On display: ‘Poems by Siegfried Sassoon’

Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Sassoon

The friendship formed by the poet Siegfried Sassoon with the literary hostess Lady Ottoline Morrell was among the most formative of his life. Begun by correspondence early in 1916 while he was serving on the Western Front, the relationship introduced Sassoon to the circle of pacifist intellectuals centred on the Morrells’ home at Garsington in Oxfordshire. This environment proved instrumental in crystalizing his strongly-felt but vaguely-focussed objections to the War into his famous protest and ‘Soldier’s declaration’ in July 1917.

The friendship was cemented by an exchange of gifts. In the late summer of 1916, while recuperating in England from an illness contracted in France, Sassoon began to transcribe fair copies of his war poems into a blank notebook given to him by Ottoline Morrell. He titled this notebook ‘POEMS: by Siegfried Sassoon’. Perhaps as a gesture of gratitude, he compiled a further notebook with a similar title which he presented as a return gift to Morrell.

Both of these notebooks are now in held in Cambridge University Library. The former was acquired in 2009 after a fundraising campaign supported by the National Heritage Memorial Fund, among others, and the latter was purchased this year with the assistance of the Friends of Cambridge University Library. A new display opening in the Library’s Entrance Hall highlights the two notebooks, and shows how they relate to other treasures from the Library’s Sassoon collections.

Morrell’s first encounter with Sassoon’s poetry was reading ‘To Victory’ in a copy of The Times in January 1916; the poem was written shortly after Sassoon’s first arrival at the Front, and exhibits none of the scathing epigrammatic qualities for which his later war poetry is celebrated. The exhibition includes a cutting of ‘To Victory’ from The Times which was pinned on the front free endpaper of the notebook which Sassoon presented to Ottoline Morrell. It may well be the one which she recorded having retrieved from a discarded copy of the newspaper, and which she had in front of her as she wrote the first passage on Sassoon in her memoirs.

CUL MS Add.9852/6/2, endpapers

‘a brocade-like Italian pattern of blue and marigold entwined on a dim-gilt background’: CUL MS Add,9852/6/2

The two notebooks are on display side by side. The one presented to Sassoon by Morrell, now CUL MS Add.9852/6/2, was used by him to transcribe many of his poems written during the First World War. He described the volume in the final part of his autobiography, Siegfried’s Journey, published in 1945: ‘Beautifully bound in orange-vermillion vellum, with end papers of a brocade-like Italian pattern of blue and marigold entwined on a dim-gilt background, its hundred leaves of hand-made paper seemed almost too exquisite even for my most careful handwriting.’ The University Library acquired the notebook as part of a major accession of Sassoon manuscript materials which also included his wartime journals. It is opened to show an autograph copy of ‘To Victory’.

CUL MS Add.10193

CUL MS Add.10193. Photograph: Woolley and Wallis

The notebook Sassoon chose for his return gift, now CUL MS Add.10193, was smaller and less flamboyant in outward appearance than the one he had received from Morrell, but it was nevertheless a handsome production in its more austere fashion. A volume of 66 leaves, measuring some six and a half by five inches when closed, it has a limp, laced-case natural vellum binding with a long lacing path and alum-tawed ties. It is opened in the display to show one of six full-page pen-and-wash illustrations which Sassoon executed in blue-black ink. The second in the sequence is displayed, with a caption, ‘Silence in the summer night’, taken from a line in Sassoon’s poem ‘The Death Bed’ which immediately precedes the illustration in the volume.

Other Sassoon treasures featured in the display include two of his wartime journals, further manuscript pages found inserted in the newly-acquired notebook, and poems decorated by Sassoon with watercolour abstract and pictorial designs which resemble the last three entries which he made in the notebook presented to Morrell.

The exhibition, ‘Poems: by Siegfried Sassoon’, runs in the Entrance Hall of Cambridge University Library  until 22 December 2017 during normal Library opening hours. For further information contact John Wells (e-mail: jdw1000[at]cam.ac.uk, telephone: 01223 333055). Both of the featured notebooks, together with much other Sassoon-related materials, are available in the Sassoon Journals collection in the Cambridge Digital Library.

Posted in Exhibitions, Poetry | Tagged , | Leave a comment

GLAM meeting agenda: 6th October, Hull History Centre

Please see below for details of our next meeting:

GLAM Programme 6th October 2017

The meeting will be at Hull History Centre. Information on how to find the venue is also in the agenda document.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on GLAM meeting agenda: 6th October, Hull History Centre

‘Power – For my angel poet-friend’: The Papers of Elaine Feinstein | John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog

‘Power – For my angel poet-friend’: The Papers of Elaine Feinstein

Source: ‘Power – For my angel poet-friend’: The Papers of Elaine Feinstein | John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ‘Power – For my angel poet-friend’: The Papers of Elaine Feinstein | John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog

‘European connections in Literary collections’ GLAM Meeting, 6th October

The Next GLAM meeting will be held on 6th October at Hull History Centre, from 11:45-4:30. The theme will be ‘European connections in Literary collections’, further details to follow…

 

 
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ‘European connections in Literary collections’ GLAM Meeting, 6th October

‘After the Digital Revolution’ workshop call for papers

Are you interested in born-digital records in literary and publishers’ archives? If so, send Dr Lise Jaillant a proposal for the first workshop of “After the Digital Revolution,” funded by a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award.

The workshop will be at the John Rylands Library, Manchester (14-15 Sept. 2017).

Workshop Highlights:
• Internationally-recognised experts, including David McKnight (Director of Special Collections, University of Pennsylvania)
• Skype talk by Matthew Kirschenbaum (University of Maryland)
• Networking opportunities, including reception in the sumptuous John Rylands Library

For more information, see: http://www.afterthedigitalrevolution.com/

Contact: l.jaillant@gmail.com

Dr Lise Jaillant | Lecturer (Assistant Professor)
School of the Arts, English and Drama | Loughborough University, UK

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on ‘After the Digital Revolution’ workshop call for papers

GLAM Meeting and BGM: March 27th 2017

Please see here for details of our next GLAM meeting and BGM to be held at the V&A – details of how to find the venue are also in the agenda document.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Posted in Events, Meetings | Tagged , , | Comments Off on GLAM Meeting and BGM: March 27th 2017

Next GLAM Meeting: March 2017

The next GLAM meeting will be taking place at the V&A Blythe House London on Monday 27th March (11:45-4:30). Details of the programme, the theme of which is literary collections in museums, are being finalised and will be shared shortly!

Posted in Conferences, Events | Tagged | Comments Off on Next GLAM Meeting: March 2017

Second Call for Papers: ‘Archival Afterlives’: Postwar Poetry in English, John Rylands Research Institute Conference, June 2017

The John Rylands Research Institute invites proposals for its 2017 conference on modern literary archives. Reflecting the strengths of the Special Collections at the John Rylands Library, the conference will focus in particular on archives related to postwar poetry in English.

‘Archival Afterlives’ will provide a forum for academic researchers, postgraduate students, curators, archivists, as well as poets to discuss their relationship with archival material, whether it be through creating, collecting or donating archives, or through using archival and material culture for inspiration, learning or research. The conference also takes place as part of a wider programme of activities at the John Rylands Research Institute and Library to facilitate the study of the holdings in modern and contemporary literature.

Submissions from researchers at any stage of their career, as well as from curators and archivists are welcome.

Proposals for 15-minute papers (250 words + affiliation) or panels should be submitted using the abstract submission form, and sent as attachments to jrri.conference2017@manchester.ac.uk by 20th February 2017.

Please visit the conference website for further information.

Posted in Conferences, Events | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Second Call for Papers: ‘Archival Afterlives’: Postwar Poetry in English, John Rylands Research Institute Conference, June 2017

‘The first of rural bards’: Robert Bloomfield in Cambridge University Library

Robert Bloomfield

Robert Bloomfield (1766–1823), from a print of 1823. CUL CCA.34.16(17)

The poet Robert Bloomfield, author of The farmer’s boy, was born in Suffolk two hundred and fifty years ago, in December 1766. Of humble parentage, he worked briefly as a labourer on a nearby farm before moving to London to take up the trade of cobbler. The success of The farmer’s boy, a poem of some 1,500 lines describing the countryside and agricultural life through the seasons of the year, brought Bloomfield an intense though temporary celebrity, and a lasting reputation as one of the most significant of the uneducated rustic poets of the English tradition. John Clare, nowadays by far the more famous of the two, called Bloomfield ‘the first of Rural Bards’.

To mark the anniversary of his birth, a new exhibition in the Cambridge University Library’s Entrance Hall celebrates Bloomfield’s achievements as represented by his own writings and by works of art and music inspired by them. It draws on the Library’s Special Collections, including manuscript verse and autograph correspondence, and benefits from the acquisition in 1984 of the Bloomfield collection assembled by Robert F. Ashby (exhibits with CCA–CCE.34 classmarks).

The exhibition opens with an apparently unpublished manuscript memoir of Bloomfield, written by Walter Bloomfield, the son of the poet’s last surviving nephew; in an introductory letter the author declares that ‘the major portion of it contains information which must be new to everybody unconnected with my family’. The text is prefaced by a pedigree showing, among other things, Robert Bloomfield’s relationship to Charles James Blomfield (1786–1857), bishop of London.

Bloomfield worked on his masterpiece, The farmer’s boy, between May 1796 and April 1798. He composed most of the poem at his cobbler’s bench, keeping long sections in his head before they were written down: he chose rhyme because he found it easier to memorise than blank verse. The poem was championed by the Suffolk squire and radical editor Capel Lofft, and through his influence it was published in 1800. A copy of the first edition is on display. Following the success of The farmer’s boy many engraved portraits of Bloomfield appeared, often serving as frontispieces to editions of his works; the example in the exhibition, and shown above, engraved by Thomas Woolnoth (1785–1857) after Thomas Charles Wageman (1787–1863), appeared in the Ladies’ monthly museum and is unusual in setting Bloomfield against the backdrop of a rustic landscape.

Several settings of Bloomfield’s verse to music are known, most of them dating from his lifetime or shortly afterwards. The exhibition includes a setting of ‘Rosy Hannah’ by his elder brother Isaac (1762–1811), printed on paper watermarked 1801, which may have appeared before the poem was included in Bloomfield’s second collection, Rural tales, ballads, and songs, in 1802.

One of Bloomfield’s most popular poems, ‘The Fakenham ghost’, a humorous ballad ‘founded on a fact’ telling the story of an elderly woman who, walking home at night and fearing pursuit by supernatural terrors, discovers that she has been followed to her door by an ass’s foal, is represented in both manuscript and print. The manuscript appears to be a fair copy in the poet’s own hand; it is much more lightly punctuated than the published versions, and differs from them in some wordings. First collected in Rural tales, the poem was afterwards reprinted separately both in illustrated editions and in musical settings, and a broadsheet which is the earliest recorded illustrated version is on display. The unsigned plate follows the poem closely in details such as the hillside copse, the grazing deer, and the park gate, but makes no attempt to render the nocturnal setting.

Although associated through his poetry with Suffolk, Bloomfield spent little of his adult life there, and in his later years, which were marked by illness and financial difficulties, he lived in the small Bedfordshire town of Shefford. A handwritten letter on show, sent from Shefford to a Mr May less than a year before Bloomfield’s death, appears to refer to a possible reprinting of Nature’s music, his 1808 prose treatise on the Aeolian harp.

There are also posthumous publications on display, charting Bloomfield’s continuing appeal to later generations. Illustrated editions of Bloomfield’s verse appeared throughout the nineteenth century, and the 1857 first printing of the Routledge ‘complete’ edition of his works with engravings by Myles Birket Foster (1825–1899), which was reissued at least five times over the following thirty years, can be seen. A colourful edition of The horkey: a ballad, with illustrations by George Cruikshank, was published by Macmillan and Co. in 1882; ‘Horkey’ was a term for the harvest home feast current in the East of England. Bloomfield’s poem, subtitled ‘a provincial ballad’ when first printed in 1806, describes customs particularly associated with Suffolk harvest festivities, and which he believed were ‘going fast out of use’, and incorporates a number of East Anglian dialect terms. The exhibition finishes with a diminutive pamphlet edition of Bloomfield’s The drunken father, published around 1880 in aid of the temperance movement, with a preface by Walter Bloomfield, the poet’s kinsman and author of the manuscript memoir which opens the exhibition.

‘“The first of rural bards”: Robert Bloomfield (1766–1823) in word, music and image’ runs at Cambridge University Library until Saturday 14 January 2017 (closed Sundays and 24 December–2 January inclusive) during normal Library opening hours. For further information contact John Wells (e-mail: jdw1000[at]cam.ac.uk, telephone: 01223 333055).

Posted in Exhibitions, Poetry | Tagged , | Comments Off on ‘The first of rural bards’: Robert Bloomfield in Cambridge University Library

CALL FOR PAPERS: ‘Archival Afterlives’: Postwar Poetry in English, John Rylands Research Institute Conference, June 2017

 

The John Rylands Research Institute invites proposals for its 2017 conference on modern literary archives. Reflecting the strengths of the Special Collections at the John Rylands Library, the conference will focus in particular on archives related to postwar poetry in English.

‘Archival Afterlives’ will provide a forum for academic researchers, postgraduate students, curators, archivists, as well as poets to discuss their relationship with archival material, whether it be through creating, collecting or donating archives, or through using archival and material culture for inspiration, learning or research. The conference also takes place as part of a wider programme of activities at the John Rylands Research Institute and Library to facilitate the study of the holdings in modern and contemporary literature.

Submissions from researchers at any stage of their career, as well as from curators and archivists are welcome.

Proposals for 15-minute papers (250 words + affiliation) or panels should be submitted using the abstract submission form, and sent as attachments to jrri.conference2017@manchester.ac.uk by 15 January 2017.

Please visit the conference website for further information.

 

 

Posted in Conferences, Events | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on CALL FOR PAPERS: ‘Archival Afterlives’: Postwar Poetry in English, John Rylands Research Institute Conference, June 2017