Robert Graves Biography

Robert Graves Biography

Robert Graves could write about anything. While many of his most successful works deal with eras long past, Graves also wrote about his contemporary experiences. His war memoir, Good-Bye to All That, is considered one of the seminal accounts of World War I. Yet his historical masterpiece I, Claudius gained him the greatest success and acclaim—though not without criticism. Some scholars have suggested that the book is, if not outright erroneous, highly selective in its accounts. Graves narrates from the perspective of Claudius himself, but some have accused Graves of omitting historical details that were inconvenient to his plotting. Nevertheless, in I, Claudius, as with his other works like The Golden Fleece, Graves distinguishes himself by his ability to transform history into genuine drama.

Facts and Trivia

  • Graves enlisted in the military during the First World War, and many of his early poems are reflections of his harrowing experiences in battle.
  • Graves was so badly injured at the Battle of the Somme that he was initially pronounced dead.
  • Graves became close friends with Siegfried Sasson, a poet whom he met during his military service. The intimacy of their friendship have led some to speculate whether or not there was a sexual component to the relationship.
  • Graves also wrote about writing. His critical work A Survey of Modernist Poetry is still studied today.
  • Graves wrote a sequel to I, Claudius called Claudius the God.

Biography

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Robert Graves was born July 24, 1895, in Wimbledon, near London, to Alfred Percival Graves and Amalie von Ranke Graves. His father was an inspector of schools, a Gaelic scholar, and a writer of poetry of a conventional sort. His German mother was related to the historian Leopold von Ranke. Robert was one of ten children, five of them from his father’s first marriage. The Graves household was conventionally religious, a tradition that Graves dispensed with in his maturity, but that left him, according to his autobiography, Goodbye to All That (1929), with “a great capacity for fear . . . a superstitious conscience and a sexual embarrassment.” To the age of twelve, Robert and the other Graves children sometimes visited their German relatives, including their aunt, Baronin von Aufsess, who lived in a medieval castle in the Bavarian Alps. These romantic environs undoubtedly colored his early poetry.

When Graves attended Charterhouse, where he was listed as R. von R. Graves, his German connections were an embarrassment because of the anti-German sentiment developing in England. Graves did not find his schoolmates particularly congenial until he won their respect by becoming a competent boxer. He did find one prominent friend in George Mallory, a famous mountaineer who later died climbing Mount Everest. Mallory introduced Edward Marsh, then secretary to Winston Churchill, to Graves’s poetry. Marsh, a patron of the contemporary Georgian school of poetry, encouraged Graves in his writing; but, he said, Graves should modernize his diction, which was “forty years behind the time.”

Graves joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers when World War I began and went to France as a nineteen-year-old officer. He became a close friend of the well-known war poet Siegfried Sassoon. Graves’s autobiography, Goodbye to All That, written when he was thirty-five, includes one of the best accounts of trench warfare to come out of the war. Both Graves and Sassoon survived the war, though they suffered physical and mental wounds in the process. Graves received multiple wounds from an exploding shell and was, in fact, listed among the casualties, but eventually someone noted that the “corpse” in the hospital tent had moved and Graves lived to fight again. One lung was seriously damaged, however, and he was soon brought back to England to serve in a training role....

(The entire section is 975 words.)

Robert Graves Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Robert Graves was born in Wimbledon (outside London) on July 24, 1895, to Alfred Percival Graves and Amalie von Ranke Graves. His father was an inspector of schools, a Gaelic scholar, and a writer of poetry of a conventional sort. His mother was German, descended from Leopold von Ranke, whom Graves has called the first modern historian. Graves had a conventional Victorian home and upbringing, with summer visits to German relatives. These included an aunt, Baronin von Aufsess, who lived in an imposing medieval castle in the Bavarian Alps.

Because his name was listed as R. von R. Graves, his obvious German connections became an embarrassment during his years at Charterhouse, a private boarding school for boys, during the period before World War I, when anti-German sentiment was on the rise in England. He finally earned his classmates’ respect, however, by becoming a good boxer. He also became friends with George Mallory, a famous mountaineer who later died on Mount Everest. Mallory interested Edward Marsh, patron of the contemporary Georgian school of poetry, in the poetry Graves was writing. Marsh encouraged Graves in his writing but advised him to modernize his diction, which was forty years behind the times.

When World War I began, Graves joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and soon went to France as a nineteen-year-old officer. In his autobiography, written when he was thirty-four, he provides one of the best descriptions of trench warfare to come out of the war—a gritty, objective account of a soldier’s daily life. He was badly wounded, however, both physically and mentally, by his war experiences. The autobiography, which followed a long siege of war neurasthenia during which his poetry was...

(The entire section is 704 words.)

Robert Graves Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Robert Ranke Graves was born July 24, 1895, at Wimbledon, near London, England. His father, Alfred Percival Graves, a minor poet and Gaelic scholar, had remarried late in life to Amalie von Ranke; through his mother, Robert Graves was related to the distinguished German historian Leopold von Ranke. There were eventually nine children in the Graves family, including Robert, and the household was a fairly typical, late-Victorian establishment, dedicated to maintaining the conventions of society, especially those of religion. Until his teenage years, Robert, in particular, was a devoutly religious boy with a particular fastidiousness about sexual matters and an aversion to any rituals or beliefs that deviated from the strictest tenets of reformed Protestantism.

From 1910 until 1914, Graves attended Charterhouse, one of the famous English public schools. His stay at Charterhouse was generally unpleasant for several reasons. He was repulsed by the general air of homosexual affections that permeated the place but, at the same time, inadvertently encouraged such interests, as Graves himself later recognized and admitted in his autobiography, Goodbye to All That: An Autobiography (1929).

Graves was also a scholarship student, which exposed him to the cruel and snobbish mockery of his classmates. As the relationship between Great Britain and Germany steadily deteriorated during this time, Graves was further tormented because of his German middle name. Finally, he was ridiculed because of his desire to write poetry. It was practicing this talent, however, that helped make Charterhouse bearable for Graves and attracted the notice of Edward Marsh, a patron of the prevailing Georgian School of English poetry. Marsh encouraged Graves in his efforts and introduced him to other writers, helping to prepare the way for Graves’s first book of poems, Over the Brazier (1916).

Before this appeared, however, Graves had embarked on the most traumatic experience of his life, service in the trenches during World War I. Intensely patriotic, Graves had enlisted in 1914 at the outbreak of the war, joining the Royal Welch Fusiliers, one of the most notable units in the British army. Sent to France as an officer when only nineteen years old, Graves experienced the horrors, frustrations, and insanity of modern warfare. In 1916, he was severely wounded and listed as dead. His unexpected return to his family was, at least for Graves, a literal resurrection that forever marked his thinking and poetry. The war wounded Graves psychologically as well as physically. He found himself unable to face strangers, incapable of holding a regular job, and a victim of nightmares and unexplainable fears. His poetry, which had been light and lyrical, took on deeper and more brooding tones; throughout his career, he would...

(The entire section is 1156 words.)

Robert Graves Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Robert Graves considered himself a poet. His other work, while done to the best of his ability, was either to support himself while he wrote his poems or to explain them. He felt chosen to compose relatively short poems of praise to a universal goddess whose existence almost all others denied and in a style that many had ceased to practice. Graves was thus a strange combination of Georgian English poet and Bronze Age Greek.

He accepted that largely self-created role and prospered artistically in it, writing some of the most beautiful and enduring poetry of the twentieth century. In his verse forms and patterns, Graves is often entirely conventional, while in his underlying themes he is enduringly ancient. Above all, he remains Robert Graves, and his poems are a lasting combination of all of these elements.

Robert Graves Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Robert Graves was one of the most prolific and controversial writers of the twentieth century: poet, novelist, literary critic, biographer, lecturer, translator of ancient texts, and popularizer of mythology. Poetry was his constant love; he claimed to have written his novels only to make money. Some of his work shocked historians and theologians, and he probably influenced the feminist movement, indirectly at least, with his enthusiasm for the ancient Triple Goddess of the moon, the earth, and the underworld. A popular film was based on his biographical Lawrence and the Arabs, and a successful miniseries was written for television based on his two historical novels about the Roman emperor Claudius.{$S[A]Doyle,...

(The entire section is 719 words.)

Robert Graves Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Robert von Ranke Graves was born on July 24, 1895, in Wimbledon, England. His father, Alfred Perceval Graves, was both a poet and inspector...

(The entire section is 361 words.)

Robert Graves Biography

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

Robert von Ranke Graves was one of the most prolific poets of the twentieth century, with an active career that spanned six decades. He was...

(The entire section is 518 words.)

Robert Graves Biography

(Novels for Students)

Robert von Ranke Graves was a noted English poet, classical scholar, translator and novelist. Born July 24, 1895, in Wimbeldon, England,...

(The entire section is 550 words.)