The third child of Alfred Perceval Graves and Amalie Elizabeth Sophie von Ranke, Robert Graves was born in 1895. His father composed the popular song "Father O'Flynn" and his mother was the daughter of a professor of medicine at Munich University and created a home that fostered intellectual abilities. Graves wrote poetry from his youth and gained a reputation for it at his school, Charterhouse.
When WWI started, Graves was horrified by the German attack upon neutral Belgium. So even though he was a pacifist, he joined the military. He was staying at his family's holiday home in north Wales when he enlisted and as a result he ended up in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. While in the War, he kept writing poetry. He became known as one of 16 young British poets called the poets of the Great War. The group was honored for their work in Poets Corner of Westminster Abbey. In 1985 when the memorial was unveiled, Graves was the only poet still living.
Marrying Nancy Nicholson in 1918, Graves struggled to find a way to support his ever growing family (four children in five years). He had previously published two books of poetry and hoped to support his family as a popular poet. His third volume of poetry was not profitable.
In 1929 Graves wrote his bestselling memoir of WWI, Goodbye to All That and became a fixture in the literary scene. While Graves continued to write poetry, he became interested in history and mythology. He wrote criticism and branched into fiction. I, Claudius was probably his best-known novel. Published in 1934, it was made into a BBC miniseries in 1976.
After a brief stint in the United States, Graves returned to Great Britain. He and Beryl Hodges began a relationship. The couple had three children before going to Deya, Majorca where there last child was born. Graves continued writing poetry and fiction and his reputation grew. In 1954 he gave the prestigious Clark lecture at Cambridge. Then in 1957 he began a lecture series and poetry readings in the United States that was quite profitable.
Graves told poet Leslie Norris that in order to write poetry one must be in love. Unfortunately for his family, Graves chose to fall in love with several women who became his muses. While his marriage to Nancy Nicholson ended in divorce, Beryl Hodge was able to preserve their marriage through Graves' wanderings. Graves was a prolific writer except for the last ten years of his life. He became confused and lost much of his memory, and by 1975 his writing career ended. He died in 1985.