Siegfried Sassoon (Siegfried Louvain Sassoon) Biography
(1886–1967), (Siegfried Louvain Sassoon), The Old Huntsman, Not about Heroes, Counter-Attack, Picture Show
Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: William Sansom (William Norman Trevor Sansom) Biography to Dr Seuss [Theodor Giesel] Biography
British poet, born in Brenchley, Kent, educated at Clare College, Cambridge. He was on active service in Flanders throughout much of the First World War and is generally recognized as the first poet to record the horrors and privations of life in the trenches. The Old Huntsman, the first volume of his war poetry, appeared in 1917, the year in which he threw away his Military Cross and published his open letter ‘A Soldier's Declaration’ denouncing the administration of the war. Robert Graves deflected a possible court martial and Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh to be treated for shell-shock. There he met Wilfred Owen, whom he greatly influenced; their friendship forms the subject of S. MacDonald's Not about Heroes (1983). He returned to active service in Flanders, publishing Counter-Attack (1918), in which the element of anti-war polemic becomes emphatic. Picture Show (1919) was the last of his volumes predominantly concerned with the war. After a period as literary editor of the Daily Herald he gradually resumed his pre-war life as a country gentleman. His quasi-autobiographical prose trilogy Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man (1928), Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (1930), and Sherston's Progress (1936), published as The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston in 1937, follows Sherston's fortunes through an undemanding adolescence to a shocking precipitation into maturity on the Western Front. He subsequently wrote three parallel volumes of autobiography, The Old Century and Seven More Years (1938), The Weald of Youth (1942), and Siegfried's Journey (1945), which describe his life up to 1920. His verse sustained its tone of strenuous dissent well into the 1930s: his socialist opinions are clear in Satirical Poems (1926) while The Road to Ruin (1933) warns against failure to learn from the First World War in its envisioning of a more terribly destructive conflict. His austerely contemplative later collections include Vigils (1935) and Sequences (1956). R. Hart-Davis edited two volumes of his Diaries (1981, 1983). Collected Poems, 1908–1956 was published in 1961. See also war poetry.