Category Archives: Shell-shock

Shock therapy

There’s a review in today’s Times Literary Supplement of a new book about ECT (or electroconvulsive therapy) as a treatment for mental illnesses such as psychosis or depression. It traces the history of the therapy from the experiments of Ugo Cerletti in Rome in the 1930s, through the widespread use of it in the 40s […]

Susan Miles again

My interest in Susan Miles having been aroused, I ordered two books of her  poems from the depths of the Bodleian – Annotations of 1922 and The Hares and other poems of 1924. Some of the pages of The Hares were still uncut, which indicates how much academic interest  this rather good writer  has  been […]


Q: Why are the standard misleading clichés about WW1 so very popular with writers? A: Because they are so very useful for adding instant pathos to a story or script. Last night I watched “To the Last Man”, an episode of Torchwood, the Dr Who spin-off that is never quite as good as the original. […]

Kipling and Shell-Shock: The Healing Community

Here are some images and references relevant to my paper at the Canterbury Kipling conference on Friday: 1.

Kipling the Freemason

I wonder what else there is hiding in Kipling’s story “In the Interests of the Brethren”. This is the one whose narrator forms a chance friendship with Lewis Burges, propritor of a tobacconists’ shop, and through him is introduced to the Masonic Lodge Faith and Works No. 5837 E.C. This Lodge has become an open […]

Shell-shocked Vigilantes

I read an odd story today in the Grand Magazine for 1919 (The Grand is the less distinguished sister-publication of the Strand, also  published by Newnes.) It’s The Enemy over Yonder by A. M. Burrage, and tells how one Algernon Freundheimer came to be murdered. “Freundheimer was a British subject, though his origin was beyond […]

“What Every Soldier Knows” (about N.Y.D.N.)

“Shell-shock” was a controversial subject during the War, provoking lengthy arguments. Was it a genuine medical condition or just a sign of moral weakness? By and large writers of fiction were sympathetic to soldiers suffering from symptoms of trauma, which in their stories became symbols of the disturbance that war had caused to people’s lives. […]

Shell-shock / Amnesia / Kleptomania

During the past week or so I’ve come across three fictional shell-shock victims whose symptoms include kleptomania. First there was Spoofy, the comically deranged victim of shell-shock in the play Three Live Ghosts; then there was a character in a Galsworthy story. Now today I have been reading a very odd story in the Strand […]

Woman to Woman

I’m hunting out amnesia stories at the moment, so I thought I’d take a look at the novel Woman to Woman (1924) by Michael Morton and Peter Traill, based on Morton’s play. I was sent in the direction of this book because I’d read about the film version of the play, directed by Graham Cutts […]

Repression Challenge – My Contender

In the Great War novels that I read, soldiers and ex-soldiers not infrequently suffer from amnesia. Sometimes this seems to come from a physical wound and sometimes as a nervous reaction to the horrors of war. Novelists from Rebecca West to Ruby M.Ayres found the theme useful as a way of exploring the psychic harm […]