03/16/2005: Bibliophiles: Graves & Milton
Jon Rowe's Blog Meme response about choosing the works of "Milton" for his "deserted island reading" reminded me about one of my other favorite books and my choice of Robert Graves and his other writings and works, his autobiography and his biography. So, I thought I'd throw this out there for you other Bibliophiles who might be interested.
To read this bookish piece, click on the "more" button.
Robert Graves, in addition to being widely known for his "I Claudius" and "Claudius The God" novels (which also were made into a wonderful Masterpiece Theater 13-part series) wrote many other fictional histories, including one called "Wife to Mr. Milton". This book was written in the form of an autobiographical account of Milton's first wife, "Marie Powell of Forest Hill", whom Milton married when he was a virgin bachelor at 33 and she but 16 years old.
The book jacket cover says:
"Marie Powell, the willful daughter of a penniless 'gentleman' farmer, was sixteen when John Milton married her for her dowry. The dowry proved illusory, the Puritan genius proved a domineering prig with little sympathy for his sensuous, sharp-witted young wife. Robert Graves lets Marie tell her own story: his sympathy for the woman's point of view is, as always. strong and uncannily perceptive."
This also put me in mind of Robert Graves' own life and background...180 degrees reversed of Milton's story. If you want a howling scream of a story, Graves' nephew, Richard Perceval Graves, wrote a biography of his uncle, published in 1990: "Robert Graves; The Years with Laura Riding - 1926 -1940".
While "Goodbye To All That" is Graves' own autobiography from his childhood and through the first WW, marriage, children jobs and up to the date of leaving his wife and children --presumably for Laura Riding, but stops at that point. This biography is most intriguing, strange, peculiar recounting of Robert's affair and living with Laura Riding (Riding is the subject of his book "The White Goddess").
The book jacket cover of the biography reads:
"Robert Graves was married with four children when he met Laura Riding and began their intense and contradictory love affair. It was while he was with her that Graves produced much of his best work, including "I Claudius" and "Collected Poems" (1938), which contain some of the finest English love poetry written in [that] century.
With Nancy Nicholson, Graves's first wife, the couple lived ina menage-a-trois which, with the arrival of Geoffrey Phibbs, became a menage-a-quatre..."
And quite a "life's story" it is to be sure. One of my favorite "book" moments being when this Diva Par Excellence, Laura Riding, throws herself out of an upper story window in some "hissy-fit" of attention getting and breaks several vertebrae in her back. "Astounding" just about covers it as a description of Graves's life and relationship with Riding.
All these books are worth a look: "Wife to Mr. Milton." if you can deal with historical fiction and you're at all interested in Milton - from Robert Graves' perspective anyway; "Goodbye To All That" and "Robert Graves; The Years with Laura Riding - 1926 -1940" about Graves himself in these bios. Graves (who always wished or preferred to be know for his poetry instead of his novels or other writings) is one of my all time favorite authors, I would have taken "All" his stuff on that desert island, but I'd already chosen a couple of "series" or collections, and it wouldn't do to "cheat too much."
(As a piece of Trivia, and I KNOW Len likes his Trivia -- the title of "Goodbye To All That" is so well known and was a huge best seller of its day, that those four words have become a famous quote listed in "Bartlett Familiar Quotations". )
Karen on 03.16.05 @ 05:57 AM CST