Through the Wicket Gate



In October 1923 Sassoon noted in his diary that he had “decided to call my next book (love and lyrical poems) ‘The Heart’s Journey’, and publish it in October 1926 (after my fortieth birthday)”. In fact it was not published until 1928, but that he decided on a title for a volume that apparently was to mark the start of a new ‘life-begins-at-forty’ phase as early as 1923, suggests that he was dissatisfied with his existence and felt that it was time for a fundamental change. Ever since the end of the war he had lived in a state of mental turmoil; all the contradictory elements in his personality had collided and made inner peace and stability impossible. He was habitually in two minds about everything. Living in London in the early 1920s, he wanted to be a Labour Movement intellectual, and as such he thought he ought to give up hunting and polite society. Yet he found it impossible to do so, although, as a poet and aspiring intellectual, he became increasingly critical of his former hunting friends:

They are the product of a stupid environment […] They refuse to face the problems of human existence, and say ‘Perhaps we aren’t meant to know’. Such people…are known as ‘the backbone of the country’.


Social Usefulness Spiritual Journey Wicket Gate Modem World Contradictory Element 
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  1. A reference to Tennyson’s popular tear-jerker ‘Enoch Arden’ (1864).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    F. B. Millett, J. M. Manley & E. Rickert, Contemporary British Literature, (London, 1935), p. 275.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    In almost all reference works, the year of birth of W.J. Turner is given as 1889. This has been a most successful deception on the part of Turner, who was actually born in 1884. This fact was first pointed out by the Swiss scholar H. W. Häusermann in an article published in English Studies (Amsterdam, 1962), though no one seems to have taken much notice of it. That he was right is borne out by Diaries 1920–1922, p. 197, where Sassoon writes that in July 1922 he happened to look in Turner’s passport “and found that he is two years older than me”. It is to be feared that this piece of evidence will do little to correct this widespread error. The footnote on Turner in this same volume (p. 16) reads: “Australian poet and music critc (1889–1946)”.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    “I did not find my real poetic voice until 1924, with the H. Vaughan sonnet” (LC, 13).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Sassoon included two poems from Picture Show, one love poem (V) and the Robert Ross elegy (XVII).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Geoffrey Keynes (1887–1982) was John Maynard Keynes’ younger brother. In his youth he was a close friend of Rupert Brooke; he later became a successful surgeon, book collector and bibliographer.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Geoffrey Keynes, The Gates of Memory (Oxford, 1983), p. 233.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Bernard Bergonzi, HeroesTwilight (London, 1965), p. 108.Google Scholar
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    T. S. Eliot, ‘The Music of Poetry’, in Selected Prose, Frank Kermode, ed., (London, 1975), p. 111.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    For the Georgians on this subject cf. Lascelles Abercrombie’s ‘Poetry and Contemporary Speech’ (1914) and ‘Colloquial Language in Literature’ (1931); for the opposite view cf. Ezra Pound on Wordsworth, whom he constantly accuses of preferring the ‘ordinary’ word to ‘le mot juste’. For an amusing account of an Abercrombie/Pound confrontation on the subject, cf. Noel Stock, The Life of Ezra Pound (San Fransisco, 1982), p. 159.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Peter Ackroyd, T.S. Eliot: a Life (New York, 1984), p. 230.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Henry Vaughan, ‘Child-hood’, 11. 31–6. All quotations from Vaughan’s work are taken from The Complete Poems, ed. by Alan Rudrum (Harmondsworth, 1983).Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    First published in 1934 in a private edition containing 22 poems, the first trade edition that was published in an edition of 2000 copies in November 1935 contained 35 poems.Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    From Tennant’s journal. Quoted in Philip Hoare, Serious Pleasures: the Life of Stephan Tennant (London, 1990), p. 251.Google Scholar
  15. 19.
    Geoffrey Keynes, The Gates of Memory, p. 234.Google Scholar
  16. 20.
    Selected Letters of T.E. Lawrence, David Garnett, ed. (London, 1941), p. 357.Google Scholar
  17. 21.
    Dennis Wheatley, OfJicer and Temporary Gentleman 1914–1919 (London, 1978), p. 118. Wheatley (1897–1977) was a prolific author of novels of the occult.Google Scholar

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© Paul Moeyes 1997

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