Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967) and Edmund Blunden (1896–1974) first came across one another in 1919, when Blunden submitted a poem to the Daily Herald, of whose books pages Sassoon was briefly in charge. Although sexually, socially, temperamentally and physically distinct – Sassoon was a tall, saturnine, homosexual country squire, Blunden a small, sociable, heterosexual schoolmaster’s son – both men found a great deal to unite them. Each had fought gallantly in the Great War. Both were distinguished poets, whose literary sympathies grew ever more detached from the modernist mainstream as the interwar era ran on. Add to this a consuming interest in cricket and some spirited antiquarian book-grubbing, and the result is a fifty-year friendship whose 1,000-plus pages-worth of correspondence still manages to advertise itself as ‘selected’. God knows how many more test match statistics and fulminations over clever young literary men still lurk in manuscript, but this will certainly do as a start.
To read even a page or so of the first volume of Carol Z Rothkopf’s altogether titanic editorial endeavour is to realise quite how embattled a landscape was the literary 1920s. The general sense is of a kind of non-stop guerrilla warfare made all the more complicated by the fact