Georgian Poet



During his four years of active service Sassoon developed into a more independent-minded person. The sharp contrast between the soldiers at the front and the civilians who remained at home made him take a more critical view of the values of the older generation which he had until then accepted without question. As he recalled in Siegfried’s Journey, the war even became a barrier between his mother and him, so that eventually he gave up discussing it with her altogether. But the end of the war left him stranded: soldiers and home front merged as everyday life resumed, leaving him with no job, no immediate responsibilities and no group of men on whose behalf he could speak up. For a time he identified with the Socialist cause, and in the 1919 general election he even actively campaigned for the Labour party. But his political activities were an after-effect of the war rather than the manifestation of the Prophet in a new role. Bertrand Russell had shrewdly foreseen the limits of his political interests when he wrote to Ottoline Morrell that “S.S. sees war, not peace, from the point of view of the proletariat.”1 Sassoon’s socialism was, as his war protest had been, a direct result of the close contact he had had with his men and not of any deeply felt political convictions; when peace deprived him of these first-hand experiences, his socialist enthusiasm soon petered out.


Royal Academy Native Tradition English Poetry Pastoral Tradition Literary View 
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  1. 3.
    Quoted in: Robert H. Ross, The Georgian Revolt: Rise and Fall of a Poetic Ideal 1910–1922 (London, 1967), p. 227.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    H.D., Bid Me To Live (London, 1984), p.7.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    An early influence on the Modernists, and an example of their European outlook, was ‘Futurism’ and its vociferous advocate Filippo Marinetti. The first Futurist manifesto was published in February 1909, followed by a ‘New Futurist Manifesto’ in May 1913 (which appeared in an English translation in Poetry and Drama). Before the war, T.E. Hulme published his articles in The New Age and held private and public lectures in London between 1911 and 1914. Imagist propaganda was published in The New Freewoman by Rebecca West (1913), the ‘Preface’ to Some Imagist Poets (1915) by Richard Aldington and in The Egoist by F.S. Flint. The Vorticist programme was published in Wyndham Lewis’s Blast (2 issues, June 1914 and July 1915).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    E.J. Hobsbawm, The Age ofEmpire 1875–1914 (New York, 1987), p. 226.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Their popularity was reflected in public honours: Frederick Leighton (1830–96) was the first painter to receive a peerage and was elected President of the Royal Academy; Edwin Landseer, Luke Fildes, Alma-Tadema and Edward Poynter (1836–1919) were all knighted. Poynter was also appointed Director of the National Gallery and succeeded Leighton and Millais as President of the Royal Academy.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Cf. William Gaunt, The Pre-Raphaelite Tragedy (London, 1975), pp. 150, 142.Google Scholar
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    From The Savoy, October 1896. Reprinted in Victorians on Literature and Art, ed. by Robert L. Peters (New York, 1961), p. 322.Google Scholar
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    ‘The Grey Rock’ (1913), 11. 53–8.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    He is remembered for his vigorous attack on Edmund Gosse in October 1886. Pointing out the numerous inaccuracies in Gosse’s From Shakespeare to Pope earned him no more than the Poet Laureate’s famous rebuff; speaking up for his friend, Tennyson referred to Collins as the “louse upon the locks of literature”. Cf. Anthony Kearney, The Louse on the Locks of Literature (Edinburgh, 1986), pp. 52–69 and Thwaite (1985), pp. 276–97.Google Scholar
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    John Churton Collins, Ephemera Critica (Westminster, 1901), pp. 14–15.Google Scholar
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    C.K. Stead, The New Poetic, (London, 1964), p. 49.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    Quoted in Joy Grant, Harold Monro and the Poetry Bookshop (Berkely, 1967), p. 42.Google Scholar
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    Lascelles Abercrombie, The Theory of Poetry (London, 1924), pp. 49–50.Google Scholar
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    Arthur Waugh, ‘The New Poetic’, reprinted in Georgian Poetry 19111922: the Critical Heritage, Timothy Rogers, ed. (London, 1977), p. 144.Google Scholar
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    William Watson, ‘The Adjective’, in The Poems of Sir William Watson 1878–1935 (London, 1936), p. 175.Google Scholar
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    Russell (1971), p. 52.Google Scholar
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    Ronald Blythe, The Age of Illusion: England in the Twenties and the Thirties (Harmondsworth, 1964), p. 25.Google Scholar
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    Cf. my ‘Georgian Poetry’s False Dawn’, in Neophilologus Vol. LXXV, No. 3, July 1991, pp. 456–69.Google Scholar
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    In his influential New Bearings in English Poetry (Harmondsworth, 1979; first published 1932) F.R. Leavis refers to John Drinkwater as the man who “may perhaps claim to be the representative Georgian poet […]” (p. 51). Leavis had little time for the Georgians and discussed them without making the distinction Georgian / Neo-Georgian. The first three Georgian Poetry anthologies make clear that awarding Drinkwater the status of ‘Representative Georgian Poet’ is not justified.Google Scholar
  20. 35.
    By a morbid irony of fate, two of the young composers who were killed in the war served with Rupert Brooke in the Hood Battalion and were present at his graveside when he was buried at Skyros. W. Denis Browne was killed at Gallipoli six weeks later; the Australian-born Frederick Kelly completed his Elegy, ‘In Memoriam Rupert Brooke’ for string orchestra in June 1915, but was killed at the Somme in November 1916. Arguably the severest loss for British music was the death of George Butterworth, killed in action at the Somme in August 1916. He composed the orchestral Rhapsody A Shropshire Lad, and, like Ivor Gurney, set some of A.E. Housman’s poems to music.Google Scholar
  21. 36.
    During the war years Hoist composed The Planets, Delius his A Song before Sunrise, while Parry, requested by the Poet Laureate Robert Bridges to write a patriotic song, obliged with his beautiful setting of Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’.Google Scholar
  22. 37.
    Lewis Foreman (ed.), From Parry to Britten: British Music in Letters 1900–1945 (London, 1987), p. 86. The editor notes that “Bliss’s attitude was permanently coloured by the view he took then, a very positive influence in his activity after the War as a champion of the new and in the development of a highly personal style which took little if anything from Germanic models”.Google Scholar
  23. 38.
    When George Sherston visits the Caledonian Hotel in Edinburgh in 1917, he notices that the hotel musicians are playing “Mendelssohn’s (German) Spring Song” (SP, 39).Google Scholar
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    ‘Victorians’, in Poems 1930–1940 (London, 1940), pp. 252–53.Google Scholar
  25. 40.
    E.M. Forster: Selected Letters - vol. I(1985), p. 294.Google Scholar
  26. 42.
    Cf. Maurice Hewlett’s definition of poetry: “It is perhaps the Expression of Emotion in terms of Beauty”, quoted in The Later Life and Letters of Sir Henry Newbolt (London, 1942), p. 164.Google Scholar
  27. 4.
    Cf. Rupert Hart-Davis’s note on Rivers in Diaries 1920–1922, p. 47 n.2.Google Scholar
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    Ronald W. Clark, Freud: the Man and the Cause, (London, 1980), p. 386.Google Scholar
  29. 6.
    Frequent guests were C.K. Scott Moncrieff (1889–1930), who after the war translated Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past (1922–31); William More Adey (1858–1942), who published the first English translation of Ibsen’s Brand (1891), together with Ross ran the Carfax picture gallery (1900–08) and was joint-editor the Burlington Magazine (1911–19); Philip Bainbrigge (1891–1918), skilled author of porno-graphic ballads (he exchanged scholarly but highly obscene verses and parodies with Scott Moncrieff), killed in action in the Battle of Epehy, September 1918. Other regular guests included Osbert Sitwell, Ross’s elder brother Alec, and his nephew Sir Squire Sprigg (editor of the Lancet). Google Scholar
  30. 7.
    Cf. Thwaite (1984), pp. 360–61 and Selected Letters of Henry James to Edmund Gosse 1882–1915, ed. by R.S. Moore (Baton Rouge, 1988), pp. 296–97.Google Scholar
  31. 8.
    In Siep,fried:s Journey Robert Ross is regularly mentioned, but Sassoon never once refers to the Douglas/Crosland trials. Osbert Sitwell is also reticent on the subject, cf. Noble Essences (London, 1950), p. 150.Google Scholar
  32. 9.
    E.M. Forster, Selected Letters — vol. 1(1985), p. 303.Google Scholar

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© Paul Moeyes 1997

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