Robert von Ranke Graves (24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985) was an English poet, and novelist. During his long life, he produced more than 140 works. He was the son of the Anglo-Irish writer Alfred Perceval Graves and Amalie von Ranke.
Graves considered himself a poet first and foremost. His poems, together with his innovative interpretation of the Greek Myths, his memoir of the First World war, Good-bye to All That, and his historical study of poetic inspiration, The White Goddess, have never been out of print. He earned his living from writing, particularly popular historical novels such as I, Claudius, The Golden Fleece and Count Belisarius. He was also a prominent translator of Classical Latin and Ancient Greek texts; his versions of The Twelve Caesars and The Golden Ass remain popular today for their clarity and entertaining style. Graves was awarded the 1934 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for both I, Claudius and Claudius the God.
In 1927, he also published Lawrence and the Arabs, a commercially successful biography of T. E. Lawrence. Good-bye to All That (1929, revised by him and republished in 1957) proved a success but cost him many of his friends, notably Siegfried Sassoon. In 1934 he published his most commercially successful work, I, Claudius. Using classical sources he constructed a complex and compelling tale of the life of the Roman emperor Claudius, a tale extended in the sequel Claudius the god (1935). Another historical novel by Graves, Count Belisarius (1938), recounts the career of the Byzantine general Belisarius.
Graves and Riding left Majorca in 1936 at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. In 1939, they moved to the United States and took lodging in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Their volatile relationship was described in non-fiction by Richard Perceval Graves in Robert Graves: 1927-1940, The Years with Laura and T.S. Matthews'''' book Jacks or Better (1977), and also was the basis for Miranda Seymour''''s novel The Summer of ''''39 (1998). After returning to England, Graves began a new relationship with Beryl Hodge, then the wife of Alan Hodge, his collaborator on The Long Week-End (1941) and The Reader Over Your Shoulder (1943; republished in 1947 as The Use and Abuse of the English Language).
In 1946 he and his new wife Beryl re-established a home in Deya, Majorca. 1946 also saw the publication of the historical novel King Jesus. He published the controversial The White Goddess in 1948. He turned to science fiction with Seven Days in New Crete (1949), and in 1953 he published The Nazarene Gospel Restored with Joshua Podro. In 1955, he published his version of The Greek Myths, which continues to dominate the English-language market for mythography despite its controversial reputation among classicists - a reputation that is perhaps unsurprising given the unconventional nature of his interpretations and his own open and scathing opinion of literary scholars. In 1956, he published a volume of short stories Catacrok! Mostly Stories, Mostly Funny. In 1961 he became professor of poetry at Oxford, a post he held until 1966.
From the 1960s until his death, Robert Graves frequently exchanged letters with Spike Milligan. Many of their letters to each other are collected in the book, "Dear Robert, Dear Spike."
Graves died in December 1985 at the age of 90, following a long illness and gradual mental degeneration. He and Beryl are buried in the small churchyard on the hill in Deia, overlooking the sea on the northwest coast of Majorca.
Graves had eight children: Jenny, David, Catherine (who married nuclear scientist Clifford Dalton) and Sam with Nancy Nicholson, and William, Lucia (herself a translator), Juan and Tomas with Beryl Graves.