General Kelly and Forester’s ‘The General’

Chief of Staff John Kelly has the reputation of being the most stable figure in President Trump’s chaotic White House. From what one can gather, he has brought a semblance of order and organisation to the place, and has engineered the removal of some of Mr Trump’s more erratic political associates.
Earlier this year, he gave an interview about his favourite book, which is C.S. Forester’s 1935 novel, The General, the story of Curzon, the bone-headed officer who rises up the chain of command by continuously doing the wrong thing and creating disasters as he does everything by the book. General Kelly is not the only thinking soldier to value this book as an guide showing how not to do it. It used to be required reading at Sandhurst. Maybe it still is. Read More »


Kipling the pacifist?

Poems often take on new lives and different identities once they get away from the poet, but Rudyard Kipling might have been rather interested, and maybe even amused, by the annexation of his work by pacifists. Here is an article from the Camden New Journal last week: Read More »

Coming back to Dornford Yates


I read quite a bit of Dornford Yates when I was researching post-war thrillers, but I hadn’t looked at one of his novels for quite a while. Last Saturday, though, I was in the excellent Daisy Lane Books in Holmfirth, and noticed that they had a row of Yateses, so I thought I’d take another look. Read More »

Wyndham Lewis: Life, Art, War

lewis iwm

The Wyndham Lewis exhibition at the Imperial War Museum North, in Salford, is very good indeed. It is the first I have seen that lays out the whole of Lewis’s career as a visual artist, from art student to Vorticist to war artist to satirist to portraitist to fantasist to blindness. I learned a lot from it, and came to understand this strange and difficult man a little better. Read More »


A few words about upcoming performances, theatrical and literary.

From August 22nd, the ever-enterprising Finborough Theatre will be presenting John Galsworthy’s Windows.

This is a 1922 comedy about post-war Britain and its confusions, and hasn’t been professionally produced for 85 years, apparently. I shall be in London in August and have bought my ticket for the show.  Look out for a review on this site in due course. Read More »

The Fusiliers Museum, Bury


I’d wanted to visit the Fusiliers Museum at Bury before I gave my Ted Hughes paper last month. This is because Ted’s father had served with the 1st/5th Lancashire Fusiliers at Gallipoli, and later in France. The regiment was based in Bury, which was William Hughes’s home town.

I didn’t manage it then, but finally got to Bury yesterday. the museum is well worth seeing, with a good display about Gallipoli, including a short film and the painting above. The original is very large, and shows the landing of the 1st Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers landing at Gallipoli on 25th April, 1915. It is by Charles Dixon (1872-1934), a well-known painter of maritime subjects, here lending his talents to the war effort. He was not at Gallipoli, so far as I can make out, but would have based his picture on first-hand accounts, presumably.

Click the image above to see a larger version.

A good book on the subject of the lancashire Fusiliers and their experiences at Gallipoli is Geoffrey Moorhouse, Hell’s Foundations: A Town, its Myths and Gallipoli (1992)

Following Sassoon in France

Last week’s trip to France with Battle Honours Tours exceeded my expectations.
The tour’s title was Sassoon on the Western Front, and our itinerary followed his military progress, around the places in France where he served and fought. We had two guides. Rory Stephens took us through the military background with commendably revisionist enthusiasm and panache, and Viv Whelpton dealt admirably with Sassoon and the literary side. She gave us each a thick booklet of well-chosen readings (extracts from poems, diaries and novels) and at appropriate places we’d take turns to read Sassoon’s accounts of what he was doing and thinking at various junctures. Many of the members of the tour had their own expertise and contributed knowledge and insights. Read More »

To the Front, with Sassoon


Marion and I are off to London today, and tomorrow will be heading to Ebbsfleet, to join a tour organised by Battle Honours, in conjunction with the Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship: Siegfried Sassoon on the Western Front.

We’ll be following the poet’s wartime career, beginning in Festubert, where he met Robert Graves (‘a young poet, captain in the Third Battalion, and very much disliked’, he wrote in his diary); then on to the Somme and Arras.

I’ve been to the Salient a couple of times, but have never visited the Somme, so am greatly looking forward to it.  I’ll take my camera, and will report here when we return.

Yesterday was a good day. My contributor’s copy of The Edinburgh Companion to the First World War and the Arts arrived. I’ve just been reading a very good chapter by Toby Haggith, on the making and reception of the Battle of the Somme film. I’ve also enjoyed Peter Grant’s piece on the ways that the Great War has been treated in popular music over the last half-century. And Kate Macdonald’s chapter on the wartime periodical press is something I wish I’d had to guide me when I started researching; truly useful.  And I’ve re-read my own chapter on ‘British Soldiers’ Songs’. Bloody good, if you ask me.




‘Dayspring Mishandled’ in the Strand Magazine

slimy barks

I’ve just got hold of the Strand magazine for July, 1928 (Thank you, Cotswold Internet Books). As well as Kipling’s ‘Dayspring Mishandled’, it contains P.G.Wodehouse’s ‘The Passing of Ambrose’ (later turned into a Mulliner story, and a serial episode of Sapper’s The Female of the Species. The Strand‘s readers got value for their shilling that month.

‘Dayspring Mishandled’ in this early printing has quite a few differences from the version collected in Limits and Renewals (1932).
Read More »

More on Kipling and Syphilis

Some more thoughts on this subject, partly as a response to Roger’s comment on my ‘Kipling and Syphilis’ post of a fortnight ago.

How likely is it that syphilis is a theme of ‘Dayspring Mishandled’?

It can at least be shown that venereal disease was a concern of Kipling’s throughout his career. As I suggested before, in a very late work, Something of Myself , Kipling refers back to his early days as a reporter, and his horror at seeing men suffer, and his anger that

‘official virtue cost our Army in India nine thousand expensive white men a year always laid up from venereal disease.’

It was after he left India that he wrote a story (set on the sub-continent) that treats the disease with a frankness very uncommon for its period.
‘Love o’ Women’ is the last of the ‘Soldiers Three’ stories. Read More »