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The Story of Marie Powell, Wife to Mr.Milton: AND The Isles of Unwisdom (The millennium Graves) [Hardcover]

Robert Graves , Simon Brittan
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

30 Jan 2003 The millennium Graves
The Story of Marie Powell, Wife to Mr Milton and The Islands of Wisdom edited by Simon Brittan In The story of Marie Powell, Wife to Mr. Milton (1943) Robert Graves - half a century before Carol Ann Duffy - creates a Mrs for a famous Mr, a Mr who Graves regards as one of the heinous monsters in the English poetic pantheon. Certainly his Mrs Milton is ill-used by a distended genius. Milton's first wife was sixteen when they married. Milton was after her dowry and when it did not follow he proved a domineering and prig, unresponsive to her sensuousness or her down-to-earth wit. It was a spiritual misalliance, too: her Catholicism sorted ill with his beliefs. The dramatic political and military events of the English civil war touch her life at every point, and we witness the execution of Charles I close up. The depiction of everyday life at the time and the merciless portrait of the young Milton, are spell-binding. The Islands of Unwisdom (1949) is also a true story, but visits a different, very Catholic world, that of the expeditions of the Spanish explorers and discoverers, near contemporaries of Milton but not emancipated by the Reformation, who come unstuck in the New World. Graves reconstructs the ill-fated voyage of Alvaro de Mendana y Neya to find the Solomon Islands, popularly believed to constitute the fabled Land of Ophir, where King Solomon got his legendary wealth. With Don Alvaro sails his wife Ysabel, a key figure in the narrative.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Carcanet Press Ltd; New edition edition (30 Jan 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857545850
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857545852
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,529,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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.)

Product Description

About the Author

Robert Graves (1895-1985), poet, classical scholar, novelist, and critic, was one of the gratest writers of the 20th Century. Athough he produced over 100 books he is perhaps best known for the novel I, CLAUDIUS (1934),THE WHITE GODDESS (1948) and GREEK MYTHS (1955). Robert Graves was born in Wimbledon, south London. His father, Alfred Percival Graves, was a school inspector, and his mother, Amalie von Ranke Graves, was a great-niece of the German historian Leopold von Ranke (1795-1866). He was educated at Charterhouse, and awarded a B.Litt by St. John's College, Oxford after his return from World war I, where he served alsongside Siegfried Sassoon. Robert Graves died in 1985 in Deja, the Majorcan village he had made his home (with the exception of the Spanish civil war and the Second World War) since 1929.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Demolition Job 14 Dec 2012
Format:Hardcover
Although I am an admirer of Milton's poetry, Graves's 'historical' novel is a demolition job on Milton. But the story presented is as riveting and creative as it is entertaining to read as fiction.

In broad terms, Milton is presented as the nasty, priggish Puritan; he is ambitious, selfish and misogynistic. The dehumanized portrait of a gigantic poet of the 17th century functions by showing him as an exponent of the Puritan rationalism and the systematic, at the expense of the Catholic, the folkloric, the ritualistic and the customary that collectively represent the native organic traditions.

But the gender clash between husband and wife is outlined in terms that avoid stereotypes. Accordingly, the representation of Milton betrays a fascination with ambiguity that cuts through the potential for gross simplification and reductive readings. In these terms, Milton turns out to be a slippery she-man, a phoenix, a fossil and a no-man. If there are elements of disgust there are also shades of attraction to this Tiresias-like figure. This is a multi-layered archaeological novel, with some 'Pilt Down Man' fakery thrown in; what this means is that history, like narrative, requires story-telling and it also benefits from a degree of well-crafted imaginative reconstruction.

The second novel included - The Islands of Unwisdom - throws further light on Graves's political ideology as well as being a highly readable narrative.

Simon Brittan provides a lucid and readable modern introduction to these classic novels. They deserve as wider readership.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Islands of Unwisdom--The Master at Zenith 12 Aug 2003
By Patrick Odaniel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This review concerns only the Islands of Unwisdom, yet another brilliant foray into history by the master (although I understand that the Wife of Mr. Milton is very good, too). The Islands of Unwisdom is set in the late 16th century (1595 or thereabouts) and concerns the second disasterous voyage by the Spaniards to the Islands of Solomon as recorded by the expedition's secretary and comic foil. The book has a very strong female lead who is quite complex (as are the other major characters--about 20 in all). Mr. Graves' sensibilities are so in tune with modern life, it is hard to understand how books like this sink without a trace. This book is the most damning indictment of colonialism I have ever read. It is also based on fact as recorded by the actual expedition's secretary (apparently, this document has yet to be translated in English).
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