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In Gratuitous Witness

Laura (Riding) Jackson, 7 September 1995

... After I had long nursed a faithIn the promise on which poetry has thrived –The recalled promise of languageAt its careful rising in mindsTo teach all, little by little,Until life and speech are one,Union of being with itself,Of knowledge with the known,Instantaneity consumingThe separating silence heard as ‘time’,The beat, beat, of not-yet, not-yet –Suddenly I saw, startling at each other,In me, without interchange,The plight of life and the plight of poetry,That I had lovingly judged near-same ...

The Promise of Words

Laura (Riding) Jackson, 7 September 1995

... There are at least two words ‘poetry’, one meaning linguistic activity of a certain kind, the other meaning verbal matter produced by such activity. I speak in this little essay of what it is that poets are doing and what their activity amounts to in the scales of human behaviour, rather than of poetry the verbal matter – although I may be drawn into making incidental references to it ...


Jenny Turner, 10 March 1994

In Extremis: The Life of Laura Riding 
by Deborah Baker.
Hamish Hamilton, 462 pp., £25, October 1993, 9780241128343
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... Laura Riding, so Deborah Baker tells us, first emerged into the public world of books in 1924. She was 23 years old and living in Louisville with her husband, a history professor whom she met when he was her teacher at Cornell. One of the things that had attracted Lou Gottschalk to Laura Reichenthal, as Riding had then been called, was that she knew her Marx better than the other undergraduate ladies did ...

Hello to All That

Martin Seymour-Smith, 9 October 1986

Robert Graves: The Assault Heroic 1895-1926 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Weidenfeld, 387 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 297 78943 0
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... his father’s diary that he thought would be useful, gave me his opinions about the influence of Laura Riding on Robert, and talked to me at length and frankly on the telephone. He behaved as a conscientious man should behave. What I got from him was mostly confirmatory of what I had got from Robert Graves himself (at a time when neither of us ...

One for Uncle

John Bayley, 5 April 1990

Robert Graves: The Years with Laura 1926-1940 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Weidenfeld, 380 pp., £25, March 1990, 0 297 79672 0
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... to be a tolerably complete one. The story is Graves’s long affair – 1926 to 1939 – with Laura Riding, and his eventual dismissal, or escape. No doubt it was both, yet it seems likely that if this extraordinary woman, a Circe in modern dress, had not set about enchanting a new Odysseus, a brilliant American called Schuyler Jackson, Graves might ...

Queen Famine’s Courtier

Paul Delany, 3 February 1983

Robert Graves: His Life and Works 
by Martin Seymour-Smith.
Hutchinson, 607 pp., £14.95, May 1982, 0 09 139350 7
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In Broken Images: Selected Letters of Robert Graves 1914-1946 
edited by Paul O’Prey.
Hutchinson, 371 pp., £12.95, May 1982, 0 09 147720 4
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Progress of Stories 
by Laura Riding.
Carcanet, 380 pp., £7.95, August 1982, 0 85635 402 3
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... of Graves, while tacitly admitting that this claim cannot be made good until after Graves, and Laura (Riding) Jackson, are dead. Laura (Riding) Jackson is, of course, no mean obstacle to gaining a clear and unobstructed view of ...

At Free Love Corner

Jenny Diski, 30 March 2000

Literary Seductions: Compulsive Writers and Diverted Readers 
by Frances Wilson.
Faber, 258 pp., £12.99, October 1999, 0 571 19288 2
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... love of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller, Robert Graves and Laura Riding, Nadezhda and Osip Mandelstam, W.B. and Georgie Yeats all get chapters to themselves. Since some of her cases come close to the pathological, and most are ineffably silly, there is nothing instructive about reading or writing here: only the ...

Heavy Lifting

John Palattella: John Ashbery, 7 June 2001

Other Traditions 
by John Ashbery.
Harvard, 168 pp., £15.50, October 2000, 0 674 00315 2
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John Ashbery and American Poetry 
by David Herd.
Manchester, 245 pp., £45, September 2000, 0 7190 5597 0
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... long periods of neglect: John Clare, Thomas Lovell Beddoes, Raymond Roussel, John Wheelwright, Laura Riding and David Schubert. ‘I myself value Schubert more than Pound or Eliot,’ Ashbery says, and one can imagine some members of his audience gasping. In the introduction to his 1966 anthology, 19th-Century British Minor Poets, Auden provides four ...

Old Gravy

Mark Ford, 7 September 1995

Robert Graves: Life on the Edge 
by Miranda Seymour.
Doubleday, 524 pp., £20, July 1995, 0 385 40423 9
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Robert Graves and the White Goddess 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Weidenfeld, 618 pp., £25, July 1995, 0 297 81534 2
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Robert Graves: His Life and Work 
by Martin Seymour-Smith.
Bloomsbury, 600 pp., £25, June 1995, 0 7475 2205 7
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Robert Graves: Collected Writings on Poetry 
edited by Paul O’Prey.
Carcanet, 560 pp., £35, June 1995, 1 85754 172 3
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Robert Graves: The Centenary Selected Poems 
edited by Patrick Quinn.
Carcanet, 160 pp., £15.95, April 1995, 9781857541267
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... own Muse. Only a handful – such as Sappho, the seventh-century Irish poet Liadan, and of course Laura Riding – proved briefly capable of managing this double role, while Graves felt that no homosexual man could hope to be authentically inspired. As Randall Jarrell first pointed out in an excellent essay of 1955 (collected in The Third Book of ...

Electroplated Fish Knife

Peter Howarth: Robert Graves’s Poems, 7 May 2015

Robert Graves: Selected Poems 
edited by Michael Longley.
Faber, 136 pp., £15.99, August 2013, 978 0 571 28383 5
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... a political allegory of his own disharmony.’ A Survey of Modernist Poetry (1927), written with Laura Riding, attacks the editorial urge to remove the crucial ambiguities of Sonnet 129 by tidying up the commas. ‘Shakespeare’s punctuation,’ they argue, ‘allows the variety of meanings he actually intends.’ The close reader’s task is to ...

Bloody Horse

Samuel Hynes, 1 December 1983

Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography 
by Peter Alexander.
Oxford, 277 pp., £12.50, March 1981, 0 19 211750 5
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The Selected Poems of Roy Campbell 
edited by Peter Alexander.
Oxford, 131 pp., £7.50, July 1982, 9780192119469
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... and of Vita in particular, but his shotgun method reached many others, including Robert Graves and Laura Riding, J.C. Squire, and London literary politics in general. Some of the lines are funny, even witty, but more often the abuse is heavy, repetitious and sprawling: when Campbell was hating, he didn’t know when to stop. Still, the poem is as much a ...


Mark Ford: Donald Justice, 16 November 2006

Collected Poems 
by Donald Justice.
Anvil, 289 pp., £15, June 2006, 0 85646 386 8
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... though he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1980, was co-awarded the Bollingen Prize in 1991 (with Laura Riding – as odd a pairing as it’s possible to imagine) and was offered the US poet laureateship the year before his death. He seems not to have minded the poet’s poet label, or at least, when asked in an interview of 1996 whom he wrote ...

‘I intend to support white rule’

Ian Hamilton: Allen Tate, 24 May 2001

Allen Tate: Orphan of the South 
by Thomas Underwood.
Princeton, 447 pp., £21.95, December 2000, 0 691 06950 6
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... literary blade, Tate was known to have enjoyed some indiscretions (vide his ‘discovery’ of Laura Riding) but it was not until his later years – post-1940; he was born in 1899 – that he achieved Great Lover status. This randiness of Tate’s was not, O’Gorman has testified, ‘a phase, a period’, or even a mere ‘flash of libidinous ...


Andrew O’Hagan: Pukey poetry anthologies, 4 November 2004

Poems to Last a Lifetime 
edited by Daisy Goodwin.
HarperCollins, 308 pp., £18.99, October 2004, 0 00 717707 0
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All the Poems You Need to Say I Do 
edited by Peter Forbes.
Picador, 197 pp., £10, October 2004, 0 330 43388 1
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... a colon, books that will settle for nothing less than improvement for their readers. Currently riding high are Why Your Life Sucks: And What You Can Do about It by Alan Cohen, When Children Grieve: For Adults to Help Children Deal with Death, Divorce, Pet Loss, Moving and Other Losses by John James and Russell Friedman, and Bodylove: Learning to Like Our ...

Adjusting the Mechanism

Colin Burrow: Robert Graves, 11 October 2018

Robert Graves: From a Great War Poet to ‘Goodbye to All That’, 1895-1929 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Bloomsbury, 461 pp., £25, August 2018, 978 1 4729 2914 3
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The Reader over Your Shoulder: A Handbook for Writers of English Prose 
by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge.
Seven Stories, 613 pp., £30, September 2017, 978 1 60980 733 7
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... which was the only formal employment he ever had. He invited a young American poet called Laura Riding to come along, initially as his secretary, though they were soon to collaborate on one of the most influential works of criticism of the early 20th century, A Survey of Modernist Poetry (1927). The three of them, with the children, spent most of ...

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