Alfred Perceval Graves

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Alfred Perceval Graves
Alfred Perceval Graves bw.jpg
Alfred Perceval Graves
Born (1846-07-22)22 July 1846
Dublin, Ireland
Died 27 December 1931(1931-12-27) (aged 85)
Occupation Poet, 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.

Life and work[edit]

He was born in Dublin on 22 July 1846, the son of Charles Graves, Bishop of Limerick, and his wife Selina, the daughter of John Cheyne (1777–1836), the Physician-General to the British Forces in Ireland. 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' Robert James Graves.

Alfred was educated in England at Windermere College, Westmorland and Trinity College, Dublin. His first poem appeared in the Dublin University Magazine in 1863.[1] He graduated with a Master of Arts degree.[2] 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. He was a contributor of prose and verse to The Spectator, The Athenaeum, John Bull, and Punch.[3]

For a time he lived at Red Branch House on Laurieton Road, Wimbledon, London.[2]

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 was the author of the comic song Father O'Flynn and many other songs and ballads. In collaboration with Charles 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).[3]

He published an autobiography, To Return to All That in 1930, as a response to his son Robert's memoir of World War I Good-Bye to All That.[3]


Graves built a large house, named "Erinfa", near Harlech in Wales, which he used as a summer retreat, and where he spent his retirement. He had a keen interest in the Welsh language and culture and was elected as a Welsh bard in the National Eisteddfod of Wales at Bangor in 1902.[4]

Graves died in Harlech on 27 December 1931.[1]

His 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."[1]


Graves' marriage to Jane Cooper, (29 December 1874 - 24 March 1886) of Cooper's Hill, County Limerick, resulted in five children:[5]

  • Philip Perceval, b. 25 February 1876 (or 1870), m. Millicent Gilchrist.
  • 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:[5]

  • Clarissa, b. 29 November 1892. Poet, artist and Christian Science practitioner.
  • Rosaleen-Louise, b. 7 March 1894, d. 3 August 1989. m. James Francis Cooper.
  • Robert Graves, also known as Robert von Ranke, b. 24 July 1895, d. 7 December 1985, poet, critic and author of I, Claudius, Good-Bye to All That and other novels.
  • Charles Patrick Ranke, b. 1899, d. 1971, journalist and writer.
  • John Tiarks Ranke, b. 1903, d. 1980. m. Mary Wickens.


  1. ^ a b c "Mr. A. P. Graves » 2 Jan 1932 » The Spectator Archive". 2 January 1932. Retrieved 16 July 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Person Page 24788". Retrieved 16 July 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c Boylan, Henry (1998). A Dictionary of Irish Biography, 3rd Edition. Dublin: Gill and MacMillan. p. 152. ISBN 0-7171-2945-4. 
  4. ^ Richard Perceval Graves (1986), Robert Groves The Assault Heroic, Biography 1895-1926. p.75.
  5. ^ a b


External links[edit]