Thus begins Robert Graves' classic 1929 autobiography with its searing account of life in the trenches of the First World War; and yet this opening passage, together with much significant material, has been unavailable since 1957, when a middle-aged Graves totally revised his text,robbing it of the painfully raw edge that had helped to make it an international bestseller. By 1957 major changes in his private life had taken place. Graves was no longer living with Laura Riding, under whose influence and in whose honor the original had been written. By cutting outall references to Riding, by deleting passages which revealed the mental strains under which hehad labored, and by meticulously editing the entire text, Graves destroyed most of what he hadmade so powerful but also removed from it the only context in which it could be fully understood. We are pleased to offer the original 1929 edition on the occasion of Graves 100th anniversary, edited and annotated by Robert Graves's nephew and biographer, whose lucid introduction greatly enhances its value. Richard Perceval Graves lives in Shrewsbury, Britain, and has published Robert Graves: TheAssault Heroic 1895-1926 (1986). His most recent publication is Richard Hughes (1994) another book on his uncle, Robert Graves and the White Goddess, is scheduled for 1995.
Robert Graves was born in 1895 in Wimbledon, the son of Irish writer Perceval Graves and Amalia Von Ranke. He went from school to the First World War, where he became a captain in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. After this, apart from a year as Professor of English Literature at Cairo University in 1926, he earned his living by writing, mostly historical novels, including: I, Claudius; Claudius the God; Count Belisarius; Wife of Mr Milton; Sergeant Lamb of the Ninth; Proceed, Sergeant Lamb; The Golden Fleece; They Hanged My Saintly Billy; and The Isles of Unwisdom. He wrote his autobiography, Goodbye to All That, in 1929, and it was soon established as a modern classic. The Times Literary Supplement acclaimed it as 'one of the most candid self portraits of a poet, warts and all, ever painted', as well as being of exceptional value as a war document. Two of his most discussed non-fiction works are The White Goddess, which presents a new view of the poetic impulse, and The Nazarine Gospel Restored (with Joshua Podro), a re-examination of primitive Christianity. He also translated Apuleius, Lucan and Suetonius for the Penguin Classics, and compiled the first modern dictionary of Greek Mythology, The Greek Myths. His translation of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (with Omar Ali-Shah) is also published in Penguin. He was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 1961 and made an Honorary Fellow of St John's College, Oxford, in 1971.
Robert Graves died on 7 December 1985 in Majorca, his home since 1929. On his death The Times wrote of him, 'He will be remembered for his achievements as a prose stylist, historical novelist and memorist, but above all as the great paradigm of the dedicated poet, "the greatest love poet in English since Donne".'
(Image courtesy of The William Graves Collection.)