London: Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1929. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is an unexpurgated first edition, first printing of poet, soldier, scholar, and author Robert Graves’s (1895-1985) first World War autobiography. Condition is good plus, in a poor but nonetheless scarce dust jacket. The original orange-red binding is tight and bright, though with a forward lean, mild wear to extremities, wrinkling to the lower rear cover cloth, and a stain at the spine heel. The contents show no previous ownership marks. Trivial spotting is confined to prelims and page edges, which also show some toning and dust soiling. The endpapers show differential toning corresponding to the dust jacket flaps, confirming that this copy has spent life jacketed. The dust jacket is cracked along the hinges, with spine end losses to a depth of .25 inch at the top, and 1.25 inches at the bottom, and irregular loss at upper rear face to maximum depth of one inch, minor chipping to edges, and overall age-toning. The verso is tape-reinforced at weak points.
This copy is the unexpurgated state of the text, containing a versified letter from Graves’s friend, fellow poet and soldier, Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967). The letter was published without Sassoon’s consent. On 13 November 1929, the publisher Jonathan Cape wrote to Sassoon, saying, 'After your call this afternoon I made arrangements for the cancel pages [290, 341-343] to be printed and to have them pasted into such copies ... as have not already left our premises. I am glad to say that the number of copies which have gone out from here is only a very small percentage of the edition.' The correspondence speaks to the scarcity of unexpurgated copies, and the outrage of Sassoon, who harshly criticized the text for embellishments and exposure of his private life.
Sassoon’s older brother, Hamo, was killed during the failed Dardanelles campaign, for which Winston Churchill, then the First Lord of the Admiralty, was scapegoated. During Graves’s visit to the Sassoon house-hold at Weirleigh, one of the maids was hysterical, sobbing and shrieking, because, Sassoon said, ‘…the maids think the place is haunted.’ The haunting was something out of a southern gothic—not ghosts, but Sassoon’s disturbed mother, who spent her nights trying to communicate with her dead son. Sassoon’s mother appeared in Graves’s book. The page in question was embargoed from subsequent printings along with the versified letter.
Even though Sassoon’s outrage was understandable, many of his criticisms were trivial and excessive, “…add[ing] several comments on Graves’s extreme untidiness as an officer, and on the fact that he enjoyed discussing homosexual subjects.” Note: Sassoon was a repressed homosexual. The contention over Graves’s book may have had less to do with embellishments and exposures, and more with rivalry. The publication of Good-Bye to All That was yet another installment in a saturation of First World War memoirs: Sassoon’s own Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man was published in 1928, and Edmund Blunden’s Undertones of War came out the same year. Both were critical of Graves. There was also Richard Arlington’s Death of a Hero, C.E. Montague’s Disenchantment, and Herbert Read’s In Retreat, all released in close temporal proximity. Even Graves’s own father, Alfred Graves, on the pretext of dissatisfaction over his son’s depiction of the family, but more concerned with it pre-empting the publication of his own memoir, attempted to prohibit its publication by supplicating to his son’s publisher Jonathan Cape. He settled on a book deal instead, and during the following year of 1930, Return to All That was published, the title deliberately engineered to both evoke and dismiss his son’s book. Despite a bevy of detractors, notable contemporaries, such as T.E. Lawrence, took another view. “It was, he [TE Lawrence] wrote to Robert on 13 September 1929, full of humor and exactly right in its presentation of ‘wounds and nerves’. The characters were all full of life…”
References: Higginson & Williams A32; Seymour pp. 181. Item #006270