Siegfried Sassoon

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Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, CBE, MC (8 September 1886 – 1 September 1967) was an English poet, author and soldier. He became known as one of the leading poets of the First World War. His poetry both described the horrors of the trenches, and satirised the patriotic pretensions of those who, in Sassoon's view, were responsible for the pointless deaths of millions.[1] He later won acclaim for his prose work, notably his three-volume fictionalised autobiography, collectively known as the "Sherston Trilogy".


Early life and education

Siegfried Sassoon was born at a house named "Weirleigh" in Matfield, Kent,[2] to a Jewish father and an Anglo-Catholic mother. His father, Alfred Ezra Sassoon (1861–1895), (son of Sassoon David Sassoon), came from the wealthy Indian Baghdadi Jewish Sassoon merchant family, but was disinherited for marrying outside the faith. His mother, Theresa, belonged to the Thornycroft family, sculptors responsible for many of the best-known statues in London—her brother was Sir Hamo Thornycroft. There was no German ancestry in Sassoon's family; he owed his unusual first name to his mother's predilection for the operas of Wagner. His middle name was taken from the surname of a clergyman with whom she was friendly.

He grew up in the neo-gothic mansion "Weirleigh". He was the second of three sons, the others being Michael and Hamo (named after his uncle). When Sassoon was four years old his parents separated. During his father's weekly visits to the boys, Theresa, still deeply upset by the situation, would lock herself in the drawing room.

In 1895 Alfred Sassoon died of tuberculosis, leaving Sassoon devastated.

Sassoon was educated at The New Beacon Preparatory School, Sevenoaks, Kent; at Marlborough College, Marlborough, Wiltshire (where he was a member of Cotton House), and at Clare College, Cambridge, (of which he was made an honorary fellow in 1953) where he studied both law and history from 1905 to 1907. However, he dropped out of university without a degree and spent the next few years hunting, playing cricket and privately publishing a few volumes of not very highly acclaimed poetry. His income was just enough to prevent his having to seek work, but not enough to live extravagantly. His first real success was The Daffodil Murderer, a parody of The Everlasting Mercy by John Masefield, published in 1913 under the pseudonym of "Saul Kain". Robert Graves, in his autobiography, describes this as a "parody of Masefield which, midway through, had forgotten to be a parody and turned into rather good Masefield."

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