Alfred Perceval Graves

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About Alfred Perceval Graves

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

He was born in Dublin and was the son of Charles Graves, Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe, 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. He graduated with a Master of Arts degree. 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, Athenaeum, John Bull, and Punch.

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

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).

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.

Later life

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.

He died in Harlech in 1931.


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."


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Alfred Perceval Graves's Timeline

July 22, 1846
Dublin, Great Britain
February 25, 1876
June 6, 1877
September 14, 1880
December 14, 1881
March 23, 1885
November 29, 1892
March 7, 1894