The images shown here represent a selection from the Schroder Collection, highlighting the friendships between Rupert Brooke, Edward Marsh and William Denis Browne. They show approximately half of the collection.
Each of these three figures had a significant impact within the arts, albeit cut short by war in the cases of Brooke and Denis Browne. Views on Brooke are constantly changing. Marsh is often remembered for his Memoir on Brooke, rather than his other achievements. Denis Browne has received relatively little attention, in comparison. These limitations within existing biography and the fact that the Schroder papers were a private collection until 2015 mean that despite the majority of the material presented here having been written more than a century ago, the papers still present a significant opportunity for original research.
Occasional notes and pencil annotations within the Schroder collection shed additional light on their provenance, for example there is a card by John Schroder inside Rupert Brooke’s attaché case and a pencil annotation also believed to be by Schroder in the guard book containing Brooke’s letter to Lascelles Abercrombie. The only marks added by archivists since the papers were acquired are the reference numbers, starting ‘ RCB/S/…’. It is unclear who foliated the guard books, although this may have been done by John Schroder.
Rupert Chawner Brooke was once compared to Apollo. He was famous for his good looks and his poetry, not least his patriotic war poems. Scholarly interest in him has not waned but the focus of this interest has shifted from his work to his lifestyle.
Brooke was born on 3 August 1887, in Rugby, Warwickshire. He was the second of three sons of William Parker Brooke, a schoolmaster at Rugby School, and Mary Ruth Brooke.
In 1906, Brooke came up to Cambridge, becoming a member of King’s College, where his father had been the first non-Etonian Fellow. Although he matriculated as a student of Classics, his first love was English literature, which he focussed on later in his degree. He took an active role in the Greek plays and Marlowe Society in its early days. He was also a Fabian and a member of the secret society known as ‘The Apostles’.
Rupert Brooke completed his B.A. in 1909, gaining a second class in both parts of the Tripos.
In the summer of 1909, Brooke moved out of Cambridge, to the nearby village of Grantchester. At first he lived at The Orchard. There he often spent time outdoors with the 'Neo-pagans'. This group also included Katherine Cox, the Olivier sisters, Jacques and Gwen Raverat, Frances Cornford and Justin Brooke (who was no relation to Rupert, but they did collaborate on the Greek plays).
On 24 January 1910, William Parker Brooke, Rupert’s father, passed away. This meant that Rupert had to perform the duties of Housemaster at School House, Rugby, temporarily.
In August 1910, the Old Vicarage, Grantchester, became his new home.
In 1911 Brooke published his book of poems. Some of these poems were written during a three month trip to the continent earlier that year. In a café in Berlin, while visiting his friend Dudley Ward, Brooke wrote ‘The Old Vicarage, Grantchester’.
The following year he helped Edward Marsh plan the first of his Georgian Poetry anthologies (named for the young poets who achieved renown under King George V). He was also working on a short play called ‘Lithuania’, which was first performed in 1916, after Brooke’s death.
Brooke’s complicated love-life is said to have brought on a nervous breakdown in 1912. Ka Cox is thought to have had a miscarriage and Brooke was jealous when Lytton Strachey encouraged Ka to see Henry Lamb.
Brooke’s dissertation ‘John Webster and the Elizabethan drama’ gained him his Fellowship at King’s College, in 1913.
Rupert left for Canada and the United States in May 1913. During his travels, he wrote for the Westminster Gazette. Although he is best known for his poetry, these examples of his prose were published posthumously as 'Letters from America'. On his way back to Britain, he broke his journey with a tour of the South Seas, during which he had an affair with a Tahitian woman called Taatamata. There are some suggestions that she bore his child. He returned in June 1914, not long before he went to war.
He received a commission as a Sub-Lieutenant in the Hood Battalion of the Royal Naval Division in January 1915. He may have received this through the help of Edward Marsh, who had introduced him to Winston Churchill and the Asquith family. At this time, Brooke regularly wrote to Violet Asquith, whose father was Prime Minister. Brooke’s Battalion also included a member of the Asquith family. Thereafter he served at Antwerp. After Antwerp he wrote his five war sonnets, published as 1914. He trained for a winter at Blandford Camp and then joined the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in February of 1915. While sailing for Gallipoli, he suffered from sunstroke and blood poisoning. He died aboard a French hospital ship on 23 April and was buried on the Greek island of Skyros.
Edward Marsh (1872-1953)
Edward Howard Marsh was born on 18 November 1872, son of Frederick Howard Marsh and Jane Marsh. He was educated at Westminster School, then Trinity College, Cambridge, where he gained first classes in both parts of the Classical Tripos. He was also a member of the Apostles. Through Maurice Baring and Edmund Gosse, Marsh was admitted to a literary circle in London.
In 1896, Marsh was appointed a junior clerk in the Australian department of the Colonial Office. He was soon promoted. Marsh was working in the West African department when Winston Churchill became Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the colonies. Churchill asked him to become his private secretary and for the next twenty-three years Marsh worked alongside him, in various offices. When Churchill was on active service in the army, Marsh became assistant private secretary to Prime Minister Asquith. In July 1917, he was employed by Churchill again, during Churchill’s time as Minister of Munitions and Secretary of State for War. He also worked for Churchill in the Colonial Office and later, the Treasury.
Marsh first met Brooke on 30 November 1906, in Cambridge, after a Greek Play Committee performance of Eumenides. Marsh had been there as a guest of his former tutor, A.W. Verral of Trinity College. Brooke had played a herald.
After meeting an art student called Neville Lytton, Marsh became a connoisseur of art. He collected works by English watercolourists, then in 1911 he bought a painting by Duncan Grant. This led to him becoming a patron of contemporary British painting. He also met several artists from Slade School of Fine Art, including John Currie and Mark Gertler.
He played host to artists and poets, in his London apartment. From 1913, Rupert Brooke spent much of his time there. His association with poets such as Brooke led to his creation of an anthology of modern verse, entitled Georgian Poetry. Among the poets included were Rupert Brooke, Lascelles Abercrombie, Walter de la Mare and D.H. Lawrence. Later, he developed an interest in the war poetry of Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves.
When Rupert Brooke died in 1915, Marsh became his literary executor, until 1934. In 1918, he published The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke, with a Memoir.
Marsh’s biography was the subject of much discussion among Brooke’s friends and his mother (Mary Ruth Brooke). She made it clear that she would have liked Geoffrey Keynes (later to be appointed one of Rupert Brooke’s literary trustees) to write about her son, as Keynes had known him much longer.
While it was popular with the general public and much of the press, the Memoir did have its critics. An anonymous review of The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke, with a Memoir was published in the Times Literary Supplement on 8 August 1918. A letter which Virginia Woolf wrote to Rupert Brooke’s friend Ka Cox on 13 August 1918 (not part of the Schroder Collection) suggests that Woolf was the author of the review. This was one of the earliest examples of public criticism of Marsh’s Memoir; however, it was definitely not the last. Along with Churchill, in whose name an obituary of Brooke had been published in The Times, Marsh has been seen as one of the people most responsible for the ‘myth’ surrounding Rupert Brooke.
Later in life, Marsh published translations of French and Latin works. He became a trustee of the Tate Gallery and a governor of the Old Vic theatre. Committees he joined included those of the Contemporary Arts Society and the council of the Royal Society of Literature.
William Denis Browne (1888-1915)
William Charles Denis Browne was born on 3 November 1888 in Leamington Spa. He was the youngest of William Denis Browne and Louisa Hackett’s five children. To family, he was known as ‘Billy’, while friends called him ‘Denis’ (though his surname is in fact Denis Browne).
Denis Browne was a friend of Rupert Brooke’s at Rugby School (1903) and at Cambridge (1907), although he went to Clare College, where he was organ scholar from 1910 to 1912. He graduated in Classics and gained a MusB in 1912. Both Brooke and Denis Browne were involved in the Marlow Dramatic Society, not least a production of Comus.
Denis Browne sang in the chorus of Ralph Vaughan Williams's The Wasps, and played On Wenlock Edge and Hugh the Drover while they were still works in progress. Vaughan Williams wrote a reference for Denis Browne, in which he said he had 'a most musical nature and his artistic judgement and perception are remarkable' (1911). This helped to secure a teaching position at Repton, in April 1912. He dedicated the motet God is our strength and song (1912) to the school. After this, he moved to London and succeeded Clive Carey as organist of Guy's Hospital in December 1912.
Most of Denis Browne’s known compositions are song settings: Move Eastward, Happy Earth (A. Tennyson), ?1909; The Snowdrop (A. Tennyson), ?1909; The isle of lost dreams (W. Sharp), ?1909; Dream-Tryst (F. Thompson), 1909; Diaphenia (H. Chettle), 1912; Epitaph on Salathiel Pavy (B. Jonson), 1912; To Gratiana dancing and singing (R. Lovelace), 1913; Arabia (W. de la Mare), 1914; God is our Strength and Song (J. Montgomery), SSATB, 1912. His work on a ballet entitled The Comic Spirit, intended for Bristol's Theatre Royal, was interrupted by war.
On 11th March 1913, Brooke introduced Denis Browne to Marsh at a dinner after Pétrouchka at Covent Garden. Roger Fry and Francis Toye were also at the dinner. Marsh and Denis Browne quickly became close friends.
Denis Browne became a music critic for Rhythm, of which Brooke was on the committee and Marsh was a patron, as well as writing articles for The Times (1913–14) and the New Statesman (1914).
Rupert Brooke wrote 'An Easter-day Song in Praise of Cremation' (1906) and 'The Dance' (1915) for Denis Browne.
Like Brooke, Denis Browne joined the Royal Naval division. He directed the Hood Battalion Band. After Brooke’s death, he chose Brooke's Skyros grave and wrote an account of the burial. He was shot through the neck on 8 May 1915, then chose to returned to the front before he was fully fit. He was killed in action on 4 June 1915 and his body was never retrieved. Following Denis Browne’s death, his manuscripts were destroyed by Dent.
The Schroder Collection contains writings by Brooke, the records of his publication history, hundreds of letters between Brooke and others, and reports from eyewitnesses of his death and burial on the Greek island of Skyros.
John Schroder was 'an enthusiastic collector indulging in his favourite pastime'. He started collecting Brooke material in 1952, bought Sir Edward Marsh's papers from Christopher Hassall in 1957 and continued to collect throughout his life.
The papers were acquired by King’s College for £500,000, on the centenary of Rupert Brooke’s death. The acquisition was made possible by an award of £430,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), as well as additional grants including one from the Friends of the National Libraries.
The digitisation of the selected items from the Schroder papers and their inclusion on the Digital Library has been made possible by a grant from the Friends of the National Libraries.
Thought to have been the largest collection of Rupert Brooke papers in private hands, the Schroder papers have now been added to King’s College’s own extensive collection of the papers of Rupert Chawner Brooke. The full catalogue of King’s College’s holdings concerning Rupert Brooke (besides College papers, such as his entries in our matriculation and senior tutor’s records) can be seen here
The digitisation of the selection of papers from the Schroder Collection which are shown here has been made possible courtesy of a grant from the Friends of the National Libraries.
We would like to thank Harriet Alder, Mandy Marvin, Thelma May and Maddie McDonagh for volunteering their time to list the items within these guard books.
Hassall, C. Edward Marsh: patron of the arts: a biography. London: Longmans, 1959.
Hassall, C. Rupert Brooke: a biography. London: Faber, 1964 (1984 [printing]).
Marsh, E. Rupert Brooke: a memoir. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, Limited, 1918.
Schroder, J. Collecting Rupert Brooke. Over, Cambridge: Rampant Lions Press, 1992.
Unless otherwise stated, copyright in the material presented here belongs to the estates of Rupert Brooke, Edward Marsh, William Denis Browne and John Schroder.
The majority of the images made available for download are licensed under a ‘ Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC 4.0)’. Exceptions will be noted at the item level but please note the following.
Anyone wishing to quote from letters written by Marsh for any commercial purpose must obtain a licence from David Higham Associates.
Permission must be sought from the estate of Bernard Freyberg before the two letters from B. Freyberg to Marsh (RCB/S/6/2/152b and RCB/S/6/2/152c) are quoted or reproduced.
Some images have been presented here with Orphan Works licences or using the EU Directive. That permission is specific to this resource and not transferrable. These are not downloadable but may be seen here. Anyone wishing to quote from those or reproduce them may have to seek similar licences.
In some cases, there will be a description without any images. Those items could not be reproduced here, usually for copyright reasons, but may be consulted in the King’s College Archive Centre (see Visiting the Archive Centre