Rupert Chawner Brooke (middle name sometimes given as "Chaucer;" 3 August 1887 - 23 April 1915) was an English poet known for his idealistic war sonnets written during the First World War, especially "The Soldier." He was also known for his boyish good looks, which were said to have prompted the Irish poet W. B. Yeats to describe him as "the handsomest young man in England."
Brooke was born at 5 Hillmorton Road, Rugby, Warwickshire, He was the third of four children of William Parker "Willie" Brooke, a schoolmaster (teacher), and Ruth Mary Brooke, née Cotterill, a school matron. Both parents were working at Fettes College in Edinburgh when they met. They married on 18 December 1879. William Parker Brooke had to resign after the couple wed as there was no accommodation there for married masters. The couple then moved to Rugby in Warwickshire where Rupert's father became Master of School Field House at Rugby School a month later. His eldest brother was Richard England "Dick" Brooke (1881-1907), his sister Edith Marjorie Brooke was born in 1885 and died the following year, and his youngest brother was William Alfred Cotterill "Podge" Brooke (1891-1915).
Brooke suffered a severe emotional crisis in 1912, resulting in the breakdown of his long relationship with Ka Cox (Katherine Laird Cox). Brooke's paranoia that Lytton Strachey had schemed to destroy his relationship with Cox by encouraging her to see Henry Lamb precipitated his break with his Bloomsbury group friends and played a part in his nervous collapse and subsequent rehabilitation trips to Germany.
As part of his recuperation, Brooke toured the United States and Canada to write travel diaries for the Westminster Gazette. He took the long way home, sailing across the Pacific and staying some months in the South Seas. Much later it was revealed that he may have fathered a daughter with a Tahitian woman named Taatamata with whom he seems to have enjoyed his most complete emotional relationship. Many more people were in love with him. Brooke was romantically involved with the artist Phyllis Gardner and the actress Cathleen Nesbitt, and was once engaged to Noël Olivier, whom he met, when she was aged 15, at the progressive Bedales School.
Brooke enlisted at the outbreak of war in August 1914. He came to public attention as a war poet early the following year, when The Times Literary Supplement published two sonnets ("IV: The Dead" and "V: The Soldier") on 11 March; the latter was then read from the pulpit of St Paul's Cathedral on Easter Sunday (4 April). Brooke's most famous collection of poetry, containing all five sonnets, 1914 & Other Poems, was first published in May 1915 and, in testament to his popularity, ran to 11 further impressions that year and by June 1918 had reached its 24th impression; a process undoubtedly fuelled through posthumous interest.
I sat with Rupert. At 4 o'clock he became weaker, and at 4.46 he died, with the sun shining all round his cabin, and the cool sea-breeze blowing through the door and the shaded windows. No one could have wished for a quieter or a calmer end than in that lovely bay, shielded by the mountains and fragrant with sage and thyme.
Another friend and war poet, Patrick Shaw-Stewart, assisted at his hurried funeral. His grave remains there still, with monument erected by his friend Stanley Casson, poet and archaeologist, who in 1921 published Rupert Brooke and Skyros, a "quiet essay", illustrated with woodcuts by Phyllis Gardner.
On 11 November 1985, Brooke was among 16 First World War poets commemorated on a slate monument unveiled in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. The inscription on the stone was written by a fellow war poet, Wilfred Owen. It reads: "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."
The wooden cross that marked Brooke's grave on Skyros, which was painted and carved with his name, was removed when a permanent memorial was made there. His mother, Mary Ruth Brooke, had the cross brought to Rugby, to the family plot at Clifton Road Cemetery. Because of erosion in the open air, it was removed from the cemetery in 2008, and replaced by a more permanent marker. The Skyros cross is now at Rugby School with the memorials of other old Rugbeians.
Brooke's surviving brother, William Alfred Cotterill Brooke, fell in action on the Western Front on 14 June 1915 as a subaltern with the 1/8th (City of London) of the London Regiment (Post Office Rifles), at the age of 24 years. He had been in France on active service for nineteen days before meeting his death. His body was buried in Fosse 7 Military Cemetery (Quality Street), Mazingarbe.
American adventurer Richard Halliburton made preparations for writing a biography of Brooke, meeting his mother and others who had known the poet, and corresponding widely and collecting copious notes, but he died before writing the manuscript. Halliburton's notes were used by Arthur Springer to write Red Wine of Youth--A Biography of Rupert Brooke (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1952).
In popular culture
Frederick Septimus Kelly wrote his "Elegy, In Memoriam Rupert Brooke for harp and strings" after attending Brooke's death and funeral. He also took Brooke's notebooks containing important late poems for safekeeping, and later returned them to England.
Brooke was an inspiration to John Gillespie Magee Jr., who attended Rugby a generation later, and won the same poetry prize as his predecessor. Magee is best known for his poems "High Flight" and "Sonnet to Rupert Brooke".
F. Scott Fitzgerald's debut novel, This Side of Paradise (1920), opens with the quotation "Well this side of Paradise!… There's little comfort in the wise. -- Rupert Brooke". Rupert Brooke is also referenced in other parts of the book.
A saying by Brooke was mentioned in Princess Elizabeth's Act of Dedication speech on her 21st Birthday in 1947: "Let us say with Rupert Brooke, now God be thanked who has matched us with this hour".
The opening two stanzas of his poem "Dust" were set to music by the pop group Fleetwood Mac and appear on their 1972 album Bare Trees.
In an episode of M*A*S*H*, "Springtime," Cpl. Klinger reads from a book of Rupert Brooke's poems which he won in a poker game. Later, Radar uses the book to try to impress a nurse, mispronouncing the author's name "Ruptured Brook".
In the fourth and final episode of the 2003 BBC series Cambridge Spies, British-Soviet spy Kim Philby recites the final line from Brooke's "The Old Vicarage, Grantchester" along with his then wife, Aileen Furse.
^Davis, Wade (2011). Into The Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest. Bodley Head.
^Vita Sackville-West letter to Harold Nicolson, 8 April 1941, reproduced in Nigel Nicolson (ed.), Harold Nicolson: The War Years 1939-1945, Vol. II of Diaries and Letters, Atheneum, New York, 1967, p. 159
^Prince, Cathryn. American Daredevil: The Extraordinary Life of Richard Halliburton, the Worlds First Celebrity Travel Writer. Chicago University. ISBN9781613731598.
^Richard Halliburton Papers: CorrespondenceArchived 15 April 2005 at the Wayback Machine., Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. Accessed online 2 January 2008. Gerry Max, Horizon Chasers, p. 12 et passim. Also Jonathan Root, Halliburton--The Magnificent Myth, p. 70 et passim
Brooke, Rupert, Letters From America with a Preface by Henry James (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, Ltd, 1916; repr. 1947).
Dawson, Jill, The Great Lover (London: Sceptre, 1990). A historical novel about Brooke and his relationship with a Tahitian woman, Taatamata, in 1913-14 and with Nell Golightly a maid where he was living.
Delany, Paul. "Fatal Glamour: the Life of Rupert Brooke." (Montreal: McGillQueens UP, 2015).
Halliburton, Richard, The Glorious Adventure (New York and Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1927). Traveller/travel writer Halliburton, in recreating Odysseus' adventures, visits the grave of Brooke on the Greek island of Skyros.
Keith Hale, ed. Friends and Apostles: The Correspondence of Rupert Brooke-James Strachey, 1905-1914.
Gerry Max, Horizon Chasers - The Lives and Adventures of Richard Halliburton and Paul Mooney (McFarland, c2007). References are made to the poet throughout. Quoted, p. 11.
Gerry Max, "'When Youth Kept Open House' - Richard Halliburton and Thomas Wolfe", North Carolina Literary Review, 1996, Issue Number 5. Two early 20th century writers and their debt to the poet.
Moran, Sean Farrell, "Patrick Pearse and the European Revolt Against Reason", The Journal of the History of Ideas,50,4,423-66
Morley, Christopher, "Rupert Brooke" in Shandygaff - A number of most agreeable Inquirendoes upon Life & Letters, interspersed with Short Stories & Skits, the Whole Most Diverting to the Reader (New York: Garden City Publishing Company, 1918), pp. 58-71. An important early reminiscence and appraisal by famed essayist and novelist Morley.
Sellers Leonard. The Hood Battalion - Royal Naval Division. Leo Cooper, Pen & Sword Books Ltd. 1995, Select Edition 2003 ISBN978-1-84468-008-5 - Rupert Brooke was an officer of Hood Battalion, 2nd Brigade, Royal Naval Division.
Arthur Stringer. Red Wine of Youth--A Biography of Rupert Brooke (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1952). Partly based on extensive correspondence between American travel writer Richard Halliburton and the literary and salon figures who had known Brooke.
Christopher Hassall. "Rupert Brooke: A Biography" (Faber and Faber 1964)
Sir Geoffrey Keynes, ed. "The Letters of Rupert Brooke" (Faber and Faber 1968)
Colin Wilson. "Poetry & Mysticism" (City Lights Books 1969). Contains a chapter about Rupert Brooke.
John Lehmann. "Rupert Brooke: His Life and His Legend" (George Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd 1980)
Paul Delany. "The Neo-Pagans: Friendship and Love in the Rupert Brooke Circle" (Macmillan 1987)
Mike Read. "Forever England: The Life of Rupert Brooke" (Mainstream Publishing Company Ltd 1997)
Timothy Rogers. "Rupert Brooke: A Reappraisal and Selection" (Routledge, 1971)
Robert Scoble. The Corvo Cult: The History of an Obsession (Strange Attractor, 2014)
Christian Soleil. "Rupert Brooke: Sous un ciel anglais" (Edifree, France, 2009)
Christian Soleil. "Rupert Brooke: L'Ange foudroyé" (Monpetitediteur, France, 2011)