Good-Bye to All That

Suggested by Kung Fu Zu • Robert Graves traces the monumental and universal loss of innocence that occurred as a result of the First World War. Good-Bye to All That bids farewell not only to England and his English family and friends, but also to a way of life.
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36 Responses to Good-Bye to All That

  1. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I found this to be a very interesting book. It was written by a brilliant author who saw things from a slightly different point of view than your typical Brit of the early twentieth century.

    Over time, I will pick various quotes from the book in order to give one a flavor for Graves’ writing, thinking and a feel for those times. Since the book is an autobiography, I will goes through it chronologically. Here goes:

    “In English preparatory and public schools romance is necessarily homosexual. The opposite sex is despised and treated as something obscene. Many boys never recover from this perversion. For every one born homosexual, at least ten permanent pseudo-homosexuals are made by the public school system: nine of these ten as honourably chaste and sentimental as I was.”

    I found this to be a very informative bit of writing. And it is appropriate for discussion here at ST as some here have often maintained that homosexuality is often a taught trait and not the biological imperative many seem to believe. As Graves had personal experience with the subject, I take his observations more seriously than those of most partisans of the culture wars. Graves’ words and experience support the idea that many, if not most, homosexuals are not predetermined to be so.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      This is the kind of writing I enjoy. It doesn’t sound like a laundry list of grievances. It’s sound more like someone who is not caught in The Daily Drama but is talking above it, showing what is going on behind the curtain, giving us an unfiltered tour of the way things are instead of, as in The Daily Drama, yet another twisted picture beholden to someone’s political narrative. That is the great attribute of Theodore Dalrymple’s writing as well. Instead of glorifying the thugs, the drug addicts, single mothers, and “the poor,” he showed you just how ugly and degrading Life at the Bottom really is.

      I remember Lord Grantham, in Downton Abbey, apologizing for and diminishing the shock regarding the discovery that one of their servants (Thomas) was a pole-smoker. Grantham made some mention that nearly every other boy having engaged in that while away at school and so it was perfectly normal and expected.

      Having no experience with either all-boy’s schools or English history in this regard, it sounded like liberal propaganda. I mean, you can’t swing a dead cat these days regarding TV shows without seeing homosexuality promoted as not only no big deal but a good thing.

      I guess boys will be boys. I saw a guy on Wheel of Fortune a few night ago who noted that he was engaged to “John” or someone. I just rolled my eyes. But the thought of that was rather sad, for a man marrying another man seems like a deep failure of some kind. And if homosexuals can be formed by circumstances (including what the culture is telling them is okay to do), and if further damage to families and children is a bad thing, then perhaps this is reason to oppose it rather than to “embrace diversity.”

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Homosexual behavior also shows up a lot in other mono-sexual contexts, such as prison. I believe Arab camel raiders were known for it as well. We would call most of these people bisexual.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Since we are delving into the general area of sex, I will dip into the book at a point during WWI when there are millions of men along the Western Front.

    Apparently, the officers and men were segregated in even the pursuit of sexual release. The brothels catering to the officer corps had a blue light out front, while those catering to the enlisted contingent had a red light out front.

    The Red Lamp, the Army brothel, was around the corner in the main street. I had seen a queue of a hundred and fifty men waiting outside the door, each to have his short turn with one of the three women in the house. My servant, who had stood in the queue, told me that the charge was ten francs a man-about eight shillings at that time. Each woman served nearly a battalion of men every week for as long as she lasted. According to the Assistant Provost-Marshal, three weeks was the usual limit: ‘after which she retired on her earnings, pale but proud.’

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Eight shillings at that time was the equivalent of $2 — of course, that’s before the massive inflation of the 20th century (which really got going with the New Deal).

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Figuring the year is 1912, and that the online inflation calculators are accurate, I’ve come up with the 2017 equivalent being $57.21 per pop.

        Online sources say a British battalion is between 500 and 800 men. Let’s take a conservative estimate of 600. And let’s assume that not all men partook of the services of prostitution every week of those three weeks. Let’s take another conservative estimate of 40% participation per week, even if they weren’t the same fellows. So…if the average prostitute could last only three weeks at this rate, she would take home $411,912.00.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          All while doing their bit for God and Country.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I think you’re off by an order of magnitude, even allowing for the fact that the war began in August 1914 and the British didn’t reach full mobilization until 1916. 40% of 600 for 3 weeks would be 720, and $57.21 (equivalent) for each would come to $41,191 total.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            You’re right. I couldn’t see the decimal place on my POS calculator. Blame TI for this. Wasn’t my fault. Really.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      The nitty gritty details they never tell you in Sergeant York.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Here are some nitty-gritty details which one doesn’t often hear about patrols which both sides made mostly during the night.

        Still, patrolling had its peculiar risks. If a German patrol found a wounded man, they were as likely as not to cut his throat. The bowie-knife was a favourite German patrol weapon because of its silence. (We inclined more to the ‘cosh’, a loaded stick.) The most important information that a patrol could bring back was to what regiment and division the troops opposite belonged. So if it proved impossible to get a wounded enemy back without danger to oneself, he had to be stripped of his badges. To do that quickly and silently, it might be necessary first to cut his throat or beat in his skull.

        And here are the actual details of a famous sniper story which has been somewhat incorrectly told many times.

        I only once refrained from shooting a German I saw….While sniping from a knoll in the support line, where we had a concealed loop-hole, I saw a German, about seven hundred away, through my telescopic sights. He was taking a bath in the German third line. I disliked the idea of shooting a naked man, so I handed the rifle to the sergeant with me. ‘Here, take this. You’re a better shot than I am.” He got him; but I had not stayed to watch.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Whatever the causes of WWI, I see it as Europe having gone mad.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            I would tend to agree with you about the madness, or at least decadence. Things were simply too good for the continent and mankind seems to be unable to adjust to success. Once things are going to well, we have to pull ourselves down.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              That’s certainly very inauspicious for our world today, which if anything is even more decadent. It certainly isn’t hard to guess where we might get pulled down — by a combination of leftism and Islamism.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I forgot to include the prelude to the sniper story above. The German officer they shot was taking a bath when they killed him.

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Here is an enlightening quote on the attitude of professional British soldiers toward the war.

    The Battalion cared as little about the successes or reverses of our Allies as about the origins of the War. It never allowed itself to have any political feelings about the Germans. A professional soldier’s duty was simply to fight whomever the King ordered him to fight. With the King as Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment duty became even simpler. The Christmas fraternization, in which the Battalion was among the first to participate, had had the same professional simplicity; no emotional hiatus, this, but a commonplace of military tradition-an exchange of courtesies between officers of opposing armies.

    And another about American munitions.

    Much of the ammunition that our batteries were using was made in the United States and contained a high percentage of duds; the driving bands were always coming off.

    As amazing as it might sound, the Brits didn’t start using metal helmets for protection against shrapnel until sometime in 1916.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      That attitude of the professional soldier makes a lot of sense to me in the context of a Europe riven by frequent wars. A couple of decades earlier, during the Fashoda incident, it could just as easily have been a war with France. Britain actually offered some sort of alliance with Germany a decade or so before the war, but Germany wanted Austria-Hungary included, and that was too much for the British. The decision to align with France and then Russia (and that informally in both cases) was only a decade old.

      For that matter, when Japan claimed Port Arthur after the Sino-Japanese War, Germany joined France and Russia (who wanted Port Arthur for themselves) in forcing Japan to back off. (The Japanese remembered. Russia was just being a rival, and they took care of that a decade later. France was just helping out an ally. But Germany’s response was taken as racism, and played a role in Japan going to war in 1914 — though they also profiteered very nicely out of it.)

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Britain actually offered some sort of alliance with Germany a decade or so before the war

        That’s true as I pointed out in my 2014 piece about the reasons for WWI. This was in response to an article which I found to be, for the most part, off the mark.

        And books like Graves’ “Good-Bye to All That” and Juencker’s “Storm of Steel”, simply reinforce what I wrote.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Well, I still don’t think I or the late Avi Davis quite understand why you had such a burr under you saddle about that. But I’ll admit the reasons for WWI are complicated.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            I had a burr under my saddle because he made many rubbish statements in his thesis, which I showed to be factually incorrect.

            Had he been a little less broad-brush and a lot more correct in his historical claims, I might have even been happy to explore his ideas with him. I might have even agreed with a point or two. But he pretended to be a historian when he was simply a polemicist. Frankly, his article was a piece of hackery, in my humble opinion.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            And if you will recall, I pointed out some of Davis’ obvious mistakes in a string and he got very snippy and wise-ass. Not only that, he wouldn’t acknowledge that perhaps one could have another interpretation to how things happened. And he attacked me personally. It was only then that I took the time to write the piece which destroyed his piece of garbage article.

            As I have said before, if one wants to write polemics then don’t include obvious errors of fact or lies in one’s piece. By doing so, one leaves oneself open for harsh criticism from those who know the facts. And I have yet to have anyone disprove the facts of my piece.

  4. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    And as regards the French, some things never change.

    we were shocked at the severity of French national accountancy;When we were told, for instance, that every British hospital train, the locomotive and carriages of which had be imported from England, had to pay a 200 pound fee for use of the rails on each journey they made from railhead to base.


    I find it very difficult to like the French here, except the occasional members of the official class. Even when billeted in villages where no troops have been before, I have not met a single case of the hospitality that one meets among the peasants of other countries. It is worse than inhospitality here. for after all we are fighting for their dirty little lives. They are sucking enormous quantities of money out of us too. …..In the brewery at Bethune, the other day, I saw barrels of already thin beer being watered from the canal with a hose-pipe. The estaminet-keepers water it further.

  5. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Graves wrote this regarding “German atrocities.”

    Propaganda reports of atrocities were, it was agreed, ridiculous. We remembered that while the Germans could commit atrocities against enemy civilians, Germany itself, except for an early Russian cavalry raid, had never had the enemy on her soil. We no longer believed the highly-coloured accounts of German atrocities in Belgium; knowing the Belgians now at first-hand. By atrocities we meant, specifically, rape, mutilation and torture-not summary shootings of suspected spies, harbourers of spies, francs-tireurs, or disobedient local officials. If the atrocity-list had to include the accidental-on-purpose bombing or machine-gunning of civilians from the air, the Allies were now committing as many atrocities as the Germans.


    Nearly every instructor in the Mess could quote specific instances of prisoners having been murdered on the way back. The commonest motives were, it seems, revenge for the death of friends or relatives, jealousy of the prisoner’s trip to a comfortable prison camp in England, military enthusiasm, fear of being suddenly overpowered by the prisoners, or more simply, impatience with the escorting job………..

    The troops with the worst reputation for acts of violence against prisoners were the Canadians (and later the Australians).

    • Timothy Lane says:

      So I see that “accidentally on purpose” goes back a long way.

      The Allies made a big propaganda fuss over the execution as a spy of nurse Edith Cavell. Later the French committed a similar “atrocity”, and Germany made no fuss over it — after all, the French were within their rights. They didn’t seem to grasp that propaganda isn’t about truth, but emotional appeals.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I think it might be a question of different nations have different emotional buttons to be pushed. What might get the Frogs all hot and bothered is not necessarily the same thing which would get Fritz upset.

  6. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Graves associated or met an incredible number of historic personages during his early life. Most were artists of one sort or another, but he also met politicians such as David Lloyd George about whom he writes,

    The power of his rhetoric amazed me. The substance of the speech might be commonplace, idle and false, but I had to fight hard against abandoning myself with the rest of his audience. He sucked power from his listeners and spurted it back at them. Afterwards, my father introduced me to Lloyd George, and when I looked closely at his eyes they seemed like those of a sleep-walker.

    That sounds amazingly like Hitler and other demagogues throughout history. They will always be with us.

  7. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    As is well known today, a great number, perhaps the majority of the British officers on the front did not see the war as the great battle for civilization that propaganda made it out to be. Graves writes,

    We were now both wondering whether the War should be allowed to continue. It was said that, in the autumn of 1916, Asquith had been offered peace terms on the basis of status quo ante, which he was willing to consider; but that his colleagues’ opposition had brought about the fall of the Liberal Government and its supersession by the “Win-the-War” Coalition Government of Lloyd George. Siegfried (Sassoon) vehemently asserted that the terms should have been accepted; I agreed. We could no longer see the War as one between trade-rivals; its continuance seemed merely a sacrifice of the idealistic younger generation to the stupidity and self-protective alarm of the elder.

    Note, this from two British officers who served a long time in the trenches. I don’t recall the details about Sassoon, but Graves was wounded several times, a couple of times seriously. A lung wound was so severe that the medicos to whom he was first taken thought he was going to die in any case and did not rush him to a better facility. They were amazed he was alive a day later and got him the better care he needed. The lung wound gave him trouble for years.

    Also note these well-educated, upper-class Brits considered the war to be “one between trade-rivals.” Not a “War for Democracy”. That was nonsense from President Wilson.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      As I recall, Sassoon was (or became) staunchly anti-war. I’ve often wondered what John McCrae, who wrote “In Flanders Fields” in early 1915, thought of the war by 1918 (when he died).

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Sassoon was apparently a real go-getter at first, but became completely disallussioned by late 1916 or early 1917, if I recall correctly.

        There is a reason why the young men who served in the trenches during this period are called “the lost generation”.

        The British politicians and generals of the time do not come off too well in history. WWI and the way it was mishandled destroyed a way of life and helped secure the rot which has just about taken over Europe. For that reason, I think it might be important to understand its root causes.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I’ve read of many soldiers who took a radical turn — often towards communism. Hitler was one of those. In his case, as with many Germans, it was toward extreme nationalism, and perhaps a bit of socialism (the Nazis certainly had a strong element of that in their platform, though they varied as to how much they believed it).

  8. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    WWI is over and Graves is trying to readjust to civilian life. He has become something of an anti-militarist and did some book reviews for the Daily Herald, an upstart newspaper whose literary editor was Siegfried Sassoon. Graves noted,

    The Treaty of Versailles shocked me; it seemed destined to cause another war someday, yet nobody cared.</i.

    Graves was younger than 25 when the treaty was written. And 33 when he wrote "Goodbye to All That". Strange that the idiots who wrote Versailles, particularly Clemenceau, didn't worry about the consequences.

    Graves falls in love with a young girl in her late teens and they marry when she is around 18 and he is 22. Nancy, is an early feminist, which should have been a red flag for poor Robert. He writes,

    Socialism with Nancy was a means to a single end: namely judicial equality between the sexes. She ascribed all the wrong in the world to male-domination and narrow mindedness, and would not see my experiences in the war as anything comparable with the sufferings of working-class women went through without complaint….But male stupidity and callousness became such an obsession with her that she began to include me in her universal condemnation of men.”

    Nancy was a complete nut on the subject. She kept her own name instead of using Mrs. Graves and explained the reason as. “Mrs. Graves”, she had no personal validity.

    Graves notes Nancy,

    began to regret her marriage as a breach of faith with-herself a concession to the patriarchy. She wanted somehow to be dis-married-not by divorce, which was as bad as marriage-so that she and I could live together without any legal or religious obligations to do so.

    Another case of a mentally deranged feminist. Sad that Graves married this harpy when in a sorry mental state after the war. But he remedied it later in the twenties with a divorce.

    Graves studied English Literature at university and mentioned that eighteenth-century English literature was unpopular mainly due to its “Frenchness.”

    Anti-French feeling among most ex-soldiers amounted to almost an obsession. Edmund, (a classmate) shaking with nerves, used to say at this time, “No more wars for me at any price! Except against the French. If there’s ever a war with them, I’ll go like a shot.” Pro-German feeling had been increasing. With the war over and the German armies beaten, we could give the German soldier credit for being the most efficient fighting man in Europe…..Some undergraduates even insisted that we had been fighting on the wrong side:our natural enemies were the French.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      There were many who saw what the consequences of Versailles would be — for example, Ferdinand Foch, who considered it a 20-year truce. But most of them probably wanted something even more draconian. It doesn’t sound like Graves was in that category (and neither was Keynes, another harsh critic).

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Harpy is a good word for her. Yikes.

  9. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Graves spent time with Thomas Hardy, even spending time at Hardy’s home.

    Graves also became a friend of Colonel T.E. Lawrence at university. Not only did Lawrence introduce Graves to other writers such as Ezra Pound, but he also helped him by recommending Graves for a teaching position in Egypt which paid well.

    The job in Egypt did not work out so Graves, cum family, returned to England where some years later he and Nancy divorced, and in 1929, Graves moved to Majorca, wanting never again to live in Britain.

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