What is the 'all that' that Robert Graves is referring too?

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What is the ‘all that’ that Robert Graves is referring too?

This essay is going to explore Robert Graves’s autobiographical novel and detail Robert graves use of the phrase all that and what it may refer too. The phrase ‘all that’ is very vague and indefinite. ‘All that’ could refer to so much; things, people, places, even emotions and feelings.  In this novel ‘all that’ could refer to individual things or the novel as a whole, it may even refer to only one thing. That is what I am going to find out and illustrate in this essay.

Robert Graves’s autobiographical novel ‘Goodbye to All That’ was first published in 1929, 11 years after the end of World War 1 in which Graves served as a 2nd Lieutenant and was promoted to Captain in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. The work was revised and republished in 1957 removing and changing a great deal of significant material because of complaints, namely from Siegfried Sassoon a great friend and fellow soldier of Graves. 

‘Robert Graves states that the objects of writing about his own life at the early age of thirty-three, are simple enough: ‘an opportunity for a formal good-bye to you and to you and to you and to me and to all that; forgetfulness, because once all this has been settled in my mind and written down and published it need never be thought about again.’’  (Jonathan Cape, 1929)

        This quotation from Robert Graves himself shows why he chose to write his autobiography at a comparatively young age to other auto-biographers. A major part, probably the most major event of his life; the war, had come to an end and he felt that his memories and experiences ought not to be subject to the effects of old age and forgotten, lost in the passages of time.

The first section of Robert Graves’s novel is about his childhood and mainly his time at various preparatory schools and Charterhouse.

Graves was born on July 24th 1895; his earliest memory is of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. His family; his mother, his father and nine siblings lived in Wimbledon, His father had five children from a previous marriage and then had five more with Graves mother. He had expressed his dislike for Wimbledon and seemed to enjoy most the spring and summer spent in Harlech in Wales climbing the hills with his sister and best friend Rosaleen.

‘I always considered Wimbledon a wrong place: neither town nor country. The house was at its worst on Wednesday, my mother ‘At Home’ day.’(pp.32)

He attended six different preparatory schools none of which he liked before settling at Charterhouse, which he equally disliked. He does not talk of a happy school experience, he describes a personally very familiar idea of a school where sports were important and those who did not play were looked down upon. He talks of how he had few friends, except those in the poetry club. His first friend at charterhouse, a boy called Raymond Rodakowski, encouraged Graves to box, because he was unable to play football, but he lost this friendship when he found he valued religion more than love. He had one special friendship with a boy referred to as Dick. Graves does not mention any particular significant encounters with Dick but it is commonly believed that Graves had homosexual relations with this boy. Dick and Graves remain in touch throughout most of his time in the trenches;

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‘Dick’s letters had been my greatest stand-by all these months whenever I felt low; he wrote every week, mostly about poetry.’ (pp.125)

 Graves’s affection for Dick is obvious and remains for many years, until Dick is arrested for making ‘a certain proposal’ to a Canadian corporal and Graves convinces himself that Dick is mad.

Graves’s time at school and his encounters and experiences there are the first ‘all that’ referred to by Graves. An episode in his life has come to an end in order to begin new one.

        The second section of ‘Goodbye to ...

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