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Manuscripts contains:
<-- See earlier
MS Add.9842 Literary papers and correspondence of John Mole
MS Add.9843 The Papers of Michael Baxandall
MS Add.9845 Papers of Hermann Braunholtz
MS Add.9846 The Cambridge Review: editorial correspondence
MS Add.9851 Papers relating to Daedalus Press poemcards
MS Add.9852 Papers of Siegfried Sassoon
MS Add.9853 Curwen Press Papers
MS Add.9855 George Hyde Wollaston: Cambridge undergraduate journal
MS Add.9856 Papers of Douglas Grant, chiefly consisting of letters to him from Edmund Blunden
MS Add.9859 Edmund Blunden: Letters to Phyllis Burley
MS Add.9860 Sir William Robinson: Letters to Stephen Herbert Gatty
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Papers of Siegfried Sassoon

Title Papers of Siegfried Sassoon
Reference GBR/0012/MS Add.9852
Creator Sassoon, Siegfried Loraine (1886-1967)
Covering Dates 1897–2000
Repository Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives
Content and context

Poet and writer Siegfried Loraine Sassoon was born on 8 September 1886 at Weirleigh, near Matfield in Kent. His mother, Georgiana Theresa Thornycroft, was from a prominent family of sculptors and artists, while his father, Alfred Ezra Sassoon, came from a wealthy Jewish merchant family. His father left home when he was seven and died soon after, so Siegfried and his brothers, Michael and Hamo, were raised solely by their mother.

Educated at Marlborough College (1902-4), Sassoon read law at Clare College, Cambridge (1905-6) but left before taking a degree, choosing instead to live the life of a country gentleman, fox-hunting, cricketing, playing golf, and reading and writing poetry. His early poems were printed privately and distributed chiefly among family and friends. It was the onset of the Great War that propelled Sassoon from a life of relative idleness and luxury into his role as soldier-poet and vitriolic critic of the War.

In 1914, Sassoon enlisted as a trooper in the Sussex Yeomanry. The following year, he was commissioned in the Royal Welch Fusiliers and sent to France, where his bravery earned him the nickname 'Mad Jack'. In June 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in action. In April 1917, however, he was wounded in the shoulder, and while recuperating in England wrote his 'Soldier's Declaration', a statement in protest against the continuation of the War, calling for a negotiated peace.

Sensitive to the needless suffering of his men, affected by the deaths of close friend, David Thomas, and of his younger brother Hamo (killed at Gallipoli in November 1915), and enraged with a sense that the conflict was being needlessly prolonged by those who had the power to end it, Sassoon had become increasingly disillusioned with the politics of the War.

His protest statement was read out in the House of Commons and printed in 'The Times' in July 1917. Sassoon expected a court-martial; instead, due partly to the intervention of his friend Robert Graves, he was declared to be suffering from 'shellshock' and sent to Craiglockhart Military Hospital in Edinburgh.

There he met the poet Wilfred Owen and became his friend and mentor. He also formed a friendship with psychologist and anthropologist William H. R. Rivers, who eventually helped persuade Sassoon to return to the front. In February 1918 he was posted to Palestine, but was sent back to France in May where he received a head wound which ended his direct involvement in the War.

During his time at the front, Sassoon wrote many of the war poems which were to establish his reputation as a poet. Caustic, bitter, moving and compassionate, his poems reflected the savage reality of war. These were published in a series of volumes entitled 'The Old Huntsman and Other Poems' (1917), 'Counter-Attack and Other Poems' (1918), 'Picture Show' (1919), and 'War Poems' (1919).

Throughout his life Sassoon continued to write and publish poetry. He also kept copious diaries, many of which later formed the basis of his prose work: the Sherston novels, a thinly veiled autobiographical trilogy based around the fictitious character George Sherston, beginning with 'Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man' (1928), and a second trilogy of true autobiography, beginning with 'The Old Century and Seven More Years' (1938). In 1948 he also published 'Meredith', his biography of the novelist and poet George Meredith. He remains best known, however, as a war poet.

Sassoon married Hester Gatty in 1933 and purchased Heytesbury House in Wiltshire. His marriage followed a series of homosexual relationships, most notably with artist Gabriel Atkin and socialite Stephen Tennant. His only son George was born in 1936, and his marriage dissolved a few years later. In 1957 Sassoon converted to Catholicism. He died in 1967 at the age of eighty.

In his lifetime Sassoon was honoured with a number of awards. In 1928 he received the Hawthornden Prize and the James Tait Black Prize for his book 'Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man'. In 1951 he was appointed CBE, while in 1957 he was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry. He received honorary degrees from the Universities of Liverpool (1931) and Oxford (1965), and was made an honorary fellow of Clare College, Cambridge in 1953. He is among sixteen Great War Poets commemorated in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey.

This is an interim description: a cataloguing project is in progress and the collection is largely closed. Descriptions of material classified as /1-9, /11 and /12 are now available. Please find below descriptions of the scope and content of the papers of Siegfried Sassoon which were purchased from the estate of his son George Sassoon in December 2009. Further descriptions are be written over the coming months and will be made accessible from this webpage as they are completed.

Purchased, 2009.

Access and Use

Please cite as Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, Papers of Siegfried Sassoon, MS Add.9852

Further information

An outline of a number of other collections of Sassoon material held by the Cambridge University Library Department of Manuscripts is to be found online at: http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/deptserv/manuscripts/sassoon.html. A few detailed catalogues of these collections may be accessed at the Archives Hub website: http://archiveshub.ac.uk/.

MS Add. 9877, a collection of papers (including Sassoon family correspondence) accumulated by Max Egremont, was donated to the Library by him on 18 November 2010.

This finding aid was prepared by Zoe A.Rees in March 2011 and Dr Emma Saunders in December 2013. Former references 'Sotheby's order 96-100' refer to five printed items which will be transferred to the Cambridge University Library Rare Books Department on completion of the project.

Index Terms
Sassoon, Siegfried Loraine (1886-1967) poet and author
Manuscripts/MS Add.9852 contains:
1 Journals.
46 volumes & 119 enclosures; paper.
2 Transcripts of journals.
2 volumes & 5 enclosures.
3 Sporting notebooks.
2 volumes, 1 card & 5 enclosures; paper & 2 photographs.
4 Commonplace books.
2 volumes.
5 Legal and accounts.
3 folders.
6 Poetry notebooks.
9 volumes & 30 enclosures.
7 Material relating to prose works.
8 volumes & 14 folders.
8 Critical writings.
6 folders.
9 Correspondence.
10 folders; paper.
10 Photographs.
11 Printed and typed matter.
32 folders.
12 Papers of other individuals.
46 folders & 3 envelopes.

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