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Robert Graves

(1895—1985) poet and novelist

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son of A. P. Graves, His first poetry appeared (with the encouragement of E. Marsh) while he was serving in the First World War (Over the Brazier, 1916; Fairies and Fusiliers, 1917); his poems also appeared in Georgian Poetry. In 1926, accompanied by his wife and Laura Riding, he went briefly to Egypt as professor of literature. He was to live and work with Laura Riding in Majorca, then Brittany, until 1939, publishing various works in collaboration with her, including A Survey of Modernist Poetry (1927). He spent the Second World War in England, then returned to Majorca in 1946 with his second wife Beryl Hodge, and settled there permanently.

Graves's output was prodigious; he wrote many volumes of poetry, essays, fiction, biography, and works for children, and published many free translations from various languages. His powerful autobiography, Goodbye to All That (1929), is an outstanding example of the new freedom and passionate disillusion of the post‐war generation. He wrote many novels, most of them with a historical basis; they include I, Claudius and Claudius the God (both 1934), narrated in the imaginatively and idiosyncratically conceived persona of the Emperor Claudius; and the controversial The Story of Marie Powell, Wife to Mr Milton (1943). Notable amongst his non‐fiction works is The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (1948), which argues that true poets derive their gifts from the Muse, the primitive, matriarchal Moon Goddess, the female principle, once dominant but now disastrously dispossessed by male values of reason and logic. Graves's often unorthodox interpretation of myth may also be seen in his The Greek Myths (1955), The Hebrew Myths (1963, with R. Patai), and other works.

His Collected Poems (1955) confirmed a worldwide reputation. Graves avoided identification with any school or movement, speaking increasingly with a highly individual yet ordered voice in which lucidity and intensity combined to a remarkable degree. His love poetry, some of his best‐known and most distinctive work, is at once cynical and passionate, romantic and erotic, personal and universal.

Graves was professor of poetry at Oxford from 1961 to 1966, and various of his essays and lectures have been published in Poetic Craft and Principle (1967), The Crane Bag and Other Disputed Subjects (1969), and other works.

Subjects: Literature

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