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The Collected Letters of Wilfred Owen

Had your card this mng. and what you say of Artists’ Rifles is so; the camp is at Epping. The commission might be very long in coming. I seriously should like to join the Italian Cavalry; for reasons both aesthetic and practical. If you are too terribly opposed I will think no more of it. Certainly, I shan’t join French Army. Miss de la T. now suggests I should take a room in Merignac, to be with them during August. Can’t Uncle be more precise about ‘good job in War Office?’

Letter to Susan Owen, July 1915

After that we had to be inoculated for Typhoid. And that is why I am in bed since four o’clock! The delightfully kind, confidence-inspiring doctor gave us full instructions. There were scores of Tommies taking the ordeal before me, and believe me some were as nervous as only fine, healthy animals can be before doctors. One fainted before his turn came, merely as a result of the Doctor’s description of possible symptoms!

Letter to Susan Owen, 21st October 1915

After those two days, we were let down, gently, into the real thing, Mud.

It has penetrated now into that Sanctuary my sleeping bag, and that holy of holies my pyjamas. For I sleep on a stone floor and the servant squashed mud on all my belongings; I suppose by way of baptism. We are 3 officers in this ‘Room’, the rest of the house is occupied by servants and the band; the roughest set of knaves I have ever been herded with. Even now their vile language is shaking the flimsy door between the rooms.

Letter to Susan Owen, 4th January 1917

There has been a new desertion from Camp. The boy was captured at Norwich. Two lusty ones from my hut were told off to exercise the Prisoner on Christmas Day. I have not much spare time today, being Orderley. My Batmanship finished yesterday.

I read your dear letter many times, and shall read it. I quite well know how busy Colin must be.

It is fine to feel that now that Christmas is over, there is a greater treat in store. May my plans be sooner fulfilled than they were this time last year!

Letter to Susan Owen, 26th December 1915

On the night preceding the morning when Mother told me you were fallen into recrudescence, I dreamed of you. You were decked in fine raiment, and methought I was treating you to a Show at a Picture Palace! Absit omen! When inside, we found ourselves surrounded by religio loci, in the form of the Sowers’ Band. And so we made merry.

Letter to Mary Owen, 23rd June 1912

Letter 482 Sunday february 4th 1917 asked by Anonymous

My feet ached until they could ache no more, and so they temporarily died. I was kept warm by the ardour of Life within me. I forgot hunger in the hunger for Life. The intensity of your Love reached me and kept me living. I thought of you and Mary without a break all the time. I cannot say I felt any fear. We were all half-crazed by the buffetting of the High Explosives. I think the most unpleasant reflection that weighed on me was the impossibility of getting back any wounded, a total impossibility all day, and frightfully difficult by night.

We were marooned on a frozen desert.

Letter to Susan Owen, 4th February 1917

The beginning of the End must be ended, and the beginning of the middle of the end is now.

I must be beginning to end my Christmas letter. You understand that I have every minute jammed-full of some occupation; and it is eleven o’clock when I write. The word Christmas hath lost his savour. In vain I stare at a sprig of holly and languish at a mistletoe-berry. They mean nothing.

Letter to Susan Owen, 21 December 1914

Dr Dominic Hibberd, arguably the ultimate authority on the life of Wilfred Owen, has sadly passed away. (http://twitter.com/WilfredOwenAssn/status/239809662474665984). No one has matched his achievement in bringing Owen, both the man and poet, to life with all his complexity, humour, integrity and tenacity. 

I talk randomly; but I think discreetly. My faith is like a weathercock; but my hope is like a Tower; a strong and haughty Spire. And my love is as wide as the wide world. I seem without a footing on life; but I have one. It is as bold as any, and I have kept it for years. For years now. I was a boy when I first realised that the fullest life liveable was a Poets. And my later experiences ratify it.

Letter to Susan Owen, 6th February 1915

Nº. 1 of  7