Robert Graves

Robert Graves

Infobox Writer
name = Robert Graves

imagesize = 175px
caption = Portrait of Robert Graves (circa 1974) by Rab Shiell
pseudonym =
birthdate = birth date|1895|7|24|df=y
birthplace = Wimbledon, London, England
deathdate = death date and age|1985|12|7|1895|7|24|df=y
deathplace = Deià, Majorca, Spain
occupation = novelist, poet
nationality = British
period =
genre =
subject =
movement =
influences =
influenced =

website =

Robert Graves (24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985) was an English poet, translator and novelist. During his long life, he produced more than 140 works. He was the son of the Anglo-Irish writer Alfred Perceval Graves and Amalie von Ranke, a niece of the famous German historian Leopold von Ranke. [Graves occasionally chose to add the name "von Ranke" to his name. Accordingly, in Germany his books are published under the name "Robert von Ranke Graves".] He was the brother of the author Charles Patrick Graves and half-brother of Philip Graves.

Graves considered himself a poet first and foremost. His poems, together with his translations and innovative interpretations of the Greek Myths, his memoir of the First World war, "Good-bye to All That", and his historical study of poetic inspiration, "The White Goddess", have never been out of print.

He earned his living from writing, particularly popular historical novels such as "I, Claudius", "The Golden Fleece", and "Count Belisarius". He also was a prominent translator of Classical Latin and Ancient Greek texts; his versions of "The Twelve Caesars" and "The Golden Ass" remain popular today for their clarity and entertaining style. Graves was awarded the 1934 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for both "I, Claudius" and "Claudius the God".


Early life

Born in Wimbledon, Graves received his early education at King's College School and Copthorne Prep School, Wimbledon and Charterhouse School and won an exhibition (a form of scholarship) to St John's College, Oxford.

First World War

At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Graves enlisted almost immediately, taking a commission in the Royal Welch Fusiliers (RWF). He published his first volume of poems, "Over the Brazier", in 1916. He developed an early reputation as a war poet, and was one of the first to write realistic poems about his experience of front line conflict. In later years he omitted his war poems from his collections, on the grounds that they were too obviously 'part of the war poetry boom'.At the Battle of the Somme he was so badly wounded he was expected to die, and indeed was officially reported as died of wounds. He gradually recovered, however, and apart from a brief spell back in France, he spent the remainder of the war in England.

One of Graves's closest friends at this time was the poet Siegfried Sassoon, who like Graves was an officer in the RWF. In 1917 Sassoon tried to rebel against the war by making a public anti-war statement. Graves, who feared Sassoon could face a court martial, intervened with the military authorities and persuaded them that he was suffering from shell shock, and to treat him accordingly. As a result Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart, the military hospital near Edinburgh, where he was treated by Dr W.H.R. Rivers and met fellow patient Wilfred Owen. Graves also suffered from shell shock, or neurasthenia as it is sometimes called, although he was never hospitalised for it. Graves's biographies document the story well, and it is fictionalised in Pat Barker's novel "Regeneration". The intensity of their early relationship is nowhere demonstrated more clearly than in Graves's collection "Fairies and Fusiliers" (1917), which contains a plethora of poems celebrating their friendship. Sassoon himself remarked upon a "heavy sexual element" within it, an observation supported by the sentimental nature of much of the surviving correspondence between the two men. Through Sassoon, Graves also became friends with Wilfred Owen, whose talent he recognised. Owen attended Graves's wedding to Nancy Nicholson in 1918, presenting him with, as Graves recalled, "a set of twelve Apostle spoons".

Post-war period

Following his marriage and the end of the First World War, Graves belatedly took up his place at St John's College, Oxford. He later attempted to make a living by running a small shop, but the business soon failed. In 1926 he took up a post at Cairo University, accompanied by his wife, their children, and the poet Laura Riding. He returned to London briefly, where he split up with his wife under highly emotional circumstances (at one point Riding attempted suicide) before leaving to live with Riding in Deià, Majorca. There they continued to publish letterpress books under the rubric of the Seizin Press, founded and edited the literary journal "Epilogue", and wrote two successful academic books together: "A Survey of Modernist Poetry" (1927) and "A Pamphlet Against Anthologies" (1928); both had great influence on modern literary criticism, particularly new criticism.

Literary career

In 1927, he also published "Lawrence and the Arabs," a commercially successful biography of T. E. Lawrence. "Good-bye to All That" (1929, revised by him and republished in 1957) proved a success but cost him many of his friends, notably Siegfried Sassoon. In 1934 he published his most commercially successful work, "I, Claudius". Using classical sources he constructed a complex and compelling tale of the life of the Roman emperor Claudius, a tale extended in the sequel "Claudius the God" (1935). Another historical novel by Graves, "Count Belisarius" (1938), recounts the career of the Byzantine general Belisarius.

Graves and Riding left Majorca in 1936 at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. In 1939, they moved to the United States and took lodging in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Their volatile relationship was described in non-fiction by Richard Perceval Graves in "Robert Graves: 1927-1940, The Years with Laura" and T.S. Matthews' book "Jacks or Better" (1977), and also was the basis for Miranda Seymour's novel "The Summer of '39" (1998).

After returning to England, Graves began a relationship with Beryl Hodge, then the wife of Alan Hodge, his collaborator on "The Long Week-End" (1941) and "The Reader Over Your Shoulder" (1943; republished in 1947 as "The Use and Abuse of the English Language)". In 1946 he and his new wife Beryl re-established a home in Deià, Majorca. 1946 also saw the publication of the historical novel "King Jesus".

He published a difficult book, "The White Goddess" in 1948. He turned to science fiction with "Seven Days in New Crete" (1949), and in 1953 he published "The Nazarene Gospel Restored" with Joshua Podro.

In 1955, he published "The Greek Myths", containing translations and interpretations. His translations are well respected and continue to dominate the English-language market for mythography, whereas some of his unconventional interpretations and etymologies are dismissed by classicists [" [it] makes attractive reading and conveys much solid information, but should be approached with extreme caution nonetheless" (Robin Hard, H.J. Rose, "The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology", p. 690. ISBN 0415186366.) See The Greek Myths for further discussion.] but have provoked more research into the topics he raised. Graves dismissed the reactions of classical scholars, arguing that by definition they lacked the poetic capacity to forensically examine mythology. ["The White Goddess", Farrar Strauss Giroud, p. 224. ISBN 0-374-50493-8]

In 1956, he published a volume of short stories "Catacrok! Mostly Stories, Mostly Funny". In 1961 he became professor of poetry at Oxford, a post he held until 1966.

In 1967, Robert Graves published, together with Omar Ali-Shah, a new translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. [Graves, Robert, Ali-Shah, Omar: "The Original Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayyam", ISBN 0140034080, ISBN 0912358386] [,9171,844564,00.html Stuffed Eagle] , "Time magazine", 31 May 1968] The translation quickly became controversial; Graves was attacked for trying to break the spell of famed passages in Edward FitzGerald's Victorian translation, and L. P. Elwell-Sutton, an Orientalist at Edinburgh University, maintained that the manuscript used by Ali-Shah and Graves – which Ali-Shah and his brother Idries Shah claimed had been in their family for 800 years – was a forgery. The translation was a critical disaster, and Graves' reputation suffered severely due to what the public perceived as his gullibility in falling for the Shah brothers' deception.cite book
last = Graves
first = Richard Perceval
authorlink =
title = Robert Graves And The White Goddess: The White Goddess, 1940-1985
publisher = Weidenfeld & Nicolson
date = 1995
location = London, UK
pages = pp. 446–447, 468–472
url =
doi =
id =
isbn = 0231109660

From the 1960s until his death, Robert Graves frequently exchanged letters with Spike Milligan. Many of their letters to each other are collected in the book, "Dear Robert, Dear Spike." [National Library of Australia "NLA News" June 2002 Volume XII Number 9, retrieved 15 June 2007 [] ]

On 11 November 1985, Graves was among 16 Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner [] . The inscription on the stone was written by friend and fellow Great War poet Wilfred Owen. It reads: "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity." [] Graves was the only poet of the sixteen still living at the time of the commemoration ceremony.

Graves died in December 1985 at the age of 90, following a long illness and gradual mental degeneration. He and Beryl are buried in the small churchyard on the hill in Deia, overlooking the sea on the northwest coast of Majorca.

Graves had eight children: Jenny, David, Catherine (who married nuclear scientist Clifford Dalton), and Sam with Nancy Nicholson; and William, Lucia (also a translator), Juan, and Tomas with Beryl Graves. ["Obituary - Beryl Graves, The Guardian, 1 November 2003, retrieved 15 May 2007. [,3604,1075540,00.html] ]



* "Over the Brazier". London: The billy." London: William Heinemann, 1923; New York: Alfred. A. Knopf, 1923.
* "The Feather Bed." Richmond, Surrey: Hogarth Press, 1923.
* "Mock Beggar Hall." London: Hogarth Press, 1924.
* "Welchmans Hose." London: The Fleuron, 1925.
* "Poems." London: Ernest Benn, 1925.
* "The Marmosites Miscellany" (as John Doyle). London: Hogarth Press, 1925.
* "Poems (1914-1926)". London: William Heinemann, 1927; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1929.
* "Poems (1914-1927)". London: William Heinemann
* "To Whom Else?" Deyá, Majorca: Seizin Press, 1931.
* "Poems 1930-1933." London: Arthur Barker, 1933.
* "Collected Poems." London: Cassell, 1938; New York: Random House, 1938.
* "No More Ghosts: Selected Poems." London: Faber & Faber, 1940.
* "Work in Hand", with Norman Cameron and Alan Hodge. London: Hogarth Press, 1942.
* "Poems". London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1943.
* "Poems 1938-1945". London: Cassell, 1945; New York: Creative Age Press, 1946.
* "Collected Poems (1914-1947)". London: Cassell, 1948.
* "Poems and Satires". London: Cassell, 1951.
* "Poems 1953". London: Cassell, 1953.
* "Collected Poems 1955". New York: Doubleday, 1955.
* "Poems Selected by Himself". Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1957; rev. 1961, 1966, 1972, 1978.
* "The Poems of Robert Graves". New York: Doubleday, 1958.
* "Collected Poems 1959". London: Cassell, 1959.
* "The Penny Fiddle: Poems for Children". London: Cassell, 1960; New York: Doubleday, 1961.
* "More Poems 1961". London: Cassell, 1961.
* "Collected Poems". New York: Doubleday, 1961.
* "New Poems 1962". London: Cassell, 1962; as New Poems. New York: Doubleday, 1963.
* "The More Deserving Cases: Eighteen Old Poems for Reconsideration". Marlborough: Marlborough College Press, 1962.
* Man Does, Woman Is. London: Cassell, 1964; New York: Doubleday, 1964.
* Ann at Highwood Hall: Poems for Children. London: Cassell, 1964.
* Love Respelt. London: Cassell, 1965; New York: Doubleday, 1966.
* One Hard Look 1965
* Collected Poems 1965. London: Cassell, 1965.
* Seventeen Poems Missing from 'Love Respelt'. privately printed, 1966.
* Colophon to 'Love Respelt'. Privately printed, 1967.
* Poems 1965-1968. London: Cassell, 1968; New York: Doubleday, 1969.
* Poems About Love. London: Cassell, 1969; New York: Doubleday, 1969.
* Love Respelt Again. New York: Doubleday, 1969.
* Beyond Giving. privately printed, 1969.
* Poems 1968-1970. London: Cassell, 1970; New York: Doubleday, 1971.
* The Green-Sailed Vessel. privately printed, 1971.
* Poems: Abridged for Dolls and Princes. London: Cassell, 1971.
* Poems 1970-1972. London: Cassell, 1972; New York: Doubleday, 1973.
* Deyá, A Portfolio. London: Motif Editions, 1972.
* Timeless Meeting: Poems. privately printed, 1973.
* At the Gate. privately printed, London, 1974.
* Collected Poems 1975. London: Cassell, 1975.
* New Collected Poems. New York: Doubleday, 1977.
* Selected Poems. ed Paul O'Prey. London: Penguin, 1986
* The Centenary Selected Poems. ed. Patrick Quinn. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1995.
* Complete Poems Volume 1. ed. Beryl Graves and Dunstan Ward. Manchester: [ Carcanet Press] , 1995.
* Complete Poems Volume 2. ed. Beryl Graves and Dunstan Ward. Manchester: [ Carcanet Press] , 1996.
* Complete Poems Volume 3. ed. Beryl Graves and Dunstan Ward. Manchester: [ Carcanet Press] , 1999.
* The Complete Poems in One Volume ed. Beryl Graves and Dunstan Ward. Manchester: [ Carcanet Press] , 2000.


* "My Head! My Head!." London: Sucker, 1925; Alfred. A. Knopf, New York, 1925.
* "The Shout." London: Mathews & Marrot, 1929.
* "No Decency Left" (with Laura Riding) (as Barbara Rich). London: Jonathan Cape, 1932.
* "The Real David Copperfield." London: Arthur Barker, 1933; as David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens, Condensed by Robert Graves, ed. M. P. Paine. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1934.
* "I, Claudius." London: Arthur Barker, 1934; New York: Smith & Haas, 1934.
** Sequel: "Claudius the God and his Wife Messalina." London: Arthur Barker, 1934; New York: Smith & Haas, 1935.
* "Antigua, Penny, Puce." Deyá, Majorca/London: Seizin Press/Constable, 1936; New York: Random House, 1937.
* "Count Belisarius." London: Cassell, 1938: Random House, New York, 1938.
* "Sergeant Lamb of the Ninth." London: Methuen, 1940; as Sergeant Lamb's America. New York: Random House, 1940.
** Sequel: "Proceed, Sergeant Lamb." London: Methuen, 1941; New York: Random House, 1941.
* "The Story of Marie Powell: Wife to Mr. Milton." London: Cassell, 1943; as Wife to Mr Milton: The Story of Marie Powell. New York: Creative Age Press, 1944.
* "The Golden Fleece." London: Cassell, 1944; as "Hercules, My Shipmate", New York: Creative Age Press, 1945.
* "King Jesus. "New York: Creative Age Press, 1946; London: Cassell, 1946.
* "Watch the North Wind Rise. "New York: Creative Age Press, 1949; as Seven Days in New Crete. London: Cassell, 1949.
* "The Islands of Unwisdom. "New York: Doubleday, 1949; as The Isles of Unwisdom. London: Cassell, 1950.
* "Homer's Daughter. "London: Cassell, 1955; New York: Doubleday, 1955.
* "Catacrok! Mostly Stories, Mostly Funny. "London: Cassell, 1956.
* "They Hanged My Saintly Billy. "London: Cassell, 1957; New York: Doubleday, 1957.
* "Collected Short Stories. "Doubleday: New York, 1964; Cassell, London, 1965.
* "An Ancient Castle." London: Peter Owen, 1980.

Other works

* On English Poetry. New York: Alfred. A. Knopf, 1922; London: Heinemann, 1922.
* The Meaning of Dreams. London: Cecil Palmer, 1924; New York: Greenberg, 1925.
* Poetic Unreason and Other Studies. London: Cecil Palmer, 1925.
* Contemporary Techniques of Poetry: A Political Analogy. London: Hogarth Press, 1925.
* Another Future of Poetry. London: Hogarth Press, 1926.
* Impenetrability or The Proper Habit of English. London: Hogarth Press, 1927.
* The English Ballad: A Short Critical Survey. London: Ernest Benn, 1927; revised as English and Scottish Ballads. London: William Heinemann, 1957; New York: Macmillan, 1957.
* Lars Porsena or The Future of Swearing and Improper Language. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1927; E.P. Dutton, New York, 1927; revised as The Future of Swearing and Improper Language. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1936.
* A Survey of Modernist Poetry (with Laura Riding). London: William Heinemann, 1927; New York: Doubleday, 1928.
* Lawrence and the Arabs. London: Jonathan Cape, 1927; as Lawrence and the Arabian Adventure. New York: Doubleday, 1928.
* A Pamphlet Against Anthologies (with Laura Riding). London: Jonathan Cape, 1928; as Against Anthologies. New York: Doubleday, 1928.
* Mrs. Fisher or The Future of Humour. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1928.
* Good-bye to All That: An Autobiography. London: Jonathan Cape, 1929; New York: Jonathan Cape and Smith, 1930; rev., New York: Doubleday, 1957; London: Cassell, 1957; Penguin: Harmondsworth, 1960.
* But It Still Goes On: An Accumulation. London: Jonathan Cape, 1930; New York: Jonathan Cape and Smith, 1931.
* T. E. Lawrence to His Biographer Robert Graves. New York: Doubleday, 1938; London: Faber & Faber, 1939.
* The Long Weekend (with Alan Hodge). London: Faber & Faber, 1940; New York: Macmillan, 1941.
* The Reader Over Your Shoulder (with Alan Hodge). London: Jonathan Cape, 1943; New York: Macmillan, 1943.
* The White Goddess. London: Faber & Faber, 1948; New York: Creative Age Press, 1948; rev., London: Faber & Faber, 1952, 1961; New York: Alfred. A. Knopf, 1958.
* The Common Asphodel: Collected Essays on Poetry 1922-1949. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1949.
* Occupation: Writer. New York: Creative Age Press, 1950; London: Cassell, 1951.
* The Nazarene Gospel Restored (with Joshua Podro). London: Cassell, 1953; New York: Doubleday, 1954.
* The Greek Myths. London: Penguin, 1955; Baltimore: Penguin, 1955.
* The Crowning Privilege: The Clark Lectures, 1954-1955. London: Cassell, 1955; New York: Doubleday, 1956.
* Adam's Rib. London: Trianon Press, 1955; New York: Yoseloff, 1958.
* Jesus in Rome (with Joshua Podro). London: Cassell, 1957.
* Steps. London: Cassell, 1958.
* 5 Pens in Hand. New York: Doubleday, 1958.
* Food for Centaurs. New York: Doubleday, 1960.
* Greek Gods and Heroes. New York: Doubleday, 1960; as Myths of Ancient Greece. London: Cassell, 1961.
* Selected Poetry and Prose (ed. James Reeves). London: Hutchinson, 1961.
* Oxford Addresses on Poetry. London: Cassell, 1962; New York: Doubleday, 1962.
* The Siege and Fall of Troy. London: Cassell, 1962; New York: Doubleday, 1963.
* The Big Green Book. New York: Crowell Collier, 1962; Penguin: Harmondsworth, 1978. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak
* Hebrew Myths. The Book of Genesis (with Raphael Patai). New York: Doubleday, 1964; London: Cassell, 1964.
* Majorca Observed. London: Cassell, 1965; New York: Doubleday, 1965.
* Mammon and the Black Goddess. London: Cassell, 1965; New York: Doubleday, 1965.
* Two Wise Children. New York: Harlin Quist, 1966; London: Harlin Quist, 1967.
* The Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayyam (with Omar Ali-Shah). London: Cassell, 1967.
* Poetic Craft and Principle. London: Cassell, 1967.
* The Poor Boy Who Followed His Star. London: Cassell, 1968; New York: Doubleday, 1969.
* Greek Myths and Legends. London: Cassell, 1968.
* The Crane Bag. London: Cassell, 1969.
* On Poetry: Collected Talks and Essays. New York: Doubleday, 1969.
* Difficult Questions, Easy Answers. London: Cassell, 1972; New York: Doubleday, 1973.
* In Broken
Paul O'Prey. London: Hutchinson, 1982
* Between Moon and Moon: Selected Letters 1946-1972. ed Paul O'Prey. London: Hutchinson, 1984
* Collected Writings on Poetry. ed. Paul O'Prey, Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1995.
* Some Speculations on Literature, History, and Religion. ed Patrick Quinn, Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2000.


External links

* [ The Robert Graves Trust]
* [ Pegasos article on Robert Graves]
* [ Website of the film 'Poetic Unreason']
* [ War Poets Association]
* [ PDF Collection of Robert Graves Poems]
* [ Diary of Robert Graves, 1935-1939]
* [ Robert H. Canary, "Utopian and Fantastic Dualities in Robert Graves's Watch the North Wind Rise"]
* [ "Robert Graves in Deia, Majorca"]
* [ "Official website for 'La Casa de Robert Graves' in Deia, Majorca. Robert Graves Foundation"]
* [ The Complete Works of Robert Graves by Carcanet Press]

NAME= Graves, Robert
SHORT DESCRIPTION= English novelist, poet
DATE OF BIRTH= 24 July 1895
PLACE OF BIRTH= Wimbledon, London, England
DATE OF DEATH= 7 December 1985

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  • Robert Graves — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Graves (homonymie). Robert Ranke Graves (Wimbledon, Londres, 24 juillet 1895 – Deia (île de Majorque, Espagne), 7 décembre 1985), fils de l écrivain irlandais Alfred Perceval Graves et d Amalia von Ranke (petite… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Robert Graves — noun English writer known for his interest in mythology and in the classics (1895 1985) • Syn: ↑Graves, ↑Robert Ranke Graves • Instance Hypernyms: ↑writer, ↑author * * * Robert Graves …   Useful english dictionary

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  • Robert von Ranke Graves — Robert Graves, im deutschen Sprachraum Robert von Ranke Graves (* 24. Juli 1895 in Wimbledon, London; † 7. Dezember 1985 in Deià auf Mallorca), war ein britischer Schriftsteller und Dichter. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben 2 Werke 3 …   Deutsch Wikipedia