This collection of letters is from England in 1916, prior to Trotter’s deployment to the trenches in France. He writes home about his day, his meals, and the other letters and trinkets he’s received. Several of these letters describe trips to places that are desirable today; a brush with Shakespeare and a walk through the University of Oxford.
A continuous thread throughout is the dichotomy between war-work and leisure. Whilst eating rations, attending military schooling, and participating in route-marches, Trotter also had the freedom to explore the English countryside by train. He mentions being inspired by his travels, and enclosing short verses for his parents to read. It’s clear that he prioritized writing, and his experiences influenced but did not hinder his work.
David Daiches comments on this dichotomy - stating that "Art is not something to be put aside in a time of crisis, not an optional luxury to be forgone in a period of universal rationing, not an addendum to civilization that can only be written in a quiet moment of leisure. Aesthetic communication is the communication of a kind of awareness, a type of insight, which has no equivalent or substitute in any other form of human activity: it is a function of civilization and not a postscript to it.”