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About the book
  • Published: 8 October 2019
  • ISBN: 9781609807641
  • Imprint: Seven Stories Press
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 312
  • RRP: $37.00

They Hanged My Saintly Billy


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A real historical figure, the British surgeon Dr. William Palmer was accused in 1856 of murdering fourteen people by means of poison. The Dr. Kevorkian trial of the 19th century, with a bit of O.J. Simpson mixed in for good measure, the scandal entranced nearly the entire population of the British Isles. Everyone had an opinion on the case--including esteemed poet and historical fabulist Robert Graves.

They Hanged My Saintly Billy is true crime as only a true literary master could write it, with exquisitely rendered portrais of Palmer's era and milieu, told from the shifting perspectives of all who came into contact with the notorious doctor. Just as his renowned I, Claudius opened a window onto a case of history once thought to be closed, Graves's account of Palmer's life recasts the surgeon as a victim of yellow journalism and overzealous judges. But ultimately it's left up to the reader to decide whether or not Palmer's mother is in the right, or merely duped along with the rest of Palmer's supporters, when she laments: "Yes, they hanged my saintly Billy! He was a bit of a scamp right enough, but a good son to me; the best of the brood . . . and no murderer."
Seven Stories' Robert Graves Project spans 14 titles, and includes fiction and nonfiction, adult, young adult and children's books, in a striking new uniform design, with new introductions and afterwords. They Hanged My Saintly Billy joins our recent re-publication of The Reader Over Your Shoulder, Ann at Highwood Hall, The Golden Fleece, and Homer's Daughter. Among the works still to come are Count Belisarius, Hebrew Myths, and Lawrence and the Arabs. The online partner for the Robert Graves Project is RosettaBooks

  • Pub date: 8 October 2019
  • ISBN: 9781609807641
  • Imprint: Seven Stories Press
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 312
  • RRP: $37.00

About the Author

Robert Graves


Robert Graves was born in 1895 in Wimbledon, the son of Irish writer Perceval Graves and Amalia Von Ranke. He went from school to the First World War, where he became a captain in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. After this, apart from a year as Professor of English Literature at Cairo University in 1926, he earned his living by writing, mostly historical novels, including: I, Claudius; Claudius the God; Count Belisarius; Wife of Mr Milton; Sergeant Lamb of the Ninth; Proceed, Sergeant Lamb; The Golden Fleece; They Hanged My Saintly Billy; and The Isles of Unwisdom. He wrote his autobiography, Goodbye to All That, in 1929, and it was soon established as a modern classic. The Times Literary Supplement acclaimed it as 'one of the most candid self portraits of a poet, warts and all, ever painted', as well as being of exceptional value as a war document. Two of his most discussed non-fiction works are The White Goddess, which presents a new view of the poetic impulse, and The Nazarine Gospel Restored (with Joshua Podro), a re-examination of primitive Christianity. He also translated Apuleius, Lucan and Suetonius for the Penguin Classics, and compiled the first modern dictionary of Greek Mythology, The Greek Myths. His translation of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (with Omar Ali-Shah) is also published in Penguin. He was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 1961 and made an Honorary Fellow of St John's College, Oxford, in 1971.

Robert Graves died on 7 December 1985 in Majorca, his home since 1929. On his death The Times wrote of him, 'He will be remembered for his achievements as a prose stylist, historical novelist and memorist, but above all as the great paradigm of the dedicated poet, 'the greatest love poet in English since Donne'.'

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