I am afraid the title of this post is somewhat misleading, in two senses. Siegfried Sassoon, in his diary for 21 November 1921, expressed his avowed intention of NOT becoming a "pen-prostituter", even though his financial resources were somewhat stretched. Secondly, though his concern with money may have been occasioned partly by the knowledge that Christmas was approaching, he does not appear to have been looking forward to it in any way. At the end of his entry for 1 December, he wrote, "I wish I could take life less heavily. Robbie Ross always said I was 'rather morbid'. No doubt he was right."
In his November diary, Sassoon describes the various financial demands on him. Already in debt, he is determined to find money to help Harold Owen, Wilfred's younger brother, to study art in London. He had already tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade another friend, Arnold Bennett, to buy one of Harold's watercolours. Some readers may have got the impression that Sassoon had brushed aside his memories of Owen after the war, but here he says, "I keep thinking of Wilfred." Clearly he felt an obligation to his late friend's family, even if he tended to avoid direct contact with them.
Other individuals who were a financial drain on Sassoon's limited resources included Gabriel Atkin, the young artist who had been his first lover and was now receiving an "allowance" from him. Siegfried's brother Michael had borrowed money which Siegfried was not expecting to get back, and his chestnut mare was costing him a lot to maintain. He wanted to sell her, but the horse was not in a fit condition for him to ride her himself, let alone sell her. He was therefore trying to think of other ways of raising money, even considering the sale of some of his precious books and the portrait that had been painted by Glyn Philpot. The one thing he drew the line at was writing articles for magazines to supplement his income. Sassoon found it almost impossible to write to order.
In this state of mind, it is hardly surprising that Sassoon had fallen out with many of his friends. The chief thorn in his side was Osbert Sitwell, whose biting satires had targeted some of Siegfried's closest friends, including the innocuous Edmund Blunden. Other friends sapped his energy. Harold Laski, whom he liked, gave him a "restless satisfaction", whilst Frank "Toronto" Prewett, whom he also liked, could "only be taken in occasional doses". Perhaps the most pernicious influence was Walter Turner, with whom he shared the Tufton Street house. Turner was having an affair, and Siegfried saw him with the woman in question at a concert on 1 December, which upset him since he was fond of Turner's wife Delphine - unlike Robert Graves's wife Nancy, whom he listed as one of the main reasons for his estrangement from his old wartime comrade.
Sassoon was, of course, still suffering from depression, which perhaps we would now call PTSD. If anyone ever had a reason for feeling like this, it was him, but perhaps many of his other friends, like Graves and Blunden, had similar problems. Robert Ross perhaps did not take this into account when calling him "morbid". How could a man who had so recently been close to death and lost so many who were dear to him be otherwise? His mentor, W H R Rivers, whom he had seen in November, was someone on whom he depended to help him escape from the gloom. He would stay with Rivers in Cambridge in February 1922. But by June, Rivers was dead, having collapsed with a strangulated hernia in his rooms at St John's College. Curiously, in his diary for 6 June, the day he received the news, Sassoon wrote that Rivers had done him a good turn: "He has awakened in me a passionate consciousness of the significance of life." Perhaps it is easier to feel like that in June than it is in December.