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Edmund and Paul Engle in Hong Kong 1963

Edmund and Paul Engle in Hong Kong 1963


FAQs

The frequently asked questions have been divided into two sections, those that relate to the website and those that are inquiries about Edmund Blunden and his work.

For more detailed information on Edmund Blunden's life you may find the biography section of the site useful or contact us with any questions you have that do not appear on this page.


Edmund Blunden & His Work

1. How did Edmund Blunden meet Siegfried Sassoon?
2. How long did Blunden spend at the front line during the Great War?
3. What was his connection with the school Christ's Hospital?
4. Who were his favourite poets?
5. Why did his position of Professor of Poetry at Oxford University come so late in his life?
6. Was poetry/literature his main passion?
7. What attracted him to the Far East?
8. Where can I buy copies of Edmund Blunden publications?

The Website

9. How often is the website updated?
10. Who set up the website?
11. Can anybody contribute to the website?
12. Is there an Edmund Blunden Society?

Edmund Blunden & His Work

1. How did Edmund Blunden meet Siegfried Sassoon?
After the war in May 1919 Blunden decided to send some of his poems to Sassoon, who was literary editor of the Daily Herald (the Daily Herald became the Sun in 1964). On receipt of the poems Sassoon wrote to Blunden requesting further copies as well as another of his publications entitled Pastorals. He also invited Blunden to visit him when he was next in London. A meeting was duly arranged. This was an important meeting for Blunden not only in terms of his literary career (Sassoon felt he had 'discovered a poet') but also it was the start of one of his most important friendships that was to last for forty years.

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2. How long did Blunden spend at the front line during the Great War?
Blunden spent two years in the trenches which is more than any of the other well known war writers. He arrived in France in May 1916 as part of the 11th Royal Sussex Regiment of the Southdown Battalions. After his arrival he was sent to serve in the trenches of Festubert, Cuinchy and Richebourg. From August 1916 - December 1916 he saw action at The Somme; the following year (December 1916 - December 1917) he was moved to Ypres and Passchendaele taking part in the bloody offensive of Third Ypres. In February 1918 his battalion moved to trenches south of Gouzeaucourt and then in spring of that year he was posted to six months training duty at a camp in Suffolk. Despite several attempts to try and rejoin to his battalion Blunden due to health problems did not return to trench duty.He returned to France in November to help with the clearing up operation after Armistice. On 17 February 1919 he was demobbed.

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3. What was his connection with the school Christ's Hospital?
Christ's Hospital was founded by the young King Edward VI in 1552 as school for the academically able whose parents were unable to pay the fees of a traditional public school.
Blunden moved from his primary school to Cleaves Grammar School in Spring 1907, after just 18 months there his teacher Mr Williams suggested he sit the entrance exam for Christ's Hospital. The twelve year old Blunden did just that and in September 1909 left the small village of Yalding for the academic world of Christ's Hospital. Edmund thoroughly enjoyed his time at the school and many of his passions and talents started or developed there including cricket, poetry, calligraphy and his interest in the lives of other writers (Coleridge, Lamb and Leigh Hunt had all attended the school). He left in the summer of 1915 as Senior Grecian (Head Boy) with a scholarship to study Classics at Oxford.
He was a fiercely loyal and passionate Old Blue and would return to Christ's Hospital as a lecturer or simply a visitor on many occasions throughout his life. His experience at Christ's Hospital inspired many poems and prose including 'Christ's Hospital: A Retrospect ' (November 1923) and 'The Dede of Pitte', a celebration of the school's 400 year history (1953).
He maintained friendships with a number of former pupils, including Hector Buck who returned to Christ's Hospital as a Classics teacher. His youngest daughter Catherine enroled at Christ's Hospitals girls school in 1967.
In 1974 Hector Buck wrote: 'C.H. was never out of Edmund's mind, or if it was the slightest reminder, a name, an allusion, would bring it back.'

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4. Who were his favourite poets?
This is a very difficult question to answer, as Blunden was a prolific reader and collector of poetry. When asked the question: 'What is your favourite poem?' He would give a variety of responses, including Williams Collins' 'Ode to Evening', Marvell's 'The Garden', Shelley's 'The Question' or Walter De La Mare's 'The Listeners'. Other poets that may well have fallen into the category of his favourite poets include Coleridge, Keats, Lamb, Wordsworth and John Clare. More modern poets whose work he enjoyed include Ted Hughes and Cecil Day Lewis. His edition of Owen's poetry was the first wide-ranging selection to be published (1931). He described Owen as the 'the greatest of the English war poets with the exception of Sassoon'.
As well as all these well-known poets he also sought out the works of minor poets including, Christopher Smart, William Collins and Charles Churchill.

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5. Why did his position of Professor of Poetry at Oxford University come so late in his life?
Blunden was elected Professor of Poetry in 1966 aged 70.
He had accepted a nomination to stand in 1951, but withdrew when he discovered that Cecil Day Lewis was also a candidate. The opportunity arose again in 1956 but he declined when he found out that W.H Auden was the other nominee.
In 1966 Robert Graves resigned his position, the only other candidate was an American poet Robert Lowell so Blunden was persuaded (against his better judgement) to stand. There followed a huge campaign between the two men, bringing the contest much more into the public eye. Ladbrokes odds were 5-4 against Blunden winning, the local and national press followed both campaigns and Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (in Oxford for a production of Doctor Faustus) both publicly supported Blunden. The final count was 241 votes to Lowell and 477 to Blunden, the highest poll and largest majority ever recorded. So, Blunden finally took up this most prestigious position but in terms of his health and mental alertness it had come too late. He tried to fulfil the duties that came with the position to the best of his ability but his failing health meant he had to resign the professorship in spring 1968.

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6. Was poetry/literature his main passion?
It is clear that his love of literature, poetry and writing was the driving force in his life leading him down many different but often simultaneous career paths. He was a journalist (Times Literary Supplement, The Anthenaeum), scholar, teacher, professor (Oxford, Imperial University Tokyo, University of Hong Kong), editor (Owen, Clare, Collins, Ivor Gurney), biographer (Shelly, Hunt, John Taylor – Keats’ publisher and prose writer (Undertones of War, Cricket Country). His other passions included book collecting (by 1965 he had over 10,000 books in his personal library) and cricket which was an obsession shared with his father.

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7. What attracted him to the Far East?
As a young boy Blunden had visions of what he later recognised as Japanese landscapes, so it was at a young age that he was drawn to the Far East. At a time when the travel to Japan from the West was very uncommon he took up the offer of Professor of English Literature at Imperial University Tokyo (1924 - 1927). He returned in November 1947 as a member of the United Kingdom Liaison Mission and again spent three years there this time as Cultural Adviser. In 1953 he and his family moved to Hong Kong so Blunden could accept the position of Professor of English at the university. They stayed for eleven years. Although he always returned to England Blunden had a love of the Far East, describing himself as an 'old friend of Japan'.
In both Japan and Hong Kong he was admired and loved by students, academics and dignitaries alike. He once recalled that he was 'haunted by the sense of the spirit of Japan - by Japan in her human expression; of the Japanese scene and that he could not go for a walk in England without seeming to be in one moment or another in Japan as wel.

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8. Where can I buy copies of Edmund Blunden publications?
'Undertones of War' is still in print and available at most bookshops. Copies of his poems can be found in anthologies, especially any relating to the First World War. For other publications you can try searching online or in second hand bookshops. The following websites may be of use: Amazon UK, eBay UK, Abebooks

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The Website

9. How often is the website updated?
The following pages will be updated on a regular basis: events, latest publications, articles and poems. The poems page will be changed occasionally to give visitors to the site an understanding of the vast amount of poems he wrote and the wide ranging experiences that inspired them.

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10. Who set up the website?
The website was set up by the family of Edmund Blunden.

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11. Can anybody contribute to the website?
We are constantly looking to update and add to the site and would welcome contributions from interested people. If you would like to write a piece for the site please contact us with your ideas.

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12. Is there an Edmund Blunden Society?
We are currently investigating the possibility of setting up an Edmund Blunden Society. We are looking for expressions of interest from potential members. Please contact us for more information.

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