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Roberts, John Stuart 1939(?)–

ROBERTS, John Stuart 1939(?)–

PERSONAL: Born c. 1939.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Metro Publishing Ltd., 19 Gerrard St., London W1V 7LA, England.

CAREER: Formerly head of television department at British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) Wales.

WRITINGS:

Siegfried Sassoon, Richard Cohen (London, England), 1998.

Editor, Everyman and Heart of the Matter.

SIDELIGHTS: John Stuart Roberts chronicles the life of a celebrated British poet from World War I in the biography Siegfried Sassoon. Sassoon came from a privileged background, the child of a Jewish businessman and an artistic English mother. Although the family had wealth, it did not ensure a happy childhood for Sassoon. His parents's marriage did not last long, and Sassoon's mother was left to raise three boys on her own. She was extremely protective of them and strove to keep them at home as much as possible. According to Elizabeth Lowry in the Times Literary Supplement, "Roberts's account of Sassoon's sheltered boyhood and youth, written in commendably clear prose punctuated by moments of quiet humour, makes poignant reading."

Sassoon began writing poetry at a very young age. When he entered combat in World War I and came face to face with the horrors of war, he was forever changed. His powerful poetry describes the grim realities of that conflict, looking beyond nationalities and ideologies to show that war desecrates humanity on all sides. Sassoon was nearly killed in the trenches, but survived, to be haunted by the war for the rest of his life. He became restless, eventually lost his focus as a poet, and took up a frenetic social life. Reporting on this period, Roberts "descends, through no fault of his own, into a bathetic saga of weekend parties, long lunches, vapid dinners, silly soirees, random jaunts around the country, literary in-fighting (it seems that Sassoon had survived the war chiefly in order to bicker with the Sitwells) and humiliating homosexual entanglements," reported Lowry. Eventually, the poet seemed to find some peace in his conversion to Roman Catholicism. Lowry concluded, "This is an immensely readable biography which is made even more moving by having a truly tragic subject." Discussing his book in an interview with Michele Fry for the Counter-Attack Web site, the author stated that he hoped to "elucidate"Sassoon's life rather than to bring out every sensational detail of the writer's socializing. Roberts commented: "Of course you can be sensational and sell a million copies, but that, to my mind, is not what biography is about."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Guardian (Manchester, England), July 3, 1999, Stephen MacDonald, review of Siegfried Sassoon, p. 9.

Spectator, June 26, 1999, Nicholas Harman, review of Siegfried Sassoon, p. 33.

Times Literary Supplement, August 20, 1999, Elizabeth Lowry, review of Siegried Sassoon, pp. 4-5.

ONLINE

Counter-Attack Web site, http://www.sassoonery.demon.co.uk/ (April 10, 2005), Michele Fry, interview with John Stuart Roberts.

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