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The Dennis Silk Collection

6th September 2021

Lawrences’ forthcoming sale of Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Photography on September 23rd includes an important archive of letters, publications and other material relating to Siegfried Sassoon, an English Poet, writer and solider. Decorated for bravery on the Western Front, he became one of the leading poets of the First World War. 

Dennis Silk met Siegfried at Fenners cricket ground on a late May afternoon in 1953. Siegfried had come up to Cambridge to receive an honorary fellowship at his old college, Clare, and his friend of 40 years Edmund Blunden, like Dennis an old boy of Christ’s Hospital, had asked him to look in at the University Cricket Ground and introduce himself. Dennis remembered well the gaunt, handsome stranger who marched up to the Pavilion with a long forked hazel staff in his hand. He looked up at the rows of seated spectators and said in a tone of inquiry and a little awkwardly, “Dennis Silk”. When Dennis identified himself he said imply “Siegfried Sassoon”.

This was the prelude to 13 years of unalloyed friendship. Staying at Heytesbury in the holidays and talking endlessly late into the night about “my old war” sitting in his lovely library. And later, when Dennis went to teach at Marlborough, their friendship grew. When Dennis and I met one Christmas holiday and became engaged I was taken to meet Siegfried. It was in 1963, the year of the snow and we took tea sitting in front of the library fire. He and Dennis talked and I sat quietly and Siegfried hardly appeared to notice my presence. When we went to leave he stood in the Hall in front of the door and opened wide his arms, gave me an enormous hug, and just as quickly released me. I felt that all would be well.

Diana Silk, May 2021.

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