Friday, 20 June 2008

John Ellingham Brooks

One of the more shadowy students at the BSA was John Ellingham Brooks (1863-1929). He had been educated at St Paul's College, Stony Stratford, Bucks., and then Peterhouse, Cambridge (1883-86; BA 1886). He was admitted at Lincoln's Inn (28 January 1887) and passed his Roman Law examination (1889).

In 1890 Brooks met (William) Somerset Maugham (1874–1965) in Heidelberg (see also Samuel J. Rogal, A William Somerset Maugham Encyclopedia [Greenwood, 1997]). Bryan Connon has noted:
Ten years his senior and an ostentatious homosexual, Brooks encouraged his ambitions to be a writer and introduced him to the works of Schopenhauer and Spinoza.
Brooks was admitted to the BSA in Ernest Gardner's last year as Director (1894/95). The reason stated was to do:
some preliminary work with a view to further research in another Session, especially in connection with the early Italian travellers in Greece, with the Greek teachers in Italy at the time of the Renaissance, and with the records and doings of the French and English travellers at the end of last and the beginning of the present century.
Brooks was re-admitted as an Associate in 1896/97 under Cecil Harcourt-Smith.

In 1895, the year of Oscar Wilde's imprisonment, Brooks and Maugham arrived on Capri. It was there Brooks met (Beatrice) Romaine Mary Goddard (1874-1970), an American citizen. Brooks and Goddard married on Capri on 3 June 1903; they separated after a year.

On Capri Brooks developed a close relationship with Edward Frederic Benson (1867-1940), another former student at the BSA (1891/92-1894/95). Benson recalled in As We Were (1930):
For several years I had been out here for some weeks of the summer, sharing the quarters of a friend of mine resident on the island, but now we had taken between us the lease of the Villa Cercola, and my footing in Capri was on a more permanent basis. ... the house was much bigger than Brooks's last habitation. (p. 339)
These events took place in 1914, but Benson had clearly been visiting Capri since 1895 (see Robert Aldrich, The Seduction of the Mediterranean: Writing, Art and Homosexual Fantasies [London: Routledge, 1993], 126) as he had been part of the circle of Goddard, Maugham and Brooks. The Villa Cercola was also leased with Maugham.

Brooks died in May 1929.

No comments: