Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen

In 2014, my biography of Wilfred Owen was published by Yale University Press, and it came out in paperback the following year.  It was a chance to offer a fresh portrait of this major war poet, and it was a book I worked on for several years (in St Andrews, London and Liverpool).  It was reviewed in many newspapers and magazines, as you can see below, and it was nice to be asked to give talks on Owen at a number of different places in the UK (and France and the Netherlands). It is available to buy from the Yale site or your local bookshop or from Amazon.


Press for Wilfred Owen:

Gary Day, Times Higher Education Supplement, 1 May 2014: ‘[a] scintillating biography […] breathes some life into the war poet […] The real strength of this biography is in tracing Owen’s debt to other writers and in discovering new sources for his poems […] Scholars of Owen, and that mythical beast the common reader, will also find much to enjoy […] For a long time Owen has been set in stone, his poetry ossifying into anti-war cliché. Cuthbertson has made him live again.’


Rowan Williams, New Statesman, 21 February 2014: ‘[a] very readable and focused biography […] a vigorous, well-documented narrative, with fresh light to cast on some central themes. It is excellent on the Shropshire background, on Owen’s educational career, including his long-lived nostalgia for the Oxford he had never attended, and on the curious life he led as an emigre in France. It offers too some intelligent analysis of Owen’s growing technical accomplishment as a poet’.


Richard Edmonds, The Birmingham Post (and syndicated), 10 April 2014: ‘rarely has a poet been better served than by Guy Cuthbertson’s sensitive and beautifully-written account […] highly readable, using a wealth of fascinating detail […] Should you purchase this truly lovely and deeply humane book, I guarantee you will read and re-read it – maybe for the rest of your life.’


The Year’s Work in English Studies, (95:1), 2016: ‘As well as its emphasis on the formative influences of Owen’s early life, then, Cuthbertson’s book is undoubtedly valuable for fostering a more refined understanding of the poetry itself.’


Daisy Goodwin, The Sunday Times (Books section cover story), 2 March 2014: ‘Cuthbertson’s biography is admirably thorough in its unpacking of Owen’s poetic imagery. There is no reference that is unexplored.’


The Sunday Herald, 23 February 2014: ‘This impressive biography […] sheds new light on important aspects of Owen’s literary career […] Cuthbertson is also very good on the religious context of Owen’s verse, especially the impact that French Roman Catholicism had on a man brought up in a somewhat humdrum variant of English Protestantism’.


‘Book of the Week’, The Daily Mail, 28 February 2014.


Financial Times, 29 February 2014: ‘[Cuthbertson] writes with such sincerity, telling the story of Owen’s short life and journey from provincial obscurity to the carnage of the western front and then to posthumous fame as a “war” poet with diligence and empathy.’


The Use of English, Summer 2014: ‘Guy Cuthbertson’s new biography is lively, frequently witty, and extensively researched […] Guy Cuthbertson’s very readable account is a useful corrective to some of the myth and hyperbole that has come to surround Owen’.


Friends of the Dymock Poets, August 2014: ‘an original, sparkling book […] The prose is lively and elegant, full of audacious allusions and detailed descriptions of places associated with Owen […] This textured and engaging biography is a fine addition to the body of work about the remarkable Wilfred Owen’.


Booklist, 15 March 2014: ‘Invaluable insight into a man whose words will be heard often during the upcoming WW1 centennial’Booklist ‘Top Ten Biographies: 2014’, 1 June 2014 – the top ten biographies of the year, 2013-14: ‘Cuthbertson sensitively considers Owen’s childlike charm, objections to the war, and heroism at the front’.


Julia Richardson, Daily Mail, 23 October 2015: ‘In this compassionate and moving biography, Cuthbertson lifts the lid on Owen’s early years and their impact on his work. […] While his boyishness nurtured his verse, his writing was mature and sophisticated, and Cuthbertson scrutinises this relationship wonderfully’.


Daniel P. King, World Literature Today, November 2014: ‘Guy Cuthbertson adeptly shows Owen’s sharpness and intelligence […]. Cuthbertson’s intense inquiry into Owen’s life […] skillfully introduces new readers “to the poetry, to the young moustached face, and to the story of his life.”‘


John Sutherland, The Times, 15 March 2014: ‘Cuthbertson is scrupulous, thoughtful and open-minded. His book is fired with enthusiasm for the poems and respect for the man who created them. The result is a fine biography.’


Sean O’Brien, The Times Literary Supplement, 6 November 2014: ‘[Cuthbertson’s] sense of place and milieu and of Owen’s response to them is very strong, as is his depiction of the constraints and miseries of lower-middle-class life, of Owen’s time at Craiglockhart hospital, and of his literary friendships […] Cuthbertson’s readings of the poems are clear and informative, though the case for Owen’s poetry scarcely needs to be made at present.’


Nigel Jones, BBC History Magazine, February 2016: ‘Cuthbertson is an acute and perceptive critic […] This book is a valuable addition to the huge library devoted to the war’s remarkable literary legacy’.


Sydney Leach, The National Review, 25 May 2015: ‘Guy Cuthbertson’s biography Wilfred Owen is to be highly recommended. Cuthbertson provides a fresh and insightful portrait of one of the most famous British war poets and corrects some false impressions that have become attached to him’.



Wilfred Owen App
Wilfred Owen biography video
BBC 2, 4 August 2014: World War One Remembered from Westminster Abbey (9pm)


Some places associated with Owen.










Fountains Abbey: