MASEFIELD, John (1878-1967). Poet
Fine Autograph Letter Signed to Captain E N Hale on active service in France, 2 pages 8vo with envelope, Boar's Hill, 17 June 1917. An important letter written immediately after Masefield had returned from visiting the battlefield of the Somme, arranging gifts for friends in France, and speculating about the American use of air power.
Although not generally considered one of the 'War Poets', since he wrote only one poem on the subject ('August, 1914'), Masefield had been closely involved in the Great War. He first went to France in 1915 as a Red Cross orderly, and had been deeply affected by his work in the hospital at the Château d'Arc-en-Barrois. He later went, more briefly, to the hospital on Lemnos to deliver boats for evacuating the wounded from the Dardanelles, and he was, in 1917, invited by Hague to write an account of the Battle of the Somme, for which purpose he spent some months in France scouring the battlefield. This book never really appeared as was intended. After writing the preface Masefield was obstructed by bureaucracy and denied access to the batallion records that he needed. He produced the preface alone as a short book, The Old Front Line, and later an even slimmer volume, The Battle of the Somme, which was an account of the battle from his own observations.
'... I was very sorry to leave Amiens, & wish I were back to see the wonders of the new battle which you so movingly describe. Here I am having only the old battle, with officials of various kinds, all new since last year. ...'The Hon. Neville Lytton (1879-1951, later third Earl of Lytton) was a great admirer of Masefield, whom he called 'a second Homer', was a major attached to the General Staff Headquarters in France.
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