1919 - 1926


In October 1919 Graves took up his place at St. John s College, Oxford, where he switched from reading Classics to English. He and Nancy rented

...a small cottage from the poet John Masefield outside the town, in Boar s Hill. To supplement their small income, Graves s army pension and the government grant for his university studies, Nancy opened a village shop, but it proved to be a failure. On this, and on other occasions, the young couple received financial help from their families and from close friends such as Sassoon, Edward Marsh and T.E. Lawrence. Robert first met Lawrence, who was a Fellow of All Souls , in March 1920, and they became firm friends.

During this time Robert, with his father-in-law William Nicholson, edited a magazine called The Owl, a miscellany which received contributions from well-known writers, poets and painters of the day. Robert continued to write and publish poetry, but the war-poetry boom was over and Georgian poetry on the decline. His persistent war-neurosis and his desperate struggle to rebuild his life after the horror of the war became the moving force behind his poetry of that time. In his university thesis, which appeared in book-form under the title Poetic Unreason, Robert explored the mystery of poetic inspiration, a subject that was to fascinate him all his life and would eventually lead to his book The White Goddess.

In June 1921 the Graveses moved, with Jenny (b.1919) and David (b. 1920), from Boar s Hill to the more rural village of Islip (blue plaque: The World s End). There they had two more children, Catherine, (b. 1922), and Sam, (b. 1924). Robert, known by the villagers as The Captain , enjoyed village life: he joined the football team and supported the local Labour Party. He became a member of the Parish Council for a year, and was instrumental in providing social housing for ex-soldiers. By 1925 Robert had published eighteen books, mostly verse, but with little financial success.

Robert and Nancy went through difficult times. Nancy was exhausted both physically, after having four children in quick succession, and emotionally from Robert s war nightmares. In 1926 Robert accepted the position of Professor of English Literature at the Royal Egyptian University in Cairo, hoping the climate would improve Nancy s health.

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