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This report is taken from PN Review 91, Volume 19 Number 5, May - June 1993.

Robert Nicholas in the public record office A.D. Harvey
In 1915 twenty-one year old Robert Nichols abandoned his studies at Trinity College Oxford and took a commission in the Royal Field Artillery. After three weeks in France (just behind rather than actually in the trenches) he was sent home with some sort of nervous disorder, and was subsequently discharged from the Army. Nevertheless he qualified as having seen active service, and he soon established himself as one of the leading soldier poets of his generation. E.B. Osborn's anthology The Muse in Arms (1917) featured more poems by Nichols than by any other writer, and his collection Ardours and Endurances was rapturously (and lengthily) reviewed in The Times Literary Supplement (12 July 1917, p. 330 a-c). Ie became a friend and correspondent of Robert Graves who later, in Good-bye To All That, claimed that Nichols 'started a legend of Siegfried [Sassoon], himself and me as the new Three Musketeers'. It was Nichols whom Graves had in mind when he wrote, in On English Poetry (1922), of 'poets with floppy hats, long hair, extravagant clothes and inverted tastes'.

No biography of Nichols has yet appeared but - largely because he spent nearly the whole of the war away from the firing line - he is probably the First-World-War poet who is best-documented in official sources.

Sometime towards the end of 1917 Nichols was commissioned by Colonel Buchan, the Director of Information (aka John Buchan the novelist) to write a short book about the frontline work of the Royal ...


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