Roy Campbell (poet)

Roy Campbell (poet)

Infobox Writer
name = Roy Campbell

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caption = Roy Campbell (1901-1957)
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birthdate = 2 October 1901
birthplace = Durban, South Africa
deathdate = 22 April1957
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nationality = South Africa
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Roy Campbell (2 October 1901 – 22 April1957) was a South African poet and satirist. He was considered by T. S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas and Edith Sitwell to have been one of the best poets of the period between the First and Second world wars, [ [ "Roy Campbell: Bombast and Fire" - Catholic Author’s article] ] but he is seldom read today. [Thomas McDowell, "Who was Roy Campbell?" "National Review" [] ] Some literary critics claim that his connections to right-wing ideology and his willingness to antagonize the influential literati of his day damaged his reputation. [Joseph Pearce, "Introduction," in "Roy Campbell: Selected Poems" (London: Saint Austin Press, 2001), xxv] [Thomas McDowell, "Who was Roy Campbell?" "National Review" [] ] [ [ "Roy Campbell: Bombast and Fire" - Catholic Author’s article] ]

Early life

Ignatius Royston Dunnachie Campbell was born in Durban, South Africa, the son of Dr. Samuel George Campbell. Educated at Durban High School, he counted literature and the outdoor life among his first loves. Campbell, an accomplished horseman and fisherman, became fluent in Zulu. [He has been honoured with a brief biographical entry at the official website of KwaZulu-Natal, his province of birth, which also supplies one of his poems.] He left South Africa in 1918, intending to matriculate at Oxford University, but never did; nevertheless, his intellectual life bloomed in the university city. Campbell wrote verse imitations of T. S. Eliot and Paul Verlaine, and later met Eliot, the Sitwells, and Wyndham Lewis. He also began to drink heavily, and continued to do so for the rest of his life. He published his first collection of poems "The Flaming Terrapin" in 1924 when he was just 22. In 1921 he married Mary Margaret Garman, eldest of the Garman sisters, with whom he had two daughters, Tess and Anna Campbell.

Poet and satirist

Returning to South Africa in 1925, he started "Voorslag", a literary magazine along with William Plomer and Laurens van der Post, which promoted a more racially integrated South Africa; he lasted as its editor for three issues, then resigned because his radical views caused the magazine's conservative publisher to meddle with its content. He found the local cultural scene to be too introspective. After writing the satirical poem "The Wayzgoose" (published in 1928), he moved back to England in 1927.

"The Flaming Terrapin" had established his reputation as a rising star and was favorably compared to Eliot's recently released poem "The Waste Land". His verse was well-received by Eliot himself, Dylan Thomas, Edith Sitwell, and others.

Now moving in the literary set, at first he was on friendly terms with the Bloomsbury Group but then became very hostile to them; he declared that they were sexually promiscuous, snobbish, and anti-Christian. His wife’s lesbian affair with Vita Sackville-West (who was the lover of Virginia Woolf) was a contributing cause to this. Calling the Bloomsbury Group "intellectuals without intellect," he penned a satire entitled "The Georgiad" (published in 1931), which was an open attack on the Bloomsbury Group. [See, for example, Joseph Pearce, "Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell", chapter 25.] Like his friend Wyndham Lewis, he acquired anti-Semitic and pro-Fascist sentiments. The Campbells moved to southern France in the early 1930s.

The French period saw the publication of "Adamastor" (1930), "Poems" (1930), "The Georgiad" (1931), and the first version of his autobiography, "Broken Record" (1934), among others. During this time he and his wife Mary were slowly being drawn to the Roman Catholic faith, which can be traced in a sonnet sequence entitled "Mithraic Emblems" (1936).

A fictionalized version of Campbell ("Rob McPhail") appears in the novel "Snooty Baronet" by Wyndham Lewis (1932). Campbell was a friend of Lewis and his poetry had been published in Lewis' periodical "BLAST"; he was reportedly happy to appear in the novel but disappointed that his character was killed off (McPhail was gored while fighting a bull).

Franco, the Second World War, Campbell's changed reputation

He and his family moved to Spain, where they were formally received into the Catholic Church in the small Spanish village of Altea in 1935. The English author Laurie Lee recounts meeting Campbell in the Toledo chapter of "As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning", the second volume of his autobiographical trilogy. Campbell's reputation suffered considerably when he expressed Fascist sympathies, most notably in his 1934 autobiography "Broken Record", and supported Francisco Franco's Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War. He did not fight for the Nationalists during the Spanish conflict, despite later claims. [ Christopher Othen, "Las Brigadas Internacionales de Franco" (Destino, 2007) p107]

For an author to support Franco during this period was unusual, as was Campbell's glorification of military strength and masculine virtues. He had also been a strong opponent of communism for some time, and fighting it may have been a strong motivation. The intellectuals and authors who supported the Republicans also tended to resemble the ones he mocked in his previous life as a poet, but it is hard to gauge how relevant this was to the stance he took. It was probably affected by the violent Anti-Catholicism of some elements on the Republican side and the atrocities they committed against priests and nuns. His political thought is claimed by some to have been more bluster than deeply-held belief. His first autobiography, "Broken Record", has been called "a swashbuckling narrative of adventure and blatantly Fascist opinions." ["The Oxford Companion to English Literature"] The same source calls his long poem "Flowering Rifle" "a noisily pro-Fascist work which brought him much opprobium". His religious convictions, on the other hand, appear to have inspired what is arguably his better poetry. They continued to be the dominant influence in his life, leading him later to oppose Hitlerism because of its militantly anti-Christian character.

In the early years of the Second World War Campbell came down firmly on the side of the Allies and was an Air Raid Precautions warden in London. During this period he met and befriended Dylan Thomas, a fellow alcoholic, with whom he once ate a vase of daffodils in celebration of St. David's Day. Although he was over draft age, Campbell voluntarily enlisted in the British Army to serve against the Axis. He rose to the rank of sergeant and was attached to the King's African Rifles in Kenya.

Post-war life and works

Campbell was invalided out of the Army in 1944. He worked for many years at the BBC and remained a fixture, however derided for his political views, in the arts scene. During a poetry recital by the outspoken Marxist Stephen Spender, Campbell stormed the stage and punched him. However, Spender refused to press charges, saying, "He is a great poet… We must try to understand." [Peter Alexander, "Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography", 214; Joseph Pearce, "Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell", 377; Parsons, D. S. J. "Roy Campbell: A Descriptive and Annotated Bibliography with Notes on Unpublished Sources", New York: Garland Pub, 1981, 155.] Spender later presented Campbell with the 1952 Foyle Prize for his translation of the poetry of St. John of the Cross. [Pearce, "Unafraid of Virginia Woolf", 397.]

Campbell spent an evening with C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien at Magdalen College, Oxford, on 5 October 1944. Lewis had attacked "Campbell's particular blend of Catholicism and Fascism" [Humphrey Carpenter: "The Inklings. C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and their friends", Unwin Paperbacks (1981), p. 192.] and openly satirised him in print; during the evening, he made no secret of his opinion while Tolkien was very charmed by "this powerful poet and soldier", as is evident from the letter he wrote to his son Christopher the following day. In the letter, Tolkien describes Campbell as:

A window on a wild world, yet the man is in himself gentle, modest, and compassionate. Mostly it interested me to learn that this old-looking war-scarred Trotter [an early draft name for Aragorn] , limping from recent wounds, is 9 years younger than I am, and we prob [ably] met when he was a lad [...] . What he has done since beggars description. Here is a scion of an [Ulster-Scots|Ulster prot [estant] family resident in S [outh] Africa, most of whom fought in both wars, who became a Catholic after sheltering the Carmelite fathers in Barcelona — in vain, they were caught & butchered, and R.C. nearly lost his life. But he got the Carmelite archives from the burning library and took them through the Red country. [...] However it is not possible to convey an impression of such a rare character, both a soldier and a poet, and a Christian convert. How unlike the Left - the 'corduroy panzers' who fled to America [...]

According to the admiring Tolkien, Campbell also bragged about beating up the sculptor Jacob Epstein (the future husband of his sister-in-law). [ "The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien", no. 83, to Christopher Tolkien, 6 October 1944]

In 1952 he moved to Portugal. Although Estado Novo was not precisely fascist, it was still a right-wing dictatorship, and emigrating to it after the War may have further contributed to his bad reputation among most intellectuals. It is possible that the regime of António de Oliveira Salazar was by then more to his taste than Franco's rule, which was compromised by its intimate relations with Hitler and Mussolini, as well as by the brutal atrocities during and after the Civil War. In Portugal, he wrote a new version of his autobiography, "Light on a Dark Horse". In 1953 he embarked on a lecture tour of Canada and the United States. Organized by the Canadian poet and editor John Sutherland, the tour was largely a success, though not without controversy stemming from Campbell's "fascistic opinions," as the lecture committee at one Canadian university put it. ["The Letters of John Sutherland." Ed. Bruce Whiteman. Toronto: ECW Press, 1992, p. 285.] During the 1950s, Campbell was also a contributor to "The European", a magazine published in France and edited by its owner Diana Mosley, an unrepentant Fascist and wife of Sir Oswald Mosley, the former leader of the British Union of Fascists. It could also boast contributions from Ezra Pound and Henry Williamson. ["The Daily Telegraph", obituary of Lady Mosley, 13 Aug. 2003.]

Campbell's conversion to Catholicism inspired him to write what some consider to be the finest spiritual verse of his generation. He translated the mystical poems of St. John of the Cross and documented his conversion in verse in "Mithraic Emblems". He also wrote travel guides and children's literature. He began translating poetry from languages such as Spanish and French. Some of his translations of Baudelaire have been published in anthologies. Campbell, by now a self-styled "dark horse," produced sensitive translations into English of the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca, who was shot by Falangist death squads at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

Roy Campbell died in a car accident near Setúbal, Portugal on Easter Monday, 1957.

elected Works by Campbell

* "The Flaming Terrapin." (1924).
* "Voorslag." (1926-1927). A monthly magazine edited by Roy Campbell, et al.
* "The Wayzgoose: A South African Satire." (1928).
* "Adamastor." (1930).
* "Poems." (1930).
* "The Gum Trees." (1931).
* "The Georgiad - A Satirical Fantasy in Verse." (1931).
* "Taurine Provence." (1932).
* "Pomegranates." (1932).
* "Burns." (1932).
* "Flowering Reeds." (1933).
* "Broken Record." (1934).
* "Mithraic Emblems." (1936).
* "Flowering Rifle: A Poem from the Battlefield of Spain." (1936).
* "Songs of the mistral." (1938).
* "Talking Bronco." (1939).
* "Poems of Baudelaire: A Translation of" Les Fleurs du Mal. (1946).
* "Light on a Dark Horse: An Autobiography." (1952).
* "Lorca." (1952).
* "The Mamba's Precipice." (1953) (Children's story).
* "Nativity." (1954).
* "Portugal." (1957).
* "Wyndham Lewis." (1985).



Books about Roy Campbell

*cite book | last = Alexander | first = Peter | title = Roy Campbell | publisher = Oxford University Press | location = Oxford | year = 1982 | isbn = 0192117505
*cite book | last = Connolly | first = Cressida | title = The Rare and the Beautiful: The Art, Loves, and Lives of the Garman Sisters | publisher = ECCO | location = New York | year = 2004 | isbn = 0066212472
*cite book | last = Lyle | first = Anna | title = Poetic Justice: A Memoir of My Father, Roy Campbell | publisher = Typographeum | location = Francestown | year = 1986 | isbn = 0930126173
*cite book | last = Meihuizen | first = Nicholas | title = Ordering Empire: The Poetry of Camões, Pringle and Campbell | publisher = Peter Lang | location = Oxford | year = 2007 | isbn = 9783039110230
*cite book | last = Parsons | first = D. | title = Roy Campbell: A Descriptive and Annotated Bibliography, With Notes on Unpublished Sources | publisher = Garland Pub | location = New York | year = 1981 | isbn = 082409526X
*cite book | last = Pearce | first = Joseph | title = Bloomsbury and Beyond: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell | publisher = HarperCollins Publishers | location = New York | year = 2001 | isbn = 9780002740920
*cite book | last = Pearce | first = Joseph | title = Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell | publisher = ISI Books | location = Wilmington | year = 2004 | isbn = 1932236368
*cite book | last = Povey | first = John | title = Roy Campbell | publisher = Twayne Publishers | location = Boston | year = 1977 | isbn = 0805762779
*cite book | last = Smith | first = Rowland | title = Lyric and Polemic: The Literary Personality of Roy Campbell | publisher = McGill-Queen's University Press | location = Montreal | year = 1972 | isbn = 0773501215
*cite book | first = David | last = Wright | year = 1961 | title = Roy Campbell | publisher = Longmans | location = London

External links

* [ "Roy Campbell: Bombast and Fire" - Catholic Author’s article]
* [ "Who was Roy Campbell?" "National Review"]
* [ Zulu Kingdom: Roy Campbell]
* [ Roy Campbell Page]
* [ Short bio at Washington University, St. Louis]
* [ Welsh memories of Campbell, with quotations from other authors writing about him, and from his own autobiographies]

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