Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Siegfried Sassoon (suh-SEWN) is nearly as well known for his prose works as for his poetry. From 1926 to 1945, he spent most of his time working on the two trilogies that form the bulk of his work in prose. The first of these was the three-volume fictionalized autobiography published in 1937 as The Memoirs of George Sherston. It begins in Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man (1928), by recounting the life of a well-to-do young country squire in Georgian England up to his first experiences as an officer in World War I. The second volume, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (1930), and the third, Sherston’s Progress (1936), describe the young man’s war experiences. In the later trilogy, Sassoon discarded the thinly disguised fiction of the Sherston novels and wrote direct autobiography, with a nostalgic look back at his pleasant pastoral life in prewar England in The Old Century and Seven More Years (1938) and The Weald of Youth (1942). In Siegfried’s Journey, 1916-1920 (1945), Sassoon looks again at his own experiences during and immediately following the war. These autobiographical works are invaluable to the student of Sassoon’s poetry because of the context they provide, particularly for the war poems.

Two other significant prose works should be mentioned. The first is Sassoon’s Lecture on Poetry, delivered at the University of Bristol on March 16, 1939, in which Sassoon delineated what he considered to be the elements of good poetry. The second work is Sassoon’s critical biography of the poet George Meredith, titled simply Meredith (1948), which also suggests some of Sassoon’s views on poetry.