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Open Access (free)
Bloomsbury attitudes to the Great War
Author: Jonathan Atkin

The Great War still haunts us. This book draws together examples of the ‘aesthetic pacifism’ practised during the Great War by such celebrated individuals as Virginia Woolf, Siegfried Sassoon and Bertrand Russell. It also tells the stories of those less well known who shared the attitudes of the Bloomsbury Group when it came to facing the first ‘total war’. The five-year research for this study gathered evidence from all the major archives in Great Britain and abroad in order to paint a complete picture of this unique form of anti-war expression. The narrative begins with the Great War's effect on philosopher-pacifist Bertrand Russell and Cambridge University.

Open Access (free)
Jonathan Atkin

, the experience of being within the war machine acted both as a compass toward and a justification of his later anti-war stance. Two further examples of this process concerned possibly the most celebrated poets of the war – Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Sassoon has much in Writers in uniform 111 common with Plowman: both were rated good officers, both possessed an acute sympathy towards their men and both resigned their commissions as a protest against the war. In December 1915 the country-loving Sassoon, newly arrived in France as an officer with the 1st

in A war of individuals
Open Access (free)
Jonathan Atkin

Introduction The Great War still haunts us. During the first few weeks of 1998, various British national broadsheets carried articles on recently released War Office papers dating back over eighty years and relating to the case of the celebrated First World War poet, Siegfried Sassoon. Although at times a fearless and sometimes reckless warrior, known to the men who served under him as ‘Mad Jack’, Sassoon had also written powerful anti-war poetry and, though decorated for his bravery on the Western Front, had thrown his Military Cross into the river Mersey

in A war of individuals
Open Access (free)
Jonathan Atkin

war to be partly due to misdirected destructive energies; forces that could be channelled during times of peace into creative efforts. In a letter to Siegfried Sassoon written as the conflict neared its end, Forster confirmed that ‘all vigour these days is misdirected’ and that the human race needed time and the opportunity to re-align itself.1 What of further evidence of similarities of response amongst the wider literary intelligentsia who, though they did not take part in the actual fighting (see Chapter 5), could, as with Bloomsbury and Russell, regard the

in A war of individuals
Open Access (free)
Jonathan Atkin

mental illness, ‘I should have joined up, because, though I hated the war, I felt and still feel an irresistible desire to experience everything’.62 As with others, Garnett’s experience turned his thoughts against war. He had observed the displaced and bitter people of France and how the country itself was being ‘bled white’. As discussed in Chapter 4 in the case of Siegfried Sassoon, Garnett, through his experience in France, came to see that Government and military policies were misplaced and resulted only in the suffering of innocents, which made him full of

in A war of individuals
Open Access (free)
Christine E. Hallett

end of the 1920s, very few were widely available.2 The publication of soldiers’ memoirs followed a very different pattern. Very few had been produced during the war itself,3 but the late 1920s and early 1930s saw an outpouring of powerful and moving memoirs, which were produced in large numbers and were widely read. Among them were Edmund Blunden’s Undertones of War, Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, and Robert Graves’s Goodbye to All That.4 Soon after the publication of the earliest soldier

in Nurse Writers of the Great War
Jonathan Atkin

those who produce literature’. Though horrific, the war in Galsworthy’s opinion had to be endured in order that artists and writers could attempt to preserve, ‘that humane freedom which is the life-blood of any world where the creative imagination … can flourish’. Galsworthy thought that for some young artists, ‘innocent hitherto of creative powers’, the experience of the war could possibly be a ‘baptism into art’, and hence creativity could be born of the conflict in some quarters – as discussed in Chapter 5 in the cases of Siegfried Sassoon and, possibly to a

in A war of individuals
Open Access (free)
Sara Haslam

relationship with life-threatening behaviour: if one looks and sees oneself, one may not be able to fight, one may go mad, or die. (Siegfried Sassoon associates his mental breakdown with an ability to see with the near-focused eyes of his troops, but not with the abstract vision of his employers.46) Many soldiers seem to have maintained a splintered perception of reality, the fragmenting pendulum of which swung between the carapace suggested by Keegan and the real terror of the apprehension of one’s own face in war. Each new sight increased its parabola. When Bourne steps

in Fragmenting modernism
Christine E. Hallett

’s Progress.1 The romantic, narrative trope involved the testing of a (male) hero, through the ‘ordeal’ of his experience. If he could withstand this test, he would be transformed through ‘apotheosis’ – a process that mirrored religious ideas of transcendence. The hero was, therefore, not just courageous, but also saintly: morally and spiritually pure. For the young men of the war generation, combat was their ordeal; surviving it with ‘honour’ would result in self-transformation. 211 Volunteer girls Such ‘myths’ were exploded, after the war, by writers such as Siegfried

in Nurse Writers of the Great War
Claude McKay’s experience and analysis of Britain
Winston James

’s 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 Siegfried Sassoon. ‘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

in West Indian intellectuals in Britain