Category Archives: Shell-shock

H.G. Wells and the ‘shot at dawn’ theme

H.G. Wells’s The Bulpington of Blup (1932) is one of those novels that creates an unsatisfactory human being as its protagonist, and then uses the war to prove his unsatisfactoriness beyond any doubt. In this case the hero’s faults come close to getting him shot at dawn. Theodore Bulpington (the cumbersome polysyllables of the name […]

On Bookish Students of History

From The Bulpington of Blup (1932) by H.G. Wells: The bookish student of history in the future will find a curious interest in the contrasts between the literature which tells the story of the English going to war on the one hand, a complex, reluctant, voluntary affair, and that which describes the fatalistic acquiescence of […]

Kipling and the Great War

A very useful article on Kipling and the War has been posted on the Kipling Society’s website: http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/rg_greatwar.htm In the article, Rodney Atwood follows kipling’s actions and writing through the war years in considerable detail, dispelling some of the myths that have accrued because of popular treatments like My Boy Jack. By the way, I […]

Ben Shephard (1948-2017)

I am sorry to hear of the death of Ben Shephard, author of A War of Nerves. He died in October, but for some reason his obituary only appeared in the Guardian newspaper this morning. A War of Nerves cuts through many of the pieties about shell-shock and PSTD, and looks at the conditions, and […]

Housman and Kipling

I’ve recently been reading, with great pleasure, Housman Country by Peter Parker. It is a commentary on A Shropshire Lad, but not the usual kind of critical work. It looks at the book’s origins and influence, with plenty of interesting diversions, many of which are about the poems’ role in the twentieth-century definition of ‘Englishness’, […]

Modern Troubadours

Thanks to Ann-Marie Einhaus for pointing me towards Lena Ashwell’s 1922 book  Modern Troubadours, an account of the musical and theatrical troupes organised by Miss Ashwell, which took entertainment to soldiers in France and elsewhere. (A digital versioncan be found at the Internet Archive.) Ive just had a skim through so far, and I’m particularly […]

Nurses and memoirs

Stuart Cloete in 1918 I’d been thinking a bit about nurses’ memoirs when I came across these paragraphs in Stuart Cloete’s 1972 autobiography,  A Victorian Son. When he was fighting on the Somme in 1916, a bullet went through his chest and out the other side. He was sent to a base hospital: But I […]

Debits and Credits

Yesterday I bought a new copy of Debits and Credits. My previous copy has been read to bits. It is an American (Doubleday, page & Co.) first edition of 1926, picked up somewhere by my father during his seafaring years. Its cover is stamped with a rather attractive picture of an ancient ship, which I […]

‘Horniman’s Choice’ at the Finborough

You could write the significant history of English theatre in the twentieth century by tracing the careers of three dynamic women: Annie Horniman, Lilian Baylis and Joan Littlewood. Of these, Horniman is probably the least known, but when she took over the Gaiety Theatre in Manchester a hundred years ago, it was the beginning of […]

Murderous Tommies

The Manual of Military Law published by the War Office in 1914 explicitly stated: The object of military law is to maintain discipline among the troops and other persons forming part of or following an army. Inevitably there were occasions when this objective clashed with what today we think of as the human rights of […]