MAY 1938

Early in the month Graves and Riding entertain the poet Julian Symons for the evening, and Riding goes over one of his poems. According to Graves, "It was the first time Symons had been subjected to a literal criticism of his poems & he behaved very decently." It becomes apparent later that Symons did not after all find the session so satisfactory. Writes Graves a few weeks after the encounter, Symons "found Laura aggressive and wearing, and told Alan so: he told Laura & so a thing started." Of his own work, Graves writes, "Laura went over poems, early ones: suppressed two, worked on four."
Graves' contempt for rudeness and impertinence is clear in his response to the presumptuous demand of a fan: "Someone called Gardner sent books for me to sign unasked: I put them in a cloakroom at Piccadilly and sent him ticket. He replied I was no gentleman & full of my own importance." Towards the end of May, remarking on a visit from Dorothy Hutchinson and daughter Wanda, Graves notes, "sweet child but children tire me more than anything in the world." Even his reading material does not escape the scathing stroke of Graves' pen: "Read an American thriller Hot Gold: without enjoyment."
This month Graves writes several new poems and reworks several old ones. May sees drafts of "Flat," "The Miller's Man" and "In Procession." "In Your Name" (now called "At First Sight") and "Warning to Children" both receive more attention. Graves also continues to chip away at The Smuggler. Riding goes over Graves' newest poetry collection and finishes the Persian part of Lives of Wives, picks up Schools again and continues going over Harry Kemp's Left Heresy. She also works with Len Lye, and goes over Hodge's Year of Damage. Together Riding and Graves write the "mercy clause" to the protocols project. Liddell-Hart visits later in the month to go over the draft.
Dent has agreed to publish the dictionary, and Heinemann shows an interest in The World and Ourselves, although by the end of May the publishing house has not developed a publishing plan and seems not to have expressed further interest.
Graves has considerable contact with Jenny and David this month, the latter of whom stays the night more than once. One of his overnight visits results in a row with Graves about rudeness, but all is soon forgiven. Jenny is overtired rehearsing for the Cochran Revue, and is soon hospitalised with tonsillitis. Graves visits her frequently, and ends up paying her hospital bills. To Graves' irritation, Nancy refuses Graves and Riding's offer of a poodle: her letter turning them down is "queer," notes Graves. Catherine receives an invitation from Norman Cameron to play squash.
Mary Lucy returns to her husband, who "has become a good Catholic." Graves continues to buy trinkets and gifts for friends, including a Robinson Crusoe book for James Reeves. He makes a bead necklace for Mary Fuller, and makes two more necklaces from beads bought in the Church Street Market. Dorothy and Ward celebrate Wanda's birthday with a small group of friends. Later, Graves and Riding invite High Commissioner Mike Pearson and his wife Marion to dine at their home. Time is also spent with David Reeves, Maisie Somerville, Len Lye and Margaret Russell. Graves and Riding have decided to spend time this year in France, and to invite Margaret Russell to accompany them.
The health of both poets worsens. Graves begins the month with stomach problems and engages in a course of self-medication with brandy. Riding is tired and feels sick for several days. When she begins to suffer palpitations, the doctor is called in. He deduces that her heart is "merely tired" and advises rest. Graves develops a pain just above his liver and consults the doctor, "who hopes it is not stone or gravel." The month ends with both writers on several prescribed medications.
There are six enclosures this month:

Hands Referenced

Places Mentioned

  • Piccadilly

    London, England
  • Church Street Market

    Marylebone, Paddington, London, England

People Mentioned

  • Robert

    Graves, Robert
    [1st person]. (1895-1985). Poet, novelist, essayist, critic, and author of his diary. eds.
  • Laura

    Riding, Laura
    (1901-91) American poet. Laura Riding (née Reichenthal; then Laura Gottschalk).
  • Julian Symons

    Symons, Julian
    (1912-1994) novelist and poet, editor of the London magazine,Twentieth Century Verse eds.
  • Alan

    Hodge, Alan
    Oxford history graduate. Became close friends with LR & RG. First husband of Beryl Graves. CP & WG
  • Dorothy

    Hutchinson, Dorothy
    Ward Hutchinson's wife. WG
  • Wanda

    Hutchinson, Wanda
    daughter of Ward and Dorothy Hutchinson, born June 1937 eds.
  • Harry Kemp

    Kemp, Harry
    Poet. Met Graves and Riding through James Reeves in August 1936, just after their arrival in England. In their previous correspondence, Riding had been intrigued by his falling-out with Communism. He became associated with their circle, collaborating on various projects. (RPG 248-49)
  • Len

    Lye, Len
    New Zealand painter, sculptor, and filmmaker whom LR & RG had met in London. He helped with the Seizin Press publications. WG; married to Jane Lye, son Bix. eds.
  • Liddell Hart

    Liddell Hart, Capt. Basil
    War-fare expert and friend of T.E. Lawrence. Collaborated with RG on a book of T.E.L'.s letters, published in 1938. See RPG p.231. WG & Eds.
  • Jenny

    Nicholson, Jenny
    Jenny Nicholson: oldest daughter of Robert by Nancy Nicholson.
  • David

    Graves, David
    R.G.'s second child [by Nancy Nicholson]. W.G. In RAF; killed in the war. The only one of Graves' children who might have become a poet had he lived. K.G., eds.
  • Cochran

    Cochran, C. B.
    Director of musical revues in London: RG's daughter Jenny performed as a chorus-girl in his "Follow the Sun" and "Midnight Laughter". (RPG 252-53) eds
  • Nancy

    Nicholson, Nancy
    (1899-1977) First wife of Robert Graves; married 1918, separated 1927, divorced 1949. eds.
  • Catherine Vandervelde

    Vandervelde, Catherine
    one of Korda's scriptwriters; friend of RG and LR, met at Denham studios; contributor to World and Ourselves; married Norman Cameron in September, 1938. eds. Diary, and Friedmann 302
  • Norman Cameron

    Cameron, Norman
    Poet. Built Can Torrent in 1932-1933. W.G.; m. to Elfriede, then to Catherine Vandervelde; friend and contributor to LR and RG's work eds.
  • Mary Lucy

    Lucy, Mary
    Visited R.G. and L.R. at Ewhurst. An admirer of both Graves and Riding, but her marital problems brought tensions to their household. See diary entry January 2, 1938 (and K.G. note).
  • James

    Reeves, James
    Schoolmaster, writer and Poet. Friend of Jacob Bronowski. W.G./ K.G.; m. to Mary Phillips; daughter Stella born June 14, 1938 eds.
  • Bill Fuller

    Fuller, William
    lawyer and researcher for Antigua Penny Puce KG; m. to Mary Fuller eds.
  • Ward

    Hutchinson, Ward
    Photographer. Contibuted to"Epilogue." W.G. R.G. often refers to "the Hutchinsons" (Ward & Dorothy) as a couple especially when they were staying on the island. eds.
  • Mike Pearson

    Pearson, Lester
    (1897-1972) Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom; m. to Maryon Pearson (née Moody). Later became Prime Minister of Canada. eds.
  • David Reeves

    Reeves, David
    Brother of James Reeves [and Ethel Herdman] RPG 292.
  • Maisie

    Sommerville, Maisie
    Head of BBC Education broadcasting department. Friend of R.G. and L.R. Arranged accomodation for them when they returned to London as exiles. W.G., eds.
  • Margaret

    Russell, Margaret
    House-keeper L.R. & R.G. had had in London. WG
  • Desmond Flower

    Flower, Desmond
    associated with Cassell publishers KG
  • Skelton

    Skelton, John
    (ca. 1460-1529) A major satirical and lyrical poet in early 16th- century England. Admired by Robert Graves. eds.
  • Goldschmidt, Karl
    Karl Goldschmidt, d.1995, who later changed his name to Kenneth Gay, was Robert Graves' and Laura Riding's personal secretary during the period when the diary was written. He later annotated another printout of the diary produced from the B.A. Graves transcript, which is at the Graves Trust Archives in St. John's Oxford. Notes by Karl Goldschmidt are denoted as KG.
  • Graves, William
    Son of Robert and Beryl Graves. Helped to identify names, places and titles in Deya (1935-1936) and with translations and other references in three ways. He left an annotated printout of the first six months of the diary in the Graves Trust Room at St. John's College, Oxford. He also sent Chris Petter an Excel file with a list identifying names and places, principally in the Majorcan sections of the diary, and a glossary of Spanish terms. Finally he has sent the editors answers in response to reference questions. Notes by William Graves are identified with the initials WG.

Organizations Mentioned

  • J.M. Dent & Sons

    Dent, J.M.
    Publishing house founded in 1888 and absorbed by Nicholson in 1988 eds.
  • Walter Heinemann Ltd.

    publisher eds.
  • Editors

    Editors of the Graves Diary Project.


    • Title: Flat [poem?] [Possibly "Progressive Housing": see Complete Poems, Vol. II, p. 89 (Check drafts in Buffalo for this title). DW]
    • Author: Graves, Robert
    • Date: 1938-05-10
    • Title: The Miller's Man [poem; first written 1934; rewritten 1938 eds.]
    • Title: New Poems 1962 [includes 1938 version? eds.]
    • Author: Graves, Robert
    • PubPlace: London
    • Publisher: Cassell
    • Idno: A101
    • Date: 1962
    • Title: In Procession [poem]
    • Title: On English Poetry
    • Author: Graves, Robert
    • PubPlace: New York
    • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
    • Idno: A7
    • Date: 1922
    • Title: At First Sight [poem; formerly To the Sovereign Muse (II), then In Your Name. See diary Apr. 24, 25 and May 17,1938. eds. Check titles on drafts in Buffalo. DW]
    • Title: Collected Poems (1938)
    • Author: Graves, Robert
    • PubPlace: London, Toronto, Melbourne & Sydney
    • Publisher: Cassell
    • Idno: A48
    • Date: 1938-11
    • Title: Warning to Children [poem]
    • Title: Poems 1929
    • Author: Graves, Robert
    • PubPlace: London
    • Publisher: Seizin Press
    • Idno: A33
    • Date: 1929
    • Title: Smuggler Scenario [projected screenplay for a Korda film RPG]
    • Author: Graves, Robert/ Riding, Laura
    • Date: 1937-08-26
    • Title: Lives of Wives [prose]
    • Author: Riding, Laura
    • PubPlace: London, Toronto, Melbourne & Sydney
    • Publisher: Cassell and Co. Ltd.
    • Idno: A39
    • Date: 1939
    • Title: Schools [an international survey of education]
    • Author: Graves, Robert; Riding, Laura
    • Editor: Riding, Laura
    • Title: The Left Heresy in Literature and Life [the essay "Politics and Poetry" comprises the closing section of this book.(RPG 278) eds.]
    • Author: Kemp, Harry/ Riding, Laura/ others
    • Editor: Riding, Laura
    • PubPlace: London
    • Publisher: Methuen
    • Idno: B29
    • Date: 1939
    • Title: Year of Damage [novel]
    • Author: Hodge, Alan
    • Date: 1936-12
    • Title: Covenant of Literal Morality, The [subtitle Protocol I; privately printed]
    • Author: Aldridge, John, Dorothy Hutchinson, Lucie Brown, Ward Hutchinson, George Buchanan, Alix Kemp, Mary Buchanan, Hary Kemp, Norman Cameron, Len Lye, Gordon Glover, Albert Mills, Robert Graves, Mary Phillips, Sally Graves, Beryl Pritchard, Liddell Hart, David
    • Editor: Riding, Laura
    • PubPlace: Bristol
    • Publisher: Western Printing Services Ltd.
    • Idno: A37
    • Date: 1938
    • Title: Dictionary [projected project; unfinished]
    • Author: Riding, Laura
    • Date: 1935
    • Title: The World and Ourselves [former title: Letter Book]
    • Author: Riding, Laura [contributor; with Sally Graves, Sir Edward Marsh et al]
    • Editor: Riding, Laura
    • PubPlace: London
    • Publisher: Chatto & Windus
    • Date: 1938-11
    • Title: Sunday Times [Sunday newspaper]
    • PubPlace: London
    • Publisher: Hutchinson; Times Newspapers
    • Title: Count Belisarius [1938]
    • Author: Graves, Robert
    • PubPlace: London
    • Publisher: Cassell
    • Idno: A47
    • Date: 1937-07-21
    • Title: Collected Poems [1938]
    • Author: Riding, Laura
    • PubPlace: London, Toronto, Melbourne & Sydney
    • Publisher: Cassell and Co. Ltd
    • Idno: A35
    • Date: 1938
    • Title: Times Literary Supplement
    • PubPlace: London
    • Publisher: Times London
    • Date: 1902-1968