Seigfried Sassoon (1886-1967), David A. Robertson (1880-1961), and Anne Knobel Robertson (?-1942)–Grief, Love, and Books

David A. Robertson was president of Goucher College during its tumultuous move from the downtown Baltimore campus to its current home on a hilltop in Towson. In October 1942, Robertson and his wife, Anne Knobel Robertson, were injured in an auto accident in Baltimore. He recovered from his injuries, but she, originally diagnosed with a concussion, died on November 4. President Robertson and his wife’s friends created a fund to donate books to the Goucher Library collection in her name, each identified by the “A.K.R.” bookplate on the verso of the front cover and a hand-printed pen dedication note from her husband on the facing free endpaper. They populate the Main Collection like Easter eggs, waiting for students to discover them and to be reminded of a man’s long lonely love for his wife.

Most notes are short, but this one, dated January 31, 1943–only two and a half months after her death–is the most extensive discovered so far. The book, Siegfried Sassoon’s autobiographical memoir beginning with his earliest youth on The Weald of England, a wild stretch of once-forested land on the Dover coast, seems to have appealed to “D.A.R.” for its author’s status as a famous World War I poet and for Sassoon’s passionate response, late in the memoir, to a friend who introduced him to the world of classical music. A transcription follows:

“A. K. R. would have been especially interested in the words on p. 207: “ … since the reading aloud of poetry always makes me feel a bit shy and uncomfortable.” One night at a meeting of the University of Chicago Poetry society when the young members read some of their own verses Siegfried Sassoon was present. He whispered to A.K.R. that he was terribly impressed, awed, by the young poets and might he sit back in a corner with her. I do not remember who were present that night. Elizabeth Madox Roberts, who worked out part of her first volume of poetry in one of my classes, and Maurice Leseman, and Jimmy (Vincent) Sheean, and Glenway Wescott. There were three or four others who also have attained success. No wonder Sassoon was impressed.

She would have loved too the beautiful account of Wirgie, for she too loved the piano and played it at dusk—Chopin’s nocturnes and preludes and Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words and some Brahms or Beethoven modulating in later years into “Old Nassau” and “We’re Going Back” and finally and almost inaudibly “Home Sweet Home.” Sometimes our loved Scottie, Adam Smith, sat on his haunches eagerly and respectfully watching till a number was finished. And sometimes at length he’d lift his head and vocalize! It shouldn’t be called a howl, it was apparently his effort to express himself in an unaccustomed medium one he sought to enjoy with her!

Author: Professor Arnold Sanders, Emeritus Professor of English (2015) – Goucher College.

*Note: The materials below are provided by Goucher Special Collection & Archives.