Sherston’s Progress



When Sassoon wrote in his letter to Robert Graves of March 1930 that the narrative of George Sherston had been “carefully thought out and constructed”, he was only referring to the first two volumes of the trilogy. Not only did another six years elapse before Sherston’s Progress completed George Sherston’s story, but the book lacks both the intensity of narrative and the cohesive structure of the two preceding volumes.’ In both Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man and Memoirs of an Infantry Officer George’s story is set against a background that gives extra depth to his narrative, and by sharply contrasting the hunting world and the Western Front, Sassoon cleverly illustrated the sudden jolt in his hero’s mental development.2 But in Sherston’s Progress, the setting has no special function; neither is there a conscious attempt to link the book with the preceding two in any other way than by George Sherston’s continuing narrative.


Moral Conflict Lunatic Asylum Autobiographical Account Military Authority Western Front 
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  1. 3.
    W.H.R. Rivers, Instinct and the Unconscious (Cambridge, 1920), p. 2.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    W.H.R. Rivers, Conflict and Dream (London, 1923), p. 171.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    “I have just been to Cambridge to stay with W.H.R. Rivers, ethnologist and psycho-analyst. This fellow is one of the most interesting” (Letter to Hugh Walpole, 12 December 1919; Letters of Arnold Bennett: Vol. III (London, 1970), p. 116).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    The reference is to Frances Cornford’s ‘Rupert Brooke: “A young Apollo, golden-haired / Stands dreaming on the verge of strife / Magnificently unprepared / For the long littleness of life”.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    The religious metaphor is not that far-fetched: at one stage Sherston refers to Rivers as “my father-confessor” (59).Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Thorpe (1966), p.103.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    In this respect it is interesting to note that The Old Century, the first volume of his straight autobiographies, was published in September 1938, exactly 2 years after Sherston’s Progress. Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Edmund Blunden describes a similar incident in Undertones of War (Harmondsworth, 1982), p. 59.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    Sassoon was not the first to do so; in 1930 Henry Williamson had published his satirical war novel The Patriots Progress. Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    Cf. John Bunyan, The Pilgrims Progress (Harmondsworth, 1965), p. 104. D. Felicitas Corrigan attributes this line wrongly to Valiant-for-Truth (cf. Corrigan (1973), p. 32 / Pilgrims Progress (1965), p. 348).Google Scholar

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© Paul Moeyes 1997

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