England 1916

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.”  

April 12, 1916

B.F. Trotter, Letter, April 12, 1916

Trotter’s visit in April hit all of the classic London sites.  Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Scotland Yard & Trafalgar Square make the list, with specific mention given to the poet’s corner of Westminster Abbey.  He was afforded enough time off to fully experience the English countryside, and it’s evident that he took special care to seek out places of importance to poetry. 

July 30, 1916

B.F. Trotter, Letter, July 30, 1916

This letter from July of 1916 details a visit to the famed Bodleian library at the University of Oxford.  It offers insight into the freedom Trotter had during his time in England, and his passion for arts & culture.  Scholar Sarah Cozzi remarks that Britain became a sort of “home away from home” for enlisted men while on leave. 

Sept 20, 1916

B.F. Trotter, Letter, Sept 20, 1916

Continuing his exploration on leave, Trotter recounts his visit to Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare.  He remarks that “I don’t regard it as more than a preliminary visit; though if I shouldn’t get back for some time, I really saw the essential things.” 

Oct 8, 1916

B.F. Trotter, Letter, Oct 8, 1916

Writing to Marjorie in October, Trotter admits that “I am enclosing a not altogether satisfactory production which is the product of odd hours.”  He adds that he’s not sure whether to discard the last stanza or not - indication that his time enlisted was beginning to wear on him, and affect his art. 

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