Life Writing & Death: Dialogues of the Dead

Youthful Death and Melancholia: The Case of Rupert and Mary Brooke


  • Alisa Miller Royal Military Academy Sandhurst



Mother, mourning, melancholia, poet-soldier, Rupert Brooke


This article considers how Mary Brooke, the mother of the poet-soldier Rupert Brooke, managed her mourning and melancholia in the wake of the death of her sons in the First World War. It briefly considers how Brooke’s death and poetry framed and, to some extent, predicted his popularity during and after the war. It goes on to explore how Mary Brooke constructed lasting literary and physical monuments to her son, which reframed his public life narrative and reflected her own culturally ingrained philosophical and aesthetic preferences. It examines how her experience reflects established and changing practices with respect to women and public death, and the elements that made her case exceptional. Finally, it places her story in the wider history of European melancholia as it relates to war, grief and creative expression.

Author Biography

Alisa Miller, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

Alisa Miller is based at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where she is a Senior Lecturer in War Studies; she is also a Visiting Research Fellow in the Centre for Life-Writing Research at King’s College London. From 2016 to 2020, she served as Research Fellow in the English Department at King’s College London, working on the ERC-funded Beyond Enemy Lines and Ego-Media projects. Her research focuses on the comparative development of war cultures in twentieth and twenty-first century Europe and the United States, looking at how evolving literary networks—utilizing different forms of media and technology—influence political discourses and perceptions of violence. Her first book, Rupert Brooke in the First World War, was published by Clemson and Liverpool University Press in 2018. E-mail:





Life Writing & Death: Dialogues of the Dead