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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".'
May 2014 Guest Editor Daisy Goodwin on I, Claudius... Discovered this in my early teens and was completely hooked by the story of the rise to power of the most unlikely Roman Emperor. Graves was a classical scholar, but he never forgets that his primary role as a novelist is to tell a story. He inhabits Ancient Rome, as surely as Hilary Mantel breathes the air of the Tudor Court. Great historical novels are the ones that show us the past rather than tell us about it.
October 2010 Guest Editor Juliet Gardiner on The Long Weekend... Published at the outbreak of war and largely relying on newspaper cuttings, The Long Weekend by the poet Robert Graves and Alan Hodge, still has a sharpness and immediacy that conjures up the anxieties, eccentricities and dashed hopes of the interwar years ranging over such diverse subjects as hiking and pacifism.