While Deià in the Tramuntana Mountains is famous for many things, this is the story of one man who made it his home, hoping to forget about the world he had left behind. Many have moved to Mallorca, hoping for a better life and while some succeed and others fail, no one forgets their experiences. One phrase that anyone could use when moving to Mallorca is, 'Goodbye to All That' and the English poet and author Robert Graves used these words for the title of his autobiography in the 1920s. He spent most of the next half century in Deià, publishing over 140 works, some famous others not so well-known, and his house is now a delightful museum.
Robert von Ranke Graves was born in Wimbledon, south London, in 1895 and he had a difficult early life, nearly dying from double-pneumonia and measles at seven years of age. After attending preparatory schools, he won a scholarship to Charterhouse in 1909 where he took up what would become the love of his life; poetry.
Robert won a place at St John's College, Oxford, in the summer of 1914 instead of going he joined the army because Great Britain went to war with Germany. As a junior officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers he first experienced the horror of trench warfare during the Battle of Loos in 1915. Graces published a volume of poems called Over the Brazier in 1916 but he was badly injured soon afterwards during the Battle of the Somme. The army informed his father that he had died and returned his personal effects, while his obituary appeared in the Times newspaper. However, he pulled through and returned to England to continue his recovery.
Graves became close friends with the poet Siegfried Sassoon in hospital and persuaded the military authorities to transfer him to Craiglockhart military hospital near Edinburgh where they met another poet Wilfred Owen. Like many men who had served in the trenches, Graves was suffering from shell shock and late in 1918 he contracted Spanish influenza, a disease which killed millions around the world at that time.
Graves survived the war but he was physically and mentally weak and even though he had a wife, Nancy, and young family to support, he took entered Oxford October 1919, five years late. After graduating Graves took up a post at Cairo University, taking his wife and children with him; the poet Laura Riding also joined them. The result was inevitable and following Laura's attempted suicide he divorced Nancy.
Graves then moved to Mallorca and settled in Deià with his new love and began publishing books. One of his first major works was Lawrence and the Arabs in 1927, written after meeting T.E. Lawrence or Lawrence of Arabia, at Oxford; it was followed by his own autobiography Goodbye to All That in 1929.
Graves published I, Claudius in 1934, followed by Claudius the God a year later. They were both successful and he paid off the mortgage on his Deià house, the house we see today; 'Ca n'Alluny' or 'The Far House' in Catalan. The books would become well known in 1976 when they were serialised for television.
After ten years of bliss on the island, Graves and Riding had to leave Mallorca in 1936 when the Spanish Civil War began and three years later they moved to Pennsylvania in the United States. Their volatile relationship ended when they returned to England but Graves found a new love, his co-writer's wife, Beryl Hodge. After another stormy period in his life, Beryl divorced so she could marry Graves and the newlyweds returned to Mallorca in 1946.
Books continued to flow from Graves' prolific pen and many of them can be seen in his tiny study where he wrote. In 1955, he published The Greek Myths and between 1961 and 1966 he was Professor of Poetry at his old university. By the early 1970s Graves was suffering from severe memory loss and he had stopped writing by his 80th birthday in 1975 having published more than 140 works.
On 11 November 1985, he was commemorated as one of the sixteen Great War poets and his name being carved on the memorial in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner. A month later on 7 December 1985 he died, aged 90, and was buried in Deià's hilltop churchyard in the centre of the village he loved. Beryl was buried alongside she died in 2003.
Today Ca n'Anully house is a museum remembering Graves' life. Your visit starts with an audio visual presentation and timeline of his eventful life. The gardens are very much the same as when he would tend them and you get wonderful views of area with its mountainous backdrop. Inside the house, the ground floor and part of the first floor have been kept how they were when Robert and Beryl lived there, including their studies, bedrooms, dining room and kitchen. You can almost imagine them walking past and saying hello as you pass from room to room. Part of the first floor has been turned into an exhibition telling Graves' story through a wonderful collection of his personal items and publications.
Opening hours, prices and a detailed biography can be found at the following website: www.lacasaderobertgraves.com
Do not forget to climb the narrow streets to the church to find Graves' last resting place. If anything the churchyard gives you the best view of Deià's wonderful coastline. You may also wish to take the steep path down to the tiny bay.
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