Authors: Rupert Brooke

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English poet

Author Works

Poetry:

Poems, 1911

1914, and Other Poems, 1915

Collected Poems, 1915

Complete Poems, 1932

The Poetical Works of Rupert Brooke, 1946 (Geoffrey Keynes, editor)

Drama:

Lithuania, pb. 1935 (one act)

Nonfiction:

John Webster and the Elizabethan Drama, 1916

Letters from America, 1916

The Prose of Rupert Brooke, 1956

The Letters of Rupert Brooke, 1968

Friends and Apostles: The Correspondence of Rupert Brooke and James Strachey, 1905-1915, 1998 (Keith Hale, editor)

Biography

Rupert Brooke, the most popular English poet of the World War I period, was born at the famous Public School of Rugby, where his father was an assistant master. After attending Rugby, Brooke went to King’s College, Cambridge, in 1909. At the university he immediately plunged into all the intellectual activities there, joining the Apostles, the famous discussion group, and taking a leading role in the Cambridge Amateur Dramatic Society. All who knew him at Cambridge remembered his great personal charm and amazing good looks. However, Brooke’s stunning exterior covered a deeply divided and troubled mind. It was during this period that he joined the Fabian Society, the socialistic group to which belonged many intellectuals, including H. G. Wells and Sidney and Beatrice Webb.{$I[AN]9810000648}{$I[A]Brooke, Rupert}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Brooke, Rupert}{$I[tim]1887;Brooke, Rupert}

Rupert Brooke

(Library of Congress)

After a reading trip with friends to Lulworth, he suffered a major breakdown and spent some time in Germany to recover, returning to the village of Grantchester near Cambridge. There he leased the Old Vicarage, the site of one of his most famous poems, “The Old Vicarage, Grantchester,” which he had written in Germany and originally planned to call “The Sentimental Exile.” While living at Grantchester, he prepared his dissertation on John Webster and published his first volume of poems in 1911.

In 1913 he embarked on a long journey that took him across the United States and Canada and eventually to the South Seas, where he spent some time in Samoa and Tahiti. It was in this Pacific paradise that he wrote some of his best poems, including “Tiare Tahiti” and “The Great Lover.”

Upon his return to England, he became involved with a glittering upper-class social set and fell in love with the actress Cathleen Nesbitt. Hardly had Brooke returned to England than World War I broke out. In spite of his early socialistic leanings, with the help of Winston Churchill he enlisted at once in the Royal Naval Division and took part in the futile attempt to defend Antwerp. In February of 1915 he sailed with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force for the Dardanelles and the ill-fated Gallipoli expedition. Brooke died of blood poisoning on a French hospital ship in the Aegean Sea and was buried on the island of Scyros, Greece.

Brooke began writing poetry, mainly decadent, while a student at Rugby, and during his undergraduate years he acquired a reputation as a promising younger poet. Through the patronage of Edward Marsh, he became associated with the group known as the Georgians, who were striving to return English poetry to the language and feelings of everyday life after the stodginess of the Victorians and the artificiality of the 1890’s. Brooke himself was much influenced by the Metaphysical poets of the seventeenth century. The influence of this Metaphysical “wit” is best seen in “Tiare Tahiti,” with its half-playful, half-serious handling of Platonic images.

The poems by which Brooke became famous were, however, the five sonnets of 1914, and Other Poems, written at Christmas of that year. To many readers, these were the best expression of the high patriotism with which England entered the war, and Brooke quickly became the symbol of the youth of England fallen on the battlefields. With the antiwar reaction of the 1920’s there came a corresponding reaction against Brooke; he came to be regarded as a “war poet,” which he really was not, and his once-great popularity faded.

Brooke cannot be called a great poet, and he belonged to a school that is out of fashion today. Yet their work, particularly Brooke’s, has closer ties to modernism than is often supposed. In spite of the great change in poetic taste since 1915, the poems of the Georgians and of Brooke still have something to offer, and they deserve a careful reexamination.

BibliographyDelaney, Paul. The Neo-Pagans: Rupert Brooke and the Ordeal of Youth. New York: Free Press, 1987. In 1911 Virginia Woolf half-derisively gave Brooke and his carefree circle the label “neo-pagans.” In this balanced appraisal, Delaney focuses on the flaws in the group’s philosophies that undermined their optimism about the future, causing conflicts and fragmenting their relationships. Contains notes and references, a bibliography, and an index.Hale, Keith, ed. Friends and Apostles: The Correspondence of Rupert Brooke and James Strachey: 1905-1914. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998. This collection of letters records the friendship and love shared by Brooke and Strachey, who first met at the age of ten. They were both eighteen and students at Cambridge University when they renewed their acquaintance, which marks the beginning of the collection.Jones, Nigel H. Rupert Brooke: Life, Death, and Myth. London: Richard Cohen Books, 1999. W. B. Yeats called Rupert Brooke “the most beautiful man in England.” Jones draws on Brooke’s previously unpublished letters to reveal what the publisher calls the “unsentimental truth.” The Times of London comments, “Brooke is sharply perceived, his inner corrosion convincingly described and analyzed.”Lehmann, John. The Strange Destiny of Rupert Brooke. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981. In this highly praised combination of biography and literary criticism, Lehmann explores Brooke’s psychological history and explains why Brooke’s friends expressed conflicting judgments about his character and abilities. Contains an index and a brief biography.Read, Mike. Forever England. Edinburgh: Mainstream, 1997. This biography allows Brooke to speak for himself through the inclusion of poems and other writings. The work also provides a well-rounded picture of prewar England, providing detailed background to various persons and places alluded to in the texts.Rogers, Timothy. Rupert Brooke: A Reappraisal and Selection from His Writings, Some Hitherto Unpublished. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1971. Rogers says that Brooke has often been judged unfairly; the poetry has created the myth, and the myth has obscured the best in Brooke’s work. Along with his collection of representative prose and verse, Rogers provides critical commentary, arguing persuasively that the charge of dullness frequently leveled at Brooke is unwarranted. A bibliography concludes this slight volume.
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