Critical Evaluation

(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

MEMOIRS OF A FOX-HUNTING MAN is the scarcely concealed autobiography of the author, Siegfried Sassoon. The tone of the book is nostalgic. The passages concerning cricket and the more technical passages about fox hunting are somewhat tedious; for the most part, however, this sensitive record of a young man’s quiet, well-ordered life in prewar England is interesting and illuminating. The class distinctions may be difficult for an American reader to understand, but Sassoon indicates that later in life he came to be more liberal in his feeling about people of lower social ranks.

The novel is a detailed picture of a faraway place and time, of a leisurely and safe world in which neighborhood cricket matches and fox-hunting afternoons provide the only excitement. Two world wars have since put an end to the trivial way of life described so lovingly by the author, but perhaps the class structure (he seems to imply) on which that world so precariously balanced was bound to perish. Reading Sassoon’s meticulous descriptions gives the reader somewhat the sensation of peering into an old stereopticon at a frozen and dusty scene from long ago. George Sherston’s values are certain but are rooted in a previous century. Neither Sherston nor any of the other characters develop or grow; like stuffed animals in a museum, they simply continue being what they are, propped up in front of their occasionally changing backgrounds.

The descriptions,...

(The entire section is 421 words.)