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Memoirs of a Fox-hunting Man

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Immediately successful, the work "was awarded the Hawthornden and James Tait Black memorial prizes, and was quickly accepted as a classic of its kind - an elegy for a way of life which had gone forever" (ODNB). Just as we feel a tremor whenever, for instance, the narrator mentions barbed wire in the early pages, so there are other hints at later dissatisfaction, and uncertainty throughout. I deplore foxhunting, but still read the book with pleasure, as it discusses the riding and society of the hunt, far more than the foxes. There's a simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking scene where the young narrator is moved to "discomfort and disapproval" by his aunt's attempts to make tea in a train carriage, in front of other smart passengers, on a "patent spirit lamp … apt to misbehave itself and produce an unpleasing smell. Nellie Burton met Siegfried Sassoon through Robbie Ross, and had formerly been Ross's mother's maid.

It’s likely not for everyone and I would find it difficult to filter out to whom I could recommend it, but if anyone gives it a go, I’d be interested in any thoughts.The novel ends at the beginning of Sherston’s time in the trenches, when the horror of it all was becoming clear.

So it's possible to see the book not only as a lament for what was lost in the war, but for the folly of the days before it.

It was here that he met Robert Graves, described in his diary as ‘a young poet in Third Battalion and very much disliked. It's tempting, then, to regard Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man as an attempt to put things back together, to reclaim youth and vigour (Sassoon was in his 40s when he wrote it), to help a lost world live again (not to mention the men killed by war) and to fight the tide of modernism. He said he was inspired by the work of Marcel Proust, saying, "A few pages of Proust have made me wonder whether insignificant episodes aren't the most significant".

Never out of print since its original publication in 1928, when it won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, Sassoon's reminiscences about childhood and the beginning of World War I are channeled through young George Sherston, whose life of local cricket tournaments and fox-hunts falls apart as war approaches and he joins up to fight.The two soon grow quite close, aiding each other in their attempts to ensure they come up to the requirements of a model huntsman (which really in their case means horseman since their primary concern is having a good piece of horseflesh with which to jump over fences and race across the countryside) and take part in the best outings of the season. When I was at high school in the 1970s his anti-war poems, and those of Wilfred Owen, featured prominently in our English lessons, a fashion that seems to have passed.

With no brothers and sisters and no male company other than his aunt's groom, Dixon, Sherston has a quiet and lonely childhood. Good-humoured, unpretentious and a bit eccentric, it's more like having a well-read friend than a subscription to a literary review.Condition of the book is VERY GOOD+ ; just the merest hint of shelf wear, covers extraordinarily clean and unblemished. Women did hunt, but the few he mentions are middle-aged; and there were no girls at his school, no female soldiers in the army. And that exploitation of courage, if I may be allowed to say a thing so obvious, was the essential tragedy of the War, which, as everyone now agrees, was a crime against humanity. It was in 1917, convalescing in 'Blighty' from a wound, that he decided to make a stand against the war.

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