London: Sidgwick & Jackson Limited, 1915. First edition. Hardcover. This is a handsome, contemporary association copy of the first edition, first printing of Rupert Brooke’s (1887-1915) 1914 and Other Poems. The front free endpaper contains the ownership signature: “A. T. Bartholomew | Cambridge, | 18 June 1915.”
Augustus Theodore “Theo” Bartholomew (1882-1933) was a Librarian at Cambridge University and a bibliographer. Bartholomew was closely associated with Brooke and his fellow Georgian poets, even overseeing the private printing of 200 copies of Siegfried Sassoon’s book Picture Show. According to his own dating, Bartholomew acquired this copy of 1914 and Other Poems just two days after publication and less than two months after Rupert Brooke’s death.
Bartholomew wrote in his diary that the loss of Brooke was “a loss to English poetry and still more in my opinion to English [literary] criticism”. Bartholomew’s point, although intended as mere elegy and figuration, was actually prescient: the particular loss of Brooke aligns with the general loss of the very literary style he embodied. More prosaically, the university Bartholomew served as a Librarian until his death is indebted to his work standard and efficiency in scholarship and his aptitude for catalogue development.
Condition of this first edition, first printing is very good plus. Per Keynes (6, p.33), 1,000 copies were published on 16 June 1915. The fragile, navy cloth binding remains square and tight with sharp corners. Minor shelf wear is substantially confined to the bottom edges, with wrinkling at the spine ends and two horizontal spine dimples. The binding is clean apart from two tiny front cover blemishes. The paper spine label is edge chipped and toned, but the original spare label remains, as provided by the publisher, tipped onto the final free endpaper recto. The contents are clean with a crisp feel. We find no spotting and only mild age-toning. The frontispiece image of Brooke is intact, as is the original tissue guard, which has caused some offsetting to the frontispiece and the facing title page. Bartholomew’s is the only previous owner inscription. A tiny Cambridge bookseller’s sticker is affixed to the lower front pastedown. The only other mark found is a cryptic “ypt” in pencil on the upper front pastedown. The binding is protected beneath clear, removable mylar.
One of Brooke’s most famous poems in this collection, “The Soldier”, appeared in A Magazine of Verse on 23 April 1915, while the war was still in its infantile stages, and the national sentiment of his poems could still be cherished. At that time Brooke was a member of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, but he would never see action. Not during his first deployment to the not-yet-hostile Antwerp area, nor during his second deployment to the Dardanelles in February 1915, a staging operation for the Gallipoli campaign that would begin that spring. During the latter voyage, Brooke contracted blood poisoning, presumably from an insect bite. He died onboard a ship in the Aegean Sea shortly after his poem appeared in A Magazine of Verse. That poem ends as follows: “If I should die, think only this of me: | That there’s some corner of a foreign field | That is for ever England…”
Brooke’s body was taken to the Greek island of Skyros and buried in an olive grove. The conspicuous romanticism of his interment eclipses his undistinguished, unheroic ending – and provides a literary line of demarcation. Brooke’s ending, more than his burial, better symbolizes the bleak and bereft brutality of the First World War battlefields. Brooke’s poems proved an elegy to both himself and to his brand of poeticism, which, as the war progressed, gave way to a poeticism as mudded, bloodied, and bare of romance as the war’s trenches and No Man’s Land. Item #006702