Queen Famine’s Courtier

Paul Delany

  • Robert Graves: His Life and Works by Martin Seymour-Smith
    Hutchinson, 607 pp, £14.95, May 1982, ISBN 0 09 139350 7
  • In Broken Images: Selected Letters of Robert Graves 1914-1946 edited by Paul O’Prey
    Hutchinson, 371 pp, £12.95, May 1982, ISBN 0 09 147720 4
  • Progress of Stories by Laura Riding
    Carcanet, 380 pp, £7.95, August 1982, ISBN 0 85635 402 3

A poetic career as long as an average life-span – from 1908 to 1975 – should provide plenty of grist for the biographer’s mill. But here, as in other respects, Robert Graves is an awkward subject, for the salient feature of his career is its lack of obvious stages. Looking backwards from his 70th birthday, he observed contentedly: ‘I always aimed at writing more or less as I still do.’ Having paid his debt to England, and to history, at the battle of the Somme, Graves claimed for himself a posthumous life free from jobs or other hostages to duty. It would be rich in events, but they would come capriciously at the whim of his Muse – not from any personal commitment to an orderly future. Born in another century, Graves has succeeded in never having to become a child of this one.

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