Sassoon’s copy of ‘Goodbye to All That’

There is an excellent article by jean Moorcroft Wilson in this week’s TLS . She has been looking at Siegfried Sassoon’s own copy of ‘Goodbye to All That’, which he annotated indignantly, marking factual errors and marking various passages as ‘rot’, ‘fiction’, ‘faked’ or ‘skite’. As Moorcroft Wilson explains:

He was particularly critical of Graves’s account of his (Sassoon’s) protest, which fell a long way short, he believed, of the “impartial exactitude required for such a sensitive topic”. “He exhibits me as a sort of half-witted idealist”, he complained to Louis Untermeyer and his wife, “with a bomb in one hand and a Daily Herald in the other.”

He  expressed his dislike of the book not only with marginal comments, but also by turning it into a wild collage:

Sassoon’s copy of Good-Bye makes it clear how much his opinion of Graves had changed after the advent of Laura. The most entertaining of the insertions are the selection of commercial illustrations, photographs and drawings which poke fun at the two of them. A perfectly innocuous frontispiece photograph of Graves is rendered absurd by the cut-out caption “LITTLE JACK RABBIT” pasted beneath it. And Eric Kennington’s fine pastel drawing of Graves is accompanied by an even more ridiculous caption from a newspaper: “Breeding will tell / Just why this should be is difficult to say; for, as previously stated, there were no exceptional gadgets on the model”. At the end of a chapter on Oxford, Sassoon conveys his opinion that Graves can be something of a stuffed shirt simply by including a cut-out advertisement for a white shirt-front.

But you really should read the whole article, at http://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/the-old-trench-mind-at-work/

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2 Comments

  1. Posted February 2, 2017 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    This whole saga is both deeply sad and deeply instructive. Moorcroft Wilson has conducted admirably thorough research, and her labours reveal, I think, the immensely traumatic nature of their war experience on all three men, Sassoon, Graves and Blunden. “My” war was, by far, the most intense, significant and scarring episode in each man’s life. When it seems synonymous with “our” war – as it undoubtedly did for Sassoon and Graves in 1916 – it creates a personal bond from which any perceived deviation (Hang on! “Your” war is no longer “my” war. What happened to “our” war?) seems a monstrous personal betrayal. What we now call PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), I would suggest, explains the passion with which the relationships between the three men played out. (I disagree with Moorcroft Wilson on one point: Sassoon did not “strive for strict factual accuracy”: his various autobiographies contain innumerable distortions: of chronology, of verifiable facts, and of his own motivations.)

    • Posted February 2, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      I agree. Sassoon created a fictional protagonist, Sherston who was very different from himself (not Jewish, not a poet, not homosexual) and had to skew his story to match the character. I think Moorcroft Wilson is right, though, to say that he did ‘strive’ to be as accurate as possible. The later ‘Siegfried’s Journey’ is a different kind of striving, and tells the story in yet another way.


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