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
- Usage terms
With kind permission of the Trustees of the Wilfred Owen Estate. This item is from The First World War Poetry Digital Archive, University of Oxford (www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit); © The English Faculty Library, University of Oxford / The Wilfred Owen Literary Estate. Permitted Use.
- Held by
- The English Faculty Library, one of the Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford
- The Hydra (5101)
- Article by:
- Sandra M. Gilbert
- 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'.
- Article by:
- Tracey Loughran
- Wounding and medicine
Recent estimates suggest that up to 325,000 British soldiers may have suffered from ‘shell-shock’ as a result of the First World War. Dr Tracey Loughran reflects on the encounters between Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and W H R Rivers at Craiglockhart War Hospital, and how other doctors attempted to treat ‘shell-shock’.
- Article by:
- Randall Stevenson
- Capturing and creating the modern, Literature 1900–1950, 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.
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‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ is a poem by the British poet Wilfred Owen, drafted at Craiglockhart War ...