War poet Robert Graves 'stole work from his mistress'

Few would doubt the brilliance of Robert Graves, a man considered to be one of Britain's foremost war poets whose verses on Greek mythology and frontline conflict cemented his name in literary history.

But one academic has accused the poet of stealing ideas, literary criticism and poetry from his one-time American mistress and passing them off as his own.

Dr Mark Jacobs, a research fellow at Nottingham Trent University who has spent two decades studying 700 letters he received from Laura Riding Jackson as well as her literary works, said when she discovered the uncanny similarity in his texts she condemned her former lover as a "robber baron".

Dr Jacobs, who is writing a book which will reveal the full extent of the couple's relationship, credits Jackson for having been a major influence on Graves's work and has called for a reassessment of his writings in the light of the revelations.

Jackson's chagrin at Graves' alleged "lifting" of her work is described in her letters to Dr Jacobs, who began writing to her as a PhD student 30 years ago. Their correspondence continued until a year before her death in 1991 and the letters were this week placed in the university's research archive.

The couple became lovers in the 1920s, when Graves was still with his first wife, Nancy Nicolson. Jackson moved into the couple's home for some time before the marriage ended after Jackson's failed suicide attempt when she threw herself out of a window, an event she describes in her letters. The couple's literary and romantic partnership was the inspiration for Miranda Seymour's 1998 novel, The Summer of '30.

Dr Jacobs said Jackson accuses Graves of "robbing" her of key ideas which he appropriated as his own for his seminal study of poetic inspiration, The White Goddess, published in 1948.

He claimed that the inspiration for the work, which equates God with women, related to an early essay Jackson wrote in the 1930s called The Idea of God and her book, The Word Woman, which preceded Graves's magnum opus.

The couple moved from Britain to Spain, where Jackson left her manuscript for The Word Woman when the pair fled the country on the outbreak of the civil war in 1936. Dr Jacobs claims it was this manuscript – which Jackson had asked Graves to burn – that the poet used as the basis for The White Goddess.

"Between 1926 and 1939, he was learning from her what she was doing and thinking," Dr Javcobs said. "He was taking her ideas, her research, he was simply shovelling it in to his own books.... She left her manuscript in Majorca. She later wrote to him [Graves] and told him to burn the manuscript. We now know that he didn't. It all appeared in dribble form in The White Goddess. He used it for his own ends without mentioning it to her. She only found out in the 1950s."

Graves also used four lines of a poem Jackson had published at least two decades earlier about the Greek mythological hero, Hercules, in his own poem, Ogmian Hercules, Dr Jacobs added. "He wrote the poem and stole about four lines in his 12 line poem. Her poem was published by the private Seizin Press that they had set up in the 1920s."

In her letters to Dr Jacobs, Jackson accuses Graves of having "sucked, bled, squeezed, plucked, picked, grabbed, dipped, sliced, carved, lifted the body of my work" after their relationship broke down in 1939."

Professor Dunstan Ward, president of the Robert Graves Society, said there was a host of textual evidence proving that Graves was developing his theory for the White Goddess even before he met Jackson and that a poem called A History, written before the two met, contains "clear references" and the reproduced lines of poetry in Ogmian Hercules was a "homage to her".

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence