November 4 in Literary History: Wilfred Owen is Killed in Action

The most significant events in the history of books on the 4th of November

An Austrian psychoanalyst makes history on this day, November the 4th, in 1899, and a young poet of the First World War – arguably the greatest poet of the War – dies in 1918…

1771: Poet James Montgomery is born in Scotland. He would twice be jailed for seditious behaviour: on the first occasion, in 1795, this was for publishing a poem that praised the fall of the Bastille six years earlier; a year later, he found himself back in the cells for criticising a magistrate who had called for a political protest to be dispersed. Among his poetic works is Greenland (1819), about the Moravian church’s mission to Greenland in 1733.

1899: Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams is published. Although it was postdated to 1900, Freud’s Wilfred Owenlandmark book actually arrived on bookshelves nearly two months before the coming of the new century (if you go along with the idea that ‘1900’ signalled the arrival of the twentieth century, that is). Freud’s book would influence a whole host of writers and artist in the coming century. His later books would include Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious (1905), which used Freud’s psychoanalytic theories to explain laughter.

1918: Wilfred Owen is killed in action, just one week before the Armistice that would bring the First World War to an end. Just five of his poems had been published when he died; most of his most famous war poems would be published posthumously. We offer a short analysis of one of Owen’s most famous poems, ‘Futility’, here. We also offer some interesting facts about war poetry here.

1948: T. S. Eliot is presented with the Nobel Prize for Literature. The fame and high status that followed these honours led to Eliot’s being seen as something of a literary celebrity. ‘The years between fifty and seventy are the hardest’, Eliot told Time magazine (23 October 1950). ‘You are always being asked to do more, and you are not yet decrepit enough to turn them down.’

Image: Wilfred Owen (author unknown: image taken from 1920 edition of Poems of Wilfred Owen), Wikimedia Commons.


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  4. I really love Owen’s poetry, it’s so bitter and raw. Freud was also a… fascinating guy. I’ve studied him in psychology, although some of his theories are a little bit outdated nowadays, and most of them pretty outlandish to us!