Sassoon’s Poetry Please

By , May 22, 2010 3:43 pm

David Bamber (left) and Roger McGough during the recording of 'Poetry Please' in the University Library.

A team from BBC Radio 4’s ‘Poetry Please’ visited the Library in April to record two programmes based on our holdings of manuscript poetry.

The second of these programmes, due to be broadcast on Sunday 6 June at 16.30 (and repeated at 23.30 on Saturday 12 June), focusses exclusively on the writings of Siegfried Sassoon, as represented in the Sassoon manuscript collections here.

The presenter, poet Roger McGough, was shown treasures from our recently-acquired archive of Sassoon’s papers, MS Add. 9852, together with items from Sassoon collections accessioned in earlier years. Actor David Bamber (whose television roles include Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice and Cicero in Rome) voiced a selection of Sassoon’s poems, as well as the ‘Soldier’s declaration’, Sassoon’s 1917 statement protesting against the continuation of the First World War.

The recording took place in the Library’s Sir Geoffrey Keynes Room, a fitting venue given Keynes’s close links with Sassoon and involvement with the publication of many of his small press poetry editions, from Vigils onwards.

What’s our banner?

By , May 22, 2010 3:20 pm

The illustration in the banner at the head of this blog is a detail taken from a tag given to Siegfried Sassoon for his voyage from France to Southampton aboard the Aberdonian on 1-2 August 1916.

Sassoon had gone down with enteritis on 23 July, while his battalion was temporarily withdrawn from the front line of the Battle of the Somme. His case was severe enough to have him despatched to the 1st New Zealand Stationary Hospital in Amiens (the scene of his poem ‘Died of Wounds’), and from there to the No. 2 Red Cross Hospital in Rouen.  In the Memoirs of an Infantry Officer Sassoon (in the character of his alter ego George Sherston) recorded how, at the Rouen hospital, a doctor had spotted his name in a list of officers recently awarded the Military Cross, and that this lucky chance had ‘wangled’ him his evacuation back to England — thereby saving him from the hazards of further involvement in the Somme campaign.

The tag was discovered folded in a pocket inside the cover of Sassoon’s diary for the period.