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MS 542

Reference code

MS 542


Robert Graves collection



Administrative / Biographical history

Graves, Robert (1895-1985)

Robert von Ranke Graves, poet and novelist, was born on 24th July 1895 in Wimbledon, Surrey. His father, Alfred Perceval Graves (1846-1931) was an Irish poet and the author of the popular song ‘Father O’Flynn’; Robert’s half-brother Philip Perceval Graves would become a respected journalist.

Graves attended several preparatory schools, and progressed to Charterhouse in 1909, where he wrote poetry for The Carthusian. Poetry became Graves’s escape from the bullying that he experienced at school until his departure in 1914.

Graves had intended to go up to St John’s College, Oxford in that year, but felt compelled to sign up at the outbreak of the First World War. He was commissioned into the Royal Welch Fusiliers and sent to the Western Front. From his experiences of trench warfare arose his first volume of poetry, Over the Brazier (1916). It was during his active duty that he began his friendship with fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon.

During the Battle of the Somme Graves was seriously wounded, and left for dead; his obituary appeared erroneously in The Times. Though he recovered, in June 1917 he was hospitalised again with shell-shock. As he recovered he fell in love with Annie Mary Pryde (1899-1977); they married in January 1918. Graves was demobilised, and the couple moved to Boars Hill, Oxford; Graves returned to his original ambition and read English at St John’s. By 1924 the couple had four children under the age of five, and Graves, continuing to suffer from bouts of shell-shock, had withdrawn from his undergraduate studies.

In 1926 Graves met Laura Riding (1901-1991), who became his artistic and romantic partner. Their Survey of Modernist Poetry was published in 1927, and she assisted in the editing of his Poems, 1914 – 1926 (1927). Two years later, Goodbye To All That was published. The autobiographical work was well received by the public, but not by all of his friends; it resulted in a rift between Graves and Sassoon.

Graves and Laura removed to Majorca, where they lived until the start of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. During that time he continued to publish novels, most notably I, Claudius in 1934. In 1939 the couple separated and Graves returned to England, where he began a relationship with Beryl Hodge. The couple had four children together, and married in 1950 shortly after Graves was granted a divorce from Nancy.

In 1948 Graves published The White Goddess, an essay on poetic inspiration. It was followed by The Nazarene Gospel Restored (1953), The Greek Myths (1955), and his novel Homer's Daughter (1955). In the mid-1950s Graves began to give lectures, including the Clark lectures at Cambridge. From 1961 to 1966 he was a professor of poetry at Oxford University, and was made an honorary fellow of St John’s College in 1971. By the mid-1970s Graves had ceased to work or write due to memory loss. He died on 7th December 1985 and was buried in Deyá.

References: Richard Perceval Graves, ‘Graves, Robert von Ranke (1895–1985)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2010 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31166, accessed 9 Dec 2015]



Extent & medium

7 boxes and 3 envelopes

Content description

This collection of Robert Graves material consists mostly of the working papers for Graves' later collections of poetry. The working papers are manuscripts and typescripts. There is also a small collection of autograph letters from Robert Graves.


Purchased for College Library from Beryl Graves, Robert Graves's widow.

Associated material

Eton College holds further archives relating to Robert Graves. These are listed under: MS 925
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