‘Glory of Women’ was written at Craiglockhart and first published in 1917

Date posted

29 June 2023


An original manuscript of a poem by Siegfried Sassoon has ‘returned home’ to Edinburgh Napier’s Craiglockhart campus more than 100 years after it was written in the same location.

Glory of Women was written by Siegfried Sassoon, and this manuscript copy was given to fellow patient and poet Wilfred Owen when both were residing at Craiglockhart War Hospital in 1917.

The hospital – which is now home to Edinburgh Napier University’s Business School – was previously a hydrotherapy centre in the late 19th and early 20th century before being requisitioned as a hospital for WWI officers affected by what was then known as shell shock.

The manuscript has been donated to the University’s War Poets Collection by Scottish playwright and poet Stewart Conn. He was, from 2002 to 2005, Edinburgh's inaugural makar (poet laureate).People posing with Siegfried Sassoon poem

The poem was acquired by Conn after another eminent playwright Stephen MacDonald named him as his literary executor for documents and manuscripts relating primarily to his stage plays Not About Heroes and In the Summer of 1918 – both of which were directed by Conn when he was BBC Scotland's head of radio drama.

Prior, the manuscript was given to MacDonald in 1984 by painter and art critic Cordelia Oliver, who in turn had received it from her close friend Audrey Lintott – wife of Henry John Lintott, whose painting Avatar was the finest picture in the Edinburgh Gallery according to Wilfred Owen – when she passed away in 1983.

A large part of the current War Poets Collection was previously acquired directly from Stephen MacDonald who – via bequest in 2009 – kindly left Edinburgh Napier his research collection on Owen and Sassoon.

It is therefore fitting that Glory of Women has found its way back to Craiglockhart, completing a journey that has taken it to all corners of the country throughout the last 100+ years.

Stewart Conn said: “Stephen (MacDonald) subsequently left to me as his literary executor his documents and manuscripts, relating primarily to the stage plays Not About Heroes and In the Summer of 1918.

“The bulk of these were, with a selection of theatre posters, duly lodged in the National Library of Scotland as a donation to their Scottish Theatre Archive. The poem MS, of no dramatic importance, I retained as a memento of him. Sensing that purpose was now served, I hope it will be seen as a fitting addition to Edinburgh Napier's War Poets Collection where it can remain on public display rather than gather dust in a vault; and like to think of this as enabling its proper 'homecoming'.”

Laura Cooijmans-Keizer, Edinburgh Napier’s Special Collections Curator, said: “Glory of Women is a poignant poem that demonstrates the conflicting pressures faced by men fighting in the trenches. The idealised expectations of glory and heroism that women at home – both in Britain and Germany – projected onto soldiers was often in direct competition with the stark, and often decidedly unheroic realities of war. The kind donation of this important manuscript poem by Siegfried Sassoon will offer a unique opportunity for it to be studied, appreciated, and debated at the place where it was first composed.”

Professor Andrea Nolan, Principal and Vice Chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University, said: “Edinburgh Napier University extends its heartfelt gratitude to Stewart Conn, whose generous donation has made it possible for the manuscript to return to its original place of creation. Within the context of the wider War Poets Collection exhibition, this important poem will have the potential to inspire countless future generations of students, authors, readers, and scholars.”

Edinburgh Napier’s War Poets Collection comprises more than 800 items, including many unique items that the University is proud to own, such as signed first edition books, volumes of poetry by Sassoon and Owen and three original issues of The Hydra, the hospital’s magazine.

The permanent exhibition within Craiglockhart Campus allows visitors to view the War Poets Collection and gain an insight into the personal and social experiences of war through the words, memories, voices and objects that the officers, medical staff and relatives left behind.

More details on the collection can be found here.