Dream Voices: Siegfried Sassoon, Memory and War

21 July - 23 December 2010
(closed 30 August and 13-18 September inclusive)

Monday-Friday 09.00-18.00, Saturday 09.00-16.30, Sunday closed
Admission Free

Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Sassoon, c. 1916. MS Add. 7973/S57a.

In his memoir of childhood, The Old Century, Siegfried Sassoon suggested that to resuscitate his earlier existence in words was to imbue past life ‘with saturations of subsequent experience.’ The tension between life as he was living it and recollections of his former self lay behind much of Sassoon’s writing, and memory—sensuously evoked but stringently selected—was central to his literary achievement.

As a dedicated diarist and preserver of correspondence, Sassoon could draw on a documentary archive of first-hand sources for the reconstruction of his personal story. In 2009, Cambridge University Library augmented its already rich holdings of books and manuscripts by Sassoon with the acquisition of a magnificent collection of his personal journals and drafts of his autobiographies. Studying these records in the twenty-first century allows us in turn to comprehend anew Sassoon’s experiences and the catastrophic war which influenced him so profoundly.

Frontispiece in an autobiographical notebook

Frontispiece in an autobiographical notebook. From MS Add. 9852.

‘Dream Voices’ traces the complex intertwining of the documented, the remembered, and the imagined in Sassoon’s published and unpublished writings. On display are the pocket notebooks in which Sassoon kept a journal of his time on the Western Front, including diary entries for the first day on the Somme and the moment when he was shot by a sniper at the Battle of Arras; autograph poems and letters home written while on active service in France; heavily-worked drafts of post-war poems and autobiographies; rare and annotated printed editions; and Sassoon’s own copy of the famous 1917 protest against the continuation of the First World War.

Quotations and images throughout these web pages are used courtesy of the Trustees of G. T. Sassoon Deceased.