Writing Life

BookWriting Life

Writing Life

Early Twentieth-Century Autobiographies of the Artist-Hero

English Association Monographs: English at the Interface, 4


December 1st, 2015

Access Token


Other Formats



Writers’ lives are endlessly fascinating for the reading public and literary scholars alike. By examining the self-representation of authors across the schism between Victorianism and Modernism via the First World War, this study offers a new way of evaluating biographical context and experience in the individual creative process at a crucial point in world and literary history. Writing Life explores how and why a select group of early twentieth-century writers, including Edmund Gosse, Henry James, Siegfried Sassoon and Dorothy Richardson, adapted the model of the German Romantic Künstlerroman, or artist narrative, for their autobiographical writing. Instead of (mis)reading these autobiographies as historical documentation, Pooler examines how these authors conduct a Romantic-style conversation about literature through literature as a means of reconfirming the role of the artist in the face of shifting values and the cataclysm of the Great War.


'[Pooler] convincingly demonstrates that these writers consciously constructed their individual stories of artistic development in novelistic terms, incorporating key features of the Künstlerroman into their autobiographical narratives … Pooler’s book makes a valuable contribution to the field of autobiography studies, as it foregrounds the stylistic concerns that occupied many life writers at the start of the twentieth century.’
Alexander McKee, Life Writing

'In charting influence and tracing the development of genres, Pooler is lucid and engaging. This monograph should be a reference point for anyone who has wondered about the exact relationship between Pilgrimage and the Bildungsroman and where the line can be drawn in her text between autobiography and fiction.'
Rebecca Bowler, Pilgrimages: A Journal of Dorothy Richardson Studies


Author Information

Mhairi Pooler is a Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Introduction ‘The Very Complexion of the Mirror’9
The Historical Horizon16
Creative Autobiography23
1. The Writer Reading30
Tradition and Inheritance: The Künstlerroman33
‘Influence (Inflowing)’50
2. The Anxiety of Inheritance Edmund Gosse’s Father and Son61
Victorian and Modern64
Religion and Literature71
3. The Art of Life85
Making a Scene92
The Fostered Imagination99
‘Convert, convert, convert!’106
4. A Twofold Experiment with Time117
‘Fictionalized Reality, Essayized Autobiography’121
‘Nostalgic and Breezy Reminiscences’130
‘England’s Young Soldier-Poet’137
5. An Investigation of Reality148
The Art of Fiction152
Pilgrimage’s Progress159
Of Language, of Meaning, of Mr Henry James169
Conclusion: Reading the Writer184