Robert Graves

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Robert Graves

Portrait of Robert Graves (circa 1974) by Rab Shiell
Born: 24 July 1895
Wimbledon, London, England
Died: 7 December 1985
Occupation: novelist, poet
Nationality: British

Robert von Ranke Graves (24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985) was an English poet, scholar, 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. The historian Leopold von Ranke was his mother's uncle. He was the brother of the author Charles Patrick Graves.

Graves considered himself a poet first and foremost. His poems, together with his innovative interpretation 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 was also 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.


  • 1 Biography
    • 1.1 Early life and WWI
    • 1.2 Literary career
  • 2 Bibliography
    • 2.1 Poetry
    • 2.2 Fiction
    • 2.3 Other works
  • 3 Notes
  • 4 External links


Early life and WWI

Born in Wimbledon, Graves received his early education at King's College School and Copthorne Prep School, Wimbledon and Charterhouse School and won a scholarship to St John's College, Oxford. However, the prospect of spending another four years studying Latin and Greek did not appeal to the nineteen-year-old Graves, and with the outbreak of World War I he enlisted almost immediately in the Royal Welch Fusiliers (RWF). He published his first volume of poems, Over the Brazier, in 1916, but later tried to suppress his war poetry. At the Battle of the Somme in 1916 he received such serious injuries that his family was informed of his death. However, he recovered, at the cost of permanent damage to his lungs, and, after a brief spell back in France, spent the remainder of the war in England, despite his efforts to return to the front.

In 1917, Graves played an important part in saving his fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon from a court-martial after the latter went absent without leave and wrote to his commanding officer denouncing the war. The two officers had become firm friends while serving with the RWF.

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 encountered 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".

Following his marriage and the end of World War I, Graves eventually entered 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 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

Cover of I, Claudius DVD
Cover of I, Claudius DVD

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 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 had been forced to leave Majorca in 1936 due to 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 fictionalized novel The Summer of '39 (1998). After returning to England, Graves began a new 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 Deya, Majorca. 1946 also saw the publication of the historical novel King Jesus. He published the controversial The White Goddess in 1948 and went on to a series of affairs and lesser amours with his "muses". 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 his version of The Greek Myths, which continues to dominate the English-language market for mythography despite its poor reputation among classicists[1] - a reputation that is perhaps unsurprising given the unconventional nature of his interpretations and his own open and scathing opinion of literary scholars.[2] 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.

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."[3]

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 (herself a translator), Juan and Tomas with Beryl Graves.[4]



  • Over the Brazier. London: The Poetry Bookshop, 1916; New York: St Martins Press, 1975.
  • Goliath and David. London: Chiswick Press, 1917.
  • Fairies and Fusiliers. London: William Heinemann,1917; New York: Alfred. A. Knopf, 1918.
  • Treasure Box. London: Chiswick Press, 1920.
  • Country Sentiment. London: Martin Secker, 1920; New York: Alfred. A. Knopf, 1920.
  • The Pier-Glass. London: Martin Secker, 1921; New York: Alfred. A. Knopf, 1921.
  • Whipperginny. 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, 1927 (as Westminster Press, 1928.
  • Poems 1929. London: Seizin Press, 1929.
  • Ten Poems More. Paris: Hours Press, 1930.
  • Poems 1926-1930. London: William Heinemann, 1931.
  • To Whom Else? Deyá, Mallorca: 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.
  • 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, Mallorca/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.
  • 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 Images: Selected Letters 1914-1946. ed 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.


  1. ^ "[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, ISBN 0415186366, p. 690
  2. ^ The White Goddess, Farrar Strauss Giroud, p. 224. ISBN 0-374-50493-8
  3. ^ National Library of Australia NLA News June 2002 Volume XII Number 9, retrieved 15 June 2007 [1]
  4. ^ "Obituary - Beryl Graves, The Guardian, 1 November 2003, retrieved 15 May 2007.[2]
  • 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"

  • Persondata
    NAME Graves, Robert von Ranke
    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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