Siegfried Sassoon

Robert Graves

Good-bye To All That, by Robert Graves

Robert Graves served in the same battalion as Siegfried Sassoon and they became great friends. Graves was also a talented war poet and had ‘helped’ Sassoon during the period of his protest by convincing the army authorities that Sassoon was suffering from shell-shock, and ought to be confined to a hospital rather than be court-martialled for his refusal to fight. Sassoon had not asked for, nor appreciated this intervention.

Graves was often short of cash, and Sassoon was frequently called upon to provide funds. In 1929 when he was having money trouble, Graves wrote ‘Good-bye To All That’ as a way of making ends meet.

Good-Bye To All That

The first edition of this book never went into full production, the publisher, Jonathan Cape, sent a review copy to another war poet, Edmund Blunden:

    “What Blunden read appalled him. As a reader of war memoirs he wanted accuracy and detail from authors...Graves on every count betrayed his calling.” (Roberts, Sassoon, 1999, p234).

In August 1918, Sassoon had sent Graves a poem in a letter, written while he was in hospital. Clearly, Sassoon had never wanted to publish this poem, it was personal and alluded to things that only the two friends would have understood. It was by no means intended to form part of Sassoon’s body of literary work. Graves had published it in his book calling it, “The most terrible of his war poems.”

“I’m leaving this place, its worse than France...”

In addition to this, Graves also described an incident which took place while he was staying at Sassoon’s home. Sassoon’s younger brother, Hamo, had been killed in 1915 at Gallipoli. While staying with Sassoon Graves had been woken in the night by screams which had at first terrified him. On going out into the hall he discovered Sassoon’s mother, Theresa, who, he stated in his book, was trying to make contact with the dead Hamo through spiritualistic  means. “I’m leaving this place,” he said. “It’s worse than France.” In his defence Graves had not mentioned any names regarding this incident but Sassoon, who was mentioned in the preceding and following paragraphs, saw it as a massive betrayal of his friendship and hospitality.

    “Sassoon wrote to Cape threatening legal action unless the extract was deleted. Cape knew the firm could not publish until it conformed. Next day, 13 November, he sent a telegram inviting Sassoon to his office and with apologies, agreed to his demands. He then wrote to Graves, who in reply expressed surprise that Sassoon was upset but he was quite prepared to be led by Cape. Goodbye to All That was published on 18 November 1929, each copy containing pages with blank spaces.” (Roberts, Sassoon, 1999, p235).

In her biography of Sassoon, Jean Moorcroft Wilson states that Sassoon wrote to Graves saying the book had caused him “Extreme difficulty and discomfort,” and that it had landed on him like a “Zeppelin bomb.” Graves wrote back saying:

    “Signing fat cheques for your friends: the indelicate irony of it is that had you thought of signing one when you heard of “my troubles” - which left us all without money - I would not have been forced to write Good-bye to contribute to the work of restoration, and you would not have had the Zeppelin-bomb.” (Moorcroft Wilson, Sassoon, 2003, p238).

Moorcroft Wilson goes on to record that Sassoon had insisted that the offending passages should be deleted before publication and all advance copies had to be recalled.

In his biography, Siegfried Sassoon, 2005, p346, Max Egremont states:

    “Sassoon went round to Jonathan Cape and asked for the book...he read bits of it with horror. Robert Graves had been brooding about Sassoon, having expected more financial help...He had written Goodbye to make money, in as controversial a way as possible. He had a loose attitude to accuracy, believing that it could be sacrificed to reach a higher truth...[Cape] said he would cut the passage about Theresa and Sassoon’s verse letter to Graves leaving blanked pages. Cape said he had not read the book, that Graves was in Spain and that only a few copies had gone out, mostly abroad and to reviewers. Sassoon warned Theresa not to read Good-bye To All That, which was ‘very bad’, the author ‘slightly crazy.’”

Good-bye To All That

Good-bye To All That, title page

‘Good-bye To All That’ is very rare...

It can easily be deduced from the above passages that the First Edition of ‘Good-bye To All That’ is very rare. Sassoon’s three biographers all state that the First Issue was never published in full other than review copies which for the most part, were sent abroad. Of these, most were recalled and destroyed. This rarity makes any remaining copies of the book very valuable. A check on the web will find that booksellers who do have a copy for sale are asking 1,500 or more for them.

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