Autograph Letter Signed to Sydney Cockerell.1908 Stock Code: 146111
A rare autograph letter signed "Rupert Brooke" to the newly appointed director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Sydney Cockerell, discussing date arrangements for a performance of folk dance by Mary Neal's Espérance Club in the Victoria Assembly Rooms.
The letter reads: "Dear Cockerell, The Victoria Assembly Rooms now at present keeping both Jan 30 and Feb 6 the two Saturdays open for us. When you hear from the Esperance people (may it be soon) which is the date they prefer, can you send a card to Mrs. Brooks Victoria Assembly Rooms to say which date, & so make it fixed with them? Rupert Brooke."
As cited in the Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society of 1962, Cockerell wrote "'soon after my arrival at Cambridge I made the acquaintance of Rupert Brooke, then an undergraduate at King's College and interested him in the Espérance Club; we jointly fixed a date, and invited Miss Neal to give us a performance. This she consented to do, and it took place towards the end of January 1909. It seemed like being a flop, as very few tickets were sold, but when we went to the hall it was filled to capacity, with men sitting on the stairs and windowsills. The audience was enthusiastic. Cecil Sharp was there, and this was the last occasion he appeared on the same platform as Mary Neal'. The performance in the Victoria Assembly Rooms on January 30, 1909 was reported in The Granta, which took particular note of the lecture given by Cecil Sharp."
The Espérance Club, and the Maison Espérance dressmaking cooperative, were co-founded in the mid-1890s by the social worker, suffragette, and collector of English folk dances, Mary Neal (1860-1944), in response to distressing conditions for girls in the London garment trade.
Sir Sydney Carlyle Cockerell (1867-1962) was the director of the Fitzwilliam Museum from 1908 to 1937. His innovative style as director left a lasting legacy on museology, notably thanks to his skilful use of light and space being quite revolutionary. He was the literary executor of William Morris (after working as his personal secretary in the late 1890s), Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, and Thomas Hardy. Sydney's brother was the bookbinder Douglas Cockerell, who also famously worked with Morris. Although the poet Rupert Brooke (1887-1915) had left Rugby School to attend King's College in 1906, it is possible that he still had postcards from his time there, or that he got one from his father who was Master of School Field House at Rugby School.
Small postcard (115 x 89 mm). Autograph letter signed on headed postcard, School field, Rugby, 16 December 1908, penned in brown ink, signed "Rupert Brooke" on one side, autograph address to other side, stamped and franked.
Occasional smudging of ink, else fine.
Margaret Dean-Smith, "Two Friends of Folk Dance," in Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, vol. 9, no. 3, 1962, pp. 119–121.
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