Rupert Brooke born 3 August 1887 (d. 1915)
Rupert Brooke was born on August 3, 1887, and died at the age of twenty-seven while on his way to fight at Gallipoli. Because his death followed shortly after the publication of five sonnets extolling the virtues of patriotic sacrifice, Brooke's tragic early death (and, no doubt, his good looks) became inextricably linked in the public mind with his sonnets glorifying war, and a national hero was born.
Academic and literary executors have long tried to play down Rupert Brooke's attraction to men - often underplaying its importance and dismissing that side of his sexuality as schoolboy crushes, however there is considerable evidence in Brooke's writing of his lasting attraction to men - beginning with two schoolboy crushes with Charles Lascelles and Michael Sadleir. Brooke's love for these two boys was deeply felt (particularly in the case of Lascelles), but it was not until the age of twenty-two that he engaged in sex with another man, Denham Russell Smith, the younger brother of a friend. In July 1912, a few days following Smith's death from an infection, Brooke described his seduction of Smith in surprising detail in a letter to James Strachey.
Throughout his life, Brooke had close friends who were homosexual, and usually in love with him. As a schoolboy at Rugby, he was befriended by the aesthetic poet John Lucas-Lucas. At Cambridge, his best friend was James Strachey, who worshiped him. Even after suffering a nervous breakdown and denouncing Bloomsbury in 1912, Brooke only replaced one set of homosexual friends with another. His best friend at the end of his life was Edward Marsh, who was as much in love with him as Strachey had been.
Brooke makes abundant references to same-sex affection in his letters to James Strachey, which were kept out of print by Brooke's executors until 1998 for that very reason. Brooke was apparently bisexual, however, rather than homosexual, for his torturous relationships with women have been well documented. Unable to label himself bisexual, Brooke always felt emotionally and sexually displaced.
The poetry for which Brooke is most famous tends to involve impersonal matters, but his earliest poems, which seem more autobiographical in nature, were almost certainly written for the primary love of his youth (and, some critics have claimed, the real love of his life), Charles Lascelles.
Brooke's friends complained that the heroic myth of Brooke's patriotic self-sacrifice was deliberately exaggerated to encourage more young men to enlist. Generations of schoolchildren were taught the opening lines of his most famous poem The Soldier "If I should die, think only this of me:/ That there's some corner of a foreign field/That is for ever England." The patriotism of his poems contrasts strongly with the anti-war poetry of the often even younger poets who served in Europe.
Brooke's death was caused not by the bullet or bomb, but from septic pneumonia caused by an infected mosquito bite . Due to the hurry to get to Gallipoli, he was buried and remains on the Greek island of Skyros - perfectly encapsulating the sentiment of his famous poem.
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