The True Story of Rupert Brooke

Scutts-The-True-Story-of-Rupert-Brooke-320Joanna Scutts at The New Yorker:

For a long time, the history of the First World War has been understood via the symbolic transition from Brooke to Wilfred Owen, from posh idiot nationalist to heroic witness. That simple narrative obscures the extent to which Owen worshipped Brooke in the early days and just how long Brooke remained the war’s most famous poet. Until the nineteen-sixties, when the “left-wing myths” about the war gained purchase, Brooke’s sonnets and his image still seemed to represent something true and comforting. In the mid-nineties, an anthology of the nation’s hundred favorite poems included three each by Brooke and Owen, although only one of Brooke’s, “The Soldier,” was a war poem. At the hundredth anniversary of his death, as more letters and lovers are revealed, Brooke is making more headlines as a famous playboy than as a poet or patriot.

It’s impossible to know what Brooke might have written if he had seen what the other war poets saw, or what he might have become if he’d survived his own golden age. In his small body of work, the war sonnets are anomalous—his verse is usually more playful, less po-faced.

more here.