Charles Hamilton Sorley was born in Aberdeen, Scotland. The son of a William Ritchie Sorley, a professor of moral philosophy, Charles was a precocious and academically gifted child. The family moved to Cambridge when he was five, and Sorley attended King’s College choir school and Marlborough College, with some study in Germany. He began publishing poetry in the school journal and won a scholarship to University College, Oxford. Sorley was in Germany in 1914 when World War I broke out, and he was interned for one night in prison at Trier. Making his way back to England, he enlisted in the Army and served in the trenches in France. Sorley was killed in the Battle of Loos at the age of 20. His last poem, “When You See Millions of the Mouthless Dead” was discovered in his kitbag after his death.
A collection of Sorley’s poetry was published posthumously as Marlborough and other Poems (1916) and went through six editions in the first year. Because of his time in Germany, Sorley’s attitude toward the war was deeply conflicted from its start. His small body of poetry is ambivalent, ironic, and profound. Robert Graves described Sorley as “one of the three poets of importance killed during the war,” alongside Wilfred Owen and Isaac Rosenberg. His other works include The Collected Poems of Charles Hamilton Sorley (1985).