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Rupert Brooke's signature

Rupert Brooke and Drama: Grantchester and after (1909-1915)

Having completed his BA, gaining a Second Class degree rather than the First Class degree he had hoped for, and given up his room at King’s, Rupert Brooke moved to Grantchester in 1909. At first he lived at The Orchard, then he moved to The Old Vicarage in December 1910.

Letter fron P. Lepage
Rupert Brooke at the Old Vicarage Summer 1911, by Miss Linder.
Archive Centre, King’s College, Cambridge. RCB/Ph/128
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It was there he seemed happiest and he seems to have found it easier to concentrate on his studies. Brooke was studying for a Fellowship at King’s College, which meant that he would have been among the academic elite in Cambridge. He failed on his first attempt, in Easter 1912, but the following year he earned his Fellowship with a dissertation entitled ‘John Webster and the Elizabethan drama’.

Rupert Brooke's Fellowship dissertation
Rupert Brooke’s Fellowship dissertation, entitled ‘John Webster and the Elizabethan drama’. 1913. Archive Centre, King’s College, Cambridge. KCAC/4/11/1/BrookeR
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It was through the publication of his book Poems, in 1911, that Brooke made his name as a poet but his reputation as an academic was earned through his focus on drama.

Brooke’s standing as a playwright was not secured during his lifetime and despite the posthumous performance and publication of his one act play ‘Lithuania’, in 1915, it is still not widely recognized.

Manuscript of 'Lithuania'
Rupert Brooke’s annotated manuscript of Lithuania; A Drama in One Act, written in 1912. The play is said to be based on a true story a journalist acquaintance of Dudley Ward told Brooke in April 1912, while Brooke was visiting Ward in Berlin. Archive Centre, King’s College, Cambridge. RCB/D/1, f.26
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While travelling America and writing a column for The Westminster Gazette, Rupert Brooke watched a performance of ‘Hedda Gabler’ at Chicago Little Theatre, on 29 April 1914. Afterwards, he introduced himself to the actor Maurice Browne, who was also the Director of the theatre, and his actress wife Ellen Von Volkenburg. They spent three nights talking and singing. During this time, the actors heard Brooke’s play. The following year, they were in the first cast of actors to perform it on stage.

Cast for Lithuania, performed in Chicago
This typescript of ‘Lithuania’ includes the cast list for first American production at the Chicago Little Theatre, 12 Oct. 1915. Archive Centre, King’s College, Cambridge. RCB/D/3, cast list
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This exhibition was created using items selected by Emily Willmoth (archives volunteer, aged 16).

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