In 1993 I completed my PhD research on the writings of Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967), which was later published in an British and American trade edition: Siegfried Sassoon: Scorched Glory (Macmillan/St Martin’s Press, 1997). In true Sassoon-fashion I had ‘stumbled’ (‘stumbling’ and ‘blundering’ are recurring words in Sassoon’s war writings) across his Sherston-trilogy in my first year at Amsterdam University. It led me to his war poetry, to other war poets, and to that whole historical & socio-cultural phenomenon: the Great War and its impact on British society.
It made me wonder what had happened in my own native country, the Netherlands, at the time. I knew it had remained neutral, but at school we had never been told anything about the period, and it seemed to me that in a country that was so near the battlefields of the Western Front and so close to two of the main warring nations, Britain and Germany, the war could hardly have passed unnoticed.
Siegfried Sassoon: Scorched Glory is the first survey of the poet's published work since his death and the first to draw on the edited diaries and letters. We learn how Sassoon's family background and Jewish inheritance, his troubled sexuality, his experience of war - in particular his public opposition to it - his relationship to the Georgian poets and other writers, and his eventual withdrawal to country life shaped his creativity. Sassoon's status as a war poet has overshadowed his wider achievements and the complex personality behind them. This critical evaluation of Sassoon's work is long overdue and will provide a valuable starting-point for future reappraisals of a writer for whom life and art were fused.