Friends and Apostles: The Correspondence of Rupert Brooke and James Strachey, 1905-1914

Hale, Dr. Keith [Editor]

Published by Yale University Press, 1998
ISBN 10: 0300070047 / ISBN 13: 9780300070040
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Synopsis: The correspondance between the poet Rupert Brooke (1887-1915) and his friend James Strachey, later the primary English translator of the works of Sigmund Freud, here appears in print for the first time. These various letters - often irreverent, sometimes humorous, and so revealing that Brook's literary executors long resisted their publication, illuminate one of the last pieces of the complex puzzle of Brooke's life. Brooke wrote more frequently to Strachey than to anyone other than his mother, and was more candid than in letters to others in which he often assumed a variety of carefully constructed poses. Friends from boyhood, Brooke and Strachey were undergraduates at Cambridge when James fell in love with his handsome, charming companion. As well as their shared interest in politics, literature, art, and theatre, the letters deal often and explicitly with the subject of homosexuality and with the sometimes scandalous activities of many of their close circle. Brook and Strachey compare observations of fellow members of the exclusive Cambridge "Apostles", of mutual Bloomsbury friends, and of such fellow Fabian Socialists as Hugh Grant and Beatrice Webb. The correspondance provides biographical, psychological and cultural insights into Rupert Brooke and his poetry, and reveals the complexities of the man behind the heroic legend that his early death inspired.

Review: Rupert Brooke is one of the 20th century's best examples of image management. After he died of blood poisoning en route to Gallipoli in 1915, the poet's valor and godlike good looks were soon immortalized. He never had the chance to prove the former save in a handful of verses that are far from his finest, but photographic proof of the latter was unassailable. When Brooke's letters were originally published in 1968, his executor and editor, Geoffrey Keynes, kept well clear of his extensive correspondence with James Strachey (brother of Lytton and now best remembered for his translations of Freud). Keynes went so far as to claim that they would appear in print "over my dead body." Nothing less than homosexual panic was at the heart of such hysteria: Brooke was to be forever deified, not damned as a sodomite.

Now Keith Hale has whittled down Brooke and Strachey's letters and postcards between 1905 and 1914 into a volume in which the inconsequential ("Thursday lunch will be admirably suitable") bumps up against history, emotion, and desire. The last few years of their friendship were decidedly rocky, and Strachey's final words on his complex friend are apposite: "Rupert wasn't nearly so nice as people now imagine; but he was a great deal cleverer." Whether you read their correspondence as proof positive of Brooke's bi- or homosexuality will depend on your views of the construction of sexual identity. But it must be said that the poet's account of one schoolboy seduction is written with an icy objectivity that even Edmund White would envy. These letters remain a fascinating record of longtime companionship--no matter how you use that term. --Kerry Fried

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Title: Friends and Apostles: The Correspondence of ...
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: 1998
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Used: Good

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