Friends and Apostles

The Correspondence of Rupert Brooke and James Strachey, 1905-1914
Hale, Keith
Date published: 
September 1998

The correspondence 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 rich and varied letters - often irreverent, sometimes humorous, and so profoundly revealing that Brooke's literary executors long resisted their publication, illuminate one of the last pieces of the complex puzzle of Brooke's life. And it is an important piece. 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. Brooke and Strachey compare observations of fellow members of the exclusive Cambridge 'Apostles' (which included James' brother Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes, E.M. Forster, and Bertrand Russell, among others), of mutual 'Bloomsbury' friends (including Virginia Woolf, Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell, and George Mallory), and of such fellow Fabian Socialists as Hugh Grant and Beatrice Webb. The correspondence provides important new 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. Keith Hale is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Guam.