C. H. Sisson

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Charles Hubert Sisson, CH (22 April 1914 – 5 September 2003), usually cited as C. H. Sisson, was a British writer, best known as a poet and translator.

C. H. Sisson
C. H. Sisson, by Patrick Swift, c. 1960
C. H. Sisson, by Patrick Swift, c. 1960
Born(1914-04-22)22 April 1914
Died5 September 2003(2003-09-05) (aged 89)
OccupationPoet, writer, translator.
EducationUniversity of Bristol


Born in Bristol in 1914, C. H. Sisson was noted as a poet, novelist, essayist and an important translator. He was a great friend of the critic and writer Donald Davie, with whom he corresponded regularly.[1]

Sisson's parents were Richard Percy Sisson and Ellen Minnie Sisson (née Worlock). He was educated at the University of Bristol where he read English and Philosophy, and in France and Germany.[2] As a poet he first came to light through the London Arts Review, X,[3] founded by the painter Patrick Swift and the poet David Wright. He reacted against the prevailing intellectual climate of the 1930s, particularly the Auden Group, preferring to go back to the anti-romantic T. E. Hulme, and to the Anglican tradition. The modernism of his poetry follows a 'distinct genealogy' from Hulme to Eliot, Pound, Ford Madox Ford and Wyndham Lewis.[4] His novel Christopher Homm experiments with form and is told backwards.

Sisson entered the Ministry of Labour as Principal Assistant in 1936. During the Second World War he served in the British Army, in the ranks, in India (1942–45).[2] He was Simon Senior Research Fellow (1956–57), Director of Establishments, Ministry of Labour (1962–68), and Director of Occupational Safety and Health, Ministry of Employment (1972).[2] 1972 was also the year of his retirement from the Civil Service, with the rank of Under-Secretary.[5] A standard text, The Spirit of British Administration (1959), was the product of his Simon Senior Research Fellowship;[6] it contains the main fruit of his reflection on the British Civil Service. The work notably compares British with French, (then West) German, Swedish, Austrian, and Spanish administrative methods; Sisson sees the British Civil Service as emerging favourably from the comparison.[7] Only slight and negative mention is made of the United States of America.[8] Sisson was no blind admirer of British methods, however. He was a 'severe critic of the British Civil Service and some of his essays caused controversy'.[9] In his collection The London Zoo he writes this epitaph 'Here lies a civil servant. He was civil/ To everyone, and servant to the devil.'[10]

Sisson was married, in 1937, to Nora Gilbertson (d. 2003) and they had two daughters.[11] In 1993 C.H. Sisson was appointed a Companion of Honour for his services to Literature.

Sisson died on 5 September 2003, aged 89.[11]


Poetry collectionsEdit

  • An Asiatic Romance (Carcanet Press, 1953. Paperback, 1995)
  • Poems (1959)
  • The Spirit of British Administration (1959)
  • The London Zoo (1961)
  • Numbers (Methuen, 1965)
  • The Discarnation, or How the Flesh became Word and Dwelt Among Us (1967)
  • Metamorphoses, (Methuen, London, 1968)
  • Roman Poems (1968)
  • The Case of Walter Bagehot (1972)
  • In the Trojan Ditch: Collected Poems and Selected Translations (Carcanet Press, 1974)
  • The Corridor (Mandeville Press, Hitchin, 1975) (ISBN 0-904533-12-3)
  • Anchises (1976) (ISBN 0-85635-178-4)
  • Moon-Rise and Other Poems (1979)
  • Exactions (1980), (ISBN 0-85635-332-9)
  • Autobiographical and other papers of Philip Mairet (1981), editor
  • Modern Poets Five (Faber and Faber, 1981) editor Jim Hunter, with Andrew Waterman, Craig Raine, Robert Wells, and Andrew Motion
  • Night Thoughts and Other Poems (1983)
  • Collected Poems 1943–1983 (Carcanet Press, 1984) (ISBN 0-85635-498-8)
  • God Bless Karl Marx! (Carcanet Press, 1987) (ISBN 0-85635-710-3)
  • On the Lookout: A Partial Autobiography (Carcanet Press, 1989)
  • Selected Poems (Carcanet Press, Paperback 1990)
  • Nine Sonnets (1991)
  • Re-active Anthology: Ghosts in the Corridor No. 2 (1992) with Andrew Crozier and Donald Davie
  • The Pattern (Enitharmon Press, 1993) (ISBN 1-870612-68-X)
  • What and Who (Carcanet Press, 1994)
  • Poems: Selected (Carcanet Press, 1995)
  • Collected Poems (Carcanet Press, 1998)
  • Antidotes (Carcanet Press, 2001)


Critical works (books)Edit



  • Letters to an Editor, ed. M. Fisher, Manchester : Carcanet, 1989, prints sixty-three letters from Sisson to the Carcanet Press. In the same volume Robert Hass (Letter 145, pp. 126–28) assesses Sissons' political thought.


  1. ^ Schmidt, Michael: Lives of the Poets, 749. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2007.
  2. ^ a b c Who's Who, 1974, London : A. & C. Black, 1974, p. 3016)
  3. ^ Michael Schmidt (founder of Carcanet Press, editor of Poetry Nation Review and Professor of Poetry at the University of Glasgow) writing in The Guardian in 2006 [1]
  4. ^ Schmidt, Michael: Lives of the Poets, p754. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2007.
  5. ^ "C H Sisson".
  6. ^ E.W. Bard, Public Administration Review, 20, No. 3, 1960 : p.171
  7. ^ Steven Muller, Administrative Science Quarterly, 5, No. 1, 1960 : pp.169-72
  8. ^ Steven Muller, Administrative Science Quarterly, 5, No. 1, 1960 : p.171.
  9. ^ Schmidt, Michael: Lives of the Poets, p 750. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2007.
  10. ^ Schmidt, Michael: Lives of the Poets, p. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2007.
  11. ^ a b Davie, Donald (9 September 2003). "Obituary: CH Sisson". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 April 2020.

External linksEdit