‘Fading Crimean Flowers’: Spasmodic Sonnets on the War

Mischa Willett
  • Victoriographies, July 2018, Edinburgh University Press
  • DOI: 10.3366/vic.2018.0302

Extraordinary poems written during the Crimean War

What is it about?

Most people writing about Victorian poetry don't mention "Sonnets on the War" by Alexander Smith and Sydney Dobell, but it is an important book because it doesn't cover over the Crimean War's ugly or unpleasant bits. ​

Why is it important?

People tend to think of war poetry, particularly Victorian war poetry as sentimental and patriotic, and they also think of it as excluding women. This little book challenges all those assumptions and offers an example for how we can respond to war artistically even if we don't necessarily support it. ​


Dr Mischa Willett (Author)
Seattle Pacific University

I liked writing this article because I like the poems so much. I was amazed when I first read them: I didn't think Victorian poetry was so dark, so bare, so honest. Also, since I'm a poet myself, it was helpful to see how hard these poets worked to say something useful even while they were not themselves involved in the conflict. I like the Spasmodics generally (the school to which these poets belong), so any chance to read and talk about their work is a joy for me. ​

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Mischa Willett