter, written from his parents’ home shortly before he rejoined Sassoon at the Royal Welch Fusiliers depot at Litherland, near Liverpool, indicates that Sassoon had shown him three of his privately-printed booklets of verse. Thomas appeared as ‘Dick Tiltwood’ in the Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, ‘a shining epitome of his unembittered generation which gladly gave itself to the German shells and machine-guns’.

MS Add. 9375/834


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Letter to Theresa Sassoon
France, 8 January 1916

This is one of Sassoon’s letters to his mother (whom he addressed as ‘Ash’). It contains light-hearted news of friends, sports and animals, apparently intended to put his mother’s mind at rest about his day-to-day existence, but it makes less convincing fun with precautions against poison gas attacks: ‘You would laugh to see us practising with gas-helmets, like a lot of queer bogies, with goggle-eyes & wide snouts.’ The helmets pictured in the letter were made of grey flannel; in his war memoir Good-bye to All That Robert Graves recalled that the wearer ‘breathed in through the nose from inside the helmet, and breathed out through a special valve held in the mouth.’

MS Add. 9724/3/4


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Letter to Edward Dent
France, 20 March 1916

On 18 March 1916 David Thomas was wounded in the jaw and died the same evening, aged 20: ‘an artery went, & he was choked,—drowned in his own blood’. Sassoon described Thomas’s burial in this letter to Edward Dent: ‘When the parson had finished (& the machine-guns kept making his words inaudible) a big thing fell about 150 yds away & burst with a final smash. And so my Tommy went away, happy and stainless’.

The Cambridge musicologist Edward Dent met Sassoon in 1915. He corresponded with numerous university men fighting at the front during the First World War. Their letters to Dent are preserved in the Library in MS Add. 7973.

MS Add. 7973/S19a


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Notes on ‘The Spirit of the Bayonet’
Flixécourt, 25 April 1916

In April 1916 Sassoon was sent on a four-week training course at Flixécourt, thirty miles from the front line. In his diary he recorded ‘a great brawny Highland Major’ giving a lecture on bayonet tactics; he expanded his account in the Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, describing the instructor’s ‘homicidal eloquence’ and remarking bitterly that ‘he was afterwards awarded the D.S.O. for lecturing’. These are the notes made by Sassoon during the lecture. Some of the phrases, such as ‘only one good sort of German,—a dead one’ and ‘If he coughs he’s done—go on to the next’, were reproduced in modified form in the printed Memoirs.

From MS Add. 9852/1/5


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
France, May–June 1916

List of raiding parties
France, May 1916

J. Byrne
Plan of raid
France, May 1916

On the night of 25/26 May 1916 Sassoon’s company made an unsuccessful attempt to raid the German trenches opposite them. Sassoon joined the raiding parties in no-man’s-land and brought in a mortally wounded corporal under fire. Shown here are the account of the raid in Sassoon’s diary, written in the present tense in the style of a consciously literary composition; a sketch map by one of the participants, showing shell craters and barbed wire; and a list of the raiders, with notes of their fates. Corporal O’Brien, whose life Sassoon was unable to save, is one of only two characters in the George Sherston memoirs to be given their real names (the other being W. H. R. Rivers). He is buried in the Citadel New Military Cemetery, Fricourt.

From MS Add. 9852/1/6


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Hell Let Loose: The Somme

Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
France and England, June–August 1916

Photograph of Siegfried Sassoon
c. 1916

Sassoon’s battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers was held in reserve on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Sassoon was positioned about five hundred yards behind the front line, with a good view—enemy fire permitting—of the advancing British troops. This is the diary he kept during the battle, opened to show his record of events between 7.45 and 9.50 a.m. on 1 July (the right-hand page was written before the left-hand). Overleaf, shortly after 10.00 a.m., he wrote: ‘I am looking at a sunlit picture of Hell’.

The photograph of Sassoon is thought to date from 1916.

MS Add. 9852/1/7
MS Add. 7973/S57a


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Sketch of a memorial statue
Méaulte, 14 July 1916

Two weeks into the battle, and ten days after his solo attack on the German trench at Mametz Wood, Sassoon was again stationed in reserve but expecting an imminent return to the front line. This sketch of the monument he wanted erected on Market Hill in Cambridge ‘after my demise’ was enclosed in a letter to Edward Dent. Recognition of the likelihood of his being killed is recurrent in Sassoon’s war diaries. The phrase ‘Serbian stunts’ probably refers to the exhibition of sculpture by Ivan Meštrović at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1915, which included works commemorating Serbian warriors killed at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389.

MS Add. 7973/S25a


Robert Graves (1895–1985)
‘To S. S.’
Mametz Wood, 17 July 1916

Sassoon’s friendship with the poet and novelist Robert Graves is recorded in the Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, where Graves appears as ‘David Cromlech’. Sassoon wrote a verse letter to Graves from the Fourth Army School at Flixécourt in May 1916, published as ‘A Letter Home’ in The Old Huntsman. This is Graves’s reply, written in Mametz Wood at the height of the Somme fighting. The poem is a fantasy of the pleasures awaiting Graves and Sassoon after the War, firstly taking rest among the mountains of Snowdonia, then travelling to the Caucasus, Baghdad, Persia and China—‘And God! what Poetry we’ll write!’

From MS Add. 9852/1/6


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Letter to Edward Dent
Amiens, 29 July 1916

Hospital ship tag
France, 1 August 1916

Two days after receiving Graves’s poem, Sassoon heard that his friend had died of wounds. A few days later he himself succumbed to enteritis and was despatched to hospital in Amiens. From there he wrote this letter to Edward Dent, lamenting the deaths of Graves and another friend, Marcus Goodall. He quoted to Dent what he believed to be Graves’s ‘last lines’, taken from the reverse of the final page of the poem sent from Mametz Wood.

Sassoon’s fever was severe enough to have him evacuated to England. ‘Think I deserve a holiday, but feel rather rotten at forsaking the Battalion’, he wrote in his diary. A few days later he learned that Graves had in fact survived his injuries.

MS Add. 7973/S26
From MS Add. 9852/1/7


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War Poet

Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
November 1915–March 1916

Sassoon’s trench notebooks had several functions. Principally they served as diaries, but he also used them for jotting down notes relating to Army routine, as commonplace books to record extracts from other writers, and for drafting and making fair copies of his own poetry. ‘Brothers’, at the top of the left-hand page, is dated 18 December 1915. On the previous day Sassoon had written in a diary entry: ‘Wish the Kaiser would let me go back to my work at writing poems.… now, if I get done in, I leave only a sheaf of minor verse’. His idealized conception of his art is revealed on the right-hand page: ‘Poetry, with bright wings prepared for flight into the dawn….’

MS Add. 9852/1/4


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
London: printed at the Chiswick Press for Siegfried Sassoon, 1916

‘Brothers’, a tribute to his younger brother Hamo who had been killed at Gallipoli, was written a month after Sassoon’s arrival in France. Later retitled ‘To my Brother’ and reprinted in Sassoon’s Collected Poems in later life, it exhibits the romanticism characteristic of inexperienced soldier-poets of the Great War. In April 1916 Sassoon still maintained that Rupert Brooke had been ‘miraculously right’ in his famous ‘1914’ sonnets: ‘He described the true soldier-spirit’ of those ‘who have been killed & died happier than they lived.’ Only 11 copies of Morning-Glory were printed; Sassoon later described the pamphlet to his friend Eddie Marsh as merely a collection of ‘my mother’s favourites’.

Keynes.J.1.24(8), pp. 10–11


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
March–May 1916

Working-parties were groups of soldiers allotted particular routine tasks such as moving sand-bags. The poem displayed here was written in the front line at the end of March 1916, and published as ‘A Working Party’. The draft comes in the journal between diary entries recording trench conditions, and the switch from prose to poetry and back is made without interruption to the subject under description. ‘Bullets are deft & flick your life out with a quick smack’, Sassoon wrote on the preceding page, and the soldier in the poem dies when ‘the instant split/ his startled life with lead’. In his journals Sassoon frequently made drafts in pencil before inking over passages he regarded as settled.

MS Add. 9852/1/5


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
‘A Working Party’, in a notebook titled Poems
England, 1916–1919

Away from the trenches, Sassoon could adjust the texts of his poems at leisure and decide which of them were suitable for inclusion in a published collection. He made many of the fair copies in this notebook while on sick leave at his mother’s home in September 1916. The book had been given to him by Lady Ottoline Morrell, and is described in Siegfried’s Journey: ‘Beautifully bound in orange-vermillion vellum… its hundred leaves of hand-made paper seemed almost too exquisite even for my most careful handwriting.’ Despite his efforts at calligraphy, Sassoon made revisions onto the fair copy before the poem appeared in print.

From MS Add. 9852/6


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
The Old Huntsman and Other Poems
London: William Heinemann, 1917

‘A Working Party’ was printed in Sassoon’s collection The Old Huntsman and Other Poems, the first of his books to be produced commercially. Published in May 1917, it brought together 72 poems, many of which had already begun to build Sassoon’s literary reputation by appearing in national periodicals such as The Times, The Saturday Review and The Spectator. The volume was dedicated to Thomas Hardy, who praised the ‘reticent poignancy’ of ‘A Working Party’.

Keynes.J.4.10, pp. 26–27


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The Slog up to Arras

David Jones (1895–1974)
[Sidmouth, 1937?]

The poet and artist David Jones joined the 15th Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers in January 1915. In the First World War the number of battalions in regiments of the British Army expanded greatly, but they were seldom all deployed alongside each other. Sassoon, who moved between the 1st, 2nd and 25th battalions of the Royal Welch, did not meet Jones until the 1960s, although they then worked out that Sassoon’s battalion had once been relieved in the front line by Jones’s. This post-War drawing may be taken as an archetypal depiction of the British infantryman’s experience of the trenches on the Western Front.

By permission of the Estate of David Jones


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Letter to Theresa Sassoon
France, 26 March 1917

This letter to his mother, written fourteen months after the one recounting the pleasures of Christmas grub and pony-jumping, demonstrates the low spirits that were afflicting Sassoon by 1917: ‘It is much harder to get any fun out of the war when it has lost the first excitement.’ The Gordon and Geoffrey mentioned in the last paragraph were the Harbord brothers—Gordon being Sassoon’s steeple-chasing friend from before the War, who was to be killed later in the summer.

MS Add. 9724/3/10


John Charles Mann (c. 1894–1917)
Operation order for a bombing attack
Fontaine-lès-Croisilles, 15 April 1917

This is the order received by Sassoon during the Battle of Arras to lead a bombing attack on German trenches forming part of the strongly-prepared defensive position known as the Hindenburg Line. The order gives instructions regarding the place and time of rendezvous of Sassoon’s soldiers, the location of the bombs (hand-grenades), and the need to impress on the men the necessity of keeping silence. Printing an altered version of the order in the Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, Sassoon commented: ‘Such was the document which (had I been less fortunate) would have been my passport to the Stygian shore.’ The battalion adjutant issuing the order, John Charles Mann M.C., was killed five months later, aged 23; he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial outside Ypres.

From MS Add. 9852/1/9


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
France and England, April–May 1917

In these pages of his diary Sassoon recounted the attack he led at Fontaine-lès-Croisilles on 16 April 1917. The tone is brisk, almost cheery: ‘the sun was shining, & the trench was not so difficult to deal with as I had expected. My party (from “A” COY) were in a very jaded condition owing to the perfectly bloody time they’ve been haveing lately—but they pulled themselves together fine & we soon had the Boches checked & pushed them back nearly 400 yards. When we’d been there about 25 min. I got a sniper’s bullet through the shoulder & was no good for about a quarter of an hour. Luckily it didn’t bleed much.’

MS Add. 9852/1/10


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Letter to Edward Dent
Chapelwood Manor, Nutley, 2 June 1917

‘In an Underground Dressing-Station’ and ‘Supreme Sacrifice’
England, June 1917

Sassoon was evacuated to England and sent to convalesce at Chapelwood Manor in Sussex, where Earl and Countess Brassey gave accommodation to recuperating officers. These two poems were sent to Edward Dent and published together in the Cambridge Magazine of 9 June 1917. Sassoon had visited the underground dressing station near St Martin-sur-Cojeul on 12 April. ‘Supreme Sacrifice’ arose from a conversation with Lady Brassey, in which she had assured him that ‘death is nothing’, and that British soldiers killed in the War were now ‘“up there”… helping us to win’. The ‘knock’ taken by Sassoon’s battalion is enumerated in his letter to Dent. Taken as a pair, the poems tellingly contrast Sassoon’s compassion for the fighting soldier with his increasing disdain for sections of the civilian population.

MS Add. 7973/S40, S65 and S66


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Poor Heroes!

Bertrand Russell (1872–1970)
Justice in War-Time
Manchester and London: The National Labour Press, Ltd, [1915?]

The philosopher Bertrand Russell opposed the First World War from its outset. He was introduced to Sassoon in the summer of 1917 by a mutual acquaintance keen to encourage Sassoon’s idea of making a protest against the War. Justice in War-Time was a collection of Russell’s early anti-War essays.  In the margin of this copy, an unknown reader—apparently cynical of those whose objections to the War arose only after the introduction of conscription—took issue with Russell’s proposition that views on the War were the product of ‘emotional temperament’: ‘Large numbers whose temperament allowed them to shout for war at the beginning changed their opinions immediately they saw circumstances were going to compel them to fight.’

9200.d.2775, pp. 16–17


The National Labour Press
Manchester and London: The National Labour Press, Ltd, c. 1917

The lack of clearly-stated aims for the outcome of the War was a central cause of Sassoon’s protest: ‘I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow-soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible for them to be changed without our knowledge, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.’ As this leaflet indicates, doubts surrounding the reasons why British soldiers were fighting and dying motivated others who were advocating a negotiated peace.

From WRA.34.304


The Women’s Social and Political Union
London: The Women’s Social and Political Union, 1916

A few of Sassoon’s poems have been viewed as misogynistic. By 1917 he was consumed with indignation at the apparently endless and pointless slaughter, and directed his scorn at representatives of groups he saw as indifferent to the soldiers’ suffering: these included the military high command, the clergy, the press, and women. This leaflet symbolizes attitudes that provoked Sassoon’s anger. Within a fortnight of the outbreak of war, the Women’s Social and Political Union, founded by Emmeline Pankhurst to campaign for votes for women, had put aside this cause in order to support the war effort; its newspaper, The Suffragette, was re-named Britannia. The Women’s War Procession protested against any negotiations that might lead to a cessation of hostilities in a ‘compromise’ peace. After demonstrating their endorsement of the continuing carnage, marchers could take tea at the Garden Tea Rooms.

From WRA.34.304


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
‘Glory of Women’
Craiglockhart, Midlothian, 1 November 1917

The relative calm of Craiglockhart gave Sassoon the opportunity to work on a number of poems. This copy of ‘Glory of Women’ was sent to his friend A. T. Bartholomew, an Under-Librarian at Cambridge University Library, to be published in the Cambridge Magazine. It appeared there on 8 December 1917 alongside another poem, ‘Their Frailty’, which exhibited a similarly jaundiced response to what Sassoon presented as a widespread female standpoint on the War:

Husbands, and sons, and lovers; everywhere
             They die; war bleeds us white.
Mothers, and wives, and sweethearts, they don’t care
             So long as He’s all right.

MS Add. 8487/4


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
France and England, February–June 1917

England, June–July 1917

On leaving Chapelwood Sassoon spent time on leave in London and at Garsington, the home of Philip and Ottoline Morrell. Determined to make a more effective objection to the War than could be achieved by printing verse in the Cambridge Magazine, and influenced by pacifists such as Bertrand Russell and the journalists John Middleton Murry and Henry William Massingham, Sassoon drew up his famous statement against the War. These journals show an early draft of the text and an incomplete fair copy. On 6 July he sent the statement to his Commanding Officer, with a covering letter announcing his intention ‘to refuse to perform any further military duties.’ The statement was widely publicized after being recited during a debate in the House of Commons on 30 July.

From MS Add. 9852/1/9 and 11


Howell Richard Jones-Williams (1863–1927)
Telegrams to Siegfried Sassoon
Liverpool, 11 and 12 July 1917

Sassoon’s period of leave expired on 27 June, but instead of rejoining his regiment at Litherland he remained at his mother’s home in Kent. By the time the first of these telegrams was received from the Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers, Sassoon had been absent without leave for a fortnight. He returned to the depot following the arrival of the second telegram on 12 July. Rather than being placed under arrest as he had expected, he was sent to the Exchange Hotel in Liverpool to await developments.

From MS Add. 9852/1/11


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Letter to Edward Dent
Craiglockhart, Midlothian, 25 July 1917

Over the course of the following week it became clear to Sassoon that he would not be court-martialled, and that there was a greater likelihood of his being declared insane and committed to an asylum. Under great pressure, not least from Robert Graves who had travelled to Liverpool to assist him, he submitted to a Medical Board which concluded that he was suffering from a breakdown brought on by ‘the strain of active service, acting on a nervous temperament’. In this letter to Edward Dent, Sassoon related the outcome: he was sent to Craiglockhart, a sanatorium near Edinburgh for officers suffering from shell-shock, where he was to be treated by William Rivers, a Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge.

MS Add. 7973/S43


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Letter to Edward Dent
Edinburgh, 24 November 1917

Unlike the majority of the patients at Craiglockhart, Sassoon had no neurasthenic disorder, and spent much of his time there playing golf and reading. His treatment consisted of regular conversations with Rivers, whom he came to regard as a ‘father-confessor’. Rivers gently encouraged Sassoon’s undeveloped pacifism to peter out, while his patient experienced increasing humiliation at being ‘a healthy young officer, dumped down among nurses and nervous wrecks.’ Eventually Sassoon recognized that ‘going back to the War as soon as possible was my only chance of peace.’ The picture mentioned in this letter is Sassoon’s portrait by Glyn Philpot, now in the Fitzwilliam Museum collections. ‘W.O.’ is the War Office.

MS Add. 7973/S45


Hastings Bertrand Lees-Smith (1878–1941)
Letter to Siegfried Sassoon
Westminster, 17 December 1917

Sassoon’s protest against the war had been made with the encouragement of pacifist intellectuals and politicians, for whom the abandonment of his refusal to fight represented a failure of principle. Lees-Smith, the Liberal M.P. who had read out the statement in the House of Commons, replied magnanimously to a letter from Sassoon, and assured him that ‘I know that anything that you decide is done from the highest motives.’

MS Add. 9375/590


William Emrys Parry
Letter to Siegfried Sassoon
Limerick, 1 February 1918

In ‘Twelve Months After’, Sassoon remembers the platoon he led into the Battle of Arras in 1917. He names individual soldiers and gives each a characteristic, before announcing that in the last year they have all been killed. In an early version of the poem, ‘Jordan, who’s out to win a D.C.M.’ was given the surname Parry. William Emrys Parry, one of Sassoon’s comrades in the Royal Welch Fusiliers, queried the alteration in this letter: ‘why change Parry into Jordan? My brother Jim was one of the best in the R.W.F.’ For the letter-writer, the soldiers in the poem were not semi-fictional creations but represented real people. His brother ‘Jim’ may have been the Private James Parry who fought in Sassoon’s battalion and died, with many of his comrades, on 27 May 1917; as he has no known grave, his name is inscribed on the Arras Memorial.

MS Add. 9375/684


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Counter-Attack and Other Poems
London: William Heinemann, 1918

Counter-Attack, Sassoon’s second commercially-produced volume of poetry, was published in June 1918 in an edition of 1,500 copies. It rapidly went through three reprints. This copy of the first edition was owned by Sassoon’s friend, the Cambridge librarian Theo Bartholomew, and bears annotations in Bartholomew’s handwriting. He amended ‘Twelve Months After’ to show the alternative wordings printed in the Cambridge Magazine when the poem had first appeared there in January 1918, including ‘Parry’ for ‘Jordan’. ‘Jordan’ has been the name used in all subsequent reprintings of the poem.

Keynes.J.3.35, pp. 22–23


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
France and England, May 1918–February 1919

In Palestine in March 1918 Sassoon was given command of a company and the temporary rank of Captain. This reflective diary entry, written three months later when back in France, dwells on Sassoon’s sense of his additional responsibilities and of how they were inimical to his work as a writer: ‘One cannot be a good soldier and a good poet at the same time.’ On the right-hand page Sassoon appears to address a reader of the diary: whether he envisaged this as his older self returning to the journal in later life, or as a representative of posterity, is unclear.

MS Add. 9852/1/13


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
France and England, April–August 1918

The Right Reverend Llewellyn Henry Gwynne, Bishop of Khartoum, was appointed Deputy Chaplain-General in France in 1915. In this account of his address to the troops in July 1918, Sassoon described him as ‘a well-nourished, Anglican Gramophone’—although, as he noted over the page, ‘the troops rather liked it.’ Gwynne was lampooned as the ‘Bishop of Byegumb’ in Sassoon’s poem ‘Vicarious Christ’: ‘he made me love Religion less and less.’

From MS Add. 9852/6


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Picture Show
Cambridge: printed for the author at the University Press, 1919

Sassoon wrote in his diary in 1916 ‘Sometimes when I see my companions lying asleep or resting, rolled in their blankets, their faces turned to earth or hidden by the folds, for a moment I wonder whether they are alive or dead’. This likeness struck him again in the summer of 1918, when the sight of one of his men asleep on the train towards the trenches inspired the poem ‘The Dug-Out’; again he wrote in his diary ‘The other three… are asleep in various ungainly attitudes. J. looks as if he were dead.’



Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
‘Everyone Sang’, in a volume of proofs of Picture Show
England, 1919

Picture Show was privately printed for Sassoon in Cambridge under the auspices of Theo Bartholomew. Published in June 1919, the book contained poems written since January 1918. The volume on display contains two sets of proofs of Picture Show, with which are bound a few leaves of manuscript verse. ‘Everyone Sang’ is one of Sassoon’s best-known poems, and expresses his relief at the conclusion of the hostilities. Although pre-eminently a celebration of peace, it has been counted among Sassoon’s war poems ever since it appeared in the Heinemann volume of The War Poems of Siegfried Sassoon in October 1919.



Les Soldats-Poëtes de l’Angleterre: Poëmes de Rupert Brooke, Julian Grenfell et Siegfried Sassoon récités à L’Army and Navy British Leave Club de Paris à la Conférence de Monsieur Emile B. d’Erlanger le 8 Mai 1919
Paris: 1919

Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
The War Poems of Siegfried Sassoon
London: William Heinemann, 1919

These volumes from 1919 testify to the early characterisation of Sassoon as a ‘war poet’, a role he would later come to resent. The Army and Navy British Leave Club in Paris had been created at the outbreak of the War, and was directed by the actress Decima Moore. The Baron Emile-Beaumont d’Erlanger, chairman of an Anglo-French banking firm, was an avowed internationalist who, although naturalized as British in 1901, always kept links with France. Each of the poems in the Soldats-Poëtes pamphlet, which were recited at d’Erlanger’s conference, were accompanied by a translation into French. The 64 poems in the Heinemann edition of the War Poems were mostly reprinted from Sassoon’s previous books, but in a revised order.



Wilfred Owen (1893–1918)
London: Chatto & Windus, second edition, 1921

Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
England and Rome, August 1921–February 1922

The Chatto and Windus edition prepared by Sassoon and Edith Sitwell was the first attempt to collect and edit Wilfred Owen’s poetry. The detailed pen-portrait of his friend that he later gave in Siegfried’s Journey sits oddly with Sassoon’s assertion in his introduction to Owen’s Poems that ‘any superficial impressions of his personality, any records of his conversation, behaviour, or appearance, would be irrelevant and unseemly. The curiosity which demands such morsels would be incapable of appreciating the richness of his work.’ Sassoon’s lists of Owen’s manuscripts made in his journal include a note of four poems ‘returned to Mrs Owen, as no good.’

MS Add. 9852/1/16


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Games of Ghosts

Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Notes for a speech at a parliamentary election campaign meeting
Blackburn, December 1918

Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
‘The Case for the Miners’, in a notebook titled Recreations
England, April 1921

The general election of December 1918 returned David Lloyd George to power at the head of a Conservative and Liberal coalition. Sassoon travelled to Lancashire to speak in support of Philip Snowden, the Labour candidate in the Blackburn constituency. In a campaign characterized by strong anti-German feeling, Sassoon argued in favour of internationalism and against a vindictive post-War settlement. Sassoon recognized that he had little natural gift for oratory or political analysis, however, and did not pursue the career in public life which he briefly contemplated. His 1921 poem ‘The Case for the Miners’ expresses frustration at his inability to articulate a defence of striking workers, while acknowledging his social distance from the labouring class.

From MS Add. 9852/1/13
MS Add. 8488


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Letter to Glencairn Byam Shaw
London, 30 November 1925

Sassoon wrote this letter from the house of Roderick Meiklejohn, one of the three men with whom he had argued about the striking miners in 1921. It hints at the sense of security he derived from his social position, and the enjoyment he took in the comforts of elegant living. Glen Byam Shaw was an actor and director with whom Sassoon established a long friendship.

MS Add. 9454/18


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
The Heart’s Journey
New York: Crosby Gaige, and London: William Heinemann, Ltd, 1927

The Heart’s Journey might be described as a sequence charting the development of Sassoon’s self-awareness. In 1923 he mentioned in a journal entry that his next book would be made up of ‘love and lyrical poems’; he felt unfulfilled by the satirical verse he had been writing hitherto. From this point onwards, Sassoon would turn to his memory and inner life over and over again for inspiration. ‘To One Who was With Me in the War’ was inspired by a conversation with Ralph Greaves, a comrade-in-arms from the front lines, and evokes the themes of memory and oblivion.



Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
The Road to Ruin
London: Faber & Faber, 1933

The First World War had come as a surprise to the naïve and idealistic young man that Sassoon had been in 1914. In the early 1930s, on the contrary, the poet was quick to perceive that European peace was again threatened. A collection of seven poems, The Road to Ruin highlights Sassoon’s growing concerns with the international situation. In March 1933 Sassoon had written in a letter to Ottoline Morrell that: ‘the whole thing is too depressing for words. To me it is as though the powers of darkness are winning.…’ Five of the book’s original pieces had appeared in the Spectator and the New Statesman. Sassoon made no further attempt to make his dark prophecies heard, however; at the end of 1933, as he married Hester Gatty, he was noted for being uncharacteristically happy.



Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
 ‘In Memory (W.H.R.R.)’, in a notebook titled The Heart’s Journey
17 January 1926

Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
‘Revisitation (W.H.R.R)’, in a notebook titled Vigils
29 November 1930

William Halse Rivers Rivers, the psychologist who counselled Sassoon at Craiglockhart, remained a close friend of the poet until his death in 1922. Sassoon regarded Rivers as a sage, and paid tribute to him in the poem ‘To a Very Wise Man’, published in Picture Show. His belief in the power of Rivers’s influence to ‘harmonize and heal’ is shown in ‘Revisitation’, where a ghostly dream-memory of his ‘fathering friend’ makes an appearance as a ‘strange survival’ in Sassoon’s post-War existence. Later still, in Sherston’s Progress, he wrote that Rivers existed now ‘in vigilant and undiminished memories, continuously surviving in what he taught me.’

From MS Add. 9852/6
MS Add. 9724/1/4


Edmund Blunden (1896–1974)
Letter to Siegfried Sassoon
Oxford, 10 November 1932

In 1919 Sassoon met Edmund Blunden, ten years his junior but like him a poet, a decorated veteran of the trenches, and the future writer of a celebrated prose memoir of the Western Front. The two men formed a strong and lasting friendship. Sassoon showed verse to Blunden prior to publication, and in this letter Blunden commented on recent poems, including ‘Revisitation’: ‘most worthy of the theme, again I suspect the phrase is not your final always, “dizzying despair” and “rayed” just over-do it, but it’s a humanizing poem’. The phrases to which Blunden took exception can be seen to have been deleted in Sassoon’s revisions to the fair copy of ‘Revisitation’ displayed to the left.

MS Add. 9724/1/4(7)


Stephen Gooden (1892–1955)
Proof of title-page for the first edition of Vigils
London: printed by A. Alexander & Sons, Ltd for Geoffrey Keynes, 1934

Prospectus for the first edition of Vigils
London: printed by the Shenval Press Ltd for Geoffrey Keynes, 1934

Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
London: printed by A. Alexander & Sons, Ltd for Geoffrey Keynes, 1934

Geoffrey Keynes first met Sassoon in June 1933 and proved an ‘unfailing’ and exceptionally helpful friend, taking the main responsibility for the private printing of Sassoon’s books for the next twenty-five years. Keynes suggested presenting the poems in Vigils in a ‘novel and attractive form’ and having the entire book engraved on copper plates by Charles Sigrist, in a script based on Sassoon’s own handwriting. The title page was by Stephen Gooden, a printmaker and illustrator credited with reviving the art of copper engraving in Britain in the 1920s. The first edition of Vigils was printed in May 1934; Sassoon wrote to Keynes that he was ‘enraptured’ by the beauty of the production.


Keynes.J.1.38, 39 and 42


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
‘“Farewell my Fancy”’ and ‘Gradual Death of an Author’, in a notebook titled Poems and Notes
England, 1934–1938

Sassoon’s taste for ‘copious illustration’ of his poetical notebooks continued throughout his life; the University Library possesses numerous examples of volumes with decorative frontispieces, head and tail-pieces and vignettes worked in pencil, water-colour and body-colour. Some of these artworks accompany fair copies of Sassoon’s verse specially written out to be given as gifts to friends, but others, equally elaborate, adorn working notebooks such as this one, in which Sassoon made early drafts of his poems.

From MS Add. 9852/6


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Fictionalized Reality, Essayized Autobiography

Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
‘Journal: 1921’
London, 1921–1922

A dedication at the front of this volume of Sassoon’s diary reads ‘To myself when I shall have ceased to care about the present’. The excisions visible in this opening indicate that at some point Sassoon cared deeply enough to expunge sections of his record of his life. In the entry for 9 February 1922 Sassoon examined his reasons for keeping a journal: these included ‘accumulation of material for Autobiography’, and other entries acknowledge the possibility of a wider audience for his diaristic self-communing. On 9 February Sassoon also assessed his wartime diaries as aids to memory: they ‘bring a lot of it back to me, clear enough’ but ‘wouldn’t mean much or describe much to anyone else’.

MS Add. 9852/1/17


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man
London: Faber & Gwyer Limited, 1928

Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man is an investigation of Sassoon’s upbringing, and takes his alter ego George Sherston from childhood through to the Western Front in the spring of 1916. The first edition was published anonymously. Sassoon later wrote that the ‘instinct for anonymity has been with me all my life’, but in this book especially he was careful to protect his mother’s sensibilities, and the book concentrates on the external forces that governed his pre-War existence. The Memoirs achieved significant popular success, however, and anonymity could not be maintained indefinitely: ‘Siegfried Sassoon’ was added to the title-page during the printing of the second impression.



Walter H. Parker
Letter to Siegfried Sassoon
Hackney, 21 December 1928

Magazine cutting
England, 1929

The uncertain position of the Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man between fiction and autobiography was noticed by librarians who had the job of classifying the book. The staff of Hackney Public Libraries considered placing their copies in the Biography and Fiction sections or with books on fox-hunting, before their Chief Librarian applied to Sassoon himself for advice. The judges of the Hawthornden Prize, which up to that time had been awarded only for works of poetry and fiction, regarded the Memoirs as falling within their remit, while Maurice Beck and Helen MacGregor’s photograph, by posing Sassoon alongside a portrait of H. G. Wells, placed him as a follower in the tradition of the English novel.

MS Add. 9375/682
From MS Add. 9852/11


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Memoirs of an Infantry Officer
London: Faber & Faber Limited, 1931

The Memoirs of an Infantry Officer follow George Sherston’s career from spring 1916, through the Battles of the Somme and Arras, to his refusal to return to the fighting in the summer of 1917 and departure for ‘Slateford War Hospital’, the fictional equivalent of Craiglockhart. In the book, Sassoon printed both his statement against the War and what were presented as excerpts from his trench diary for the first day on the Somme. ‘A small shiny black note-book contains my pencilled particulars, and nothing will be gained by embroidering them with afterthoughts’, he wrote, although the printed ‘particulars’ are in fact somewhat embellished versions of his original diary entries. Barnett Freedman’s illustration for the cover of this edition was based on the texts printed in the volume.



Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
‘Memoirs of a Bore’
England, 1932–1933

Having published two books of ‘Memoirs’ based to a considerable degree on his journals, Sassoon gave a mockingly similar title to this volume of his diary.

MS Add. 9852/1/36


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Notes on and draft of The Old Century and Seven More Years
Heytesbury, 1936

Sassoon used this notebook to record preparatory thoughts on the themes and structure of his first volume of ‘real’ autobiography, and to draft early chapters of the book. A ‘Note on Total Scheme’ summarizes the divergent purposes of the two trilogies: ‘Sherston’s “Memoirs” were sustained by his effort to become—a) a foxhunter—b) a success in the war… This book will be sustained by the story of my effort to become a famous poet.’ Sassoon painted two frontispieces, ‘Sillifying the Future’ and ‘Prettifying the Past’. Under the second illustration, in faint pencil, he wrote: ‘Was I really like that? And does it matter if I was?’

From MS Add. 9852/7/1


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
The Old Century and Seven More Years
London: Faber & Faber Limited, 1938

The Old Century tells the story of Sassoon’s first twenty-one years, from 1886 to 1907, which he chose to portray as a wonderfully happy time: he admitted to an ‘inability to describe my early life in a dismal and dissatisfied tone of voice’ and a preference simply to overlook ‘those moods and minor events which made me low-spirited’. The resultant luminous reminiscences are evoked by the bucolic cover illustration by Gwen Raverat, granddaughter of Charles Darwin and sister-in-law of Geoffrey Keynes, for the Faber edition. The unsigned wood-engraving represents a river-bank with willow trees and a man fishing, and reflects the benevolence of nature Sassoon described as residing ‘in the sun flecked shade under the leafy chestnut poles’.



Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Draft of The Weald of Youth
Heytesbury, 1941

The Weald of Youth was the second of Sassoon’s ‘real’ autobiographies, and told the story of his literary and social progress from 1909 to the outbreak of the First World War. This section of the draft recounts his meeting with Rupert Brooke and W. H. Davies at a breakfast party hosted by his friend Eddie Marsh (Winston Churchill’s private secretary) in June 1914. Much of the matter in the paragraphs encircled on the right-hand page was discarded from the printed volume.

From MS Add. 9852/7/2


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Notes on and draft of Siegfried’s Journey
Heytesbury, 1943–1945

These are Sassoon’s preliminary notes regarding the portrayal of Wilfred Owen in the last volume of his autobiographical trilogy. By the time Sassoon came to write Siegfried’s Journey in the 1940s, Owen’s poetic reputation had already begun to surpass his own, and Sassoon was well aware of the likely interest the account of his relationship with the younger poet would hold. He noted that in writing of Owen, it would be necessary to acknowledge ‘my only partial recognition of his power & promise as a poet. He must be objectively presented through the eyes of my 1917 self—not as the belaurelled figure that he has since become.’

From MS Add. 9852/7/3


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Life’s Illuminings

Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
‘“Go, words, on winds of war”’, in a notebook titled Poems
England, 1930s–1940s

‘Belsen’ and other poems, in an untitled poetry notebook
England, 1940s–1950s

By 1939 Sassoon was a nationally-recognized figure from whom editors of literary periodicals naturally requested topical poems about the War, and he produced similar work under his own inspiration. The themes of his Second World War poems echo those of the earlier conflict—sympathy for the fighting servicemen, and anger towards politicians and other elements of the non-combatant population—but demonstrate a more markedly anti-German feeling than before, stirred by his contempt for Nazism and those who espoused or acquiesced in it. He later reprinted relatively little of the political verse written during this period.

MS Add. 9724/1/6
MS Add. 9724/1/7


Photograph of Siegfried Sassoon
England, 1948

A portrait of Siegfried Sassoon in his library at Heytesbury House, dated ‘1948’ on the reverse by Geoffrey Keynes.

MS Add. 8633/G11


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
‘A Remonstrance’ and other poems, in a notebook titled Emblems of Experience
England, c. 1951

Emblems of Experience was printed for Sassoon and Geoffrey Keynes at the Rampant Lions Press in Cambridge in 1951. This manuscript booklet with the same title contains five poems omitted from the printed volume, including the two which are cancelled on the opening displayed. With its contrasting of aspects of the natural world—sunlit afternoons and the never-changing habits of herons—with mankind’s innovations and military machinery, ‘A Remonstrance’ exhibits characteristic themes of Sassoon’s poetry of the 1940s and 1950s.

MS Add. 8485


Geoffrey Keynes (1887–1982) and Reynolds Stone (1909–1979)
Draft title page of The Tasking, with woodcut
England, 1954

Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Letter to Geoffrey Keynes; sketch for and proof of title page of The Tasking; and corrected proof of The Tasking
England, 1954

The Tasking was privately printed under the auspices of Geoffrey Keynes in November of 1954, when 100 numbered copies were produced by Cambridge University Press. The book was designed by John Dreyfus, then the University Assistant Printer, in consultation with Brooke Crutchley (the Cambridge University Printer) and Keynes. Illness prevented Gwen Raveratfrom supplying a woodcut for the title page, and Sassoon was dissatisfied with the efforts of the second choice of artist, Reynolds Stone; the eventual title page was decorated only with a pattern of asterisks.

Sassoon initially hoped to arrange the poems as a sequence. Eventually he declared them to be ‘separate condensations… an exhibition of the spiritual shortcomings of man trying to find things out for himself’—a fragmentation illustrative of the soul-searching process undergone by the author.

From Keynes.J.1.49


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
‘Lenten Illuminations’, in a poetical and devotional notebook
England, 1958–64

‘A Prayer at Pentecost’
England, 12 June 1960

In August 1957, at Downside Abbey in Somerset, Sassoon was received into the Roman Catholic Church. He used the notebook on the left to record the spiritual development leading to his conversion, and to draft poems inspired by his faith, such as ‘Lenten Illuminations’. Sassoon’s change of denomination brought him new friends, including the Catholic poet and schoolteacher Ian Davie, for whose poem ‘Piers Prodigal’ he helped find a publisher. This fair copy of ‘A Prayer at Pentecost’ was given to Davie.

MS Add. 9724/1/8
From MS Add. 9862


Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
Ave, Atque Vale: The Last Four Poems of Siegfried Sassoon
Worcester: printed at the Stanbrook Abbey Press for private circulation, 1967

This posthumous publication gathered four of Sassoon’s late poems, two from 1962 and two from 1964. They are not accurately described as his ‘last four poems’, since the poetical and devotional notebook displayed to the left, MS Add. 9724/1/8, contains a further poem, ‘Weak yet Strong’, dated 1964 and in an apparently finished state. This copy of Ave, Atque Vale was presented to Geoffrey Keynes by Sassoon’s widow Hester in December 1971.



V. King (b. c. 1900)
Letter to Siegfried Sassoon
Redcar, 30 June 1967

Sassoon died at home on 1 September 1967, a week short of his eighty-first birthday. Earlier that summer he had been in contact with one of his soldiers from the First World War, who wrote this letter recalling their time on the Somme: ‘51 years tomorrow morning our Capt & you were standing on the top of the trench looking with your glasses to men going over on our left.’ A last letter from Mr King arrived on the day of Siegfried Sassoon’s death. His son George replied, saying ‘the thoughts in his mind of the old days in the trenches helped him over those last few hours.’

MS Add. 9375/579

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