to destruction. It was also an act of feminism. In her later memoir,
Testament of Experience, Brittain described how she had read the
war memoirs of Robert Graves, Richard Aldington, Erich Maria
Remarque, Ernest Hemingway, Edmund Blunden, and SiegfriedSassoon, and wondered: ‘Why should these young men have the war
to themselves?’.41 Women, too, had entered war with high ideals, suffered disillusionment, and then somehow found the courage to go on.
Although Testament of Youth was written primarily in memory of the
men Brittain had lost – her fiancé
become immune to the beauty of a sunset or early morning mists. Only occasionally did he find that these sights brought back a ‘grubbing in one’s wretched
soul’. Most of the time he felt isolated and devoid of feelings; now, his ‘most
real life’ was with his own inner thoughts, and this encouraged him to the
resolution (as it had SiegfriedSassoon) that, ‘one must keep an inner life going’,
if one wished to preserve anything of an individual’s former independence of
thought if not of action. His feeling of comradeship was one of the few
Magazine and a staunch supporter of McKay’s, wrote letters
to George Bernard Shaw (whom McKay was to meet shortly after his
arrival) and the publisher Grant Richards. Harris asked Richards to
introduce McKay to SiegfriedSassoon. ‘See that he gets a good
welcome[,] will you’, Harris wrote, in a tone at once beseeching
and commanding. 15 Max
Eastman and his sister Crystal Eastman, editors of the
Russell, Edward Carpenter, Israel Zangwill, Patrick Geddes, Henri Barbusse
and SiegfriedSassoon. This ‘newer’ civilisation would discard living soldiers as
well as toy ones and would enable man to understand his adversary instead of
trying to destroy him, while common humanity would be expressed by a shared
appreciation of beauty and the processes of creation rather than destruction, as
Russell had also hoped. Reason would triumph over material force: principle
over policy and love over hate.
It had been largely the practicalities of rehousing the dispossessed that had
’s End (1929), SiegfriedSassoon, The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston (1937), Robert Graves,
Goodbye to All That (1929), Philip Noel-Baker, Hawkers of Death (1934),
C. S. Forester, The General (1936).
14 Harold Nicolson, Diaries and Letters 1939–45 (Collins,1967), p. 52.
15 Hugh Dalton, The Fateful Years (Frederick Muller, 1957), p. 200.
16 See J. Bardon, A History of Ulster (The Blackstaff Press, 1992), pp. 552–5.
17 O’Brien, Civil Defence, pp. 95–6.
18 Hansard, 15 November 1937, vol. 329, col. 42.
19 Report of the Committee on Evacuation, Cmd. 5837, p. 3.
critics who viewed
a war novel as naturally inferior to a ‘truthful’ memoir: ‘We anxiously assure
one another that the George Sherston of one book is Mr. SiegfriedSassoon’57
(alluding to Sassoon’s fictional counterpart). The waters of analysis were muddied further by certain memoirs/novels in which an almost deliberately thin line
was placed between fact and fiction, as in the accounts of Helen Zenna Smith/
Evadne Price, Mary Borden and others. In addition, it was rare indeed to find a
woman’s account, fictional or otherwise, of events surrounding individual humanistic