- CA UVICARCH SC050-1969-003-1
Part of Robert Graves collection
Gr-1 contains a complete autograph diary of 1,546 pages detailing four years in the lives of Robert Graves and Laura Riding. The period covered is from 22nd February 1935 to 6th May 1939, during which time they lived in Mallorca, Lugano, England, Brittany and Pennsylvania. The 'Diary' also contains 117 enclosures of such things as letters from his children, photographs, and press cuttings, as well as 99 other miscellaneous items such as typescripts of poems, articles and letters. An attempt was made to keep the enclosures and miscellaneous items at the exact pages they were included in the 'Diary'.
The diary is written on quarto sheets, folded horizontally to form octavo booklets, one recto page devoted to each day. 1,541 pages, octavo.
This important and unpublished diary represents a highly detailed record of four years in the lives of both Robert Graves and Laura Riding, from whom he was seldom separated for more than a few hours throughout the period that it covers. As well as giving full accounts of domestic events - building projects, gardening, jam-making, shopping expeditions, visits from friends and the like - Graves notes precisely the work that he and Laura Riding have accomplished each day, both separately and in collaboration. All their working projects are minutely documented.
When the diary opens Graves and Riding are enjoying an energetic existence on Mallorca, attending bullfights and fiestas, becoming involved in local politics, and constantly writing and printing. Graves completes Antigua Penny Puce, while Riding struggles with Progress of Stories, and they work together on the proofs of Focus and the preparation of Epilogue I. The death of T.E. Lawrence sparks off considerable activity (within three days Graves received a letter from Alexander Korda asking him to undertake the scenario of a film about Lawrence) and Graves alternates between warfare and amnesty with Arnold Lawrence. By the autumn Graves is at work on Frank Richards' Old Soldier Sahib and Riding on Trojan Ending and the translation of George Schwarz's Almost Forgotten Germany. In September Graves writes to Liddell Hart "suggesting joint book of materia historica" and has finished his part of it by the end of December. The book, however, runs into difficulties for many months: Graves rejects Cape's proposed title 'Sides and Aside of T.E. Lawrence', finds the Trustees' terms "impossible and insulting" and proposes an American piracy. By July 1936 other considerations are outweighed by the dangerous political situation in Spain and on August 2nd Graves and Riding are hurriedly evacuated from the island by destroyer, taking a single suitcase apiece. On the boat from Marseilles to England they encounter Roy Campbell "full of coloured lies" and apologising for his libel on them in The Georgiad. By the time they reach London Graves observes the "Laura has got a lot of gray hair from all this".
Graves swiftly sets about renewing the acquaintance of many relatives and friends, and is working with Korda on the script of 'I, Claudius' which he describes as "absolutely cheap nonsense strong on historical absurdities". Other activities include "taking notes of Auden plagiarisms", attending a talk by Spender on Modern Poetry ("all about aeroplanes, politics and Spain") and further ructions with the Lawrence Trustees. He is still preoccupied by the Spanish situation and records in considerable detail an interview with Winston Churchill (24th November 1936) at which they discussed the possibilities of British intervention.
January 1937 is largely taken up with quarrels (with Rose Macaulay, Victor Gollancz and W.J. Turner among others) and early in February Graves and Riding remove to Lugano. Here Graves receives the news of the abandonment of 'I, Claudius', but both find the atmosphere sympathetic and return to England in June only because Graves must undergo and operation on his throat. They then take a house at Ewhurst in Surrey, where they hold archery competitions in the garden and begin work on Count Belisarius ("...Laura advised me to change the outlook of Belisarius from Antonina to a eunuch") and Lives of Wives; also on the preparation of their respective Collected Poems. By the end of the year they have moved back to London, having decided to stay in England in spite of income-tax, and in December Graves completes Count Belisarius and gives all the manuscripts of it to Viscount Carlow "for a joke".
Early in 1938 Riding completes The World and Ourselves while Graves yet again works on T.E. Lawrence to his Biographer; they also collaborate on a dramatized version of Trojan Ending. In June they move to Brittany. Graves signs and re-signs sheets of the Lawrence book, and he and Alan Hodge do much 'donkey-work' on The Dictionary of Exact Meanings [on which Laura Riding and her husband Schuyler Jackson were still working in 1955]. In January 1939 Graves records the death of Yeats with considerable satisfaction, and in April he and Riding leave France for America. Ten days after their arrival "The diary seems graveyard; so I stop it".
During Graves' lifetime the University of Victoria voluntarily agreed to only make the diary available to scholars with the agreement of Robert Graves. This agreement has subsequently lapsed so that the diary is now open for access either on the premises or by photo-copy. However, UVic will not unreservedly make the whole of the diary available by photocopy because this is a breach of copyright law. A photocopy of the diary is also available for viewing (with agreement from UVic) at the Robert Graves Archives in St John's College, Oxford.
On the relevant facing versos of the diary Graves has mounted a number of letters from his children, photographs and press cuttings.