Woolf in the World: A Pen and a Press of Her Own

Julian Bell and Siegfried Sassoon

We Did Not FightSiegfried Sassoon’s poem, “Asking For It,” was selected by Virginia Woolf’s nephew, Julian Bell, as the prefatory poem for this collection of eighteen autobiographical essays by conscientious objectors. Two years later, Julian was killed by shrapnel in Spain, where he was an ambulance driver in the Spanish Civil War. Virginia Woolf comforted her sister, who was overcome with grief by the loss of her first-born son. On 17 August 1937 Virginia wrote to Vanessa that Julian inspired Three Guineas: “I wrote it as an argument with him.”

We Did Not Fight: 1914-18 Experiences of War Resisters. Edited by Julian Bell. London: Cobden-Sanderson, [1935]. Presented by Elizabeth P. Richardson ’43.

Siegfried SassoonVirginia Woolf met Sassoon socially with Vita Sackville-West in the mid-1920s. According to her diary, she was also rereading his poetry in 1938. A dozen letters by Sassoon to the American poet LeRoy Smith, Jr. and his wife are owned by Smith College. Written between 1949 and 1954, the letters include printed enclosures, photographs, and holograph poems, such as “World Without End.” In the letters shown here, Sassoon writes that few American poets get a showing in England. “Even Frost has been, so far, appreciated only by the fit & few.” In 1950 he writes: “ I had a letter from Hodgson recently.” He is much obsessed “by the atomic bomb horror—But one can do no good by thinking about it—It just creates an iron curtain against the future.” Sassoon ends by saying: “I continue to believe in life ... all we can do is to go on steadfastly and trust in the gift of revelation which comes to some of us.”

George Sassoon. Siegfried Sassoon: photograph, April 1951.

Sassoon letters to LeRoy Smith Sassoon letters to LeRoy Smith Sassoon letters to LeRoy Smith Sassoon letters to LeRoy Smith
Siegfried Sassoon. Letters to LeRoy Smith, Jr., 1949-1951. Purchased.

Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College

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