Handbook of British Literature and Culture of the First World War

It’s arrived.

This Handbook has been a long time in the preparation. The editors, Ralf Schneider and Jane Potter, originally hoped to publish it during the centenary period, but problems had to be overcome, and contributors had to be coordinated, so it has only recently arrived on Amazon – and my contributor’s copy arrived today.

It is a hefty volume, and part of an authoritative series published by De Gruyter, very much aimed at the bookshelves of university libraries. (Prosperous university libraries, I should say – the book’s price is ridiculous, alas. But that’s academic publishing.)

The book starts with seven hefty essays surveying general topics – poetry, novel, film and so on, giving an overview of changing perceptions of the war over the past century. These are followed by thirty-two readings of significant texts, by a variety of authors, and this is where I come in. I contributed two pieces, on Arnold Bennett’s The Pretty Lady (the best novel of wartime London) and Ernest Raymond’s Tell England (an epic of fervent idealism and sexual confusion). As soon as the book arrived, I read through these two essays again, and thoroughly enjoyed them.

I’ve also read Harry Ricketts’s survey of Rudyard Kipling’s writings about the war, and feel that it couldn’t have been done better. Balanced and acute, and it makes you want to go back to re-read the poems and stories.

I shall now get deep into some of the other promising-looking pieces, and will be reporting back on some of them in due course. I think there are one or two that I may disagree with, to some extent. (But if I didn’t find anything to disagree with, it wouldn’t be a very interesting book.)

So the book is, at first sight, highly recommended. I realise, though, that many (most? all?) of this blog’s readers won’t be able to access a copy – so if you’d like to read my Prety Lady or Tell England essays, let me know, and I’ll happily email you an offprint.


  1. Tom Deveson
    Posted October 26, 2021 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I’d very much like to read those two essays!

    I bought Tell England for a shilling at a junk shop in Peckham decades ago, and read it with much dropping of the jaw at the strange brew of religious fervour, corporal punishment, homoeroticism, cricket, patriotic eagerness and death.

    My head-teacher [born 1929] told me she read it as a girl and wept buckets. I’d be fascinated to see how you deal with it.

    Thank you in advance!

  2. Posted October 26, 2021 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    I remember my mother speaking of Tell England with reverence. She must have read it as an adolescent – probably the idea lage for a book like this.
    You’re very welcome to the essays, Tom. \i don’t have your email address at the moment – so drop a line to simmersgeorge@yahoo.co.uk, and I’ll reply with the pdf files.

  3. Posted October 26, 2021 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    I’m fascinated to hear of two apparently iconic works that are completely unknown to me. I’d love to read your essays, and I’ll have to see about getting the actual novels!

  4. Paul Norman
    Posted October 26, 2021 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations on being part of this academic work George. I, for one, will splash out and purchase a hard copy.

  5. Helen Greenleaf
    Posted October 26, 2021 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    What a fabulous book. Sadly too deep for my pockets. People must make a case for Institutions and Public Libraries to get a reference copy.
    I will now read the Arnold Bennett which has been on my list since you previously mentioned it.

  6. Barry Matthews
    Posted November 11, 2021 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    I would like to send you a review copy of Last Post for History – Naysaying the Revisionist Historians. Please provide me with your/a postal address.
    Barry Matthews.
    PS I enjoy your regular essays.

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