English Literature
Robert Graves

Robert Graves

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A Closer Look at Robert Graves: His Life and Literary Contributions

Robert Graves (1895-1985) was a prolific English poet, novelist, critic, and scholar who is best known for his literary works. While he was known for his controversial beliefs, he also served in World War I as a junior officer. Despite his unconventional views, Graves was recognized for his passion for poetry and even received the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1968.

The Beginnings of a Literary Legend

Robert Graves was born on July 24, 1895 in Wimbledon, Surrey, England to Alfred and Amalie (also known as Amy) Graves. He attended Charterhouse School, a public boarding school, and later received a scholarship to study at St John's College, Oxford University.

War Bonds and Lifelong Friendships

In 1914, Graves chose to enlist in World War I instead of pursuing his studies at St John's College. It was during this time that he met fellow soldier and poet Siegfried Sassoon on the Western Front. Despite the horrors they endured, the two developed a strong bond that lasted a lifetime.

Surviving and Moving Forward

In 1916, Graves was critically injured during the Battle of the Somme and was wrongly reported dead to his family. After recovering in a hospital in London, he returned to the front lines in 1917. However, like his friend Sassoon, he suffered from shell-shock as a result of his traumatic experiences in the war.

A Personal Life Filled with Love and Strife

In 1918, Graves tied the knot with feminist and artist Nancy Nicholson and together they had four children. However, his feelings for American poet Laura Riding led to their separation in 1929. Graves later married Beryl Hodge in 1950 and they resided in Majorca until their passing.

A Rebel with a Cause

Graves was known for his rebellious nature and this was evident in his writing. He tackled a variety of genres, from scholarly texts to mythical and historical fiction, to honest recollections of his own life experiences. His war poetry aimed to challenge the glorification of war and exposed its gruesome reality. These works serve as a reminder to not just glorify the heroism and fame, but also acknowledge the horror and revulsion of war.

A Legacy That Lives On

Robert Graves passed away on December 7, 1985 in Majorca, Spain and was laid to rest in the churchyard of Deia Church. Aside from his novels, his poems, including 'A Dead Boche' and 'Two Fusiliers', continue to be celebrated and studied by literary scholars worldwide.

Explore the World of Robert Graves

Robert Graves was an English literary icon whose works spanned over 140 pieces. From his own life experiences to historical figures and classical mythology, his writing covers a wide range of topics. Here are some of his most notable works.

Goodbye to All That

In 1929, Robert Graves published his memoir 'Goodbye to All That', which provides a raw and unfiltered look into his life. He shares his childhood memories, critiques of British society, and his time serving in World War I.

A Dead Boche

In this gripping anti-war poem, Graves depicts the repulsive image of a dead German soldier leaning against a tree. He reminds readers to view his words not as tales of heroism, but as reminders of the horrors of war and the decay it brings.

"In a great mess of things unclean, Sat a dead Boche; he scowled and stunk With clothes and face a sodden green, Big-bellied, spectacled, crop-haired Dribbling black blood from nose and beard."

Two Fusiliers

This poem celebrates Graves' friendship with Sassoon and the strong bond they formed through their shared experiences. It highlights the beauty and closeness that can be found in the midst of war and death.

"Show me the two so closely bound As we, by the wet bond of blood, By friendship blossoming from mud, By Death: we faced him, and we found Beauty in Death, In dead men, breath."

The Literary Legacy of Robert Graves

Aside from his poetry, Graves also wrote numerous novels that showcase his rebellious nature and unique perspective on life. His works continue to be cherished and studied by literary scholars worldwide.

Reflections of Robert Graves in His Works

Through his writing, Robert Graves bids farewell to his past and his home country, recalling both happy and unhappy memories. These include being bullied at school and experiencing the horrors of war. However, he also reflects on the friendships he formed during his time in the army. In his 2000 novel, Goodbye to All That, Graves writes, "[I] resolved never to make England my home again" (ch.32), marking a significant shift in his life.

The World of I Claudius

Set in 1st century Rome, Graves's historical fiction novel, I Claudius, delves into the corrupt and scandalous world of the Roman empire. Through the eyes of Emperor Claudius, the novel explores themes of decadence, debauchery, and power. In the novel's first chapter, Graves writes, "I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus...am now about to write this strange history of my life" (ch.1), giving readers a unique perspective on the madness and violence of Roman society.

A Comprehensive Retelling of The Greek Myths

In his 1955 novel, The Greek Myths, Graves provides readers with a comprehensive retelling of the classic tales of Greek mythology. With his own commentary and variations of the stories, Graves's work becomes not only entertaining but also a valuable resource for scholars. In the introduction of the book, Graves remarks, "Myths, though difficult to reconcile with chronology, are always practical" (Introduction), highlighting the importance of these tales in understanding history and culture.

The Life and Legacy of Robert Graves

Born on July 24th, 1895 in Wimbledon, Surrey, England, Robert Graves had a remarkable life that greatly influenced his writing. As a junior officer in World War I, he met fellow soldier and poet Siegfried Sassoon, forming a lasting friendship. However, Graves also experienced the horrors of war and suffered from shell-shock. Despite being reported dead during the Battle of the Somme, he survived and continued to struggle with the effects of his experiences. Graves passed away on December 7th, 1985 in Majorca, Spain, leaving behind a legacy of honest and impactful writing.

In Conclusion

Robert Graves was a talented and prolific writer who left a lasting imprint on literature. Through his works, he shared his experiences and offered unique perspectives on various subjects. His contributions continue to captivate readers and make a significant impact in the literary world.


  • Robert Graves, Goodbye to All That, 2000
  • Robert Graves, I Claudius, 1934
  • Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, 2017

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