Wilfred Owen's draft editorial for The Hydra, 1 September 1917

Description

While being treated for shell shock at Craiglockhart War Hospital, Wilfred Owen edited six issues of the hospital’s magazine, The Hydra, beginning with the 21 July 1917 issue. This is the draft editorial for the 1 September 1917 issue, written in Owen’s own hand.

In contrast to Owen’s other editorials, this piece is sharp, subversive and angry. In the opening line, Owen provocatively states: ‘Many of us who came to the Hydro slightly ill are now getting dangerously well’. Recovery is dangerous, Owen implies, because men will be sent back to fight – back to the environment which triggered their illnesses. Owen goes on to describe visions of ‘High and Mighty explosives’ suggesting that, as long as the war continues, recovery does not quell nightmares but rather feeds them. The Hydra was itself intended to aid recovery. Arthur Brock, one of the hospital’s physicians, believed in ‘ergotherapy’ or the ‘work cure’.

The primary focus of Owen’s outrage is civilians. Owen displaces the soldiers’ illnesses and injuries onto ‘the shock of coming to England’ where he perceives indifference among the British public toward the human cost of war, and where the press veers between sensationalism and joke-cracking gaiety.

Full title:
Editorial for The Hydra: 1st September 1917
Created:
1917, Craiglockhart War Hospital, Edinburgh
Format:
Manuscript / Draft
Creator:
Wilfred Owen
Held by:
The English Faculty Library, one of the Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford
Shelfmark:
The Hydra (5101)

Related articles

‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ and ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’: tracing the influence of John Keats

Article by:
Sandra M. Gilbert
Themes:
Literature 1900–1950, Power and conflict

Sandra M Gilbert explores the literary heritage of two of the most famous First World War poems, Wilfred Owen's 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' and 'Dulce et Decorum est'.

Broken mirrors: the First World War and modernist literature

Article by:
Randall Stevenson
Themes:
Literature 1900–1950, Capturing and creating the modern, Power and conflict

Randall Stevenson describes how the violence and loss of the First World War affected modernist writers’ attitudes towards nature and time, as well as shaping their experiments with language, literary form and the representation of consciousness.

Ted Hughes and war

Article by:
Helen Melody
Themes:
Literature 1950–2000, Power and conflict

Helen Melody investigates how the First and Second World Wars shaped Ted Hughes's life and work.

Related collection items

Related people

Related works

'Dulce et Decorum Est'

Created by: Wilfred Owen

‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ is a poem by the British poet Wilfred Owen, drafted at Craiglockhart War Hospital ...

'Anthem for Doomed Youth'

Created by: Wilfred Owen

‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ is a poem by the British poet Wilfred Owen, drafted at Craiglockhart War ...