Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: British, Irish, & Commonwealth Poets)
Siegfried Lorraine Sassoon was born in the Kentish weald in 1886, the second of three sons of Alfred Ezra Sassoon and Theresa Georgina Thornycroft. His father was descended from a long line of wealthy Jewish merchants and bankers who, after wandering through Spain, Persia, and India, had come to settle in England. The family was proud of its orthodoxy, and Siegfried’s father was the first to marry outside the faith. Siegfried’s mother, in contrast, was an artist, the close relative of three well-known sculptors, and a member of the landed gentry. The marriage was a failure, and Alfred Sassoon left when Siegfried was five, leaving the younger Sassoon to be reared by his mother as an Anglican.
Siegfried had no formal schooling as a child, though from the ages of nine to fourteen he learned from private tutors and a German governess. In 1902, he attended Marlborough, and in 1905, he entered Clare College, Cambridge. Sassoon’s temperament was not disciplined enough for scholarly pursuits; he began by reading law, switched to history, and ultimately left Cambridge without a degree. He returned to Kent, where, on an inherited income of five hundred pounds a year, he was able to devote his energies to foxhunting, racing, and writing poetry. Sassoon loved the pastoral beauty of the Kentish downs and attempted to portray it in a number of dreamy, sentimental lyrics. Between the ages of nineteen and twenty-six, Sassoon had nine volumes of poetry privately...
(The entire section is 1518 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Much of the literary reputation of Siegfried Lorraine Sassoon (suh-SEWN) rests on his vigorous war poems, written during his long stint at the front during World War I. Like those of Wilfred Owen, whom Sassoon influenced and encouraged, his poems are a bitter testament to the ingloriousness of warfare. Sassoon, then an officer in the British Army, developed an aversion to and horror toward war and became a pacifist; for a time he refused to undertake further military duty, a situation he presents in such poems as “The Rear Guard” and “Counter-Attack.” To later generations he became better known for the autobiographical novels in which he relates what he has called his “mental history,” the chronicle of his youth and of the spiritual crisis resulting from his experiences on the battlefield. Of these works the three earliest, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, and Sherston’s Progress mask their author with the alias “George Sherston.” Fictional in form, they nevertheless present a reflective survey of personal events recorded in Sassoon’s voluminous diaries. His more formal autobiographies, The Old Century and Seven More Years, The Weald of Youth, and Siegfried’s Journey 1916-1920, reexamine much of the same ground from a later, more mature point of view. Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, which was awarded both the Hawthornden Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize...
(The entire section is 476 words.)