Isaac Rosenberg in the TLS

There’s a review by Peter Parker of  Jean Moorcroft Wilson’s new biography of Rosenberg in today’s TLS (and available online).

Parker makes much of the significance for Rosenberg’s writing of the fact that he served in the ranks, rather than as an officer. At the moment, I’m re-reading War is War by Ex_Private X (A.M.Burrage) which brings home very forcibly how different the experience was for privates and officers. Though he pays tribute to the dedication and work of many (not all) officers, Burrage makes clear that the private’s lot could be one of continual total exhaustion, and a feeling of total loss of control over your own life.

As writers, Burrage and Rosenberg were very different. During the war, Burrage kept the fiction magazines supplied with charming fictional romances. The proceeds from these maintained his mother and two other relatives. When he came to write about the war, it was with a scabrousness that hardly belongs in the same universe as the gentle fictions he was writing at the time. Rosenberg, of course, did not survive the war. I can’t help wondering what he would have found to say about the experience ten years later.

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