Sisson, C(harles) H(ubert) 1914-2003

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SISSON, C(harles) H(ubert) 1914-2003


See index for CA sketch: Born April 22, 1914, in Bristol, England; died September 5, 2003, in Langport, England. Civil servant and author. Sisson spent his career in the British Civil Service while managing to become a respected poet, critic, novelist, and translator in his spare time. After graduating from the University of Bristol with a B.A. in 1934, Sisson studied at the universities at Berlin and Freiburg for a year and then at the Sorbonne for another year. Wishing to avoid academic life, he instead passed the civil service exam and joined the Department of Employment in 1936 as an assistant principal. The onset of World War II found him in the British Intelligence Corps, where he was sent to India despite the fact that he was fluent in French and German. After the war, he returned to his old job, rising through the ranks to eventually become director of Occupational Safety and Health from 1971 to 1973. Despite this career path, it will be for his poetry that Sisson will be remembered. His first poetry collections, including Poems (1959) and The London Zoo (1961), went largely unnoticed or, in the case of the latter, sharply criticized, but with 1974's In the Trojan Ditch: Collected Poems and Selected Translations Sisson's talent gained acclaim. His verses, somber in character as they were largely written late in his life, are now considered by many critics to be an important part of the English Christian tradition. Other collections include Selected Poems (1981), God Bless Karl Marx! (1987), What and Who (1994), and Collected Poems (1998). Sisson also wrote scholarly nonfiction works, such as English Poetry, 1900-1950: An Assessment (1971), David Hume (1976), The Avoidance of Literature: Collected Essays (1978), and Is There a Church in England? (1993), and two published novels—An Asiatic Romance (1953) and Christopher Homm (1965); he was a translator of works by such authors as Jean de La Fontaine, Dante, Virgil, and Lucretius, ending with Collected Translations (1996), and edited books by Jonathan Swift, Thomas Hardy, Ford Maddox Ford, Edgar Allan Poe, and other literary luminaries. His autobiography, On the Look-Out: A Partial Autobiography, was published in 1989. For his contributions to literature, Sisson was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1975 and a Companion of Honour in 1993.



Contemporary Poets, seventh edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.


Chicago Tribune, September 15, 2003, Section 4, p. 13.

Los Angeles Times, September 12, 2003, p. B15.

New York Times, September 11, 2003, p. A23.

Times (London, England), September 9, 2003.