Siegfried Sassoon's poem "Atrocities" (full text here) describes the murder of German prisoners by British soldiers during WWI. According to Wikipedia:

The discovery in 2013 of an early draft of one of Sassoon's best-known anti-war poems ["Atrocities"] had biographers saying they would rewrite portions of their work about the poet. [...] "This is very exciting material. I want to rewrite my biography and I probably shall be able to get some of it in. It's a treasure trove."

What precisely was so significant about this rediscovered draft? It's not every day that biographers decide to rewrite sections of their biographies based on newly unearthed material. (The cited Guardian article is hardly more explanatory than Wikipedia itself on this point.)

  • I think you may have misunderstood the quote. Reading the article, the "treasure trove" is the entire collection of 50 poems not just Atrocities. The journalist is focusing on that because it's so well known, not because its draft alone is particularly significant.
    – Matt Thrower
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 9:19
  • @MattThrower Hmm, maybe you're right. Post that as an answer?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 10:53
  • I was reluctant to post is as an answer because it's more of a problem with the question. Seems a bit disingenuous.
    – Matt Thrower
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 10:58
  • @MattThrower That's what some people call a frame challenge answer. Challenging the premise of a question can be a perfectly fine answer; indeed, if the question really is based on a false premise, it's the only correct way to answer.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 11:02

1 Answer 1


It appears there may be a misunderstanding in the question. There is no particular significance to Atrocities

The Wikipedia quote is a bad summary of the article it references, which makes two separate points run together.

The article opens with the changes to the poem Atrocities, a choice made by the journalist for a number of reasons. The poem is fairly well known. It has shocking, evocative imagery. And the draft version makes clear that the changes are substantial, with the original being even more provocative. All of these things make it a great lede for a newspaper article.

The quote about the "treasure trove" in the article is much further down. Set in context it is clear that the person who said this, Sassoon's biographer Jean Wilson, is referring to the entire collection, not just a single poem.

Among the Sassoon material is a notebook with almost 50 previously unpublished poems.


Sassoon's biographer Jean Moorcroft Wilson said: "This is very exciting material. I want to rewrite my biography and I probably shall be able to get some of it in. It's a treasure trove."

It's also worth pointing out that this can be read two ways. Although there's an implication that the discovery has made Wilson want to rewrite her biography, it's not concrete. "I want to rewrite" could be taken as reading that Wilson was planning a revision in any case, and is excited to also include the new material.

Indeed, it then goes on to make an entirely separate point about Atrocities, which makes clear that it's only part of the wider "trove".

Commenting on the Atrocities draft, she said: "The publisher, Heinemann, wouldn't let him publish it.

The Wikipedia summary runs the "trove" quote directly after its description of Atrocities, making them seem related when they are not.

  • 2
    Darn Wikipedia and its inaccurate summaries :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 12:59
  • @Randal'Thor The thing about WP is that it's collaboratively edited, sorta like SE; if part of it is lacking, you can edit it yourself to fix it :)
    – Shokhet
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 17:55

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