The Return of the Soldier
  • Publication Date: September 21, 2010
  • ISBN: 9781551115122 / 1551115123
  • 240 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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The Return of the Soldier

  • Publication Date: September 21, 2010
  • ISBN: 9781551115122 / 1551115123
  • 240 pages; 5½" x 8½"

The Return of the Soldier tells the story of a shell-shocked soldier who returns home from the First World War believing that he is in love with a working-class woman from his past, rather than married to his aristocratic wife. His family and doctor must decide whether to allow him to remain safely in his delusion, or to bring him back to reality and return him to the front. A brief novel with a seemingly simple plot, it is a classic of modernist literature and provides a point of entry into discussions of some of the twentieth century’s most enduring themes.

Appendices include textual variants, patriotic and antiwar verse from World War I, war journalism by West, contemporary paintings and propaganda posters, and material on shell-shock.


“This new publication of a modern classic is a major literary event. For the first time, scholars and general readers have a reliable text of a masterpiece that has been poorly produced in previous editions. And how splendid to have specimens of significant World War I poetry to set beside the novel for the purpose of providing historical context and literary comparison. I can’t wait to teach this superb text, complete with prose pieces of other authors, visual art, historical studies of the period, contemporary reviews, and an authoritative bibliography.” — Carl Rollyson, Baruch College, The City University of New York

“One of Rebecca West’s most teachable works, The Return of the Solider is set amid a rich grouping of contextual materials in this edition. Particularly strong are examples of World War I poetry, prose, artistic representations, posters, and West’s own early essays. The editors are to be congratulated for offering a corrected text that overcomes many errors introduced in an American edition and compounded after its copyright expired. Helpful notes add to the text's accessibility.” — Bonnie Kime Scott, San Diego State University

Rebecca West: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

The Return of the Soldier

Appendix A: Textual Variants

  1. Opening Passage of The Return of the Soldier, from the American Edition, Century Co. (1918)
  2. Letter by Cousin Frank, from the American Edition, Century Co. (1918)

Appendix B: World War I Poetry

  1. Rupert Brooke
    1. “The Soldier” (1914)
  2. Jessie Pope
    1. “The Call” (1915)
  3. Madeline Ida Bedford
    1. “Munition Wages” (1917)
  4. Wilfred Owen
    1. “Mental Cases” (1918, 1920)
    2. “Disabled” (1917, 1920)
  5. Siegfried Sassoon
    1. “The Death Bed” (1918)
    2. “Does It Matter?” (1918)
  6. Amy Lowell
    1. “September, 1918” (1919)
  7. Guillaume Apollinaire
    1. “April Night 1915 (for L. de C.-C.)” (1918)
    2. “Platoon Commander” (1918)
  8. Max Jacob
    1. “1914” (1923)
    2. “War” (1923)
  9. T.S. Eliot
    1. “Gerontion” (1920)
  10. Ezra Pound
    1. From “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley” (1920)
  11. H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)
    1. “8” (1916)
  12. Marianne Moore
    1. “Reinforcements” (1921)
    2. “The Fish” (1921)

Appendix C: World War I Prose

  1. D.H. Lawrence, “With the Guns” (1914)
  2. Virginia Woolf, “The Mark on the Wall” (1917)
  3. Rebecca West, “Woman Worship: War, Peace and the Future by Ellen Key” (13 April 1917)
  4. Rebecca West, “Hands That War: The Night Shift” (1916)
  5. From Robert Graves, Goodbye to All That (1929)

Appendix D: World War I Visual Art

  1. Paintings
    1. C.R.W. Nevinson, “A Bursting Shell” (1915)
    2. Wyndham Lewis, “A Battery Shelled” (1919)
    3. Paul Nash, “We Are Making a New World” (1918)
    4. William Roberts, “A Shell Dump, France” (1918–19)
    5. William Orpen, “Zonnebeke” (1918)
  2. British World War I Propaganda Posters
    1. “Take Up the Sword of Justice”
    2. “Women of Britain Say—‘Go!’”
    3. “Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps”
    4. “Daddy, What Did YOU Do in the Great War?”
    5. “The Greatest Mother in the World”
  3. Norman Price’s Illustrations for the Century Co. Magazine Version of The Return of the Soldier
  4. World War I Photography

Appendix E: W.H.R. Rivers, “The Repression of War Experience” (1918)

Appendix F: From Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899)

Appendix G: Contemporary Reviews of The Return of the Soldier

  1. Robert Lynd, “Miss Rebecca West’s Novel,” The Daily News (23 May 1918)
  2. Lawrence Gilman, “Rebecca West,” The North American Review (May 1918)
  3. “The Return of the Soldier,” The Independent (13 April 1918)
  4. Q.K. [unidentified], “Rebecca West’s First Novel,” The New Republic (23 March 1918)
  5. Henry B. Fuller, “Rebecca West—Novelist,” The Dial (28 March 1918)
  6. Doris Webb, “‘Something Saner Than Sanity’: The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca
    West,” The Publishers’ Weekly (16 February 1918)
  7. “The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West,” The Scotsman (23 May 1918)
  8. “The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West,” The New York Times (10 March 1918)
  9. Rebecca West, “The Return of the Soldier,” The Observer (24 June 1928)

Select Bibliography

Bernard Schweizer is Associate Professor of English at Long Island University.

Charles Thorne teaches English at Bergen Community College, New Jersey.