Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Manning, born in Sydney, Australia, in 1882, had settled in London and published books of poems and essays before World War I broke out in 1914. He promptly enlisted in the British army and survived the kind of trench warfare depicted in his novel, the work for which he is remembered. He died in London in 1935. Eleven years later, his authorship of Her Privates, We was made public.

Her Privates, We was one of the wave of novels about World War I that appeared about ten years after it ended. It bore no author’s name, only the serial number of a private in the British army, and its unexpurgated first edition as The Middle Parts of Fortune: Somme and Ancre, 1916 was privately printed in small numbers, facts which helped to make it something of an underground classic. It soon drew favorable comments from writers of such diverse tastes as Arnold Bennett and Ezra Pound. Ernest Hemingway called it “the finest and noblest book of men in war that I have ever read. I read it over once a year to remember how things really were.” T. E. Lawrence declared, “No praise could be too sheer for this book.... Its virtues will be recognized more and more as time goes on.”