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239 REVIEWS 1. Rupert Brooke: Separation of Man and Myth Christopher Hassall. RUPERT BROOKE. London: Faber and Faber, 1964. 45/-. Nearly fifty years ago, beneath a lonely cairn on the Greek island of Skyros, the legend of Rupert Brooke was perfected. He was dead, but "the echoes and the memory remainfed]," (p. 515) The legend itself has almost died before the publication of the long awaited full-length biography of Brooke. It is a long book, well over five hundred pages, illustrated with many photographs. In it Christopher Hassall tries to separate the man from the myth and to establish Brooke as a poet despite the war sonnets, the frenzied telegrams at his death and THE TIMES obituary written by Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty. What he succeeds in doing is showing us a man who was a legend in his own right. "I first heard of him" wrote D. H, Lawrence, "as a Greek god under a Japanese sunshade, reading poetry in his pyjamas at Grantchester." (p. 516) The early chapters which deal with Brooke's antecedents and his own childhood and adolescence are faintly boring; he emerges from such minute scrutiny as a brash, tiresome, and exceptionally egotistical young man. Yet the later pages, equally detailed, fail somehow to give us a clear picture of the Brooke whose personal charm, wit and ability won him the love and friendship of so many of the important figures of his time. Neither do we enter into all the intricacies of his consuming passion for, and anguished rejection of Katharine "Ka" Cox, which ruined his brief adult 1ife. When he is dealing with Brooke's poetry Christopher Hassall is fair and perhaps rather generous to his subject. The truth is that Brooke was neither so good nor so bad a poet as people have tried to make out, He had considerable technical facility and, though most of his poems do not rise above the mediocre, those written during his stay in the South Seas show the direction he was taking and are, some of them, especially "Tiare Tahiti" and "Heaven," poems we should not like to be without. Perhaps what this book does most successfully is to re-create Brooke's world, particularly Cambridge during the first decade of the century. It shows us a life that passed forever with the outbreak of war in 1914, and it gives us glimpses of many of the famous names in the arts and in politics at that time, for Brooke appears to have been one of those people who "know everyone." As far as it goes, this biography is competent and painstaking, well documented and liberally interspersed with quotations from Brooke's letters and other writings. It is a book which cannot be ignored by anyone interested in English literature during the early years of this century, yet it cannot be said to have added greatly to the sum of our knowledge of this period. It seems unlikely that it will be superseded, but it is possible that it could be augmented by a different approach from another author. Meanwhile, the present book causes us to hope that perhaps the letters will one day be published. Leicester, England. Hilda D. Spear ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
p. 239
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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