Biography Robert Graves

Robert Graves

photo of Robert Graves
  • Time Period1895 - 1985
  • PlaceLondon
  • CountryEngland

Poet Biography

Robert Graves was born in 1895 in Wimbledon, a suburb of London. Graves was known as a poet, lecturer and novelist. He was also known as a classicist and a mythographer. Perhaps his first known and revered poems were the poems Groves wrote behind the lines in World War One. He later became known as one of the most superb English language 'Love' poets. He then became recognised as one of the finest love poets writing in the English language.

Members of the poetry, novel writing, historian, and classical scholarly community often feel indebted to the man and his works. Robert Graves was born into an interesting time in history. He actually saw Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee procession at the age of two or three. His family was quite patriotic, educated, strict and upper middle class.He saw his father as an authoritarian. He was not liked by his peers in school, nor did he care much for them. He attended British public school. He feared most of his Masters at the school. When he did seek out company, it was of the same sex and his relationships were clearly same sex in orientation.

Although he had a scholarship secured in the classics at Oxford, he escaped his childhood and Father through leaving for the Great War. Graves married twice, once to Nancy Nicholson, and they had four children, and his second marriage to Beryl Pritchard brought forth four more children. Graves married Nancy Nicholson before the war.

Graves' own poetry and prose is the best source for a description of his war experiences. It suffices to say that Graves never found what he was looking for leaving for war, but rather, terror and madness in the war. He was wounded, left for dead and pronounced dead by his surgeon in the field and his commanding officer in a telegram to his parents but subsequently recovered to read the report of his own demise in The Times. He amazingly recovered and was given home service for the rest of the war.However, like many of his fellow soldiers who were disabled by war, he could not get over the guilt he had leaving the other soldiers to fight without him. Somehow, he insisted he be posted back to the front lines. The military surgeon threatened him with court marshall if he didn’t get off the front. Graves returned to England trained troops, while maintaining contact with his poet friends behind the lines. In this way he was able to save one friend from court martial after he published an antiwar manifesto.

Though their relationship was initially happy and productive (Nancy and Robert worked on a children's book together), the stress of family life, little money and Robert's continual shell-shocked condition caused them troubles. Laura Ridding arriving on the scene finished off their marriage.Laura Riding and Robert Graves' relationship was immensely influential upon both of their lives and careers. After Riding's arrival in England, she began to exert an influence on more than just Graves' writing. Following a sequence of events so crazy that they seem more suitable to fiction than reality (including, for example, Laura Riding leaping from a third floor window and breaking her pelvic bone in three places), Graves abandoned his family and moved with Riding from England to Spain. The events of this period were so momentous that all three biographers that have covered his story, dedicate a large part of their studies to this couple.It's easy to vilify Laura Riding. Graves was but one victim of her controlling personality and her ambition. But then, Graves had his victims too. What cannot be questioned is the value of some of the work that they did together. Much of it remains important to both literary history as well as to scholarship.

In 1943 Robert Graves received the news that his son, David, was missing in action. While he and Nancy held out hope that he would be found alive or that he might have been taken prisoner, later reports suggested otherwise. David, Robert and Nancy learned, had been shot while attempting to single-handedly take out a well-defended enemy position. The chances that he had survived were not good.By 1946 as England and Europe began to survey its post-War state, Graves managed to secure transport for his family back to Majorca. Once safely back there, then other than annual trips to England, occasional visits to the continent and even rarer trips to America, the Graves' made Deya their home for good. After 1948 and the publication of The White Goddess, as Graves' fame and celebrity grew, Graves began a period of discovering muses who provided him with a flesh-and-blood manifestation of his poetic and mythic muse. Some of these relationships were short, others seemed largely innocent and more flirtatious than serious or deeply poetic; however, four were, without doubt, significant to Graves' life and, subsequently, to his work.

Graves' first muse after Nancy Nicholson, Laura Riding and Beryl Graves, the first after he his White Goddess theories, was Judith Bledsoe. Judith was a naïve young girl who found in the older Graves something of a father figure Graves found in her the embodiment of the White Goddess.Graves had many celebrity friends including film stars like Ava Gardner and Ingrid Bergman, fellow writers like T. S. Eliot and Gertrude Stein. Robert Graves ceased writing after his 80th birthday and his celebrity status slowly began to fade. However, where his own career stopped, the critical and academic industry was just beginning. He died in 1985 in Deja, a Majorcan village that he had moved to and lived in since 1929.