Alfred Perceval Graves

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Alfred Perceval Graves
Born(1846-07-22)22 July 1846
Dublin, Ireland
Died27 December 1931(1931-12-27) (aged 85)
Harlech, Wales
OccupationPoet, songwriter, Her Majesty's Schools Inspector
One page of a letter bearing Graves' signature

Alfred Perceval Graves (22 July 1846 – 27 December 1931), was an Anglo-Irish poet, songwriter and folklorist. He was the father of British poet and critic Robert Graves.

Early life[edit]

Graves was born in Dublin and was the son of The Rt Rev. Charles Graves, Church of Ireland Lord Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe, and his wife Selina, the daughter of Dr John Cheyne (1777–1836), the Physician-General to the British Forces in Ireland. His sister was Ida Margaret Graves Poore. His paternal grandmother Helena was a Perceval, and the granddaughter of the Earl of Egmont. His grandfather, John Crosbie Graves, was a first cousin of "Ireland's most celebrated surgeon",[citation needed] Robert James Graves.

Alfred was educated both in England, at Windermere College, Westmorland, and in Ireland, at Trinity College Dublin. As an undergraduate he contributed to the literary magazine Kottabos, starting in 1869.[1]

His first poem appeared in the Dublin University Magazine in 1863.[2] He graduated with a Master of Arts degree.[3] In 1869, he entered the Civil Service as clerk in the British Home Office, where he remained until he became an Inspector of Schools in 1874.[4]


Graves was a contributor of prose and verse to The Spectator, Athenaeum, John Bull, and Punch.[5]

For a time he lived at Red Branch House on Laurieton Road, Wimbledon, London.[3]

He took a leading part in the late 19th-century renewal of Irish literature. He was for several years president of the Irish Literary Society, and he was the author of the comic song Father O'Flynn and many other songs and ballads. In collaboration with Charles Villiers Stanford, he published Songs of Old Ireland (1882) and Irish Songs and Ballads (1893), the airs of which are taken from the Petrie manuscripts; the airs of his Irish Folk-Songs (1897) were arranged by Charles Wood with whom he also collaborated on Songs of Erin (1901).[4][5] Composer Mary Augusta Wakefield also set at least one of his poems to music.

He published an autobiography, To Return to All That, in 1930, as a response to his son Robert's World War I memoir, Good-Bye to All That.[5]

Later life[edit]

Graves built a large house, named "Erinfa", near Harlech, Wales, which he used as a summer retreat and where he spent his retirement. He had a keen interest in the Welsh language and the culture of Wales; he was elected as a Welsh bard in the National Eisteddfod of Wales at Bangor in 1902.[6]

He died in Harlech in 1931.[2]


Graves’ obituary in The Spectator concluded: "Mr Graves not only wrote songs but stirred up fresh public interest in the old folk-songs of Ireland, Wales and the Highlands, and, moreover, induced musicians and singers to become interested too. Keeping clear of politics, he did a great work for the popularizing of good music and good poetry in which Celt and Saxon may share."[2]


Graves' marriage to Jane Cooper, (29 December 1874 – 24 March 1886) of Cooper's Hill, County Limerick, resulted in five children:[7]

  • Philip Perceval, b. 25 February 1876 (or 1870), m. Millicent Gilchrist. Died in 1953.
  • Mary, b. 6 June 1877, d. circa 1949. m. Arthur Sansome Preston.
  • Richard Massie, b. 14 September 1880, d. 14 August 1960, m. Eva Wilkinson, 1912.
  • Alfred Perceval ("Bones"), b. 14 December 1881, m. Eirene Gwen Knight, singer.
  • Susan Winthrop Savatier Graves, b. 23 March 1885, m. Kenneth Macaulay.

After the death of his first wife, Graves married Amalie (Amy) Elizabeth Sophie (or Sophia) von Ranke, on 30 December 1891. The couple had five children:[7]


  1. ^ Frances Clarke. "Graves, Alfred Percival". Dictionary of Irish Biography. Retrieved 19 March 2022. See e.g. Kottabos, first issue (1869), p. 39, fifth issue (1870), p. 134; signed as "A.P.G."
  2. ^ a b c "Mr. A. P. Graves » 2 Jan 1932 » The Spectator Archive". 2 January 1932. Retrieved 16 July 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Person Page 24788". Retrieved 16 July 2015.
  4. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Graves, Alfred Perceval". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 383.
  5. ^ a b c Boylan, Henry (1998). A Dictionary of Irish Biography, 3rd Edition. Dublin: Gill and MacMillan. p. 152. ISBN 0-7171-2945-4.
  6. ^ Richard Perceval Graves (1986), Robert Groves The Assault Heroic, Biography 1895-1926. p. 75.
  7. ^ a b Archived 24 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]