Rupert Brooke

Rupert Brooke (1887-1915) in 1915. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Rupert Brooke
Born August 3 1887(1887-Template:MONTHNUMBER-03)
Rugby, Warwickshire, England
Died April 23 1915(1915-Template:MONTHNUMBER-23) (aged 27)
Aegean Sea, off the island of Skyros
Cause of death Sepsis
Resting place Skyros, Greece
Nationality United Kingdom English
Education Rugby School, King's College, University of Cambridge (fellow)
Employer Sidgwick and Jackson (Publisher)
Known for Poetry

Rupert Chawner Brooke (middle name sometimes given as Chaucer)[1] (3 August 1887 – 23 April 1915[2]) 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 prompted the Irish poet William Butler Yeats to describe him as "the handsomest young man in England".



Brooke was born at 5 Hillmorton Road in Rugby, Warwickshire,[3] the second of the three sons of William Parker Brooke, a Rugby schoolmaster, and Ruth Mary Brooke (nee Cotterill). He was educated at two independent schools in the market town of Rugby, Warwickshire; Hillbrow School and Rugby School.

While travelling in Europe he prepared a thesis entitled "John Webster and the Elizabethan Drama", which won him a scholarship to King's College, Cambridge, where he became a member of the Cambridge Apostles, helped found the Marlowe Society drama club and acted in plays including the Cambridge Greek Play.


Brooke made friends among the Bloomsbury group of writers, some of whom admired his talent while others were more impressed by his good looks. Virginia Woolf boasted to Vita Sackville-West of once going skinny-dipping with Brooke in a moonlit pool when they were at Cambridge together.[4]

Brooke 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. He also lived in the Old Vicarage, Grantchester.

Brooke suffered from a severe emotional crisis in 1913, caused by sexual confusion and jealousy, resulting in the breakdown of his long relationship with Ka Cox (Katherine Laird Cox).[5] Intrigue by both Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey is said(Citation needed) to have played a part in Brooke's 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.[6] Brooke fell heavily in love several times with both men and women, although his bisexuality was edited out of his life by his first literary executor. Many more people were in love with him.[7] Brooke was romantically involved with the actress Cathleen Nesbitt and was once engaged to Noel Olivier, whom he met while she was a 15-year-old at the progressive Bedales School.

Brooke was an inspiration to poet John Gillespie Magee, Jr., author of the poem "High Flight". Magee idolised Brooke and wrote a poem about him ("Sonnet to Rupert Brooke"). Magee also won the same poetry prize at Rugby School that Brooke had won 34 years previously.

As a war poet came Brooke to public attention when The Times Literary Supplement quoted two of his five sonnets (IV: The Dead and V: The Soldier) in full on 11 March 1915 and subsequently his sonnet V: The Soldier was read from the pulpit of St.Paul's on Easter Sunday. 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 through 11 further impressions that year, and by June 1918 had reached its 24th impression;[8] a process undoubtedly fuelled through posthumous interest.

Corner of a Foreign FieldEdit


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 was commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a temporary Sub-Lieutenant[9] shortly after his 27th birthday and took part in the Royal Naval Division's Antwerp expedition in October 1914. He sailed with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on 28 February 1915 but developed sepsis from an infected mosquito bite. He died at 4:46 pm on 23 April 1915 in a French hospital ship moored in a bay off the Greek island of Skyros in the Aegean Sea on his way to Battle of Gallipoli.

As the expeditionary force had orders to depart immediately, he was buried at 11 pm in an olive grove on Skyros.[1][2][10] The site was chosen by his close friend, William Denis Browne, who wrote of Brooke's death:[11]
...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.
His grave remains there today.[12] Another friend - and war poet - Patrick Shaw-Stewart, also played a prominent role in Brooke's funeral.[13]

Brooke's brother, 2nd Lt. William Alfred Cotterill Brooke, was a member of the 8th Battalion London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) and was killed in action near Le Rutoire Farm on 14 June 1915 aged 24. He is buried in Fosse 7 Military Cemetery (Quality Street), Mazingarbe, Pas de Calais, France. He had only joined the battalion on 25 May.[14]


Critical introductionEdit

by Sir Henry Newbolt

Few men are so obviously born to distinction as Rupert Brooke; he shone from first to last, and seldom disappointed expectation. He had no disadvantages to contend with; his athletic and intellectual gifts matched the beauty of his form and face; his whole personality was radiant. When his first volume of poems appeared it gained at once the recognition which his friends had anticipated: among the new constellation of the “Georgian Poets” he was instantly seen to be the brightest star. So much ardour and freshness put forth with such sureness of utterance, seemed to call only for enthusiasm. The volume was followed by a number of single poems, all beautiful and successful; then came the five sonnets on the War, a self-dedication and a forecast of a happy warrior’s death. Lastly, when that forecast had been fulfilled and deeply mourned, a final volume was received with an outpouring of affectionate admiration, such as has seldom been given to a young poet by his contemporaries. It was made clear that in a great moment, black with storm, his radiance had lightened the eyes of his countrymen.

It has been questioned whether such a reputation, won, as it were, by surprise, and confirmed in the emotion of a national crisis, is likely to stand the test of time. Time will show; but it may be noted that Brooke’s work is remarkable for originality and sanity, two qualities which in combination have always made for permanence. His artistic method was adapted rather than invented, but was none the less original. It would hardly be conceivable that a poet of his temperament should spend patience in elaborating a new instrument; he took up the old, with confidence that whoever had tried the strings before him, a new and living hand would bring new and living tones from them. So with the content of his poetry: his subjects were for the most part Love and Death, and he had no fear of coming to them in too late a day, for what he had to record was his own experience, and that he knew must be unique. He speaks of Beauty, but not, as some have done, of the search for it: for him expression was the peremptory need, and Beauty a matter of vision. How intense, and how original in its intensity, was his vision of things in themselves commonplace, may be most easily proved by The Fish, a poem in which he has almost endowed humanity with a new and non-human rapture of sensation. Again, in Dining-room Tea he has taken an ordinary domestic interior and has arrested, in a familiar moment, the kinematograph of eye and brain by which existence is displayed to us as an unending, unseverable tissue of changing action. So much a painter might have done; but the poet has done more—he has thrown over the picture the light of vision, the light, invisible to others, of the eternal reality lying behind the appearances of transitory life.

In his love poems, which form the greater part of his work, the same intensity is felt: it enters into every one of many moods, some of them the contradictory opposite of each other. Brooke was not perhaps much more inconsistent in his philosophy than other men, but he had this peculiarity, that he cared little for the construction of a watertight theory of life, and was too honest, or too detached, to take any account of his own inconsistencies. He alternated between moods, and set them all down with perfect sincerity, notwithstanding that some of them were moods of belief. In the mood of Tiare Tahiti he mocks gently at immortality; in The Hill, Second Best, and Mutability he is splendidly or sadly convinced that it is a vain hope. But in The Great Lover he cries, “Oh, never a doubt but, somewhere, I shall wake,” and in The Soldier he bids his friends think of his heart as a pulse in the Eternal Mind, giving back, no less, the thoughts by England given.

As with the survival of the soul, so with the survival of love: he was alternately a passionate believer and a bitter sceptic. In Dust, in The Wayfarers, in the sonnet Not with vain tears, his hope has an ardent certainly which might well carry a world upon its wings; while in Kindliness, in Thoughts on the Shape of the Human Body, in the sonnet Love is a Breach in the Walls, he proclaims the opposite conviction: love, that was sweet lies at most, grows false and dull, “and all love is but this.” It must be so, for man’s very nature is a deformity in the world of ideal love.

There are poems more merciless even than these: "Dead Men’s Love", for example, and "Town and Country" and "Libido"; but bitter as he can be, Brooke is not cynical. His contempt is always for a lower as compared with a possible higher: the observation is amazingly faithful, the resulting expression never affected or rhetorical or merely rhapsodic. It is the simple truth that at one time he burns with one feeling, at another time with another: there is no attempt at synthesis, and no reticence: the ardour is breathed out, the doubts cried aloud, just as they came to him. A study of the dates of the poems named will show that they record not a gradual development, but an alternating series of moods equally natural, called forth no doubt by deeply-felt changes of circumstance. The collector of poetical gems will reject the records of pain and despair; the moralist will perhaps disapprove a story which has little to say of prudence or restraint, but tells of experience accepted freely and at a stage when it must inevitably be followed by regret.

Yet of Brooke, as of others, it is true that the poet is greater than any of his poems, his story more significant than any of its pages. These two little volumes are not a pocket of unequal gems nor the indiscreet revelation of a too-young lover’s secrets, they are fragmentary passages from a spiritual drama. How profoundly felt and how movingly uttered may be judged by any one who will read the sonnet called Waikiki—the cry of one haunted by remembrance in the Circean Islands of the Pacific. Dramatically too came war to cut the tangled threads: but it was a joyful deliverance only because it gave opportunity to another energy of this glowing spirit.

Though utterly careless, it would seem, of personal salvation, he had a sane and virile love of righteousness for its own sake, and with this a natural desire to be freed and perfected. He had also the Englishman’s normal love of his own country, a love untroubled by political theories or conscientious objections because it knows how to judge of nations and their dreams. In the last poems of this soldier, England is not a world power nor even a vision of unbuilt hopes, but a land of kindly life and kindly memories. If these are set for a moment over against the deeds and dreams of our enemies, it will be understood how truly Rupert Brooke spoke for his generation when he offered his life for the beauty and the fellowship from which he knew he had received it.[15]


On 11 November 1985, Brooke was among 16 First World War poets commemorated on a slate monument unveiled in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.[16] 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."[17]

In popular cultureEdit

Rupert Brooke statue

Statue of Brooke, Rugby, England. Photo by G-Man, 2005. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

  • This Side of Paradise, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, opens with the quotation "Well this side of Paradise!… There's little comfort in the wise. — Rupert Brooke"[18]
  • Travel writer Richard Halliburton (1900-1939) gathered material, including an interview with Brooke's mother, for an eventual biography of Brooke, but completion of the task fell to Arthur Springer whose Red Wine of Youth: A Life of Rupert Brooke, benefitting from Halliburton's researches, appeared in 1952. According to Gerry Max, Horizon Chasers: The Lives and Adventures of Richard Halliburton and Paul Mooney, Halliburton's message to seek one's destiny abroad, and to embrace romantic enterprises, drew its chief inspiration, as did the new cult of youth emerging after World War I, from poet Rupert Brooke. "He died in a foreign land, young and full of promise; his life was the stuff from which beautiful dreams are made." Max notes that Brooke was himself a most accomplished travel writer, bringing to life, with an original cast of mind, all the places he visited, as his Letters From America fully demonstrates.
  • Brooke's poem "A Channel Passage", with its vivid description of seasickness, is used for comic effect in a third-season episode, "Springtime", of the television series M*A*S*H. Corporal Radar O'Reilly reads the poem to a nurse he hopes to impress, with surprising results. Radar pronounces the poet's name as "Ruptured Brooke".
  • Part of Brooke's poem "Dust" is used as the lyric for a song by the same title, composed by Danny Kirwan and recorded by Fleetwood Mac on their 1972 album Bare Trees. Brooke is not credited on the album.
  • On Pink Floyd's war-themed album The Final Cut, the song "The Gunner's Dream" contains the lyrics "in the space between the heavens and the corner of some foreign field."
  • Brooke's poetry is used as character and plot device in the 1981 movie Making Love and the child ultimately born to the character Claire Elliott, played by Kate Jackson, is named after him.
  • The 2009 novel, The Great Lover by Jill Dawson, is based on the life of Rupert Brooke and mixes fact with fiction. The title is taken from one of Brooke's poems of the same name.[19]




  • Lithuania: A drama in one act. Chicago Little Theatre, 1915.


  • Letters From America (essays first published in Westminster Gazette and New Statesman; with preface by Henry James). Scribner, 1916.
  • John Webster and the Elizabethan Drama (thesis). London: John Lane, 1916.
  • Democracy and the Arts. Hart-Davis, 1946.
  • The Prose of Rupert Brooke (edited & introduced by Christopher Hassall). London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1956.

Collected editionsEdit

  • Rupert Brooke: A reappraisal and selection from his writings, some hitherto unpublished (edited by Timothy Rogers). Barnes & Noble, 1971.



  • The Letters of Rupert Brooke (edited by Geoffrey Keynes). Harcourt, 1968.
  • Letters From Rupert Brooke to His Publisher, 1911-1914. Octagon Books, 1975.
  • Rupert Brooke in Canada (edited by Sandra Martin & Roger Hall). Toronto: PMA Books, c. 1978.
  • Song of Love: The Letters of Rupert Brooke and Noel Olivier, 1909-1915 (edited by Pippa Harris). New York: Crown, 1991.
  • Rupert Brooke and James Strachey: The Hidden Correspondence, 1905-1915 (edited by Keith Hale). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[21]

Poems by Rupert BrookeEdit

Peace by Rupert Brooke02:06

Peace by Rupert Brooke

  1. The Soldier

See alsoEdit


  • Brooke, Rupert, Letters From America with a Preface by Henry James (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, Ltd, 1931; repr. 1947).
  • 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.
  • 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 appriaisal by famed essayist and novelist Morley.
  • Arthur Springer. 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)
  • John Lehmann. "Rupert Brooke: His life and his legend". Weidenfield & Nicolson, 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)
  • Nigel Jones. "Rupert Brooke: Life, Death and myth" (Metro Books,1999)
  • Timothy Rogers. "Rupert Brooke: A reappraisal and selection" (Routledge, 1971)


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Royal Naval Division service record (extract)". The National Archives. Retrieved 2007-11-11. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 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.
  3. "Poet Brooke's birthplace for sale". BBC News. 2007-08-21. Retrieved 2008-08-08. 
  4. 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
  5. Caesar, Adrian (2004). "'Brooke, Rupert Chawner (1887-1915)'" (subscription required). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/32093. Retrieved 2008-01-12. 
  6. Mike Read: Forever England (1997)
  7. Biography at GLBTQ encyclopedia by Keith Hale, editor of Friends and Apostles: The Correspondence of Rupert Brooke-James Strachey, 1905-1914
  8. '1914 & Other Poems' by Rupert Brooke, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1918 - 24th impression
  9. Template:London Gazette
  10. "Royal Naval Division service record (extract)". The National Archives. Retrieved 2007-11-11. 
  11. Blevins, Pamela (2000). "William Denis Browne (1888-1915)". Musicweb International. Retrieved 2007-11-09. 
  12. Template:Cwgc
  13. John Jones. "Patrick Houston Shaw-Stewart (1888-1917), War Poet". Balliol College Archives & Manuscripts. 
  15. from Sir Henry Newbolt, "Critical Introduction: Rupert Brooke (1887–1915)," The English Poets: Selections with critical introductions (edited by Thomas Humphry Ward). New York & London: Macmillan, 1880-1918. Web, Apr. 2, 2016.
  18. This Side of Paradise from Brooke's poem Tiare Tahiti final line.
  19. Dawson, Jill (2009). The Great Lover. Sceptre. ISBN 9780340935668. 
  20. Search results = au:William Wilfrid Gibson, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Aug. 25, 2014.
  21. Rupert Brooke 1887-1915, Poetry Foundation, Web, Apr. 25, 2012.

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