Friday, August 3, 2007

Robert Graves' Goodbye to All That

I just finished reading my wife's copy of Robert Graves Goodbye to All That, one of those books that you always plan to read but never do. Indeed, the book has been kicking around the various places where we have lived over the years. I finally did read the work with a great long plane ride -- delayed by 30 hours!!! -- to finish it. I had thought it would simply be a war memoriam of a war that I know little about. It was that, but as well a picture of an age of Britain long since gone. And I think, in part, that is what the title implies, Good-Bye to All That. For on Graves' return -- far younger than me -- and the failure of his marriage, he quite simply says, Good-Bye to All That and moves to Spain. The country has changed, so has he, and there is only one option, to leave. The prose is as unfamiliar as is the England and Europe Graves depicts with Graves somehow letting life pass by (and coming home from the war relatively unscathed) as that life passes and the world finds itself another place. I dare not count up all the dead on this text, 3 and 4 on a page at times. Countering the horror, there are also lovely portraits of George Mallory -- who ascended Everest in hob nailed boots and tweeds -- and T. E. Lawrence.
In summary, highly recommended. I don't believe I have ever quite read a book like it.


  1. If this is the original published (which it looks like it may be — I've never seen the cover) in 1929 you have a rare find, indeed. The subsequent printings of it were heavily revised by Graves. Hold on to this. I write as the assistant editor of two WW1 online magazines. In one of them, we are featuring Lawrence as our main focus in next month's issue. I will be contributing a short piece on Lawrence and Graves and their friendship. Best, K. Worcester

  2. I would be very interested in reading the Lawrence and Graves article. I am sorry to hear that Graves found it necessary to heavily edit subsequent editions -- I wonder why? -- but did think it needed some editing and possibly some fact checking (there were just two many facts that I am sure a mistake or two was made) but not necessarily by Graves. An amazing read nonetheless. Jeff

  3. Nice to hear back from you. He took out some things that were particularly offensive to his family and to Sassoon. The 1957 version is quite different, I understand, from the 1929 original. And of course in 1957 he had long ago split from Laura R., which gave new color to his memoirs. There is a very good biography of Graves by his nephew, Richard Perceval Graves, that is well worth reading. I'll make a note to send you the pdf of the magazine. We publish on 15 June.
    Thanks, KW

  4. That makes sense.
    I do remember thinking Graves was particularly hard on Sassoon and have never thought the same of Sassoon since reading Goodbye. As to Laura R. and his family, while I enjoyed G's candidacy (is that the right word? feels wrong), I hadn't picked up on anything untoward. Jeff
    Look forward to the pdf.

  5. Dear Jeff — We've just published our June issue of Over the Top, and I'd like to send you the pdf. I promised, but I can't send it publicly through your blog since it is by subscription and this is a gift copy. Is there an email I can send it to? Thanks so much. — Kimball


Comments more than welcome!