Category Archives: popular culture

Some better ones from Jessie Pope

Jessie Pope always gets a bad press these days, especially from teachers who use her as an example of how not to write a war poem. Was she always that dreadful? I’ve just become an Honorary Research Fellow at Sheffield Hallam University, and one of the perks is that I get access to databases through […]

Warwick Deeping’s ‘Old Wine and New’

Asked to write about Sorrell and Son for a newspaper series on bestsellers, Kingsley Amis recorded that he began by taking umbrage at the book’s snobbery, and marked particularly repellent passages by writing ‘piss and shit’ in the margin. After a while, though, he stopped annotating, because he had become so gripped by the story. […]

W. Pett Ridge: ‘The Amazing Years’ (1917)

Few best-selling novelists are quite as forgotten as William Pett Ridge (1859–1930), who a century ago mapped the fascinating social borderland where the upper-working classes meet  the lower-middles. Social mobility is his theme, and he has the knack of getting you to care about his characters as they tread the uncertain paths of early twentieth-century […]

A Depressing Story

In Herbert Jenkins’s jolly book, The Night Club (1917), a group of men agree to gather together regularly to tell each other stories (as so often in fiction of the time – did it ever happen in real life?) The first meeting, however, ended in a fiasco. A fellow named Roger Blint had been called […]

Crimson Field: self-inflicted wounds

I quite enjoyed the first episode of The Crimson Field,   but by the third helping it was getting a bit ridiculous. So many issues – cowardice, Ireland, homosexuals, class conflicts… And most of the characters more interested in the issues (and their personal lives) than in healing the casualties… But the big topic yesterday evening […]

Les Amis du Roman Populaire

In Amiens last week I attended a meeting of L’ Association des Amis du Roman Populaire. This is a group of academics and others interested mostly in French popular fiction of the last century, and the two-day conference was about the popular literature of the Great War. We met in the Logis du Roy in […]

Soldiers reading

In Fiction and the Reading Public (1932) Q.D.Leavis is very keen to prove that the contemporary novel is used mainly as a drug, as a substitute for living. Part of her evidence is that: men, coming from the trenches who had been deprived of reading matter for some short while would, however weary, seize on […]

Heavy Metal

After several years of research, I thought I was pretty well-informed about popular representations of the Great War, but I’ve just learned (thanks to Peter Grant) about a thriving genre of songs about the War in recent rock music. Peter’s database has nearly six hundred examples, from Britain, Germany, France and elsewhere. As regular readers […]

After Pathos?

Until recently, you could take it for granted that any television drama centred on the First World War would be dripping with pathos. Think Birdsong, with its key image of Eddie Redmayne (The Old Etonian male model) gazing mournfully into the distance in ways that showed off his cheekbones. Think The Village, with its piling […]


I do wish that Chickens (Thursdays on Sky 1) was funny. It has a reasonably original premise – treating WW1 non-combatants as a source of comedy. Possibly this has some appeal to the young audience who have been force-fed pieties about the War at school, and it is definitely an improvement on the glum reverence […]


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