Siegfried Sassoon Diaries 1923-1925 ed, Rupert HartDavies (Faber, £12.95)
'SIEGFRIED Sassoon was a man with an eye to posterity. In the early 1930s he made copies of his diaries from 1923-25, adding footnotes and omitting hurtful passages about his family and all reference to "affairs of the heart".
Apart front two entries in May 1924, the original diaries have not survived: they were presumably destroyed. So Rupert Hart-Davies' perfectly edited volumes based on what the poet had selected for public consumption.
Much of this is rather inconsequential and makes for dry reading. The Diaries are full of brief reports of dinners, visits to country houses, motoring trips, evenings spent in London clubs and numerous meetings with important literary figures,
Hardy, Forster and Wells amongst them. Sassoon's world is a small and exclusive one: it is a great pity that it is not described in more detail. or that more of what was going on in the wider world does not find its way into these pages.
The chief interest of the Diaries lies therefore in the hints which the reader can pick up about Sassoon himself. Despite his own editing of them, the Diaries show him at this time as a man insecure and sel fconscious, an unhappy literary celebrity struggling to write and to fight off feelings of purposelessness and futility. Everywhere he is isolated — "a bit of an outsider" at the races and "definitely ill at ease" in intellectual and artistic circles.
In the entry of June 13 1924 he laments, "how empty and arid my life seems". The Diaries seem to be an outlet for his unhappiness — when, in December 1925, he escapes certain domestic problems by moving into a new flat in London, he writes. "I am disciplined to continue the diary,. perhaps because I am feeling contented."
At other times he is acutely critical of his journal: "A lot of these pages are probably worthless and woolly-headed — a mere jungle of insignificant grumblings." This is too harsh a judgement, but it does reflect the fact that Diaries 1923-5 depict above all the less happy aspects of the period for the poet. It is a pity that the Diaries function as a vent for Sassoon's misery means that they don't provide a further account of all that he found enjoyable or satisfying in the early 1920s. Our loss is, perhaps, the gain of someone who considered that, "leading a good life is more important than keeping a good diary".