Rupert Chawner Brooke (3 August 1887 – 23 April 1915[1]) 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".[2][3] He died of septicaemia following a mosquito bite whilst aboard a French hospital ship moored off the island of Skyros in the Aegean Sea.

Rupert Brooke
Brooke, Photograph by Sherril Schell (1913)
Rupert Chawner Brooke

(1887-08-03)3 August 1887
Rugby, Warwickshire, England
Died23 April 1915(1915-04-23) (aged 27)
Skyros, Greece
EmployerSidgwick & Jackson (publisher)

Early life edit

Brooke's birthplace in 2017

Brooke was born at 5 Hillmorton Road, Rugby, Warwickshire,[4][5] and named after a great-grandfather on his mother's side, Rupert Chawner (1750–1836), a distinguished doctor descended from the regicide Thomas Chaloner[6] (the middle name has however sometimes been erroneously given as "Chaucer").[7] He was the third of four children of William Parker "Willie" Brooke, a schoolmaster, 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).[8]

Childhood photograph of Rupert Brooke (right) with his younger brother Alfred Brooke (left) and dog Trim (1898)

Brooke attended preparatory (prep) school locally at Hillbrow, and then went on to Rugby School. At Rugby, he was romantically involved with fellow pupils Charles Lascelles, Denham Russell-Smith and Michael Sadleir.[9] In 1905, he became friends with St. John Lucas, who thereafter became something of a mentor to him.[8]

In October 1906, he went up to King's College, Cambridge to study classics. There, he became a member of the Apostles, was elected as president of the university Fabian Society, helped found the Marlowe Society drama club and acted, including in the Cambridge Greek Play. The friendships he made at school and university set the course for his adult life, and many of the people he met—including George Mallory—fell under his spell.[10] Virginia Woolf told Vita Sackville-West that she had gone skinny-dipping with Brooke in a moonlit pool when they were in Cambridge together.[11] In 1907, his older brother Dick died of pneumonia at age 26. Brooke planned to put his studies on hold to help his parents cope with the loss of his brother, but they insisted he return to university.[12]

There is a blue plaque at The Orchard, Grantchester, where he lived and wrote. The words read thus: " Rupert Brooke Poet & Soldier 1887-1915 Lived and wrote at The Orchard 1909–1911, and at The Old Vicarage 1911-1912 ".

Life and career edit

Brooke made friends among the Bloomsbury group of writers, some of whom admired his talent while others were more impressed by his good looks. He also belonged to another literary group known as the Georgian Poets and was one of the most important of the Dymock poets, associated with the Gloucestershire village of Dymock where he spent some time before the war. This group included both Robert Frost and Edward Thomas. He also lived at the Old Vicarage, Grantchester, which stimulated one of his best-known poems, named after the house, written with homesickness while in Berlin in 1912. While travelling in Europe, he prepared a thesis, entitled "John Webster and the Elizabethan Drama", which earned him a fellowship at King's College, Cambridge, in March 1913.

Brooke had his first heterosexual relationship with Élisabeth van Rysselberghe, daughter of painter Théo van Rysselberghe.[13] They met in 1911 in Munich.[14] His affair with Élisabeth came closest to be consummated than any other he ever had so far.[15] It is possible that the two became lovers in a "complete sense" in May 1913 in Swanley.[16] It was in Munich, where he had met Élisabeth, that a year later he finally succeeded in having intercourse with Ka Cox (Katherine Laird Cox).[15]

Brooke suffered a severe emotional crisis in 1912, resulting in the breakdown of his long relationship with Ka Cox.[17] 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.[18]

Rupert Brooke as an officer in 1914

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.[19][20] Many more people were in love with him.[21] 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's accomplished poetry gained many enthusiasts and followers, and he was taken up by Edward Marsh, who brought him to the attention of Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty. He enlisted at the outbreak of war in August 1914. He was commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a temporary sub-lieutenant[22] shortly after his 27th birthday, and was assigned to the Royal Naval Division, a branch of the Royal Navy but serving as an infantry unit. He took part in the Division’s Antwerp expedition in October 1914.[23]

Brooke 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). His 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,[24] a process undoubtedly fuelled through posthumous interest.

Death edit

Brooke Square, Skyros

Brooke sailed with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on 28 February 1915, but developed severe gastroenteritis whilst stationed in Egypt followed by streptococcal sepsis from an infected mosquito bite. French surgeons carried out two operations to drain the abscess, but he died of septicaemia at 4:46 pm on 23 April 1915, on the French hospital ship Duguay-Trouin, moored in a bay off the Greek island of Skyros in the Aegean Sea, while on his way to the landings at Gallipoli. He was 27 at the time of his death. As the expeditionary force had orders to depart immediately, Brooke was buried at 11 pm in an olive grove on Skyros.[1][7][25] The site was chosen by his close friend, William Denis Browne, who wrote of Brooke's death:[26]

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.[27] His grave remains there still, with a monument erected by his friend Stanley Casson,[28] poet and archaeologist, who, in 1921, published Rupert Brooke and Skyros, a "quiet essay", illustrated with woodcuts by Phyllis Gardner.[29]

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. He had been in France on active service for nineteen days before his death. His body was buried in Fosse 7 Military Cemetery (Quality Street), Mazingarbe.[30]

In July 1917, Field Marshal Edmund Allenby was informed of the death in action of his son Michael Allenby, leading to Allenby's breakdown in tears in public while he recited a poem by Rupert Brooke.

Commemorations edit

Statue of Brooke in Rugby, by Ivor Roberts-Jones (1988)

On 11 November 1985, Brooke was among 16 First World War poets commemorated on a slate monument unveiled in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.[31] 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."[32]

His name is recorded on the village war memorial in Grantchester.[33]

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.[34]

The first stanza of "The Dead" is inscribed onto the base of the Royal Naval Division War Memorial in London.[35]

The Cenotaph in Wellington, New Zealand, has the words from "The Dead", "These laid the world away; poured out the red Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene, That men call age; and those who would have been, Their sons, they gave, their immortality" inscribed on the pediment.[36]

In 1988, the sculptor Ivor Roberts-Jones was commissioned to produce a statue of Brooke at Regent Place, a small triangular open space, in his birth town of Rugby, Warwickshire. The statue was unveiled by Mary Archer.[37][38]

A 2006 portrait statue of Rupert Brooke in army uniform by Paul Day stands in the front garden of The Old Vicarage, Grantchester.[39]

Oil Painting of Rupert Brooke at The Orchard Tea Rooms by artist Stephen Hopper (2023)

In 2023, artist Stephen Hopper painted a portrait in oils celebrating Brooke's life and featuring references to his grave on Skyros and his service with the Hood Battalion, part of the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division. (See detail on the pencil poised in his hand and the blank sheet of paper, symbolising work unfulfilled).

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.[40] Halliburton's notes were used by Arthur Springer to write Red Wine of Youth: A Biography of Rupert Brooke.[41]

However, in 1919, Lord Alfred Douglas (in the afterword of his Collected Poems) wrote: "... never before in the history of English literature has poetry sunk so low. When a nation which has produced Shakespeare and Marlowe and Chaucer and Milton and Shelley and Wordsworth and Byron and Keats and Tennyson and Blake can seriously lash itself into enthusiasm over the puerile crudities (when they are nothing worse) of a Rupert Brooke, it simply means that poetry is despised and dishonoured and that sane criticism is dead or moribund."[42]

Blow out you bugles, detail on Memorial Arch (by John M. Lyle) at Royal Military College of Canada

In popular culture edit

  • 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.[43]
  • 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".[44] Brooke is also referenced in other parts of the book.
  • Dutch composer Marjo Tal set several of Brooke's poems to music.
  • Charles Ives set to music a portion of Brooke's poem "The Old Vicarage, Grantchester" in his 114 Songs published in 1921.
  • 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 a 1974 episode of the TV series M*A*S*H, "Springtime", Cpl. Klinger reads from a book of Brooke's poems, which he won in a poker game. Later, Radar uses the book to try to seduce a nurse, mispronouncing the author's name as "Ruptured Brook".
  • "Is There Honey Still for Tea?" is the third episode of the eighth series of Dad's Army, 1975
  • Brooke is a prominent figure in the movie "Making Love", 1982. His poetry is cited as being a favourite of the lead characters and a child is named after him in the epilogue.
  • 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.
  • The novel The Stranger's Child (2011) by Alan Hollinghurst features fictional war poet Cecil Valance, who shares characteristics of, though is not as talented as, Brooke.[45]
  • Brooke is a minor character in A. S. Byatt's novel The Children's Book (2009).
  • The second stanza of "The Wayfarers" is quoted by Paddy Mayne in voiceover in the second episode of SAS: Rogue Heroes (2022) as the character searches for his unit following their first fateful jump. Implied in the choice of poem is a romantic connection between Mayne and his friend Eoin McGonigal.
  • "Lithuania", a drama in one act, by Rupert Brooke was made into feature films in India. The productions were Aa Karaala Ratri (2018), in Kannada, and Kondraal Paavam (2023) in Tamil.

See also edit

Medals edit

In November 2023, the auction house Spink announced the sale of Brooke's memorial plaque for £25,200.[46]

References edit


  1. ^ a b The date of Brooke's death and burial under the Julian calendar that applied in Greece at the time was 10 April. The Julian calendar was 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar.
  2. ^ "Friends and Apostles. The Correspondence of Rupert Brooke and James Strachey, 1905–1914". The New York Times. 1998. Retrieved 6 December 2011.
  3. ^ Jones, Nigel (30 September 1999). Rupert Brooke: Life, Death & Myth. London: Richard Cohen Books. pp. 110, 304.
  4. ^ "Poet Brooke's birthplace for sale". BBC News. 21 August 2007. Retrieved 8 August 2008.
  5. ^ "Committee Agenda Item: Borough Development – 16/09/2003. Item 15". Rugby Borough Council. 16 September 2003. Archived from the original on 27 February 2015. Retrieved 6 December 2011.
  6. ^ Rupert Brooke: Life, Death, & Myth, Nigel Jones, Head of Zeus (revised edition; originally published BBC Worldwide, 2003) 2014, p. 1
  7. ^ a b "Royal Naval Division service record (extract)". The National Archives. Retrieved 11 November 2007.
  8. ^ a b "Friends: Brooke's admission". King's College, Cambridge. June 2014. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  9. ^ Keith Hale, The Bisexual Brooke. Create Space Publishing, 2016.
  10. ^ Davis, Wade (2011). Into The Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest. Bodley Head.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ "Friends: Brooke's admission". King's College, Cambridge. June 2014. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  13. ^ Jones, Nigel (2014). Rupert Brooke - Life, Death and Myth. Head of Zeus. ISBN 9781781857151. Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  14. ^ Caesar, Adrian (1993). Taking it Like a Man - Suffering, Sexuality, and the War Poets : Brooke, Sassoon, Owen, Graves. Manchester University Press. p. 37. ISBN 9780719038341. Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  15. ^ a b Dyserinck, Hugo (1992). Europa Provincia Mundi: Essays in Comparative Literature and European Studies Offered to Hugo Dyserinck on the Occasion of His Sixty-fifth Birthday. Rodopi. p. 180. ISBN 9789051833812. Retrieved 5 January 2022.
  16. ^ Delany, Paul (2015). Fatal Glamour - The Life of Rupert Brooke. McGill-Queen's University Press. pp. 122–338. ISBN 9780773582781. Retrieved 4 January 2022.
  17. ^ Caesar, Adrian (2004). "Brooke, Rupert Chawner (1887–1915)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/32093. Retrieved 12 January 2008. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  18. ^ Keith Hale, ed. Friends and Apostles: The Correspondence of Rupert Brooke-James Strachey, 1905–1914.
  19. ^ Mike Read: Forever England (1997)
  20. ^ Potter, Caroline (8 August 2014). "This Side of Paradise: Rupert Brooke and the South Seas". Archived from the original on 10 February 2015.
  21. ^ Biography at GLBTQ encyclopaedia Archived 15 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine by Keith Hale, editor of Friends and Apostles: The Correspondence of Rupert Brooke-James Strachey, 1905–1914
  22. ^ "No. 28906". The London Gazette. 18 September 1914. p. 7396.
  23. ^ "Royal Naval Division service records 1914-1919". The National Archives. Retrieved 30 December 2023.
  24. ^ 1914 & Other Poems by Rupert Brooke, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1918 (24th impression).
  25. ^ "Royal Naval Division service record (extract)". The National Archives. Retrieved 11 November 2007.
  26. ^ Blevins, Pamela (2000). "William Denis Browne (1888–1915)". Musicweb International. Retrieved 9 November 2007.
  27. ^ Jones, John. "Patrick Houston Shaw-Stewart (1888–1917), War Poet". Balliol College Archives & Manuscripts.
  28. ^ "Casualty Details: Brooke, Rupert Chawner". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 24 June 2010.
  29. ^ "Rupert Brooke and Skyros. By Stanley Casson. With woodcut illustrations » 6 Aug 1921 » the Spectator Archive".
  30. ^ "RUPERT BROOKE". 1914–
  31. ^ "Poets". Retrieved 24 March 2012.
  32. ^ Means, Robert. "Preface". Retrieved 24 March 2012.
  33. ^ "Cambridge Corners". University of Cambridge. Retrieved 29 December 2023.
  34. ^ "Help to design memorial to Rupert Brooke". Archived from the original on 19 June 2013.
  35. ^ Historic England. "The Royal Naval Division War Memorial (1392454)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  36. ^ "Wellington cenotaph | NZHistory, New Zealand history online". Retrieved 14 March 2023.
  37. ^ "Parks and open spaces - Jubilee Gardens". Rugby Borough Council. Retrieved 16 February 2023.
  38. ^ "Rupert Brooke (1887–1915) Ivor Roberts-Jones (1913–1996) Regent Place, Rugby, Warwickshire". Art UK. Retrieved 16 February 2023.
  39. ^ "Stands the clock at ten to three. Brooke unveiled by Lady T". Daily Telegraph. 12 June 2006. Retrieved 23 March 2024.
  40. ^ Prince, Cathryn (2016). American Daredevil: The Extraordinary Life of Richard Halliburton, the Worlds First Celebrity Travel Writer. Chicago University. ISBN 9781613731598.
  41. ^ Richard Halliburton Papers: Correspondence Archived 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
  42. ^ Douglas, Alfred Bruce (1919). The Collected Poems of Lord Alfred Douglas. London: Martin Secker. p. 117.
  43. ^ Race Against Time: The Diaries of F.S. Kelly
  44. ^ This Side of Paradise from Brooke's poem Tiare Tahiti final line.
  45. ^ Wood, James. "The New Yorker". Sons and Lovers. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
  46. ^ "59 - 'Rupert Brooke is dead. A telegram from the Admiral at Lemnos te..." Retrieved 20 December 2023.

General references

  • 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).
  • Delany, Paul. "The Neo-Pagans: Friendship and Love in the Rupert Brooke Circle" (Macmillan 1987)
  • Keith Hale, ed. Friends and Apostles: The Correspondence of Rupert Brooke-James Strachey, 1905–1914.
  • 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.
  • Hassall, Christopher. "Rupert Brooke: A Biography" (Faber and Faber 1964)
  • Jones, Nigel (2014) [1999 Metro Books]. Rupert Brooke: Life, Death and Myth. Head of Zeus. ISBN 978-1-78185-715-1.
  • Sir Geoffrey Keynes, ed. "The Letters of Rupert Brooke" (Faber and Faber 1968)
  • John Lehmann. "Rupert Brooke: His Life and His Legend" (George Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd 1980)
  • Sellers Leonard. The Hood Battalion - Royal Naval Division. Leo Cooper, Pen & Sword Books Ltd. 1995, Select Edition 2003 ISBN 978-1-84468-008-5 - Rupert Brooke was an officer of Hood Battalion, 2nd Brigade, Royal Naval Division.
  • Marsh, Edward. “Rupert Brooke: a memoir” (McClelland, Goodchild and Stewart 2018).
  • 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.
  • 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)
  • 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.
  • Colin Wilson. "Poetry & Mysticism" (City Lights Books 1969). Contains a chapter about Rupert Brooke.

External links edit