Friday, April 24, 2015

Rupert Brooke: a bundle of prejudice and insanity?

Overstatement mars an assessment of the war poet's life, as this review from the Telegraph archives finds

A detail from Sherrill Schell's photograph of the poet Rupert Brooke
A detail from Sherrill Schell's photograph of the poet Rupert Brooke Photo: National Portrait Gallery

This piece was originally published on October 23 1999
Rupert Brooke: Life, Death and Myth by Nigel Jones

CAN there be anyone left who still believes that Rupert Brooke was a fine, upstanding young Englishman who represented the very best of what was lost in the First World War? Nigel Jones is being promoted by his publisher as an iconoclast, but in all honesty there is not much marble left for him to swing his hammer at. Swing it, though, he does – and with a great deal of unseemly glee.

Under "character" in the Index, a handful of admirable traits, including "animal-lover" and "self-deprecation", are listed; but these dwindle into insignificance beside the catalogue of defects: "anti-feminism, anti-Semitism, bitterness, childishness, deception, deviousness, disgust with the body, egotism, envy, exhibitionism, hysteria, jealousy, mawkishness, misogyny, narcissism, paranoia, selfishness, snobbery" – and so on. Even "socialism" is placed in heavily ironic quotation marks, despite the fact that Brooke was an active member of the Fabian Society. 

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