Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Charles Causley and Siegfried Sassoon

Charles Causley (1917-2003) bequeathed his papers to Special Collections at the University of Exeter. The university's archive focuses on writers associated with the South West of England: Daphne du Maurier, Ted Hughes, Agatha Christie, Patricia Beer, John Betjeman, Henry Williamson, Jack Clemo, and many others.

Causley's papers include twenty letters from Siegfried Sassoon, and two from Sassoon's son George, the last (dated June 1975) encouraging Causley to write a biography of his father. Causley did a great deal to promote a poet who, in old age, felt himself to have been forgotten except as 'the man who knew Wilfred'. Sassoon showed more pride in having known Thomas Hardy, and confided to Causley his disappointment that his old friend Robert Graves had behaved presumptuously at a commemorative event in Hardy's honour. With an emphasis conveying the long history of love, anger, betrayal and competition between the two poets, Sassoon could not resist laying bare the extent of Graves's familiarity: '(He went to Max Gate once)'.

These letters to Causley have never been published or, until now, seen by scholars. I would be keen to hear from anyone who knows the whereabouts of the other side of the correspondence: the letters from Causley to Sassoon.


  1. Hi Tim - I found this just looking for items about Charles Causley (whom I knew), because I've been writing an essay on him. I had forgotten that Causley knew Sassoon - and it immediately made me feel strange, because I'm now involved in research on the village where I live, Idbury in Oxfordshire - where Sassoon's protege after Owen, Frank Prewett, lived and worked (you can see an uncorrected essay on Prewett on What goes around comes around.

  2. Thanks Neil. If you're writing on Causley, you need to come to our archive in Exeter, which holds Causley's manuscripts (that is, poems, letters, etc.). It turns out that Causley knew everybody.

  3. I'd love to come and spend a few days browsing the Causley archive - but when will those days come free? My essay was for a book being edited by Michael Hanke, with twenty or so contributors writing about various aspects of Charles's work (mine is on the poetry for children). He is such an overlooked poet in Britain, it seems inevitable that all the energy to evaluate and celebrate his achievement should come from abroad (Germany, in this case).

  4. I have three handwritten letters to my uncle from Siegfried Sassoon, and would be prepared to part with them for a fair price. Should you be interested, kindly contact me at ><