Robert Graves

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Robert von Ranke Graves (1895-1985) was a poet, novelist and writer of other prose, including biography, social history and accounts of myths.


He was born on 24 July 1895 into a family with literary and Celtic-Germanic background. On the brink of entering university, he joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers at the outbreak of the First World War, and had poems published while still serving. He was twice invalided away from the Front, the second time permanently. He married Nancy Nicholson in 1918.

For most of his life after discharge from the army, he made his living as a writer, though at first the need for money put him to various shifts, and in 1926 he briefly took an academic post in Cairo. His first real commercial success was with Lawrence and the Arabs, arising from his friendship with T E Lawrence, but he achieved real fame with his autobiography Goodbye To All That, written in 1929. In the same year, having left Nancy and his first family of two sons and two daughters, he moved to Mallorca with the American poet, Laura Riding, who collaborated with him in various literary undertakings. Graves's bestsellers, I, Claudius and Claudius the God, were written in Mallorca, but in 1936 the Spanish Civil War caused him and Laura to return to Britain. During a trip to America in 1939 she separated from him, and he, returning to Britain, soon took up with Beryl, the wife of one of his collaborators, Alan Hodge. He later married Beryl, while remaining on good terms with Alan, with whom he wrote The Long Weekend, an account of British life between the wars.