Robert Graves

Other names: 

Robert von Ranke Graves

Date of birth: 
24 Jul 1895
City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
07 Dec 1985
Location of death: 
Deyá, Mallorca, Spain

St John's College, Oxford



Robert von Ranke Graves was born in 1895 to Alfred Perceval Graves and Amalie Elizabeth Sophie. Brought up in a literary family, Graves published his poetry in The Carthusian as early as 1911. In 1914, he was destined for St John's College, when war broke out and he was commissioned into the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. In 1916, he was badly wounded and believed to be dead, and in 1917 he was hospitalized with shell-shock. After he was decommissioned in 1919, he began studying English at St John's College, Oxford.

It was at the Lotus Club in Oxford in 1922 that Graves met Basanta Kumar Mallik, a Bengali who studied law then philosophy at Oxford. Mallik was sixteen years older than Graves but the two became close friends. They shared a commitment to truth and to morality, a discomfort with received tradition, and a search for an understanding and a resolution of the phenomenon of war. While Mallik returned to India in 1923, his philosophy had a significant impact on Graves' writing. This influence can be found in many of the poems included in the latter half of Whipperginny (1923), the 'Introductory Letter' to The Feather Bed (1923), Mock Beggar Hall (1924)and Welchman's Hose (1925). The 'M' of Graves' poem 'To "M" in India' (The Marmosite's Miscellany, 1925) refers to Mallik. The friendship soured, however, and when Mallik returned to Britain in 1936 Graves refused to meet him. The circumstances surrounding their falling out remain obscure but it is known that all references to Mallik have been expunged from editions of Graves' autobiography Good-Bye To All That subsequent to 1929.

After a brief stint as professor of English Literature at Cairo University in 1926, Graves returned to England in July 1926 where he embarked on a sexual and working relationship with Laura Riding, spending some time in Deyá, Mallorca. His writing improved and he wrote the prize-winning historical novel, I, Claudius (1934). By the end of 1934, Graves had sold the film rights for I, Claudius to Alexander Korda. It was to star Charles Laughton and Merle Oberon but the project never materialized.

Graves continued to write throughout his life and had several mistresses. In the 1950s, his reputation soared and he won several prizes, held professorships and gave talks in the United States. In the 1970s, his health started to decline and he ended his working life in 1975. He lived for another ten years until he died from heart failure on 7 December 1985 in Mallorca.

Published works: 

Over the Brazier (London: Poetry Bookshop, 1916)

Fairies and Fusiliers (1917)

Goliath and David (London: Charles Whittingham, 1917)

Country Sentiment (London: Martin Secker, 1920)

 On Poetry: Being an Irregular Approach to the Psychology of this Art (London: William Heinemann, 1922)

The Feather Bed (Richmond: L. and V. Woolf, 1923)

Whipperginny (London: Heinemann, 1923)

The Meaning of Dreams (London: Cecil Palmer, 1924)

Mock Beggar Hall (London: L. and V. Woolf, 1924)

Contemporary Techniques of Poetry: A Political Analogy (London: L. and V. Woolf, 1925)

John Kemp's Wager: A Ballad Opera (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1925)

The Marmosite's Miscellany (London: L. and V. Woolf, 1925)

My Head! My Head!: Being the History of Elisha and the Shunamite Woman; With the Histiry of Moses as Elisha Related It, and Her Questions Put to Him (London: Martin Secker, 1925)

Welchman's Hose (London: The Fleuron, 1925)

Another Future of Poetry (London: L. and V. Woolf, 1926)

Impenetrability; or, the Proper Habit of English (London: L. and V. Woolf, 1926)

The English Ballad: A Short Critical Survey (London: Ernest Benn, 1927)

Lars Porsena; or, The Future of Swearing and Improper Language (London: Kegan Paul, 1927)

Poems, 1914-1926 (London: William Heinemann, 1927)

(with Laura Riding) Survey of Modernist Poetry (London: William Heinemann, 1927)

Mrs Fisher; or, the Future of Humour (London: Kegan Paul, 1928)

Good-Bye To All That: An Autobiography (London: Jonathan Cape, 1929)

But It Still Goes On: An Accumulation (1930)

Poems, 1930-1933 (1933)

The Real David Copperfield (London: Barker, 1933)

Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina (London: Arthur Barker, 1934)

I, Claudius (London: Arthur Barker, 1934)

Lawrence and the Arabs (Jonathan Cape, 1934)

'Antigua, Penny, Puce' (Deyá, Mallorca: Seizin Press, 1936; London: Constable, 1936)

The Antigua Stamp (New York: Random House, 1937)

Collected Poems (London: Cassell, 1938)

Count Belisarius (London: Cassell, 1938)

The Long Week-End: A Social History of Great Britain, 1918-1939 (London: Faber & Faber, 1940)

No More Ghosts: Selected Poems (London: Faber & Faber, 1940)

Sergeant Lamb of the Ninth (London: Methuen, 1940)

Proceed, Sergeant Lamb (London: Methuen, 1941)

The Story of Marie Powell, Wife to Mr Milton (London: Cassell, 1943)

The Golden Fleece (London: Cassell, 1944)

Hercules, My Shipmate: A Novel (New York: Creative Age Press, 1945)

King Jesus (London: Cassell, 1946)

Poems, 1938-1945 (1946)

(with Alan Hodge) The Reader Over Your Shoulder: A Handbook for for Writers of English Prose (London: Cape, 1947)

Collected Poems (1948)

The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (1948)

The Common Asphodel: Collected Essays on Poetry, 1922-1949 (1949)

The Islands of Unwisdom (Garden City: Doubleday, 1949)

Seven Days in New Crete: A Novel (London: Cassell, 1949)

Occupation: Writer (New York: Creative Age Press, 1950)

The Nazarene Gospel Restored (London: Cassell, 1953)

Majorca Observed (London: Cassell, 1954)

Adam's Rib and Other Anomalous Elements in the Hebrew Creation Myth (Clairvaux: Trianon Press, 1955)

The Crowning Privilege (London: Cassell, 1955)

The Greek Myths, Vols 1 & 2 (London: Penguin, 1955)

Homer's Daughter (London: Cassell, 1955)

Catacrok! Mostly Stories, Mostly Funny (London: Cassell, 1956)

(ed.) English and Scottish Ballads (London: William Heinemann, 1957)

Jesus in Rome: A Historical Conjecture (London: Cassell, 1957)

Five Pens in Hand (Garden City: Doubleday, 1958)

Collected Poems, 1959 (London: Cassell, 1959)

The Growing Privilege: Collected Essays on Poetry (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1959)

Food for Centaurs: Stories, Talks, Critical Studies, Poems (Garden City: Doubleday, 1960)

Greek Gods and Myths (Garden City: Doubleday, 1960)

More Poems (London: Cassell, 1961)

Myths of Ancient Greece (London: Cassell, 1961)

The Big Green Book (New York: Crowell-Collier Press, 1962)

The More Deserving Cases: Eighteen Old Poems for Reconsideration (Marlborough: Marlborough College Press, 1962)

New Poems, 1962 (London: Cassell, 1962)

Oxford Addresses on Poetry (London: Cassell, 1962)

Nine Hundred Iron Chariots (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1963)

Ann at Highwood Hall (London: Cassell, 1964)

Hebrew Myths: The Book of Genesis (London: Cassell, 1964)

Man Does, Woman Is (London: Cassell, 1964)

Love Respelt (London: Cassell, 1965)

Mammon and the Black Goddess (London: Cassell, 1965)

Colophon to 'Love Respelt' (London: Rota, 1967)

Beyond Giving: Poems (London: Bernard Rota, 1969)

The Crane Bag, and Other Disputed Subjects (London: Cassell, 1969)

Advice from a Mother (London: Poem-of-the-Moth Club, 1970)

The Green-Sailed Vessel: Poems (London: Bertram Rota, 1971)

Difficult Questions, Easy Answers (London: Cassell, 1972)

The Hanged My Saintly Billy (London: Arrow Books, 1972)

At the Gate: Poems (London: Bertram Rota, 1974)

Collected Poems (London: Cassell, 1975)

An Ancient Castle (London: Peter Owen, 1980)

In Broken Images: Selected Letters of Robert Graves, 1914-1946 (London: Hutchinson, 1982)

Eleven Songs (Deyá, Mallorca: New Seizin Press, 1983)

Between Moon and Moon: Selected Letters of Robert Graves, 1946-1972 (London: Hutchinson, 1984)

Cynics and Romantics (Sidcot: Gruffyground Press, 1989)

Across the Gulf: Late Poems (Mallorca: New Seizin Press, 1992)

Contributions to periodicals: 
Secondary works: 

Graves, Richard Perceval, 'Graves, Robert von Ranke (1895-1985)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford Univesity Press, 2004) []

Graves, Richard Perceval, Robert Graves: The Assault Heroic, 1895-1926 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1986)

Graves, Richard Perceval, Robert Graves: The Years with Laura, 1926-1940 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1990)

Graves, Richard Perceval, Robert Graves and the White Goddess, 1940-1985 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1995)

Quinn, Patrick J., The Great War and the Missing Muse: The Early Writings of Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon (Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press, 1994; London: Associated University Presses, 1994)

Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli, Basanta Kumar Mallik: A Garland of Homage (London: Vincent Stuart, 1961)

Sondhi, Madhuri Santanam, and Walker, Mary M., 'Basanta Kumar Mallik and Robert Graves: Personal Encounters and Processes in Socio-Cultural Thought', Gravesiana 1 (1996), pp. 109-46


Graves, Robert, Good-Bye To All That: An Autobiography (London: Jonathan Cape, 1929), pp. 403-4


Robert Graves describes Basanta Kumar Mallik's philosophy.


Basanta's philosophy was a development of formal metaphysics, but with characteristically Indian insistence on ethics. He believed in no hierarchy of ultimate values or the possibility of any unifying religion or ideology. But at the same time he insisted on the necessity of strict self-discipline in the individual in meeting every possible demand made on him from whatever quarter, and he recommended constant self-watchfulness against either dominating or being dominated by any other individual. This view of strict personal morality consistent with scepticism of social morality agreed very well with my practice.

Archive source: 

Correspondence and papers, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois

Papers, University of Liverpool Library

Correspondence, literary MSS and papers, University of San Francisco

Correspondence, diaries and literary MSS, University of Victoria, British Columbia

Letters to Alexander Pugh and letters to E. J. Thompson, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Correspondence with Kenneth Charles Gay, Lilly Library, Bloomington, Indiana University

Correspondence with Basil Liddell Hart, Liddell Hart Centre, King's College, London

Letters to W. S. Henry and letters to C. K. Scott Moncrief, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh

Letters to Alun Lewis and Gweno Lewis, National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth

Letters and MSS to Edward Marsh, New York Public Library, New York

Correspondence with Edmund Blunden, University of Iowa, Iowa City

Letters to James Reeves, University of San Francisco Library