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This review is taken from PN Review 25, Volume 8 Number 5, May - June 1982.

DAY BY DAY Siegfried Sassoon, Diaries 1920-1922, edited by Rupert Hart-Davis (Faber) £9.95

The poetry of Siegfried Sassoon needs to be sorted out and reassessed. His prose autobiographies have sorted themselves out; I doubt if they have ever all been out of print at one time. But their readership has been extremely mixed. He used to be and probably still is greatly valued by lovers of fox-hunting and as time has gone on by an increasing class of readers nostalgic for pleasures of the English countryside before the 1914 war. As a boy in the 1940s, in a leafy suburb just too quiet to have traffic lights, but much too urban for fox-hunting, I found his prose works mysteriously thrilling, and the little I knew of his poetry most moving. When I grew up and met the London literary world, it was shocking to discover how little he was valued there. The 1930s poets had found him personally unsympathetic, and as a poet they preferred Wilfred Owen. I was told Sassoon had described Owen as 'an embarrassing chap with a Manchester accent'. The 1914 war, through my father's eyes and the rekindling of wartime feelings in the 1940s, moved people like me more purely and deeply, I believe, than it moved the class-conscious 1930s. Sassoon was unattractive to them, and dried up. What had gone wrong?

It has something to do with his homosexuality. That is one strand in these fascinating and extremely honest diaries. When I first heard the story from another writer some twenty years ago, that was ...


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