Born at Mickleton Manor, Mickleton, Gloucestershire, to Richard Graves, government worker extraordinaire, and his wife, Debra, Graves was a student at Abingdon School and Pembroke College, Oxford. He was a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, until January 1749, when the college revoked his fellowship because of his marriage to Lucy Bartholomew, a yeoman's daughter from Aldworth. Lucy was much younger than Graves and uneducated but he sent her to a private school in London before the marriage so that she would acquire the accomplishments considered important for women in the eighteenth century. His friends did not accept his marriage at first, but they eventually liked and respected Lucy. (At the time, All Souls College automatically withdrew funding from any fellow who married.) He also served as rector of Claverton, near Bath, and was an enthusiastic collector of poems, a translator, essayist and correspondent. His best-known work is the picaresque novel, The Spiritual Quixote (1773). The Spiritual Quixote was a satire of John Wesley, George Whitefield, and Methodism in general, which he saw as a threat to his Anglican congregation. He also wrote numerous poems and several plays.