Category: Cataloguing

Dear Mr Sassoon… letters catalogue published

By , May 24, 2011 2:10 pm

Blog readers may recall that in August of last year I posted about the publication of a catalogue to a collection we call MS Add.8889. I am now pleased to publicise the publication of another online list to a similar, but rather larger, collection of Sassoon’s correspondence on the same catalogue website:
Link to the catalogue of MS Add.9375 on the Janus website

Again the content and authors of the letters are wide ranging, however this set does includes quite a number of items that might be termed ‘fan mail’. It is of various kinds: MS Add.9375/812-3 are from from a teenage school girl; MS Add.9375/772 is an example of  contact from an old soldier spurred by a description of shared experience; and MS Add.9375/328 is one of many instances of old friends noting their appreciation of his latest work.

A nice feature of loading catalogues onto the Janus site is that readers can then use its powerful search facility to find related items across different collections. This image is a screen shot of a search for ‘Bonham-Carter’ showing that various members of family were corresponding with him and, as references occur in both MS Add.8889 and Ms Add.9375, that he can not have been keeping the correspondence in anything like a consistent way:

Click image to open Bonham-Carter search

The facility can also be used in quite a sophisticated way to look for particular subjects such as this search looking for information about the translation of Sassoon’s work:

Click image to open translation search

Anyone with a Cambridge University Library reader’s card validated for the Manuscripts Reading Room may consult the letters. Information on how to apply for reader status is online on the Library’s Admissions pages.

Sassoon on Valentine’s Day

By , February 14, 2011 2:15 pm

I am currently in the process of foliating Siegfried Sassoon’s journals. By ‘foliating’ I mean I am writing a running number on the top right corner of every two facing pages in each volume. This, as you might well imagine, is a time consuming process but we consider it worthwhile for a number of reasons: the improvement of document security; the ease of providing precise references for quotations; and allowing accurate recoding of the original location of loose enclosures. I am removing the enclosures to be stored unfolded in separate files.

It occurred to me, after reading my colleague Megan’s interesting posting on Valentine’s cards on the Tower Project Blog, to wonder what Sassoon thought of such items. I present below outlines of Sassoon’s journal entries for 14 February during his love affair with the aesthete Stephen Tennant. Whilst I did not find a clear answer to my question what I did find is never-the-less I think of interest:

MS Add.9852/1/27
Entry for 15 February 1928
Sassoon was in the process of writing A Fox Hunting Man. Tennant, with whom he had begun a clandestine love affair in the previous summer, had gone to the Continent. Sassoon received a cable from his more openly acknowledged lover Glen Byam Shaw (who was away working in New York). William Walton visit him and Sassoon paid him £20 to help Walton travel to be with Tennant. He also entreated him to explain to Tennant that he would not be joining them unless began to suffer writer’s block with work on his book. Sassoon was pleased with his writing progress and had been noting how many words a day he was writing. He went to a classical concert on the night of 14 and makes no mention of Valentine’s sent or received.

MS Add.9852/1/28
Entries on and around 14 February 1929
Sassoon was in London and was socialising with Glen Byam Shaw who had returned from America with a new lover of his own, Angela Baddeley. Sassoon was basking in the news of winning a literary prize. On the 14 itself he dined with Glen Byam Shaw at the Ken[sington] Hotel and they talked until late. No mention is made of Tennant or St Valentine, although elsewhere Sassoon admits his infatuation for Tennant.

MS Add.9852/1/30
11 & 17 February 1930
Sassoon was away in Sicily with Tennant but Sassoon had been unwell and was in bed for over a week. He was however still working (writing). Tennant, who by now, was under a course of treatment for consumption (tuberculosis) had been collecting shells and Sassoon talks romantically of him but does not mention St Valentine’s day.

MS Add.9852/1/31
14 February 1931
By this date Tennant had become very ill and reclusive and although Sassoon felt badly treated by Tennant’s rejection he was not yet willing to ‘condemn’ their relationship. On the night of the 13 Sassoon was staying overnight at a hotel near Tennant’s home, Wilsford. On the morning of the 14 Sassoon went to Wilsford without phoning ahead and disturbed Tennant by standing at his window and looking in on him in his sick bed. Tennant’s light mood angered Sassoon and he parted from him sullenly and felt guilty for the rest of the day. He described his subsequent early spring drive from Wiltshire to Kent delightfully but ended it with a whistful remark about St Valentine’s day. He was so out of sorts by the time he reached his mother’s home that he could not even bring himself to tell her about his newly purchased horse.

MS Add.9852/1/35
13 & 14 February 1932
Sassoon took a house (Fitz House) close to Tennant’s home at Wilsford. The journal for this period contains reams of introspective diary entries as Tennant who was often still unwell was refusing to see visitors because of his consumptive appearance. On the night of the 13 Sassoon agonised about whether to send him a Valentine’s greeting as he craved Tennant’s attention but did not wish to condone his behaviour. The following day he was curiously reassured when the Hunter sisters (gardeners at Wilsford) came to tell Sassoon that a chimney fire in Tennant’s room had allowed his nurse to insist they remove him to his library and spring clean his room.

MS Add.9852/1/36
Retrospective entries from 19 February 1933
Although relations between Sassoon and Tennant had improved by 1933 Sassoon spent the 14 riding out alone and working on the writing of Sherstone. On the 15 he called on Tennant but makes little of it being rather preoccupied by motoring accident with a bus.

It seems, admittedly on rather sparse evidence, that Valentine’s day seemed to mean the most to Sassoon in the years when his relationship was at its lowest ebb. It would be a most interesting exercise to extend this Valentine’s search across the full journal series.

Outline online

By , September 30, 2010 12:13 pm

A quick post to alert readers to the URL of the beginnings of the online version of the catalogue that I am producing for the ‘new’ Sassoon deposit. The collection’s classmark is MS Add.9852 and the catalogue to it may be found at:

Readers may also be interested to see catalogue entries for Sassoon items held in various other Cambridge repositories which are made available on the same website. They are indexed as part of the unified Cambridge online archival catalogues initiative at the Janus website:

A freetext search for ‘Sassoon’ using the site’s search function will also turn up further references.

Related letters catalogue now online

By , August 26, 2010 5:04 pm

With much of the ground work now done I am beginning to write detailed descriptions of the collection. There is a quantity of correspondence in which I am expecting to find the identification of authors by their scrawled signatures somewhat trying. Since we hold a number of other collections containing correpondence to Sassoon here at the Cambridge University Library I decided to improve my chances of deciphering some of the signatures by converting an existing catalogue to one such collection into a format that I could add to our cataloguing database. I am pleased to announce that this work is now complete and I have loaded the resulting descriptions onto the Janus website where you are welcome to browse through them along with other catalogues to archives held throughout Cambridge:

Link to the catalogue of MS Add.8889 on the Janus website

The content of the letters is rather varied as they are drawn from a variety of sources including items which Sassoon either placed or left enclosed in the volumes of his personal library. My particular favourite is a letter from Lady Ottoline Morrell ”enquiring the time of his arrival and asking him to bring a horse” (MS Add.8889/2/5).

Anyone with a Cambridge University Library reader’s card validated for the Manuscripts Reading Room may consult the letters. Information on how to apply for reader status is online on the Library’s Admissions pages.