Rupert Chawner Brooke (1887-1915) was a poet, the son of William Parker Brooke, a schoolmaster and his wife Mary Ruth, daughter of Revd. Charles Cotterill.
He read classics at King’s College Cambridge from 1906-9. He enjoyed acting and wrote and published poems, but his private life was one of mixed experiences.
He became involved with a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl, Noel Olivier, who was at Bedales, Petersfield, Hampshire, in 1909, when he was twenty. The book Song of Love is about the letters that Brooke sent to Olivier between 1909-1915. On Wednesday 2nd June 1909 a letter was sent to Noel Olivier from Godalming.
He had finished his last Classical Tripos on Friday 28th May and before his exam result came through was in Godalming, staying for a week with his cousin, Erica Cotterill, at Coombe Field, Mark Way. On that day a letter was written to Noel from Coombe Field. Erica was the daughter of Revd. Charles Clement Cotterill (1860-1943), Brookes mother’s brother, and one time headmaster of Green Bank, a school in Liverpool. In the 1901 census the Cotterills were living at Comp House in Hurtmore Road, Godalming. Brooke was influenced by Cotterill’s writings, and as a socialist he wrote Human Justice for those at the Bottom. An Appeal to those at the Top (1907). Brooke and his cousin, Erica, had met on family holidays and he corresponded with her from 1904.
He lived at Grantchester from 1909-1912, and in 1912 he had a nervous breakdown. In 1915 he sailed to Gallipoli with the Navy, and it was thought he was bitten by a mosquito bite and died at sea on the 23rd April. He was buried at Syros the same day. It was Bernard Cyril Freyberg, who commanded Brooke’s battalion, who played a part in the burial, choosing the position and his grave, which was covered with a cairn. Freyberg later married Gertrude Jekyll’s niece, Barbara.
Rupert Brooke’s poems were published posthumously in 1915 and 1918.