Home » Victorian Authors List » “Siegfried Sassoon”: Biography

“Siegfried Sassoon”: Biography

Siegfried Sassoon makes his mark in the field of poetry through works that display the horrors and brutality of warfare, expressing anger and compassion through these poems about World War I. This accounted for his acclaim, both public and critical. Sassoon satirized through his writings those very people who were in blind support of the war. Soon his novels and political commentary became well known and renowned and in the year of 1957, he received the Queen’s Medal for Poetry.

Early Life

Sassoon was born of a Jewish family of wealth, who were also called the “Rothschilds of the East”. This was because they had earned their fortune in India.

Up until the World War I period, Siegfried Sassoon spent his early life in the leisurely fashion of a refined gentleman. He was educated in Kent and Cambridge, managing to attain a degree. There, he pursued with all his heart two of his major fascinations, one of which was poetry. Sassoon listed himself in the first World War and was injured severely while his tenure as an officer in France.

Having won the Military Cross, an honour bestowed upon him yet he opted to serve in the army. Owing to shell shock, he was totally opinionated against war, and he was also confined in a sanatorium for some time. He is said to have met Owens there, influencing him as a poet. Owen was killed at the front but his works were published by Sassoon.

Literary Career And Contribution

Sassoon made his name renowned in the literary field after his poems which were largely a retelling of his experiences in World War I and was initially published in three volumes: Picture-Show (Heinemann, 1919), Counter-Attack and Other Poems (Heinemann, 1918), and The Old Huntsman (Heinemann, 1917).

His early work, which was printed between 1906 and 1916 privately, has been considered inconsequential and quite frankly similar, totally directed by John Masefield. The Daffodil Murderer is a parody of his work.

In his prose autobiography, Siegfried’s Journey written between1916–1920, he was almost grappling with words. There he makes it known that his own distressing memories on the battlefield from the First World War still held an awful picture in his mind in spite of his deep repulsion towards war.

In 1919, Sassoon was appointed as literary editor of the Daily Herald. E. M. Forster and Charlotte Mew were among those renowned people, who were employed during Sassoon’s serving period at the Herald.

Sassoon was nostalgic in his field of work and like any nostalgia, Sassoon looked up to the past to envision a better present. Sassoon’s nostalgia is almost a sort of looking glass held up to Victorian aesthetic values or the Georgian embrace of a distinct way of leading English rural life as well as the modernist tradition he abhorred in which he was entrapped.

He thought it best to distance himself from writers including Lawrence, Joyce, Proust and Woolf.  On some level, he dismissed completely what he thought to be the arrogant display of intellectual wits of modernists like T.S Eliot, Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis, and others.

These were also the people who ignored or criticized his poetry and prose of the 1930s as “backward-looking”. On another level, he also sought their approbation and remained conflicted under the impression that he was thought of as yesterday’s man.


His approach that is said to be extensively selective to the past, and has been much debated and in fact un-liked by many critics. Too many of Sassoon’s writings that come after the First World War period, with the exception of the Memoirs of George Sherston, have been held as too much nostalgic and narcissistic or self-indulgent. They form no historical relevance to a world which is on the brink of an international crisis.

Siegfried Sassoon: List Of Works

It was his antiwar poetry, such as The Old Huntsman (1917) and Counterattack (1918), and his public affirmation of pacifism, that made him widely known.

Some of his works in the autobiographical mode include The Memoirs of George Sherston, 3 vol. (1928–36), and Siegfried’s Journey, 3 vol. (1945), and some more of his poems were published together as Collected Poems (1947) and The Path to Peace (1960). His later poetry was increasingly devotional.

Sassoon is primarily known for his poems inspired by his experiences in World War I, which were originally published in three volumes: Picture-Show (Heinemann, 1919), Counter-Attack and Other Poems (Heinemann, 1918), and The Old Huntsman (Heinemann, 1917).


What is Siegfried Sassoon best known for?

Sassoon is known for antiwar poetry and for his fictionalized autobiographies. This accounted for his public and critical acclaim. Sassoon wrote of and contemptuously satirized generals, politicians, and churchmen for their incompetence and blind support of the war. He was also well known as a novelist and famous for his opinion on matters of political importance.

Why was Siegfried Sassoon called Mad Jack?

He was given the nickname ‘Mad Jack’ for his exploits which were near-suicidal in nature. His friends bestowed the nickname upon him. He went to France impressing many with his bravery on the front line.

Was Siegfried Sassoon religious?

In 1957, Sassoon is said to have converted to Catholicism, though for some time before his conversion, his spiritual concerns had been the predominant subject of his writing.