Robert Graves Diary Excerpts


Title: Robert Graves Diary Excerpts
Author: Undine Bruckner, Martin Holmes
Publisher: Humanities Computing and Media Center, University of Victoria
Publication place: Victoria, B.C., Canada
ID: Personal Diary Mss
Availability: The terms of access are subject to the rights held and permissions given by the University of Victoria.
Date: 2001-09-01

Title: Robert Graves Diary 1935-39
Author: Robert Graves
Publisher: University of Victoria Library Special Collections
Publication place: Victoria, B.C., Canada
Date: 2001-09-01
ID: SC050


Feb 3 Monday

[Deya, Majorca 1936] Catherine's birthday

Cold wind. Gelat sprinkling nitrate
in garden. Enclosed letter from
Mitchell. [Enc]

3rd January, 1936;
Robert Graves, ESQ.,
Deya. Majorca.
Dear Mr Graves,

You were, at Oxford Islip on the occasion that you do not
recall, and recently on the when you called on me at the fonda here, very
kind to me and that is why I am writing you now although I know that you
do not wish to have any more to do with the forieeigh colony in Deya than
you can help, in order to be able to get on with your very significant
literary work. It is of course up to me to respect your wishes in the
matter and to by leaving you alone now that I have decided to live for
some considerable time in Deya, but there is one thing which will be
rather acwkward for me unless I clear it up. Tahhat is the question of
whether when we meet, as we are bound to do in such a small place and
have done twice already, we are going to recognize each other. I am quite
prepared to respect your wishes in this matter also: I just want to know,
one way or the other; and I am affraid that you may already think I have
deliberately iignored you, thus repaying with rudeness your kindness.

We met twice since y ou came to see me at the fonda, once in the
little café opposite the post office and once, last night, at the café
deportivo. The first time I thought that you deliberatelly did not
notice me, and for this reason I did the same thing last night to you; but
it has since occuredred to me that perhaps you did not recognize me in the
imperfect light of the little cafe; when I was too diffident to speak to
you first and only tried to catch your eye.

I shall do whartever you wish in the matter. I think you are a genius, a
and that you are quite right to put your work first; but I find the
present uncertain position very embarrassing, and would like to end it.

Yours sincerely,
David M. Mitchell
Replied through Karl that
no necessity for letter & that since
the situation had been thus complicated I
would stabilize it at non-recognition

Going over Stealing homily with Laura

To Posada where paths now finished
and lemon & apricot planted.

Karl decided to take holiday in Palma.

Finished going over Stealing late.

Have had canary in my work room
for the last few days.

Freezias & wild anemones at
their best.


June 24, Thursday

[St Mary's Hospital, London, 1937] San Juan

Mr McCormack came to
visit me in the morning: in afternoon
Laura with John & Lucie. Later
Harry & Alix.

Heinemann 'off' the biography
scheme. Watt says, no matter.


Harry came back at 7 with a
telegram [Enc]

24 June 37 Laura Riduig 5 Nottingham Street, London W

Papa libre tengo buenas noticias abrasos
Anita [ father free have good news hugs- Anita ]

from Anita saying
that Gelat was free.

Feeling weak, I wept for
about 1/2 an hour: restored
with tea.


May 11 Wednesday

[London, 1938]

Another draft of Flat.

Evans of Heinemann interested in
World & Ourselves.

Work on Protocol with Laura.
Len came, and Alan.

I visited Jenny at the Clinic.

Dinner with O.K. at
Chez Josef - our invitation. He
would not commit himself on
any subject, and blushed deeply
when asked his opinion of the
sermon on the mount - as
if he had been asked a
smutty question.

Association of writers for Intellectual Liberty
(British Section of "Association Internationale des Ecrivains
pour la Defense de la Culture"; Writers Section of "For
Intellectual Liberty.")
May 10, 1938 23 Haymarket,
London, S.W.I
Whitehall 2248
Dear Mr. Graves,

With the spread of Fascism in Europe
the lives and interests of men and women in the liberal
propfessions are increasingly threatened.

This Association of writers is
inviting members of its profession to take part in
a large, non-political public meeting to express their
abhorrence of this systematic attack on the intelligence

So far, Sir Hugh Walpole, Mr. Desmond
McCarthy, Miss Rebecca West and Miss Rose Macaulay
have agreed to speak, and many other writers are
willing to support the meeting either by their presence
on the platform or by sending a message for the
Chairman to deliver.

The Assoiciation is axious to make
the meeting thoroughly representative of English
letters and hopes that you will take part in what
can be made a most impressive declaration of the
writer's essential faith in the free development
of culture.

The meeting is to take place at
the Queen's Hall at 8.30 p.m. on June the 8th.
Would you let us know wether you
are willing to speak, or to send a message if you
cannot be present?

Yours sincerely,
Yvonne Clund
for the Organizing Committee
May 11, 1938 c/o Messers Cassell
La belle Sauvage
Ludgate Hill
Dear Madam,

If your association were one for intellectual integrity,
all writers being debarred from membership whose party
or literary affiliations disproves their integrity, that claim to this, it would be
another matter. But of the few writers of proved integrity in
this country not one, so far as I can see, appears on your list; and
of those who do appear of on your list many have either

most of the names on your list I cannot associate with conspicuous integrity many of them having publicly committed themselves to views which contravene the
elementary rules of literary truthfulness, or have persistently
avoided committing themselves on any serious
subjectwhatsoever. So, to be frank, I cannot feel the least

yours sincerely
Robert Graves

Sept 2 Friday

[La Chevrie, France 1938]

To Rennes in afternoon
after a morning's housework
and picking nuts in the
grounds with 'Petit Henri'.
Bought a pair of fire-dogs
35 francs, & a large mat,
for 115 francs and a
shabby screen for Laura (80fr) to be
Anita still very sick.
Invented a game with Beryl call 'Cambeluck' [Enc]

Rules for Cambeluk [Sept 2 Friday, 1938]

Two players, each with 8 marbles of the
same colour and one of a different colour-
called the 'vassals' and the 'chams'- arrange
their marbles in squares, the Chams in
the centres, facing each other at opposite
ends of a solitaire board. Thus:

The object of each side is to move his pieces-
along the usual lines marked on the solitaire
board, in any direction, but one move or one
hop only at a time, alternately-in such
a way that his own cham reaches Cambelukthe
position originally occupied by the opposing
cham. The game ends when this is accomp-
lished, or one cham is killer. Killing is done
by hopping over; but only a vassal may kill
a vassal. A cham may harmlessly hop over
an opposing vassal, if he pleases, or a vassal
over an opposing cham; and pieces of the same
side can hop over one another, harmlessly,
if they please. A cham must hop over any
enemy vassal, not previously next* [ *next means in next square at right angles, or diagonally if cornered ] to it,
that is moved next to it: unless one of
his own vassals can kill it first.

No player may repeat same two moves more than one repeat.
played with
solitaire board.
Laura working late on
proofs. No-no nearly killed
the black kitten.
Autumn beginning: apples
dominate landscape.


Monday Jan 30

[La Chevrie, France 1939]

All day on Lives of Wives:finished
my reading of Herod at
1.15 am.

There was a car ride to
Montauban to fetch parafin &
Alan & I played Russ.bill.

Otherwise nothing except the
death of Yeats: greeted
with satisfaction.

Laura joked: 'Has lunch been
I= "Only unilaterally."

Beryl, Alan Dorothy & I
play four-handed Cambeluk
now in the new board.


Feb 5 Sunday

[La Chevrie, France 1939]

All day reading Year of Damage
for Alan; for corrections. This
is the final version (about 2/3)
of what was once very loose
& amusing, written winter 1936.

Mmlle Perou & the Post Office
girls came to call in the
afternoon: overwhelming joke
atmosphere of Mmlle Perou. Laura
gave her a cokernut when she

Laura going over Alan's

* Catalans begin to
retreat across


Durrant's Press Cuttings St Andrew's House, 32 to 34 Holborn Viaduct,
and 3 St. Andrew Street, Holborn Circus, E.C.1.
Telephone: CENTRAL 3149 (Two Lines)

Time and Tide
32 Bloomsbury Street, W.C.I Cutting from issue dated 24-DEC 1938 Collected Poems

Collected Poems. Laura Riding. (Cassell. 15s.)
Collected Poems. Robert Graves. (Cassell. 10s. 6d.)

There is always something embarrassing about the
publication of collected poems. Objects which have
previously existed in their own right as poems are
now revealed as snippets of autobiography, phases in
what the poet or at any rate critics are only too likely
to call his "evolution". In these two cases the comedy
of the situation is heightened by the fact that Riding
and Graves have evolved in concert and display a ten-
dency to make eyes at each other from between the
covers of their respective books.

Graves indeed (in a Foreword) attributes his poetic
all to Riding, and Riding does not deny it. And this
seems to me to be all wrong, because for myself I reckon
Graves the better poet of the two. What is more,
Graves is at his best in a highly Rabalaisian vein, where-
as Riding....But that's just the point.

Laura Riding has, I think, the most actively pro-
liferant mind in England at this moment. I do not
think she is wise, and I do not think she knows very
much-in any sense of the verb "to know" that would
be valid for me. But as a forcer of wedges into crannies
and chinks of the mind she has no equal. In three
editions of Epilogue which have appeared, more separate
and distinct floods of light are let in than the new dawn
of the Left can hope to see. And one thing Riding does
know-that poems are poems. It is a tautology, and
tautology (says Whitehead) is the intellectual amusement
of the infinite, and I'm not at all sure that Riding knows
what poems are, being poems. But she does know that
they are poems and is quite determined that at any rate
her own poems shall be nothing else, but just that.

Not so Graves.
Riding is a poetical prude. Her poems are pure,
stripped clean of all that could possibly be thought
to be not poetry, of visual imagery, emotional appeal,
even (so far as it can be managed) of ideal meaning.
Myself I don't believe that poetry is a separate essence,
but that it is the final equipoise of all other elements
employed in a poem, and I am of the opinion that in
getting rid of pornography, religion and all that Riding
has emptied out the baby with the bath-water.

Lord, how impressive the empty bath still is. No-
body else could do what Riding has done and be left
with so much, I would agree.

But I like Graves's ogres and pigmies, his physical
lassitudes physically expressed, his emotional and no
doubt according to Riding his sentimental bitterness
and all those things in Graves that Riding would consider
meretricious, inessential and shallow. It is true that all
Graves' best was concentrated into one thin book of
poems done from 1930-33, that he has written nothing
so good either before or since. But this even abstract-
ness of Riding's is comparatively wearysome. There is
a quite specific ecstasy to be sustained by the reading
of her poems, but I'm not sure that one hasn't to induce
the ecstasy oneself before one can read them. Nor
am I sure that specific ecstasies are necessarily of value
-think of Armistice Day. Riding's is among poetries
not unlike what celibacy is among sexual states-diffi-
cult, but not by reason of that superior.

Rayner Heppenstall
Time and Tide
[Cutting from issue dated January 21, 1939] Laura Riding's Poetry

Sir,-As one of the subjects of Rayner Heppenstall's
extraordinary review in your issue of December 24th, with
its peculiarly virulent attack on Laura Riding, may I be
permitted to raise a question of editorial policy that arises
from this?

The question is, does it pay in the end to belittle or mis-
represent the character or value of a good book? Does
it pay to use sordid colloquialisms about a poet whom all
genuine poets (and people) today regard with profound
admiration and gratitude? Does not honest factual
reporting go further in the end than such facetious insults
as "Laura Riding is a poetical prude... and I am of
the opinion that, in getting rid of pornography, religion
and all that, Riding has emptied out the baby with the

The argument that to do justice to a book of difficult
poems would depress the circulation of a literary new-
weekly seems fallacious. In the same week that Mr.
Heppenstall's review appeared, a similar but longer report
of recent collected poems appeared in the American weekly
Time. Now Time was founded at about the same time as
TIME AND TIDE, and with very slender financial backing,
by a similar small body of crusading journalists. Time,
which has applied to its book reviewing the same downright
and courageous style that it gives to its news-reviewing,
and now has a circulation of over 700,000 sales, thought it
good journalism as well as good criticism to register the
fact that the "book of books of the mid twentieth-century"
was the Collected Poems of Laura Riding.

If I may be permitted to criticize TIME AND TIDE, in
return for the dreadful things that TIME AND TIDE has
said about me, I should like to apply to its policy a line of
Laura Riding's about someone who hated falsehood more
than he truth loved
. The result is bitterness, thrown in the
face of the good and the evil indiscriminately, and an
atmosphere of malaise pervading each new issue.

I am, etc.,
Robert Graves. La Chevrie,
par Boisgervilly, I. et V.

Durrant's Press Cuttings St Andrew's House, 32 to 34 Holborn Viaduct,
and 3 St. Andrew Street, Holborn Circus, E.C.1.
Telephone: CENTRAL 3149 (Two Lines)

Time and Tide
32 Bloomsbury Street, W.C.I Cutting from issue dated 4-FEB 1939 The Contemporary Dichotomy

Sir,- As you have been good enough to print my
last letter, perhaps you will find room for a few
refelctions on Mr. Rayner Heppenstall's reply. A
"proliferant" young writer (to use his own irregularly-
formed and hitherto unrecorded adjective) with critical
pretensions is asked by the Editor of a serious journal to
review two serious books by two very serious people. On
his own subsequent admission he has long ranked these
poets very high (never mind the vulgarity of awarding them
numbered places in his team as if they were tennis players),
yet all that he manages to tell his readers about the contents
of these books (from which he does not quote a single
line) is that he is embarrassed by them into making a
facetious plea for more sexuality, more pornography and
more physical lassitude among poets!

The explanation of this breakdown is, I think, that
Mr. Heppenstall is of that generation which has cultivated
literary irreligiosity side by side with political religiosity.
Litarary irreligiosity has indeed become so firmly estab-
lished in contemporary progressive circles that the few
serious poets who survive are practically unread there:
instead there is a cult of the thieves, frauds and playboys.
By literary irreligiosity I do not mean, of course, a whole-
some refusal to be bullied by classical academicism, but a
deliberate scoffing at what is secretely known to be worthy
of admiration; as by political religiosity I do not mean a
wholesome reaction against politics played as a Party
game, but self-identification with economic or other short
cuts to spiritual well-being. A paradox: the same sort
of young man who can be extremely eloquent on, say, the
failures of the capitalist system and would never accuse a
Labour leader of having a persecution mania if he protested
against conditions in the distressed areas, and who would
violently denounce official duplicity in dealing with the
problem of unemployment, is embarrassed by the experi-
ence of reading so courageous, serene and single-minded a
book as Laura Riding's Collected Poems and derides in it
the very qualities that are flaunted by the political idealists.
"Ill-will" is not the right name for what I bear Mr. Heppen-
stall, nor do I regard it as a waste of useful energy to protest
against such glaring improprieties as these: and it might
be, Sir, an interesting subject for self-examination among
your readers-to what extent they indulge the plainly
fraudulent or destructive in contemporary literature while
crusading for honesty and constructiveness among

I am, etc.,
Robert Graves. La Chevrie,
par Boisgervilly,
France, I. et V.

May 6

[Brownsburg Farm, U.S. 1939]

At this point the
diary seems graveyard;
so I stop it.

The Moon Ends in Nightmare

I had once boastd my acquaintance
With the Moon's phases: I had seen her, even,
Endure and emerge from full eclipse.
Yet as she stood in the West, that summer night,
The fireflies dipping insanely about me,
So that the foggy air quivered and winked
And the sure eye was cheated,
In horror I cried aloud: for the same Moon
Whom I had held a living power, though changeless,
Split open in my sight, a bright egg shell,
And a double-headed Nothing grinned
All-wisely from the the gap.

At that this I found my earth no more substantial
Tha[n] the lower air, or the upper,
And ran to plunge in the cool flowing creek,
My eyes and ears pressed under water.
And thendid I drowned, and leftleaving my corpse in mud?
Yet still the thing was so.

I crept to where my window beckoned warm
Between the white oak and the tulip tree
And rapped - but was denied, as who returns
After a one-hour-seeming century
To a house not his own.

[End of Diary]
List of persons referred to:

  1. Catherine Nicholson: (1922- ) third of four children of Robert Graves and Nancy Nicholson ([1899-1977] first wife of Robert Graves; married 1918, separated 1927, divorced 1949).
  2. Juan Marroig Mas, called Gelat: Landowner on Deya and friend of Robert Graves and Laura Riding.
  3. Karl Goldschmidt, later Kenneth Gay: Graphic artist, friend and secretary of Robert Graves and Laura Riding since 1934.
  4. Born Laura Reichenthal (1901-1991), married Gottschalk 1920, renamed Riding, married Jackson 1941: Poet, theorist, partner and collaborator of Robert Graves 1927-1939.
  5. San Juan Bautista (Saint John the Baptist): Saint John the Baptist; patron Saint of Deya; Feast Day June 24
  6. ?McCormack: Friend of Robert Graves and Laura Riding.
  7. John Aldridge: Painter, friend of Robert Graves and Laura Riding.
  8. Lucie Aldridge, née: Brown: Wife of John and friend of Robert Graves and Laura Riding.
  9. Harry Kemp: Poet and friend of Robert Graves and Laura Riding.
  10. Alix Kemp: Wife of Harry Kemp, friend of Robert Graves and Laura Riding.
  11. William Heinemann: Publisher.
  12. A.S. Watt: Literary agent.
  13. Anita Vives: Sister of Gelat, lived at Rennes, France in 1937.
  14. Harold Evans?: unidentified.
  15. Len Lye: Maker of animated films, working in advertising: friend of Robert Graves and Laura Riding.
  16. Alan Hodge: Poet and friend of Robert Graves and Laura Riding; coauthored The Long Weekend among others; Beryl's husband 1938-1943.
  17. Jenny Pyrdie Nicholson: (1918-1964) dancer, first of four children of Robert Graves and Nancy Nicholson.
  18. (Otto Kubler?): Unidentified.
  19. Herod (Herod the Great, Herod I): Became king in 37 BC and ruled until his death in 4 BC. He was about 73 years old at the time when Jesus was born; discussed as husband of Mariamne in part III of Lives of Wives by Laura Riding.
  20. William Butler Yeats (1865-1939): Famous Irish poet and playwright.
  21. Beryl Hodge: Née Pritchard (1915- ), wife of Alan Hodge 1938-1943, lived with Graves from October 1939, married to Robert Graves 1950, four children together.
  22. Dorothy Simmons: Sculptor and friend of Robert Graves and Laura Riding.
  23. Mmlle Perou: Possibly an acquaintance of Robert Graves and Laura Riding in France.

  1. Graves, Robert. "Stealing" in Epilogue II. Deya, Majorca, Spain: The Seizin Press, 1936. [ "Stealing" was reprinted as "Theft" in The Crowning Privilege. London: Cassell & Co. Ltd., 1955. ]
  2. Graves, Robert. "Flat". [No bibliographical information on this poem was found. It may have been renamed and published under a different name.]
  3. Riding, Laura. The World and Ourselves. London: Chatto & Windus, November 1938.
  4. [The "First Protocol of the Covenant of the Literal Morality" was never published.]
  5. Riding, Laura. Lives of Wives. New York: Random House, 1939.
  6. Hodge, Alan. "Year of Damage". [No further information available. ]
  7. Hodge, Alan. "Journeys". [No further information available. ]
  8. Riding, Laura. Collected Poems. London: Cassell and Co. Ltd., 1938.
  9. Graves, Robert. Collected Poems. London: Cassell and Co. Ltd., 1938.
  10. Graves, Robert. "Armistice Day, 1918" Beyond Giving, Poems. privately published, 1969.
  11. "The Moon Ends in Nightmare" [Robert Graves never published this poem ] A Gathering in Celebration of the Eightieth Birthday of Robert Graves in The Malahat Review. Skelton, Robin and William David Thomas, eds. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria, 1975.