Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man

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Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man is a novel by Siegfried Sassoon, first published in 1928 by Faber and Faber. It won both the Hawthornden Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, being immediately recognised as a classic of English literature. In the years since its first appearance, it has regularly been a set text for British schoolchildren[1].

Background

The remarkable thing about the book's success is that, prior to its publication, Sassoon's reputation rested entirely on his poetry, mostly written during and about World War I. Only ten years after the war ended, after some experience of journalism, did he feel ready to branch out into prose. So uncertain was he of the wisdom of this move that he elected to publish MFHM anonymously. It is in effect the autobiography of his early years, but is presented in the form of a novel, with false names being given to the central characters, including Sassoon himself, who appears as "George Sherston", and his mother ("Aunt Evelyn").

Plot

The title is somewhat misleading, as the book is mainly concerned with a series of landmark events in Sassoon's childhood and youth (such as his first riding lesson and a particularly important cricket match), and his encounters with various comic characters; "The Flower-Show Match" was later published separately by Faber as a self-contained story[2]. The book as a whole is a frequently humorous work, in which fox-hunting, which had been one of Sassoon's major interests, comes to represent the young man's innocent frame of mind in the years before war broke out. The book ends with his enlistment in a local regiment. The story is continued in two sequels: Memoirs of an Infantry Officer and Sherston's Progress.

The story is a series of episodes in the youth of "George Sherston", ranging from his first attempts to learn to ride to his experiences in winning point-to-point races. A major incident in the narrative is "The Flower Show Match", which has sometimes been published separately as a short story. This is an account of an annual village cricket match - an important fixture for those involved - in which young Sherston plays a significant part.

References

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