Papers of Siegfried Sassoon
Scope and Contents
The Papers of Siegfried Sassoon comprise a magnificent collection documenting his life, wartime experiences and extensive literary career. The collection was purchased by the Library in 2009 from the executors of his son, George. Arranged in twelve series, it includes Sassoon’s personal diaries, poetry notebooks, drafts of literary works and autobiographies, correspondence, press cuttings and photographs.
Sassoon was a dedicated diarist and the first series comprises 46 journals containing diary entries for 1915-1967. Significant are his First World War notebooks (MS Add.9852/1/4-13). These include sketches from France ranging from studies of towns and churches (MS Add.9852/1/5, folio 36v; MS Add.9852/1/9: 8v) to a psychological profile of 'the soul of an officer' (MS Add.9852/1/7: 3r), along with first-hand accounts of his war time experiences. Sassoon records, for example, descriptions of a raiding party of 25-27th May 1916 for which he was later awarded the Military Cross (MS Add.9852/1/6: 9r-14r), the first day of the Somme (‘a sunlit picture of hell’; MS Add.9852/1/7: 10r-12v) and the moment when he was shot by a sniper at the Battle of Arras (MS Add.9852/1/10: 6v-9r). The notebooks also contain drafts of some of his most celebrated war poems (such as an early draft of ‘Base Details MS Add.9852/1/6: 23v-24r), along with manuscript drafts and fair copies of his 'Soldier's Declaration' (MS Add.9852/1/10: 45v-46r; MS Add.9852/1/11: 21-23). Transcripts of the diaries are provided in series /2 and at MS Add.9852/12/7.
Sassoon’s personal and sporting life are represented in series /3-5, comprising sporting notebooks recording his achievements at cricket and point-to-point races, commonplace books, legal and financial papers.
Series /6-8 cover his literary works: poetry, prose, and critical writings. Series /6: Poetry comprises nine notebooks containing draft and fair copies of Sassoon’s poems from 1897 to 1957, all beautifully illustrated with watercolour images. The earliest is a book of poems written by Sassoon when aged ten and presented as a gift to his mother. Two notebooks date from the Great War period: MS Add. 9852/6/2 which contains fair copies and corrected drafts of poems dated 1916-1918, neatly transcribed by Sassoon, and MS Add. 9852/6/3 containing draft poems and diary entries dated 1917-1918. Some poems in these and other notebooks show evidence of significant revisions before their final publication. An early draft of 'The Dug-Out' in MS Add. 9852/6/2, for example, has an additional final verse, excised by Sassoon.
Series /7, Prose Works, includes notes and partial drafts of Sassoon’s autobiographical works, 'The Old Century & Seven More Years', 'The Weald of Youth' and 'Siegfried's Journey', along with brief notes on 'Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man'. Series /9, Critical Works, includes a lecture by Sassoon, notes on George Meredith and Thomas Hardy, and Sassoon’s writings on Wilfred Owen.
Sassoon was also a dedicated preserver of correspondence and included among the correspondence at series /9 (covering 1925-1967), are congratulatory letters on his engagement to Hester Gatty, for various publications, and on his conversion to Roman Catholicism. Significantly, the collection includes a letter from Robert Graves: MS Add.9852/9/8/57.
Series /10 comprises an extensive collection of family photographs and film negatives, which include both Gatty family photographs and numerous images of Sassoon from c.1930 onward (MS Add.9852/10/1-2). Noteworthy are the photograph of Sassoon’s brother Hamo Watts Sassoon dated 1914-1915 (MS Add.9852/10/1/2/1), photographs of Sassoon with Hester and baby George, a series of photographs of an elderly Sassoon in various comic poses (MS Add.9852/10/2/2/11), and a set of photographs of Sassoon with Stephen Tennant, Glen Byam Shaw, Rex Whistler and others (MS Add.9852/10/6). The series also contains a large collection of postcards of Normandy and Scotland (MS Add.9852/10/1/3).
Series /11, Printed and Typed Matter, includes an extensive collection of press cuttings kept by Sassoon, chiefly reviews of his literary works. The final series /12: Papers of Other Individuals, includes original letters written by Sassoon to Hester and Katherine Gatty, along with transcripts of his letters to Rev. Mother Margaret Mary.
- 1897-2000 (bulk:1897-1967)
Conditions Governing Access
Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (www.lib.cam.ac.uk).
0.391 cubic metre(s) (25 archive boxes (1 outsized), 5 albums of photographs) : paper, photographs, film negatives
Language of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Existence and Location of Copies
A number of items from this collection have been digitised on Cambridge Digital Library. Digitised items include Sassoon's First World War notebooks and two poetry notebooks: MS Add.9852/1/ 4-25, MS Add.9852/1/32, and MS Add.9852/6/2-3. Links are provided at item levels.
- Catalogue begun by Zoey Reece (2010-2011) and completed by Dr Emma Saunders (2012-2013 and 2021).
- Description rules
- International Standard for Archival Description - General
- Language of description
- Script of description