Authors: Siegfried Sassoon

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English poet and memoirist

Author Works

Poetry:

The Daffodil Murderer, 1913

The Old Huntsman, and Other Poems, 1917

Counter-Attack, and Other Poems, 1918

War Poems, 1919

Picture Show, 1920

Recreations, 1923

Selected Poems, 1925

Satirical Poems, 1926

The Heart’s Journey, 1927

Poems of Pinchbeck Lyre, 1931

The Road to Ruin, 1933

Vigils, 1935

Rhymed Ruminations, 1940

Poems Newly Selected, 1916-1935, 1940

Collected Poems, 1947

Common Chords, 1950

Emblems of Experience, 1951

The Tasking, 1954

Sequences, 1956

Lenten Illuminations and Sight Sufficient, 1958

The Path to Peace, 1960

Collected Poems, 1908-1956, 1961

An Octave, 1966

Long Fiction:

The Memoirs of George Sherston, 1937 (comprising Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, 1928; Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, 1930; and Sherston’s Progress, 1936)

Nonfiction:

The Old Century and Seven More Years, 1938

Lecture on Poetry, 1939

The Weald of Youth, 1942

Siegfried’s Journey, 1916-1920, 1945

Meredith, 1948

Siegfried Sassoon Diaries, 1920-1922, 1981

Siegfried Sassoon Diaries, 1915-1918, 1983

Siegfried Sassoon Diaries, 1923-1925, 1985

Biography

Much of the literary reputation of Siegfried Lorraine Sassoon (suh-SEWN) rests on his vigorous war poems, written during his long stint at the front during World War I. Like those of Wilfred Owen, whom Sassoon influenced and encouraged, his poems are a bitter testament to the ingloriousness of warfare. Sassoon, then an officer in the British Army, developed an aversion to and horror toward war and became a pacifist; for a time he refused to undertake further military duty, a situation he presents in such poems as “The Rear Guard” and “Counter-Attack.” To later generations he became better known for the autobiographical novels in which he relates what he has called his “mental history,” the chronicle of his youth and of the spiritual crisis resulting from his experiences on the battlefield. Of these works the three earliest, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, and Sherston’s Progress mask their author with the alias “George Sherston.” Fictional in form, they nevertheless present a reflective survey of personal events recorded in Sassoon’s voluminous diaries. His more formal autobiographies, The Old Century and Seven More Years, The Weald of Youth, and Siegfried’s Journey 1916-1920, reexamine much of the same ground from a later, more mature point of view. Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, which was awarded both the Hawthornden Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1929, was praised for its spare, restrained style infused with a strong, understated nostalgia for prewar society.{$I[AN]9810000106}{$I[A]Sassoon, Siegfried}{$S[A]Lyre, Pinchbeck;Sassoon, Siegfried}{$S[A]Sashun, Sigmund;Sassoon, Siegfried}{$S[A]Kain, Saul;Sassoon, Siegfried}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Sassoon, Siegfried}{$I[tim]1886;Sassoon, Siegfried}

The Sassoon family was noted chiefly in the realm of English finance. Siegfried Sassoon, however, who was raised by his artist mother in rural Kent after his parents separated, grew up in an atmosphere determined by literature, painting, and summonses to fox meets. He attended Clare College, Cambridge, for two years, until defeated by apathy toward the history tripos. In the years preceding World War I he published several anonymous collections of imitative verse, and also attempted playwriting. During this period, Sassoon produced one narrative poem, which shows great technical exactitude.

Sassoon received the Military Cross for heroism in action during World War I. While recuperating at home from a throat wound, he issued in 1917 a manifesto denouncing the prolongation of the conflict. Although he wished to face a court-martial that would allow him to spread his views, friends had him certified temporarily insane, and he was subsequently placed in a sanatorium in Edinburgh, where he met Wilfred Owen. Later he volunteered to rejoin the forces, served in Palestine and again in France, and suffered a second wound. He was promoted to the rank of captain in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He later rejected his earlier pacifism, and in the 1951 Honors List he was designated a Commander of the British Empire.

BibliographyCaesar, Adrian. Taking It Like a Man: Suffering, Sexuality, and the War Poets: Brooke, Sassoon, Owen, Graves. New York: Manchester University Press, 1993. Caesar explores how four British poets reconciled their ideologies inherited from Christianity, imperialism, and Romanticism with their experiences of World War I.Campbell, Patrick. Siegfried Sassoon: A Study of the War Poetry. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1999. Through primary documents and research, Campbell provides critical analyses of Sassoon’s war poetry. Includes bibliographical references and an index.Fussell, Paul. The Great War and Modern Memory. 1975. Reprint. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. This classic study of the literature arising from the experience of fighting in World War I pays special attention to Sassoon’s fiction, autobiography, and poetry. Provides a useful context for Sassoon’s work in comparison to other writers of the period.Lane, Arthur E. An Adequate Response: The War Poetry of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1972. Lane highlights the use of satire and parody as he analyzes Sassoon’s war verse. Contends that Sassoon and others, when faced with the horrors of trench warfare, were charged with creating a new mode of expression since the traditional modes proved inadequate.Mallon, Thomas. “The Great War and Sassoon’s Memory.” In Modernism Revisited, edited by Robert Kiely. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983. Attempts to isolate the effect that World War I had on Sassoon’s mind and memory, thus distancing him from life. Mallon’s studies concentrate on Sassoon’s “twice” written memoirs of his early life.Moeyes, Paul. Siegfried Sassoon: Scorched Glory–A Critical Study. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997. Moeyes draws on Sassoon’s edited diaries and letters to explore Sassoon’s assertion that his poetry was his real autobiography. Includes bibliography and an index.Thorpe, Michael. Siegfried Sassoon: A Critical Study. London: Oxford University Press, 1967. Thorpe’s book follows the life and works of Sassoon, concentrating on his overall work, not merely his “war poetry,” with particular attention being paid to his basic underlying framework of ideas. An index and a bibliography augment the text.Wilson, Jean Moorcroft. Siegfried Sassoon: The Making of a War Poet–A Biography. New York: Routledge, 1999. Details Sassoon’s early life, covering the years from his birth through 1918, and in doing so, closely examines his struggle to come to terms with his homosexuality.
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