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This review is taken from PN Review 66, Volume 15 Number 4, March - April 1989.

LITERARY BAGGAGE Rupert Brooke, Letters from America, Sidgwick and Jackson, £9.95
Rupert Brooke, The Collected Poems, Sidgwick and Jackson, £9.95

Sidgwick and Jackson have reissued Rupert Brooke's Letters from America and The Collected Poems, first published in 1916 and 1918, to mark the hundredth anniversary of Rupert Brooke's birth. The Collected Poems is not of course a complete collection. Sir Geoffrey Keynes's 1946 Poetical Works (revised in 1974) contains many more poems.

Sidgwick and Jackson's edition reprints the original long memoir by Edward Marsh, and a 1928 note from him acknowledging the need for him to rewrite this eulogy 'in a changed perspective and on a different scale'. We are left in doubt as to what Marsh could have meant by this, although ten years after the event he perhaps had begun to re-evaluate the poems, if not his vision of the poet. The publishers' cover note gives the impression that this, the fourth edition, is the occasion of a re-ordering of the poems 'in the order in which they are thought to have been written'. It is clear, however, that Edward Marsh had already attended to this in the 1928 edition. Rupert Brooke himself had preferred them printed in reverse order. Marsh also included 'Fafaïa' and another poem 'It's not going to happen again', in his Appendix.

Gavin Ewart's new introduction - thankfully, after Marsh's love-laden memoir - is a balanced if rather unenthusiastic reassessment of Brooke's poetry. I would only wish to quarrel with, or perhaps extend, his judgement of Brooke's political stance at the outbreak of war in 1914 - which may ...


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