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


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
1917, Craiglockhart War Hospital, Edinburgh
Manuscript / Draft
Wilfred Owen
Held by:
The English Faculty Library, one of the Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford
The Hydra (5101)

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