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4 - Who was Rupert Brooke?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 July 2010

Jon Stallworthy
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
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Summary

This was a question asked by the poet's oldest friend forty years after his death. Geoffrey Keynes, having selected and edited his letters, had just sent a set of proofs to each of his fellow literary trustees and to a few of Brooke's other friends. To his consternation, several responded with horror, saying in effect: ‘The letters to me show the real Rupert, but his posturing in the others distorts the portrait out of all recognition.’ In vain did Keynes point out that they each regarded the letters to him or to her (Frances Cornford was one of those most troubled) as expressing the real Rupert and shook their heads over the rest. In vain did he remind them of Brooke's undergraduate letter to him saying ‘I attempt to be “all things to all men”; rather “cultured” among the cultured, faintly athletic among athletes, a little blasphemous among blasphemers, slightly insincere to myself …’ So strong was the feeling among the poet's friends that Keynes's selection misrepresented him that the book was put on ice, and Christopher Hassall was commissioned to write a biography that would reveal the real Rupert Brooke.

What is interesting here is not that he adopted a different tone in writing to different people – we all do that – but that they cared so passionately that the world should know the real Rupert, their Rupert.

Type
Chapter
Information
Survivors' Songs
From Maldon to the Somme
, pp. 42 - 54
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2008

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