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Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 864

Graves's 1957 prologue to his heavily revised second edition of Goodbye to All That is, in large part, an apology: he wonders how his publishers "escaped a libel action" after the initial book was published "during a complicated domestic crisis" for Graves. Copies of the original 1929 edition of the...

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Graves's 1957 prologue to his heavily revised second edition of Goodbye to All That is, in large part, an apology: he wonders how his publishers "escaped a libel action" after the initial book was published "during a complicated domestic crisis" for Graves. Copies of the original 1929 edition of the book are difficult to find, but if you do get the opportunity to compare the old to the new, the degree of difference is actually startling. What is particularly interesting is that the 1929 version is, indeed, "ragged" in its prose style, as the author later admits, and seems to leap from subject to subject in the manner one might expect of something that was largely dictated into a tape recorder. It betrays Graves's state of mind, having "quarrelled with, or been disowned by, most of [his] friends" and no longer caring at all "what anyone thought of me." Yet, despite the, at times, sloppy prose and the lack of internal cohesion in the original book, two sections stand out as powerful and vivid pieces of writing: Graves's account of his public school experiences and his study of his time in the trenches of the First World War. It is because of these sections that the book sold so well and became a modern classic, and the raw energy Graves pours into them reflects the fact that he is, in writing this book, seeking to externalize these harrowing experiences so that he might, perhaps, be rid of them.

Goodbye to All That is an excellent read on its own, but it should not be considered in a vacuum. Read it alongside Siegfried Sassoon's Memoirs of George Sherston, for example, and consider the different ways in which the two men present what is effectively the same narrative. Graves objected bitterly to Sassoon's portrayal of him (as "Cromlech") in his memoir—Sassoon being one of the close friends with whom he had "quarrelled" at the time of writing Goodbye to All That. Sassoon complained about Graves's portrayal of him. And yet, years later, when the dust of the argument had settled, both grudgingly agreed that the descriptions were fairly sound. Graves's intense friendship with Sassoon changed the direction of his war experience, and it is interesting that, even writing after a falling-out, that still comes through in this novel. Sassoon, a man who Graves identified at once as a kindred soul because he "brought Lionel Johnson with him to the war," drove the much younger Graves to petition an army board, in tears, to allow a judgment of insanity rather than a court martial when Sassoon decided to object by letter to the war. And yet Graves agreed with Sassoon: the war was all wrong, Siegfried was right in objecting to it, and yet the only way to save his life was to insist that he was insane. It was, as Graves depicts it, a truly hypocritical situation.

Hypocrisy, and Graves's conviction that England after the war was a hypocritical nation in which he could not remain, is a thread in this book which recurs again and again. When, during the war, he returns home to see his parents, everybody behaves as if nothing is amiss. When the war is over, everybody tries to behave as if the world has not been transformed entirely from what it was when Graves, as a baby, was held up to watch Queen Victoria pass the window of the family home in Wimbledon. Graves's first marriage had just failed, and his relationship with the American poet Laura Riding had caused many of his friends to abandon him, largely out of concern for him; they felt, although Graves could not at the time understand, that she was abusive of him. Graves always struggled to have relationships with women; his vicious exposé of the public school system serves to externalize a little of his frustration and confusion in this area. Only a man who truly "no longer cared what anyone thought of me" could have written so freely about the public school system's tacit encouragement of homosexuality in adolescent boys, who were then left confused and unable to connect with women in a world that expected them to become entirely heterosexual the moment they arrived at university. During the war, Graves and Sassoon wrote letters to each other in which they described themselves as "so"—meaning both identified as homosexual. Graves found it very difficult to alter his feelings on this subject, while also feeling shame about it, and his description of his life at Charterhouse feels very much like an attempt to come to terms with his confused sexuality and lay blame over it.

This book proved very popular with the public, but, perhaps, the best way to understand it is to understand that it was not entirely written for the public. Graves was writing largely for himself first and for a select group of people second, as a means of giving his final word on an argument. Goodbye to All That is truly the last word of a man who is about to depart never to return, telling everyone exactly what he thinks of them, and that is exactly how it comes across.


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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 269

One way of looking at Graves's Goodbye to All That is as a response to his experiences of the first world war and his decision to leave England for Majorca. Published in 1929, it was labeled an autobiography, but since the author was only in his thirties, it's hard to see how the author could write an inclusive autobiography at such a young age. But Graves's work as a poet continues to be concerned with English lore and myths, and in this way it seems that Goodbye to All That may have been a way to free his mind of the haunting memories of the war and his resentment of English social-ills. It has also been said by critics that the book is an attempt to exorcise various demons in his personal life, including his negative experiences in the English public school system, and the failure of his first marriage.

His book The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth was published in 1948;it was at first received as a scholarly work on poetry and mythology, but Graves is a scholar of neither subject. The general concept behind this work is that the poetic impulse arises out of a desire to pay homage to the great archetypal figure of the ancient goddess of pre-Christian European cosmologies. By immersing himself in these ideas in this work, it is clear that Graves's bitter rejection of English literary tradition (rich with pastoral imagery and folklore) in Goodbye to All That had given way to an acceptance of his own cultural past, which, despite becoming an expatriate, he could never really leave behind.

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