Roy Campbell (poet)

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Roy Campbell
Roy & Mary Campbell (left), Jacob Kramer & Dolores (right), 1920s
Roy & Mary Campbell (left), Jacob Kramer & Dolores (right), 1920s
BornIgnatius Royston Dunnachie Campbell
(1901-10-02)2 October 1901
Durban, Colony of Natal (now in South Africa)
Died23 April 1957(1957-04-23) (aged 55)
Setúbal, Portugal
OccupationPoet, journalist
NationalitySouth African
Literary movementEnglish romantic revival, satire[1]
Notable worksThe Flaming Terrapin, Adamastor, Flowering Reeds
Notable awardsFoyle Prize
SpouseMary Margaret Garman

Ignatius Royston Dunnachie Campbell, better known as Roy Campbell (2 October 1901 – 23 April 1957), was a South African poet, literary critic, literary translator, war poet, and satirist.

Born into a prominent White South African family of Scottish, Huguenot, and Scotch-Irish descent in Durban, Colony of Natal, Campbell was sent to the United Kingdom in the immediate aftermath of World War I. Although his family had intended for him to attend Oxford University, Campbell failed the entrance exam and drifted instead into London's literary bohemia.

Following his whirlwind cohabitation and marriage to English noblewoman-turned-bohemian Mary Garman, Campbell wrote the poem The Flaming Terrapin while staying with his wife in a converted stable near Aberdaron. Upon its publication, the poem was lavishly praised and brought the Campbells easy entry into the highest circles of British literature.

During a subsequent visit to his native South Africa, Campbell was first enthusiastically received. However, he courted outrage as editor of the literary magazine Voorslag by accusing his fellow White South Africans of racism and parasitism upon the labor of Black South Africans, whom Campbell said had every right to demand racial equality.

In his 1982 book, The Adversary Within: Dissident Writers in Afrikaans, anti-apartheid South African author Jack Cope praised, "the Voorslag Affair", as, "one of the most significant moral and intellectual revolts in the country's literary history."[2]

In response, however, Campbell lost his job as editor and was subjected to social ostracism, even by his own family. Before returning to England with his family, Campbell retaliated by writing The Wayzgoose, a mock epic in the style of Alexander Pope and John Dryden, which skewered the racism and philistinism of Colonial South Africa.

In England, Roy and Mary Campbell were installed as guests on the estate of Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West and became involved with the Bloomsbury Group. Campbell ultimately learned, however, that his wife was engaged in a lesbian relationship with Vita, for whom Mary Campbell intended to leave him. Vita Sackville-West, however, was willing to continue the affair, but had no intention of having the monogamous relationship that Mary Campbell expected.

At first, a heartbroken Campbell remained on the Sackville-West estate as the affair continued. After looking into the face of Vita's other lover, Virginia Woolf, Campbell saw his own suffering reflected back and fled to Provence. As her relationship with Vita crumbled, Mary joined him there and the spouses reconciled.

Having decided that the Bloomsbury Group was snobbish, promiscuous, nihilistic, and anti-Christian, Campbell lampooned them and their views in another verse satire inspired by Pope and Dryden, which he titled The Georgiad. Among British poets and intellectuals, however, Mary Campbell's affair with Vita was already common knowledge and The Georgiad was seen as a petty and vindictive attempt at revenge. Vita and the other targets of the satire were widely pitied and The Georgiad severely damaged Campbell's reputation.

Roy and Mary Campbell's subsequent conversion to Roman Catholicism in Spain and the atrocities they witnessed by forces loyal to the Republic during the Spanish Civil War, caused the Campbells to vocally support Francisco Franco and the Nationalist faction. In response, Campbell was labelled a Fascist by certain highly influential Left Wing poets, including Stephen Spender, Louis MacNeice, and Hugh MacDiarmid.

After being evacuated from Spain to England, however, Campbell angrily rejected the efforts of Percy Wyndham Lewis, Sir Oswald Mosley, and William Joyce to recruit him into the British Union of Fascists, saying that he considered Fascism to be merely another form of Communism. Campbell then returned to Spain, where he travelled as a war correspondent alongside Franco's forces. In the process, Campbell was able to retrieve the personal papers of Saint John of the Cross, which he had hidden in his family's former flat in Republican-occupied Toledo and thus preserved for future scholars to examine.

Upon the outbreak of World War II, Campbell returned to England and developed a close friendship with Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, which continued until Thomas's 1953 death. Also, despite being over-age and in very poor health, Campbell insisted upon enlisting in the British Army. While being trained for guerrilla warfare against the Imperial Japanese Army, Campbell was severely injured and ruled unfit for active service. After serving as a military censor and coast watcher in British East Africa, Campbell returned to the United Kingdom, where he befriended C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and briefly became a member of The Inklings.

In the post-war period, Campbell continued to write and translate poetry and to lecture worldwide. He also joined other White South African writers and intellectuals, including Laurens van der Post, Alan Paton and Uys Krige, in denouncing Apartheid in South Africa. Campbell died in a car accident in Portugal on Easter Monday, 1957.

Despite Campbell's decision to translate the poetry of Spanish Republican supporter Federico Garcia Lorca and his longstanding friendships with other supporters of the Spanish Republic such as Uys Krige and George Orwell, the accusation that Campbell was a Fascist, which was first promulgated during the 1930s, continues to seriously damage his reputation. For this reason, Campbell's verse continues to be left out of both poetry anthologies and University and college courses.

Efforts have been made, however, by Peter Alexander, Joseph Pearce, Roger Scruton, Jorge Luis Borges, and other biographers and literary critics to rebuild Campbell's reputation and to restore his place in world literature.

According to South African literary scholar Judith Lütge Collie, "There is no pigeon hole into which he will fit, no historical narrative in which he can be assigned a role and part that he will play dutifully, consistently."[3]

According to Roger Scruton, "Campbell wrote vigorous rhyming pentameters, into which he instilled the most prodigious array of images and the most intoxicating draft of life of any poet of the 20th century...He was also a swashbuckling adventurer and a dreamer of dreams. And his life and writings contain so many lessons about the British experience in the 20th century that it is worth revisiting them."[4]

In a 2012 article for the Sunday Times, Tim Cartwright wrote, "Roy Campbell, in the opinion of most South African literary people, is still the best poet the country has ever produced."[5]

Family origins[edit]

According to Campbell, his family history had been traced out, despite their differing views about the Spanish Civil War, by, "that valiant and fine writer, my friend, the late George Orwell."[6]

Campbell's paternal ancestors were Scottish Covenanters and members of Clan Campbell, who left the Gàidhealtachd of Scotland after their Chief, the Earl of Argyll, was defeated in battle by the Royalist Marquess of Montrose in 1645. The Campbell family then settled as part of the Plantation of Ulster at Carndonagh, in Inishowen, County Donegal.[7][8]

During the centuries when they lived in Donegal, the ancestors of the poet were, "bog-trotting Scotch-Irish peasants who were tenants of the Kilpatricks, the squires of Carndonagh." Many of the Campbell men were said to have been talented fiddlers. The living standards of the Campbell family improved drastically around 1750, when one of the poet's ancestors eloped with, "one of the Kilpatrick girls," whom he had met, "while he was fiddling at a ball given by the Squire."[9][8]

The poet's grandfather, William Campbell, set sail for the Colony of Natal with his family aboard the brigantine Conquering Hero from Glasgow in 1850. When they arrived, there was little sign of the city of Durban, which would become the greatest port city in Southern Africa, except a fortress and a few mud huts. However, William Campbell adapted well to life in Africa and built the breakwater that still forms the foundation of the great North Pier in Durban harbor. He also built a large and very successful sugar cane plantation.[10]

The poet's father, Samuel George Campbell, was born in Durban in 1861. In 1878 he traveled to Edinburgh to study medicine and won prizes for surgery, clinical surgery, and botany. He graduated with honors in 1882 and completed postgraduate work at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. He also studied ear, nose and throat ailments in Vienna. In 1886, he returned to Scotland to take his M.D. and to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. While in Scotland, Dr. Campbell married Margaret Wylie Dunnachie, daughter of James Dunnachie, of Glenboig, Lanarkshire, a wealthy self-made businessman, and Jean Hendry of Eaglesham.[7][11]

In his memoirs, however, Campbell alleges, "My maternal grandmother was a Gascon from Bayonne and though I never met her, I inherit through her my love of bulls, and of Provençal, French, and Spanish poetry."[8]

Also according to the poet, his Dunnachie ancestors were, "Highland Jacobites who fled Scotland," after the Jacobite rising of 1745, but returned after the act of indemnity.[7][8]

Also according to the poet, his maternal grandfather, James Dunnachie, was an acquaintance of Robert Browning and Alfred Tennyson, and also corresponded for many years with Mark Twain.[12]

In 1889, Doctor and Mrs. Campbell moved back to Natal, where he established a very successful medical practice. He would often travel long distances on foot to treat his patients and, in an unprejudiced approach deeply rare in Colonial South Africa, would treat both black and white patients. His generosity to patients who could not afford to pay was also legendary. For this reason, "Sam Joj", as he was called, was deeply loved by the Zulu people of Natal.[13]

Early life[edit]


Roy Campbell the third son of Dr. Samuel and Margaret Campbell, was born in Durban, Colony of Natal, on 2 October 1901. At the time of his birth, the Second Boer War was still being fought and Roy's father was on active service as a Major with the Natal Volunteer Medical Corps. For this was reason, it was several days before Maj. Campbell learned of the birth of his son. In a Presbyterian ceremony, the baby was christened Royston Dunnachie Campbell after an uncle by marriage.[14]

Roy later said that his first memory was of a day when his Zulu nurse maid, Catherine Mgadi, wheeled him further than usual on their morning outing. The hedge they had been skirting suddenly stopped and they came across an empty, railed in site overlooking the Indian Ocean, which a fascinated Roy glimpsed through the legs of a horse. Sensing Roy's fascination, Catherine told him that the Indian Ocean was "Lwandhla", the word for the sea in the Zulu language. Roy later recalled, "Lwandhla, which in two-syllables, Homerically expressed the pride and glory of the ocean and the plunge of its breakers, struck my mind with a force which no other word or line in prose or poetry has ever had for me since. I went on repeating the word lwandhla for days. It was the first word I remember learning." In later years, both horses and the sea would be regular themes in Campbell's poetry.[15]

Another figure who greatly influenced the poet's youth was Dooglie, a Highlander whom Doctor Campbell had met while trout fishing in the Gàidhealtachd of Scotland and had brought back to South Africa as his coachman. In Durban, Dooglie taught the Doctor's sons both the Great Highland bagpipes and Highland dancing. Roy's elder brothers, Archie and George, were soon so adept at both that they won multiple medals in the junior category during competitions organized by the local Caledonian Society.[16] Roy later wrote, "From those times onwards, till recently, I always believed we were pure Scotch Highlanders by descent. I only discovered our Irish and French ancestry by accident."[17]

In Durban, whenever Dooglie played the bagpipes, the Campbell's neighbor, an immigrant from the German Empire, always reacted with outrage. The poet later wrote:

To the compatriot of Wagner, Beethoven, and Bach, living on the other side of the corrugated iron fence which separated our two gardens, with his more exalted ideas of music, the braying of the bagpipes (or 'pack-vives' as he called them) was an insult and a nightmare. So whenever the 'pack-vives' started up from our side of the fence, Herr Kruger, in sheer self defense, would line up his entire staff of some dozen native servants, arm them with bricks, and get them to pound and hammer on the fence, and to yell with all their might, while two Indian waiters hammered on brass trays, as if they were trying to scare away a swarm of locusts. Then we would see Herr Kruger himself...waving his arms in paroxysms of fury, like the conductor of some infernal orchestra: and screeching and howling, as loud as the pipes themselves: "Harriple pack-vives! Harriple pack-vives! Ha-a-a-riple pack-vives!"[18]

Campbell further recalled, "Dooglie, the coachman, who then could scarcely speak anything but Gaelic, either mistook this for encouragement, rivalry, or applause: or else he was merely deafened by his proximity to his own instrument. I can only remember that he went on playing louder than ever – perhaps out of emulation, or maybe, contempt. All the dogs, donkeys, horses, and cattle in the neighbourhood would catch the excitement. Our horses and the cow, Nelly, would begin to gallops wildly about under the thirty mango trees in our immense paddock – which was bad for Nelly's milk."[19]

At first, Roy and Catherine would react to these noisy disputes by cowering under the bed. In times however, they would experience, "a sort of awed, bewildered exhilaration... and would run round in circles, leaping, jumping, pulling faces, waving our arms like Herr Kruger, and imitating the noises of the pipes, the natives, and the Herr, indiscriminately, by turns."[20]

Campbell further recalled, though, "Alas for poor Herr Kruger, worse trials were in store for him than the bag-pipes! A pure, 'dolichocephalous Nordic type,' of an almost albinoid blondness, with the palest of blue-eyes, he had the shock of discovering that his pure blond Nordic daughter had been put in a family way by one of the native servants, and they had to leave the country in record time, since in those days, few people, let alone Nordics, would have been able to face up to the scandal. My father bought the house and the garden; we let our original house; and retained the paddock, which was necessary for my father's, mother's, and grown-up sister's horses."[21]

After the birth of his younger brother, Neil Campbell, Roy was increasingly left in the care of his Zulu nurse and he would later recall, "I got a good many of my ideas from Catherine."[22]

According to Joseph Pearce:

This cross-current of cultural influences, the flow of Gaelic tradition interacting with the perceptions of a Zulu child, colored Roy Campbell's formative years. It produced a cultural hybrid, an Afro-Celtic, which was itself a by-product of Colonialism. Thus Roy and his brother's were dressed for church in Eton collars one Sunday and in kilts the next, but also, in accordance with African custom, they shot their first buck at the age of eight. Similarly, they learned Scots ballads from their parents and African folklore from the natives. At the very moment that Roy was discovering the delights of the English language in verse, he was also learning the Zulu language through his conversations with Catherine.[23]

Campbell also played regularly with boys from among the Zulu people.

Campbell later recalled a game, similar to cricket, played by Zulu boys, but with toy assegais in lieu of bats, "The two sides, armed with pointed throwing sticks, formed up on each side of the mark... The bowler... bowled up a huge potato-like root (whose native name I forget) the size of a melon, in a direction parallel to the line of the rival team and about three yards in front of it. The root was an irregular shape and bounced unpredictably while the 'batting side' tried to transfix it by throwing their small assegais at it... If the 'ball' was speared by a throw before passing the last of the file it counted to the batting side, if not, it counted to the 'bowling side.'"[24]

Campbell also wrote, "The Zulus are a highly intellectual people. They have a very beautiful language, a little on the bombastic side and highly adorned. Its effect on me can be seen in The Flaming Terrapin. Above all, the Zulu are great hableurs and boasters; the one thing they love is conversation. It is the only art they have, but it is a very great art... They take enormous delight in conversation, analyzing with the greatest subtlety and brilliance. Only our really great conversationalists equal them. They are full of Sancho-like proverbs and optimistic wisdom. And they have extremely sunny temperaments."[25]

His daughter, Teresa Campbell, also recalled, "My father was born and bred among the natives of South Africa. He got to love their wisdom and integrity. He respected them tremendously – to him they became as brothers. He spent all his happy childhood years with them and learnt a lot about life from this close association. It was this deep sharing of life with him that gave him his clear insight to the South African problem. We were always surprised at the uncommon ease with which he could mix with any company – with peasants and fishermen. This, my mother said, came from his early mixing with the native Africans."[26]

In later years, Roy Campbell's empathy for the plight of the Zulu people under rule by White South Africans expressed itself in his sonnets The Zulu Girl,[27] The Serf, [28] and in his literary translation of a Zulu Song.[29]


Educated at Durban High School, Campbell counted literature and the outdoor life among his first loves. He was an accomplished horseman, hunter, and fisherman.

In 1916, as the First World War was raging in Europe, a 15-year-old Roy ran away from home and enlisted in the South African Overseas Expeditionary Force. He used the assumed name of Roy McKenzie and claimed to be an 18-year-old from Southern Rhodesia. However, a suspicious officer telephoned the Campbell family's home. Roy's sister Ethel picked up the phone and confirmed that Roy was only 15. Ethel later wrote, "This was the first that any of us knew of his having run away from school and joined up.[30]

At the end of 1917 Campbell left school with a third degree matriculation pass, which was the lowest possible pass mark. He registered at Natal University College, intending to read English, physics, and botany. His heart was not in his studies, however. The war was still raging and Campbell intended to enlist as soon as he was old enough, and hoped to attend the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.[30]

Voyage to England[edit]

Campbell left the Union of South Africa in December 1918 aboard the Inkonka, a 2,000 ton tramp steamer. Almost as soon as the ship lost sight of land, the third mate entered Roy's cabin and, objecting to the large number of books, threw all of them, as well as Roy's painting and drawing materials,out of the porthole and into the sea. "Campbell," according to Joseph Pearce, "looked on as his cherished volumes of Shakespeare, Milton, Keats, Dryden, Pope, and Marlowe," disappeared over the side.[31]

In the absence of his books, Campbell spent much of the voyage on the fo'c'sle, watching, "all those strange and beautiful creatures that inhabit the majestic southern extremity of our continent."[31]

According to Joseph Pearce, "Campbell's love affair with the sea, thus far expressed only in poetically imagined theory, was consummated by the cascading waters off the Cape."[32]

Despite his sympathy for Black Africans under colonialism, Roy was horrified when the Inkonka docked at Dakar and he encountered rampant interracial sex, which was taking place without the secrecy, shame, and stigma attached to such things in Colonial South Africa.[33]

When the Inkonka docked at Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, Campbell went ashore with one of the ship's apprentices, who was a Roman Catholic. While inside Las Palmas Cathedral, Campbell was shown several holy relics, including the heart of Bishop Juan de Frías, "who sacrificed himself to the protection of the Guanches or natives of the Canaries."[34]

According to Pearce, "Campbell recalled that the heart was so magnified by the glass and the spirits in which it was kept that he laughed in a superior way and swore it was the heart of a rhino or hippo. His skepticism suggests an antagonism towards Catholicism, but was also indicative of a general disillusionment with Christianity. He had moved from a lukewarm and half-hearted acceptance of his parents' Presbyterianism towards an inarticulate agnosticism."[34]

In February 1919, "during a bitterly cold English winter which was a further new experience for Campbell," the Inkonka steamed into the estuary of the Thames River.[35]

Campbell later wrote, "It was certainly by far the widest river I had ever seen... Then warehouses and other phantasmal buildings loomed out of the most on the distantly converging banks. Slowly, forests of masts and banks began to appear, and moving almost impercebtibly we berthed in the East India Docks cracking the first film of ice I had ever seen."[35]

After a brief tour of London on a donkey cart, Campbell took a train to Scotland to meet his maternal grandfather. James Dunnachie gave his grandson £10, with which Campbell replaced the books he had lost at the beginning of the voyage.[35]

According to his daughter Anna Campbell Lyle, Roy had grown up where, "everything was beautiful, and like paradise," and then he came to, "this funny little country full of fog, with no wild animals, very little sun and no mountains – he had a really mystical feeling about mountains... So he got a funny thing about England. I think he was terribly anti-Anglo-Saxon. He had a passion for Celts."[36]

Campbell later wrote in his memoir Broken Record, "My ancestors cleared out of Britain at the first whiff of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and I only came back to see what made them clear off in such a hurry, which I soon found out."[37]

From Oxford to Bohemia[edit]


After a brief stay with his grandfather, Campbell travelled to Oxford University, where he hoped to pass the entrance exams to Merton College.[35]

During the early spring of 1919, Oxford was filled with returning veterans of the Great War. Painfully shy, Campbell hid himself away in an attic room and read voraciously. He later wrote, "Never before, or since, have I done so much reading as I did at Oxford. Had I taken an ordinary course in English for three years, I would not have read a quarter as much."[38]

The Irish War of Independence was then taking place and, despite his descent from Orangemen, in letters to his parents, Roy expressed support for Irish Republicanism.[39]

During this time, Campbell discovered the poetry of T. S. Eliot, which was then all the rage. He also attempted to write imitations of the poetry of both Eliot and Paul Verlaine. Campbell took as his subject "the gloomy railway stations he had seen on his recent journeys to and from Scotland." Campbell, however, was dissatisfied with the results and burned his manuscripts. He later said, "My early poems were so fragile and attenuated that Verlaine is robust in comparison."[40]

While attending Greek tutorials, Campbell struck up a friendship with the future Classical composer William Walton, who shared his enthusiasm for the poetry of Eliot and The Sitwells, and for the prose writings of Percy Wyndham Lewis. Campbell later described Walton as, "a real genius, and, at the same time, one of the finest fellows I ever met in my life."[41]

Even though Campbell preferred Ragtime music and the Border ballads to Classical, the two friends shared an intense hatred for learning Greek. Instead, they routinely neglected their studies, "so they could enjoy endless nights on the town consuming large quantities of beer."[42]

According to Joseph Pearce, " in a biography of Campbell by Peter Alexander that Campbell had 'at least two short-lived homosexual affairs' at this time may well be unfounded. Although it is possible that Campbell went through a bisexual phase at Oxford, Alexander makes no effort to justify the claim and chooses not to name the two men alleged to have been the objects of Campbell's devotion. He merely cites Campbell's friend Robert Lyle as the source of the allegations. Lyle, however, states categorically, 'I know nothing of any homosexual attachments.' This being so, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary one should perhaps assume that Campbell's friendships at Oxford were platonic."[43]

However, he failed the Oxford entrance examination.[44] Reporting this to his father, he took a philosophical stance, telling him that "university lectures interfere very much with my work," which was writing poetry.[11] His verse writing was stimulated by avid readings of Nietzsche, Darwin, and the English Elizabethan and Romantic poets. Among his early fruitful contacts were C.S. Lewis, William Walton, the Sitwells, and Wyndham Lewis.[11] He also began to drink heavily, and continued to do so for the rest of his life.


Campbell left Oxford for London in 1920, where he immediately sank into what he later dubbed, "that strange underworld ... known as Bohemia."[45]

Nina Hamnett later recalled, "Roy Campbell was about seventeen and very beautiful indeed. He had the most wonderful grey eyes with long black eyelashes. He spoke with an odd gruff voice and a funny accent." Campbell gifted Hamnett with a book of poems by Arthur Rimbaud and kept her amused by singing what she later termed, "Kaffir Songs," [sic] in the Zulu language. In response, Nina's friend Marie Beerbohm gave Campbell the nickname, "Zulu", which stuck fast.[46]

Cohabitation and marriage[edit]


Mary Garman, a runaway member of the English nobility, was then living in a flat near Regent Square with her sister Kathleen. The sisters regularly paid court to young artists and musicians and often hosted bohemian parties.[47]

Although Mary was already intimately involved with the Dutch composer Bernard van Dieren, Roy Campbell caught her attention immediately when she first saw him. Mary later wrote, "My sister Kathleen... and I were riding on the top of a bus in Tottenham Court Road... When we saw Roy for the first time. He got off the bus when we did and made for the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in Charlotte Street. We were quite intrigued, he was so good-looking, so foreign, who could he be? Once inside the restaurant he went straight to a table where a golden-haired girl, Iris Tree, was sitting alone, evidently waiting for him."[48]

When they formally met a few weeks later Roy found himself confronted with, "the most beautiful woman I had ever seen."[49]


As Campbell was homeless and as the Garman sisters were, "uninhibited by questions of morality," Mary and Kathleen invited Roy to move in with them.[50] Their daughter, Teresa Campbell, would later write, "In their different ways they were trying to escape convention. As my mother was always saying when she was about eighty – 'Roy and I were the first Hippies' and she seemed very proud of the fact."[51] In the evenings, the three would lie arm in arm next to the fire, and Campbell would read his poetry aloud and would entertain both women with stories of his adventures in Provence and in the South African bush.[50]

Mary later wrote, "I suppose it was my love of poetry that was the main cause of our marriage, the marriage of Roy and myself. At twelve years old I was in love with poetry. I remember reading Blake and Shelley with the greatest delight. When I met Roy he seemed to me the personification of poetry and when he recited couplets from The Flaming Terrapin which he had just begun to write I realized that I had met a poet in flesh and blood."[50]

For a time, Bernard van Dieren continued to visit the Garman sisters' flat, but eventually he admitted defeat. Kathleen, however, was already the mistress and muse of the married American sculptor Jacob Epstein, who was "violently jealous" and increasingly certain that Campbell was sleeping with both sisters.[50]

Years later, Anna Campbell asked her mother how Roy had proposed. Mary angrily replied that Roy never proposed, "We took it for granted that we would marry when we first spoke to each other!"[52]

In the winter of 1921, just two months after they had met, Campbell accompanied Mary and Kathleen to their family's estate at Oakeswell Hall, near Wednesbury, Staffordshire, to spend Christmas with the Garman family.[52] Upon their arrival, Kathleen Garman said to her father, "Father, this is Roy, who's going to marry Mary."[52] Horrified, Dr. Garman cried, "My eldest daughter?! To a complete stranger?!"[52] Campbell later admitted that he felt deeply uncomfortable during the visit and knew that the eyes of the Garman family were always watching him. At first, desperate for them to accept him, Campbell refused to drink wine during meals. In time, however, he was regularly escaping the anxiety of the visit by going on drunken binges at the local pub. In response, Dr. Garman tried to persuade his daughter to call off the wedding, saying that she was, "marrying a dipsomaniac."[52] Anna Campbell Lyle, however, later wrote, "All their good sense was useless. My parents already considered themselves eternal partners."[52]


On 11 February 1922, Roy Campbell and Mary Garman were married in the Church of England parish at Wednesbury, near her family's estate. As Campbell owned no formal suit, he had purchased one second hand for 12 shillings. Mary, however, was horrified and demanded that Roy change back into his usual clothing. Mary wore a long black dress with a golden veil, not to be eccentric but simply because she had nothing else. During the ceremony, when Campbell knelt before the altar, he exposed the holes in the soles of his shoes to the whole congregation. In response, Mary's former nanny was heard to lament, "Oh dear, I always thought Miss Mary would marry a gentleman with a park!"[53]

After the Campbells returned to London, their wedding was celebrated with a wild and raucous party at the Harlequin Restaurant on Beak Street. Roy's brother George Campbell, who had just completed his medical studies at Edinburgh, arrived unexpectedly, "and looked so sane and respectable amongst the howling dervishes of London Bohemia."[54]

When George Campbell saw the bride, however, he told his younger brother, "I don't blame you. If I'd had the same luck, I would have done the same."[54]

Roy Campbell later wrote, "My father heard of our marriage too late to stop it; he was naturally hurt that, being a minor, I had not consulted him about it, since he had always been so good to me and always sent me any money I asked for when I was hard up. My excuse was, and still is, that I was taking absolutely no risks at all of not getting married to this girl."[55][56]

Due to his decision to marry without paternal consent, Roy Campbell forfeited, for a time, his generous parental allowance.[11][57]

During a later conversation in Durban, however, Dr. Campbell said to his son George about Roy, "I suppose the silly little ass has married someone worthless."[54]

George Campbell responded, "No fear! He has married someone a thousand times too good for him! I would have done the same if I could."[54]

Poet and satirist[edit]


After their wedding, the Campbells moved into a rented flat above the Harlequin Restaurant.[58] As Dr. Samuel Campbell had cut off his son's allowance, Roy and Mary made ends meet by pawning their wedding gifts. Roy Campbell also earned some money as a literary critic.[59]

At first, Roy suffered from a great deal of jealousy and once dangled Mary out of the window after she expressed an attraction to a female friend.[59]

Campbell later told an exaggerated version of the incident and claimed that he had dangled Mary out the window to show her that, "any marriage in which the wife wears the pants is an unseemly farce."[60]

According to South African Campbell scholar Judith Lütge Collie, "The thing is, though, as Campbell's biographers and his daughters demonstrate, Campbell's diatribe is not based on practice: Mary was the dominant partner..."[61]

Meanwhile, Jacob Epstein was still mistakenly convinced that Campbell was sexually involved with both Mary and her sister Kathleen. In order to gather proof of the orgies that he believed were taking place in the Campbells' flat, Epstein hired the Harlequin Restaurant's waiters to spy on them. When Roy learned of Epstein's actions, he was outraged.[62]

One evening when Epstein and Kathleen Garman were dining together at the Harlequin, Roy sent Mary outside with Augustus John. Then a waiter approached Epstein's table and said, "Mr. Campbell would like a word upstairs with Mr. Epstein."[63][59]

The whole room fell silent as Epstein rose from his seat and went upstairs. After a long silence, a thunderous crash was heard on the ceiling of the restaurant as Roy Campbell and Jacob Epstein began brawling upstairs.[63]

Rushing upstairs, Kathleen threw open the door to find her brother-in-law and her future husband rolling around on the floor amidst upturned furniture. Kathleen screamed, "Stop it! Stop it! You're behaving like animals – you can't behave like that here!"[63][59]

Both men rose sheepishly to their feet and Campbell left to find Mary and Augustus John.[64] In conversation with them, Campbell claimed to have won the fight and alleged that the cut on his face was made by the buttons on Epstein's waistcoat as Campbell had lifted him over his head.[63] During a 1944 conversation inside the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford, Campbell told the story of the brawl to C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and claimed to have put Epstein in the hospital for a week.[65]


To escape the notoriety caused by the brawl, Roy and Mary Campbell moved from London to Ty Corn, a small converted stable three miles from the village of Aberdaron in Gwynedd, Wales.[66] According to Peter Alexander, "Mary had been there on holiday several times as a child and knew the area well."[67]

The Campbells stayed at Ty Corn for more than a year and lived off a diet of home grown vegetables, sea-birds' eggs, and game birds that Roy poached with a small shotgun. These were supplemented by fish, lobsters, and crabs purchased from Welsh fishermen. During the winter, Roy had to carry one hundred pounds of coal every week from the road, which was two miles away.[68]

Also during the winter, Roy and Mary would read poetry aloud to each other by firelight. Their favorite poets to read included Dante, Alexander Pope's translations of Homer, John Dryden's translations of Virgil, John Milton, John Donne, William Julius Mickle's translations of Luís de Camões, Miguel de Cervantes, Rabelais, Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, and many of the Elizabethan poets. They were, as Roy later wrote, living, "under the continual intoxication of poetry."[69]

As was his habit, Roy befriended many of the locals and was particularly fascinated by the fishing community on nearby Bardsey Island. He later wrote that the fishermen, who gave him the nickname "Africa," "wore earnings and beards," and that many of them were monoglot Welsh-speakers.[37]

According to Joseph Pearce, "Roy was proud that he and Mary had been accepted by the islanders, who did not normally take kindly to 'foreigners.' Yet if Roy and Mary were fascinated by the natives, the natives were more than fascinated by their exotic neighbors. They were still remembered more than half a century later by elderly villagers who still spoke of the notoriety that 'Africa' and his wife gained in the neighborhood. They wore flowing, brightly colored clothes and Roy's hair was far longer than local custom dictated. They also inflamed local gossip by regularly making love on the cliff-tops in broad daylight. Locals who visited Ty Corn returned to the village with reports that Roy and Mary covered the walls of their stable with charcoal sketches of each other in the nude. On one occasion, a local man, arriving at Ty Corn on some sort of business, was confronted at the door by Mary and her sister, both naked. In bashful confusion, he forgot what he was going to ask and went away in a state of shock."[70]

Also during their stay in Ty Corn, the Campbells' first daughter, Teresa, was born, with the assistance of a Welsh midwife, on the night of 26 November 1922. Roy later wrote, "I have not seen anything to equal the courage of my wife in fighting through this fearful night, when the wind blew the tiles off our roof and the rain and wind rushed in headlong."[71]

In later years, Teresa was always fond of telling friends how she had been born in a Welsh stable and always added, "I weighed ten pounds, my mother nearly died having me, I was so big."[72]

According to Peter Alexander, "Campbell, unable to be present, sheltered behind a piece of corrugated iron on the beach, and suffered fearful sympathetic pain. At dawn, as the storm abated, he went out and shot a snipe, and grilled it on a spit for Mary's breakfast."[73]

The Flaming Terrapin[edit]

Campbell completed his first long poem, The Flaming Terrapin, a humanistic allegory of the rejuvenation of man, at Ty Corn in early September 1922. After making several copies, "in a beautiful, printed hand",[73] Campbell mailed one to his Oxford friend Edgell Rickword.[72]

Rickword replied, "I have waited three days and three nights to be able to tell you quite coolly that the poem is magnificent. One doesn't often find anything to overwhelm one's expectations but this did completely... I know of no one living who could write in such a sustained and intense poetical manner... Lots of things might have weighed against my liking it (particularly your philosophy of sweat) but the sheer fecundity of images ravished my lady-like prejudices... Good luck and ten thousand thanks for such a poem."[74][73]

After reading Rickword's letter, Campbell wrote to his mother, "He is the one man among the younger poets whose opinion I revere at all and I only expected rather a cold-blooded criticism from him. I simply fell down on my bed and howled like a baby when I got it."[75][73]

After also receiving a copy of The Flaming Terrapin, Augustus John showed it to Col. T. E. Lawrence, who wrote, "Normally rhetoric so bombastic would have sickened me. But what originality, what energy, what freshness and enthusiasm, and what a riot of glorious imagery and colour! Magnificent I call it!"[76]

Colonel Lawrence was so impressed by The Flying Terrapin that he mailed a postcard to the future publisher of his memoirs of serving as a military advisor to the Bedouin forces during the Arab Revolt, Jonathan Cape. About Campbell's poem, Col. Lawrence urged Cape, "Get it – it's great stuff."[73]

By mid-1923, the Campbells had moved back to London at the urging of Mary's mother, who felt that Ty Corn was no place to raise a child. In their flat at 90 Charlotte Street, Campbell received a letter from Cape, who was requesting to see The Flying Terrapin. Campbell hand delivered the manuscript the following day.[77]

When Cape read the poem, he was just as enthusiastic as Col. Lawrence had been and decided to publish The Flaming Terrapin himself.[76] It was published in May 1924.[78]

The Flaming Terrapin established Campbell's reputation as a rising star and he was favourably compared to T.S. Eliot's recently released poem The Waste Land. His verse was well received by Eliot himself, Dylan Thomas, Edith Sitwell, and many others.


Returning to South Africa with Mary in 1925, Campbell started Voorslag, a literary magazine with the ambition to serve as a "whiplash" (the meaning of the title in Afrikaans) on South African colonial society, which he considered "bovine". Before the magazine was launched, Campbell invited William Plomer to help with it, and late in the year, Laurens van der Post was invited to become the magazine's Afrikaans editor. Voorslag was, according to Joseph Pearce, one of the first bilingual literary journals ever published in South Africa.[79]

The first issue included a book review in which Campbell praised Plomer's recent novel Turbott Wolfe. The novel depicted a White artist filling his studio with Black women as his models and sexual partners, much to the outrage of the artist's racist White neighbors. Plomer courted further controversy by ending his novel with an interracial marriage between a Black man and a White woman. For these reasons, Plomer's Turbott Wolfe had been dubbed, "A Nasty Book on a Nasty Subject," by the Natal Advertiser.[80]

In his review for Voorslag, Campbell praised Turbott Wolfe as "just and true", but also criticized Plomer for dehumanizing the White racists in his novel. Campbell wrote:

Mr. Plomer has shown his white characters when acting under the influence of race-feeling, behaving with typical ferocity and injustice. But he fails to let them relax enough into their individual and comparative dignity. He keeps pointing at them all the time and nudging the reader. I have known many farmers who capable of the most callous and criminal behaviour to the blacks, were guilless sons of the soil, as innocent as sleeping babes, with devout souls and sky-blue eyes. Their cruelty and impulsiveness was not even remembered when they relapsed again into their individual rationality. This type is much more normal than the bloodthirsty type described by Mr. Plomer and it confronts one with a far more terrible enigma. If Mr. Plomer had realized this his satire would have been more devastatingly complete and he might have achieved a masterpiece.[81]

Elsewhere in the same issue, Campbell "attacked Colonial South Africa with unrestrained venom". He wrote that the White man's racial superiority was "a superstition which was exploded by science ten years ago and by Christianity two thousand years before." As a nation, he wrote that South Africa lagged "three hundred years behind modern Europe and five hundred years behind modern art and science." Furthermore, he accused White South Africans of being little more than a nation of parasites. Campbell concluded:

We have no excuse for our parasitism on the native and the sooner we realize it the safer for our future. We are as a race without thinkers, without leaders, without even a physical aristocracy working on the land. The study of modern anthropology should be encouraged as it would give us a better sense of our position in the family tree of Homo sapiens – which is among the lower branches: it might even rouse us to assert ourselves in some less ignoble way than reclining blissfully in a grocer's paradise and feeding on the labour of the natives.[82]

Both Voorslag articles outraged the White population of Natal. In response, the magazine's owner, Lewis Reynolds, informed Campbell that, in the future, his editorial control over Voorslag was going to be drastically limited. Campbell resigned in protest.

To his grief and horror, Campbell found himself subjected to social ostracism by the Whites of Durban and found that even members of his own family wanted nothing to do with him. Left destitute, Campbell wrote to his friend C.J. Sibbett, a wealthy Cape Town advertising executive, and asked for a gift of £50, so that he and his family could return to England. Campbell concluded, "None of my relations will look at me because of the opinions I have expressed in Voorslag."[83]

Sibbett, who immediately sent Campbell the money, wrote to the editor of the Natal Witness, "I am very glad to hear where your sympathies lie in the Voorslag controversy. Roy and Plomer were like thoroughbreds pitted against pack-mules. Natal seems to me to be Wesleyan-ridden with a strong dash of Calvinism thrown in and it is astonishing how these two Cuckoo eggs came to be hatched there."[84]

Before leaving South Africa with his family in 1927, Campbell reacted to his ostracism by writing the poem The Making of a Poet:

"In every herd there is some restive steer
Who leaps the cows and heads each hot stampede,
Till the old bulls unite in jealous fear
To hunt him from the pastures where they feed.
"Lost in the night he hears the jungles crash
And desperately, lest his courage fail,
Across his hollow flanks with sounding lash
Scourges the heavy whipcord of his tail.
"Far from the phalanxes of horns that ward
The sleeping herds he keeps the wolf at bay,
At nightfall by the slinking leopard spoored,
And goaded by the fly-swarm through the day."[85]

Campbell also wrote Tristan da Cunha,[86] and The Wayzgoose, a lampoon, in heroic couplets, on the racism and other cultural shortcomings of Colonial South Africa. The poem included belligerent attacks against those who Campbell felt had wronged him in the controversy over Voorslag. The Wayzgoose was published in 1928.[11][87]

In a 1956 letter to Harvey Brit, who had accused Campbell of being a Fascist, the latter wrote, "I am an exile...from my country because I stood up for fair play for the blacks – is that Fascism?"[88]


Having returned to London, Campbell began to move in literary circles. Though initially on friendly terms with the Bloomsbury Group, the poet subsequently became very hostile to them, declaring that they were sexually promiscuous, snobbish, and anti-Christian.

According to Roger Scruton,

Learning that his wife had been conducting a passionate affair with Vita (to the enraged jealousy of Vita's other lover, Virginia Woolf), Campbell began to see the three aspects of the new elite—sexual inversion, anti-patriotism, and progressive politics—as aspects of a single frame of mind. These three qualities amounted, for Campbell, to a refusal to grow up. The new elite, in Campbell's opinion, lived as bloodless parasites on their social inferiors and moral betters; they jettisoned real responsibilities in favor of utopian fantasies and flattered themselves that their precious sensibilities were signs of moral refinement, rather than the marks of a fastidious narcissism. The role of the poet is not to join their Peter Pan games but to look beneath such frolics for the source of spiritual renewal.[89]

Referring to the Bloomsbury Group as "intellectuals without intellect", Campbell penned a verse satire of them entitled The Georgiad (1931). According to Joseph Pearce,

As with so much of Campbell's satire, The Georgiad's invective is too vindictive. It is all too often spoiled by spite. This underlying weakness has obscured the more serious points its author sought to make. Embedded between the attacks on Bertrand Russell, Marie Stopes, Vita Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf and a host of other Bloomsbury's and Georgians are classically refined objections to the prevailing philosophy of scepticism, mounted like pearls of wisdom in the basest of metal. "Nor knew the Greeks, save in the laughing page, The philosophic emblem of our age."... The "damp philosophy" of the modern world, as espoused by the archetypical modern poet, was responsible for the prevailing pessimism and disillusionment of the post-war world. In preaching such a philosophy, which was "the fountain source of all his woes", the poet's "damp philosophy" left him "damp in spirit". Nihilism was self-negating. It was the philosophy of the self-inflicted wound. In the rejection of post-war pessimism and its nihilistic ramifications... Campbell was uniting himself with others, such as T.S. Eliot and Evelyn Waugh, who were similarly seeking glimmers of philosophical light amidst the prevailing gloom. In his case, as in theirs, the philosophical search would lead him to orthodox Christianity.[90]

The Campbells moved to Provence in the early 1930s.

The French period saw the publication of, among other writings, Adamastor (1930), Poems (1930), The Georgiad (1931), and the first version of his autobiography, Broken Record (1934). In 1932, the Campbells retained the Afrikaner poet Uys Krige as tutor to Tess and Anna.[91] During this time he and his wife Mary were slowly being drawn to the Roman Catholic faith, a process which can be traced in a sonnet sequence entitled Mithraic Emblems (1936).

A fictionalized version of Campbell at this time ("Rob McPhail") appears in the novel Snooty Baronet by Wyndham Lewis (1932). Campbell's 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).

Move to Spain[edit]

In the autumn of 1933, Tess's goat broke through a neighbour's fence and in the course of a night destroyed a number of young peach trees. The neighbour demanded compensation, which Campbell felt unable to pay. The neighbour then successfully sued for a considerable sum. Campbell still saw no way to pay the indemnity and faced the prospect of imprisonment. He and his wife escaped the authorities by surreptitiously escaping across the border into Spain. They traveled by train to Barcelona, where they were joined a few days later by their children, Uys Krige, the children's French governess, their dog Sarah, and whatever luggage they could carry between them.[92]

The family settled in Toledo. 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.

According to Joseph Pearce,

"In March 1936 the anti-clerical contagion spreading across Spain reached the streets of Toledo, the ancient city in which the Campbells had made their home. Churches were burned in a series of violent riots in which priests and nuns were attacked. During these bloody disturbances, Roy and Mary Campbell sheltered in their house several of the Carmelite monks from the neighboring monastery. In the following weeks, the situation worsened. Portraits of Marx and Lenin were posted on every street corner, and horrific tales began to filter in from surrounding villages of priests being shot and wealthy men being butchered in front of their families. Toledo's beleaguered Christians braced themselves for the next wave of persecution, and the Campbells, in an atmosphere that must have seemed eerily reminiscent of early Christians in the Catacombs of Rome, were confirmed in a secret ceremony, before dawn, by Cardinal Goma, the elderly Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain. In July 1936, the civil war erupted onto the streets of Toledo, heralded by the arrival in the city of Communist militiamen from Madrid. With no one to defend them, the priests, monks, and nuns fell prey to the hatred of their adversaries. The seventeen monks from the Carmelite monastery were rounded up, herded on to the street and shot. Campbell discovered their murdered bodies, left lying where they fell. He also discovered the bodies of other priests lying in the narrow street where the priests had been murdered. Swarms of flies surrounded their bodies, and scrawled in their blood on the wall was written, 'Thus strikes the CHEKA.'"[93]

Campbell later immortalized the incident in his poem The Carmelites of Toledo.[94]

England again[edit]

On 9 August 1936, the Campbells boarded HMS Maine, which was evacuating British subjects to Marseilles.[95] Within weeks, they were back in England. After the atrocities he had witnessed, Campbell was deeply offended by the generally pro-Republican sympathies in Britain, where large numbers of young men were volunteering for the International Brigades and where only British Catholics raised a dissident voice.[96]

While staying with his openly Stalinist in-laws at Binstead,[97] Campbell was contacted by Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists. Campbell's poem 'The Alcazar' was published in Mosley's BUF Quarterly magazine that same year.[98][better source needed]

In the fall of 1936, Percy Wyndham Lewis arranged a meeting between Mosley and Campbell. Campbell later recalled of the meeting, "I not only refused Mosley's and Lewis's offer of a very high position and lucrative position in the Fascist party but explained that I was returning to the ranks to fight Red Fascism, the worst and most virulent variety, and that when the time came I was ready to fight Brown or Black Fascism and that I could (though badly disabled) knock both of their brains out there and then! I explained that I was only fighting as a Christian for the right to pray in my own churches, all of which (save 3) had been destroyed in Red Spain...I then asked for my coat and hat: Lewis has never forgiven it."[99]

Roy Campbell returned home from the meeting looking "wan and tired". When Mary questioned him about it, he responded, "It's no good, kid. He's as bad as the others". Mosley, however, was not put off and continued his courtship of Campbell through senior BUF member William Joyce. Despite Mosley's promise to make him "the official poet" of the Fascist movement in the United Kingdom, Campbell refused to be recruited and the effort was abandoned.[100]

Soon after the meeting with Mosley, Campbell read Mein Kampf and said of Adolf Hitler, "Good gracious! This man won't do – he's a teetotalitarian vegetarian!"[100]

On 29 January 1937, the family set sail to Lisbon on the German vessel Niasa.[101]

War correspondent and propagandist[edit]

In June, Campbell left Portugal for Spain, going to Salamanca and then to Toledo, where he retrieved the personal papers of Saint John of the Cross from a hiding place in his former flat. Campbell then attempted to enlist in one of the Carlist militias, but was informed by Alfonso Merry del Val, the head of the Nationalist Press Service, that he could better serve as a war correspondent alongside Franco's armies. Travelling on a journalist's pass issued by Merry del Val, Campbell left Toledo on 30 June 1937 and was driven to Talavera, where he suffered a serious fall, twisting his left hip. The following day, the special car traveled southwards from the front, ending its lightning tour in Seville. This visit appears to have been Campbell's only front line experience of the war. However, that would not keep him from later suggesting that he had seen far more action than he had.[102] He did not fight for the Nationalists during the Spanish conflict, despite later claims.[103]

Campbell's glorification of the military strength and masculine virtues of Franco's Spain drew a poor reaction back home, and his reputation suffered considerably as a result. Campbell had been a strong opponent of Marxism for some time, and fighting against it was also a strong motivation. In his poem Flowering Rifle, Campbell mocked the combat deaths of Republican soldiers, praised the Nationalists for defending the Church, and accused Communists of committing far more heinous atrocities than any Fascist government. In a footnote attached to the poem, he declared, "More people have been imprisoned for Liberty, humiliated and tortured for Equality, and slaughtered for Fraternity in this century, than for any less hypocritical motives, during the Middle Ages."[104]

According to South African Campbell scholar Judith Lütge Coullie, "Many of R[oy] C[ampbell]'s contemporaries, as well as his biographer Peter Alexander, felt that he was extremely naïve politically and thus did not grasp the implications of his support for the Party that defended the Catholic Church."[105]

Republican sympathisers the world over were outraged and the Scottish Communist poet Hugh MacDiarmid wrote an angry response entitled The Battle Continues. The second stanza included the lines:

Franco has made no more horrible shambles
Than this poem of Campbell's
The foulest outrage his breed has to show
Since the massacre of Glencoe![106]

Campbell's former friend C. S. Lewis, who had first met him as an Oxford undergraduate, also attacked him in a poem titled "To the Author of Flowering Rifle". In the poem, Lewis denounced Campbell's "lack of charity" and called him a "loud fool" who had learnt the art of lying from the very Communists he so claimed to despise.[107] Lewis had further declared,

—Who cares
Which kind of shirt the murdering Party wears?[108]

Lewis concluded his poem by arguing that in a conflict as mutually bloody as the Spanish Civil War, only a neutral course could be considered honourable.

In September 1938, the Campbell family went to Italy, where they stayed until the end of the Spanish Civil War. After the publication of Flowering Rifle in February 1939, they became popular in the higher echelons of Roman society. They returned to Spain in April 1939. On 19 May, Roy and Mary Campbell traveled to Madrid for the Victory Parade of Franco's forces.[109]

The Second World War[edit]

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Campbell denounced Nazi Germany and returned to Britain. In a subsequent poem, Campbell expressed his elation and pride during the voyage from Spain when he saw the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal being towed into Gibraltar for repairs following combat against the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. He later wrote several similar poems in favor of the Allied cause.

During the Battle of Britain, Campbell served as an Air Raid Precautions warden in London. Also during the Blitz, he met and befriended Anglo-Welsh poet and fellow alcoholic Dylan Thomas, with whom he once ate a vase of daffodils in celebration of St. David's Day. Although Campbell was over draft age and in bad physical shape, he finally managed to be accepted into the British Army. He was recruited into the Intelligence Corps because of his knowledge of foreign languages and began training as a private with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers on 1 April 1942.[110] Having completed basic training, Campbell was transferred in July to the I.C. Depot near Winchester, where he was trained in motorcycles.[111] In February 1943, he was promoted to sergeant, and in March he was posted to British East Africa.

On his way there in a convoy, Campbell recognized one of the porters, "who came aboard the troopship", as a member of the Zulu people and greeted him in the Zulu language. Stunned, the porter replied in the same tongue, "How did you, an English soldier, learn my language?"[112]

Campbell replied, "Am I not the nephew of Machu and the son of Sam-Joj?"[112]

The porter snapped, "Like Hell you are – the nephew of Machu would be a Colonel; so would the son of Sam-Joj – not a Sergeant, like you."[112]

On 5 May, Campbell arrived at Nairobi and was attached to the King's African Rifles, serving in a camp two miles outside the city. After having worked as a military censor, he was transferred in June to the 12th Observation Unit of the commando force being trained for jungle warfare against the Imperial Japanese Army.[113] However, any hope of combat was thwarted when Campbell in late July suffered a new injury to his damaged hip in a fall from a motorcycle. He was sent to hospital in Nairobi, where the doctors examined an X-ray of his hips and declared him unfit for active service.

In the aftermath, Campbell was employed, between September 1943 and April 1944, as a coast-watcher, looking out for enemy submarines on the Kenyan coast north of Mombasa. During this period, he made several sojourns in hospital due to attacks of malaria.[114]

According to Joseph Pearce, "During the long months of boredom on the Kenyan coast or in hospital in Mombasa, Campbell began to brood over his predicament. In particular, he began to resent the fact that, in spite of his efforts to fight against Hitler, he was still being branded a fascist for having supported Franco. He compared his own position as a volunteer in the armed services with the position of leading left-wing poets such as Louis MacNeice, Stephen Spender, W.H. Auden, and Cecil Day-Lewis, who had settled for 'soft jobs' at home or, in the case of Auden, had emigrated to the United States at the first hint of the coming war."[115]

On 2 April 1944, Roy Campbell was medically discharged from the British Army owing to chronic osteoarthritis in his left hip.[11] The intention was to transport him home to England, but due to an administrative error, he was sent by sea to South Africa aboard the Free Dutch hospital ships Oranje.

Of his arrival in his native Durban, Campbell later recalled, "I had already discarded my crutches and was able to get about with two sticks. Two of my brothers, whom I hadn't seen for eighteen years, were on leave from the South African Forces in Durban – one a Colonel in the South African Air Force, the other a Sergeant-Major in the Anti-Tanks. We drove about revisiting old scenes with my mother, sister and eldest brother, and recalling a thousand happy incidents which I had forgotten.[116]

After, "four weeks of sheer paradise," Campbell reboarded the Oranje to return to England.[116] He later wrote, "As the Oranje began to sail out of Port Natal harbour, after refueling on Salisbury Island, I saw the great town of Durban, which I had known when it was little more than a village, rising up so steeply, in tiers of skyscrapers, that nearly all the landmarks I had previously known were dwarfed or hidden by the new buildings. Yet everywhere I could seemarks of what members of my family of ex-Irish bogtrotters have done to decorate, enliven, or deface the landscape, monuments of their energy, fantasy, or eccentricity, were visible in the shape of universities, colleges, hospitals, gardens, statues, and plantations."[117]

Early in June the Oranje set sail through the Suez Canal, arriving in Liverpool towards the end of the month. After convalescing in a hospital in Stockport, Campbell rejoined his wife; since their house in Campden Grove had been severely damaged in a German bombing raid, the Campbells lived for a time in Oxford with the Catholic writers Bernard and Barbara Wall.[118]

On 5 October 1944, Campbell spent an evening with C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien at Magdalen College, Oxford. In 1962, Lewis recalled that he detested what he dubbed, "Campbell's particular blend of Catholicism and Fascism".[119]

When he met Campbell, Lewis, feeling belligerent after consuming several glasses of port, recited his poem To the Author of Flowering Rifle aloud, while Campbell laughed off the provocation.

Tolkien, who was then hard at work writing The Lord of the Rings, found their conversation with Campbell delightful. In a letter to his son Christopher, Tolkien compared Campbell to Trotter, a torture-crippled hobbit in his novel, who would be renamed Aragorn in later drafts. Tolkien described Campbell as follows, "Here is a scion of an Ulster prot. family resident in S. 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 [...][65]

According to Tolkien, Lewis' belief that support for the Nationalists equated to Fascism was grounded in a refusal to face facts about Republican war crimes, which in turn was based in residual Anti-Catholicism from his Protestant upbringing in Northern Ireland, "But hatred of our church is after all the real foundation of the C[hurch] of E[ngland] — so deep laid that it remains even when all the superstructure seems removed (C.S.L. for instance reveres the Blessed Sacrament, and admires nuns!). Yet if a Lutheran is put in jail he is up in arms; but if Catholic priests are slaughtered — he disbelieves it (and I daresay really thinks they asked for it). But Campbell shook him up a bit."[65]

According to Joseph Pearce, "Yet, however much Lewis had been 'shaken' by the meeting with Campbell and however much he loathed his politics, the three men parted amicably at the end of the evening. It was midnight when Tolkien and Campbell left Lewis's rooms at Magdalen College with all three agreeing to meet again in the future."[120]

In the aftermath, Campbell joined Tolkien and Lewis at several meetings of the Inklings at Lewis's flat and at The Eagle and Child pub, where Campbell's "poetry, political views, and religious perspectives caused quite a stir."[121]

According to Pearce, "At these gatherings, Campbell and Lewis would continue to cross swords, although it would be their differences on literature rather than religion or politics that would fire the debate. The gist of their differences is encapsulated in one of Lewis's poems, entitled simply, To Roy Campbell, in which he criticizes Campbell for his negative attitude towards Romanticism. Interestingly, however, Lewis's tone is far more friendly than in his violent lampoon To the Author of Flowering Rifle, suggesting that the two men had warmed to each other in subsequent meetings."[120]

At the same time, T.S. Eliot reached out to Campbell and expressed a desire to publish a new volume of Campbell's poetry for Faber & Faber. The two poets met regularly throughout 1945, discussing arrangements for a poetry collection which Campbell titled, Talking Bronco, after Stephen Spender's hostile review of Flowering Rifle in the New Statesman.[120]

Campbell also wrote, "a violently polemical preface," and many verse satires in which he lashed out against Left-Wing poets MacNeice, Spender, Auden, Day-Lewis, and Hugh MacDiarmid, whom he accused, among other things, of cowardice for refusing to "join up" during the war.[122]

According to Pearce, "It fell to Eliot to dissuade him. Like a skilled horseman endeavoring to bring a bronco under control, Eliot worked all his powers of persuasion to bring Campbell to his senses. He hinted that he agreed with Campbell's hostile opinion of much contemporary verse, but added that he still felt it better to abstain from comment, suggesting that Campbell do likewise."[123]

Campbell agreed to drop the preface entirely, but resisted Elliot's efforts to convince him to remove the multiple poems that attacked the Left-Wing poets as well. Reluctantly, Campbell agreed to make all but one of the changes Eliot requested and in particular, softened the attacks against Stephen Spender. What remained, however, "was still destined to cause great offense."[120]

In a letter to Eliot, however, Campbell conceded, "Anyway, it only shows how hard up we are if we consider courage or patriotism as a criterion of poetry. (One might as well condemn the paintings of Cézanne because he deserted from the French Army during the Franco-Prussian War)."[124]

Post-war life[edit]

On 10 April 1947, Campbell, "continued his war of attrition against Spender," by attending a poetry reading by the latter, which was being hosted by the Poetry Society at Bayswater. When Spender stepping up to the podium, Campbell shouted that he wished to, "protest on behalf of the Sergeant's Mess of the King's African Rifles." Campbell then stormed the stage and punched Spender in the face, which left the Communist poet with a bloody nose. Campbell's friends and family immediately removed him from the premises. As wet handkerchiefs were pressed to Spender's nose, he was urged to call the police and press charges. Spender refused, saying, "He is a great poet; he is a great poet. We must try to understand." He then insisted on finishing his poetry reading.[125]

In a letter to the organizer of the event, Campbell wrote, "No doubt you will wonder at my reason for disturbing your session the other night. There was no other option left me by the speaker's own announcement that he was going to denounce me from every public platform as, 'a fascist, a coward, and a liar,' – merely because I had called attention to his war record. As I volunteered when over-age and while my own country (S. Africa) was still neutral, to fight fascism which is merely another form of communism... I could not allow myself to be called a coward by one who during the struggle against fascism had employed no other weapon to the adversary than his own knife and fork and his highly lucrative but innocuous pen – while I was on ranker's pay suffering malaria in the jungle."[126]

On 7 December 1951, Campbell's new memoir Light on a Dark Horse, which his friend Dylan Thomas later dubbed, "this often beautiful and always bee-loud autobiography", was published, "to a mixed reception, scattered reviews, and disappointing sales."[127]

In his new autobiography, Campbell expressed his disgust for South Africa under Apartheid. In one passage, Campbell argued that treating the non-white majority as an underclass in their own country was not only immoral but destructive, "The present disqualification of the native from so many aids to his own betterment is exactly on a part with the natives' treatment of each other. We are behaving about a quarter as badly as the Zulus and Matabeles did to their fellow Bantu, and it will do us little more good than it did them... and we may end by ranking the majority of the population in violent opposition to the white minority, which happened in the mad revolution in Haiti, when the black Emperor, Jean Christope, out-Caesared Nero and Caligula in the name of Liberty and Equality. We must never forget that theoretical Bolshevism is the most attractive dream-bait that was ever invented. Though practical Bolshevism may be the most diabolical and cruel hook ever inserted into bait... You can expect a rustic Zulu to be proof against the seductive blarney which completely seduced the 'knowing and sophisticated' intellectuals of England and Western Europe for so many years."[128]

Spender later broke with the Communist Party of Great Britain and presented Campbell with the 1952 Foyle Prize for his verse translations of St. John of the Cross.[129]

On 1 May 1952, Campbell dined with fellow Catholic convert and satirist Evelyn Waugh. In a subsequent letter to Nancy Mitford, Waugh called Campbell, "a great beautiful simple sweet natured savage," and said that he felt, "quite dizzy from his talking to me."[130]

A few days later, Campbell had lunch with fellow South Africans Laurens van der Post, Enslin du Plessis, Uys Krige, and Alan Paton. During the lunch, the five men composed and signed an open letter to the South African Government, in which they denounced the ruling National Party's plans to disenfranchise Coloured voters. The letter was subsequently published by several South African newspapers.[130]

According to Peter Alexander, even though the open letter, "had little effect", Alan Paton, who was meeting Campbell for the first time, "was immensely impressed by Campbell; he said afterwards that Campbell's conversation had seemed to light up the luncheon-table like a flare."[131]

On 9 May 1952, the Campbells moved to Linhó, Sintra, on the Portuguese Riviera.

In Portugal, Campbell completed his translations of the complete poems of Charles Baudelaire.

Campbell then spent the rest of 1952 translating Eça de Queirós' novel Cousin Basilio into English from the original Portuguese. Campbell's Portuguese was still imperfect and he had to consult the dictionary almost constantly. Translating the novel so obsessed Campbell that he spoke of nothing else and the characters seemed as real to him as his own family. According to Peter Alexander, Campbell's family, "were all very relieved when he finished the work and these ghostly companions haunted them no more."[132]

Campbell also acted as a literary mentor to fellow poet Robert Lyle, with whom he would often stay up late into the night drinking wine, telling jokes, and talking about poetry. In addition to critiquing each other's verse, Campbell would often break into song for hours at a time,especially when the wine flowed. His repertoire included the Scottish Border ballads, the ragtime songs of the 1910s and '20s, and South African folk songs such as Ferreira and Sarie Marais.[132]

Lecture Tour[edit]

In October 1953, Campbell embarked aboard the MS Vulcania at Lisbon for a voyage to Halifax, Nova Scotia followed by a lecture tour of Canada and the United States. The tour had been suggested and organized by John Sutherland, a well-known Canadian poet, literary critic, and editor of the Montreal-based literary magazine Northern Review, whom Campbell had already been corresponding with for quite some time.[133]

During the voyage, Campbell once stood upon the darkened prow of the Vulcania at 2am, while loudly reciting the poetry of Lord Byron and Robert Lyle's Atlantica. On 20 October 1953, the ship docked at Halifax, where Campbell was, "delighted with the beauty of the autumnal woods, red maples flaming among the conifers."[133]

Campbell's first lecture was at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.[133]

Sutherland later felt that the tour was largely a success, though it did cause protests to be organized by members of the American and Canadian Communist Parties against Campbell's allegedly "Fascistic opinions".[134]

South Africa[edit]

In December 1953, Campbell learned that the University of Natal wished to confer an honorary doctorate upon him. Overjoyed, "at this belated recognition from his native land," Campbell began planning what would be his final visit to South Africa.[135]

On 10 March 1954, Campbell flew from Lisbon to Rome, where was both bankrupted and delayed for four days by the need for an expensive yellow fever injection.[136]

On 14 March, he finally boarded a South African Airways flight to Johannesburg by way of Khartoum. Campbell later recalled that the airplane flew into Khartoum just after dawn, which afforded him a view of, "a magnificent sunrise over the windings of the Nile."[135]

When Campbell arrived in Durban on 18 March, he was greeted by his brother George, his former schoolmaster Cecil (Bill) Payn, and many other friends and acquaintances, who swept him off to a rowdy party.[135]

While staying with his elderly mother, Campbell wrote to his friend Rob Lyle, "I'm sitting on my mother's stoep overlooking Pietermaritzburg, Table Mountain, and the Valley of a Thousand Hills. From her back stoep you can see the Drakensburg range, Cobalt and indigo taking up the whole horizon with incredible rock formations... like rampaging dragons and saw-toothed dinosaurs. Nearer, bright green and yellow, forests and crags, are the Kaarkloof and Inthloraan ranges."[135]

Pietermaritzburg City Hall

The honorary degree was awarded in a graduation ceremony at Pietermaritzburg City Hall on 20 March 1954. At the ceremony, Campbell abandoned his carefully prepared notes and instead of giving, "the dignified discussion of poetry his audience expected, he trotted out all his political hobby-horses."[136]

Even though he was well aware that his Anglo-African audience was overwhelmingly Pro-British and Pro-Empire, Campbell launched into a vigorous denunciation of both the United Kingdom and the British Empire[137] and an expression of his rekindled, "love for South Africa". Even though Campbell also denounced South African Prime Minister D.F. Malan and the White Supremacist National Party for what he called, "the dangerous and suicidal plight of our country," the damage was already done and Campbell's speech was interpreted by his hearers as a defense of Apartheid. Campbell's audience also listened with mounting horror as he dubbed Winston Churchill, "a valiant but superannuated Beefeater," and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, "a tittering zombie," for having given Eastern Europe to Joseph Stalin during the Yalta Conference. Campbell also characteristically praised the anti-communist government of Spain under Franco.[138]

According to Peter Alexander, "Into this diatribe, he sandwiched attacks on such diverse targets as poetic obscurity, bureaucratic government, Geoffrey Grigson and Stephen Spender, Romanticism, William Morris, Aldous Huxley, and the United Nations; he ended by condemning 'academic pedants.' He seems to have been appalled himself at the effect this characteristic whirl of prejudices had on his dumbfounded academic audience; but once he had begun he had no choice but to go on desperately, sweat pouring down his face."[137]

When Campbell finally sat down, the applause was noticeably muted and the Natal Witness later reported, "The inspiring crash of dropping bricks echoed through Pietermaritzburg City Hall."[138][137]

In a letter written the following day to Rob Lyle, Campbell enchoed the political opinions expressed in his speech, but also accurately accused D.F. Malan and the National Party of Anti-Catholicism. Campbell also expressed a belief, however, that critics of Apartheid were guilty of hypocrisy if they did not also condemn racial segregation and Jim Crow Laws in the American South. He wrote, "...the whole of the situation here has been criminally exaggerated – Zulus and Indians who got their MAs and BAs kneeling on the same cushion as me got uproarious applause from the Whites. Throughout half the USA they wouldn't even have been allowed in the same Hall."[139]

In a letter to Edith Sitwell, Campbell echoed the opinions of his speech at the City Hall. Churchill was once again dubbed a, "valiant but stupid beefeater," and Roosevelt was once again dubbed, "a tittering zombie," but also, "a criminal moron if ever there was one." Campbell also expressed anger that, "Franco, the only man who ever fooled Stalin and Hitler has been called a puppet." According to Pearce, Campbell, "also claimed, in an amazing example of selective and wishful thinking, that Spain, Portugal, and Ireland were all, 'run on papal encyclicals by kindly people.'"[140]

In a letter from their farm in Portugal, Mary Campbell wrote, "All I know is that I have had enough of being quite alone here, and I am longing for you to come back."[140]

Campbell replied, "I am longing to see you my beloved – but this is the last time I will ever set eyes on my beloved country (how I love it!) so let me take in all I can before I finish with it."[140]

Before he left South Africa for the last time, Campbell spent a week fishing with his brother on the coast near Port Edward. He also attended his sister Ethel's funeral after she died in April after a long illness. During a trip to Hluhluwe game reserve, Campbell's attempt to secure a photograph of himself bullfighting a Black Rhinoceros with his duffelcoat ended disastrously. He later wrote to his friend Charles Ley, "We had a lot of fun in Mozambique and Zululand: a rhino went for our jeep, smashed the bonnet, and removed the number plate. We took wonderful photos of Rhinos, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, gnus, hippos, crocs, and hundreds of different antelopes and zebras."[141]


Campbell arrived home in Portugal on 14 May 1954. He learned that his daughter Tess had been seeing a man named Ignatius Custodio and that, due to her pregnancy, a rushed wedding was being planned. Even though Custodio was "bitterly anti-clerical," he grudgingly agreed to Tess' insistence on having a Roman Catholic Nuptial Mass, which took place on 7 August 1954. Within two weeks, however, Ignatius deserted Tess for another woman.[142]

Also during the summer of 1954, Campbell found himself once again sick with malaria. He spent much of that summer in bed translating Spanish plays for the BBC.[142]

After the birth of his grandson, Campbell wrote to Charles Ley in February 1955, "Tess's baby is doing fine. His name – Francisco. The father called him after Frank Sinatra: but we say we called him after the Caudillo."[142]

During the 1950s, Campbell was also a contributor to The European, a magazine published in France and edited by Diana Mosley. The European could also boast contributions from Ezra Pound and Henry Williamson.[143]

After Campbell's conversion to Catholicism, he wrote spiritual verse. Campbell also wrote travel guides and children's literature. He began translating poetry from languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, Latin, and French. Among the poets he translated were Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo, the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, the Brazilian poet Manuel Bandeira, the Ancient Roman poet Horace, and the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío.

Campbell also produced sensitive translations into English of Federico García Lorca, a Spanish poet, outspoken Marxist, and homosexual, who was abducted and murdered by the Nationalists at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.[144][145] In a self-deprecating poem titled "On the Martyrdom of F. Garcia Lorca", Campbell wrote,

Not only did he lose his life
By shots assassinated:
But with a hammer and a knife
Was after that—translated.[146]


Roy Campbell died in a car accident near Setúbal, Portugal, on Easter Monday, 1957. The Campbells were returning home from attending Easter Sunday in Seville.

According to his daughter Anna Campbell Lyle, "On the day, in fact at the very hour, that Father was dying in a car crash on a lonely road in Portugal, I was buying a black coat at Simpson's in Piccadilly. It was 3:30 in the afternoon of the 23rd of April 1957 – the birthday and, according to tradition, also the death day of Shakespeare. The car my parents were travelling in, a small Fiat 300, had one very worn Tyre. Mary, my mother, who did all the driving, thought she had had this Tyre put at the back, but the mechanic made a mistake when servicing the car, and put it in front of the right hand side where my father sat. He was a big man and under his weight the tyre which had held out since Seville burst, and the car crashed into a tree on a lonely road near Setubal, south of Lisbon. Both my parents were knocked unconscious instantly. Father was driven to a hospital at Setubal by some people who passed shortly after the accident. He died on the way, after murmuring some words and giving two deep sighs. Mother recovered after a long convalescence, but she was never the same, brave optimist again; though she did retain her sense of humour and enchantment. Certainly a part of her died with Father and she blamed herself for his death. This was nonsense; fate had joined them; fate had now separated them".[147]

Anna also writes, "Mary was deeply religious and it was a great happiness to her to know that Father had died two days after receiving the Sacrament on Easter Sunday, so that he was in a State of Grace when his soul left his body. Father was buried in the cemetery of São Pedro in Sintra (the Cintra of Byron's Childe Harold) on the 26th. I often go there to take flowers to his tomb in which Mary now lies. This is not to be their last resting place. The South Africans want their greatest poet to be buried in what was, when all is said, the part of the planet he loved most."[148]

According to South African Campbell scholar Judith Lütge Coullie, however, inquiries about efforts to repatriate Roy and Mary Campbell's remains to South Africa "have drawn a blank. It is unlikely, however, to be a priority in post-Apartheid South Africa."[148]

At the time of his death, Campbell was working upon translations of 16th- and 17th-century Spanish plays. Although only the rough drafts were completed, Campbell's work was posthumously edited for publication by Eric Bentley under the title, Life Is a Dream and Other Spanish Classics.


In a 2012 article for the Sunday Times, Tim Cartwright wrote, "In later life, when Alan Paton set out to write Campbell's biography, it was Mary Campbell's absolute refusal to discuss [her affair with Vita Sackville-West] that led to Paton's abandoning the book. Paton, quite rightly, regarded this as the turning point in Campbell's life."[5]

Meanwhile, Campbell's satirical poetry mocking the Marxism, Nihilism, narcissism, and promiscuity of the British intelligentsia caused him to be a very controversial figure throughout the English-speaking world during and long after his lifetime.

Furthermore, Campbell's similar attacks in both Voorslag and The Wayzgoose of what he saw as the racism, philistinism, and parasitism of White South Africans made Campbell an equally controversial figure in South Africa under Apartheid.

In his 1982 book, The Adversary Within: Dissident Writers in Afrikaans, anti-apartheid South African author Jack Cope praised, "the Voorslag Affair", as, "one of the most significant moral and intellectual revolts in the country's literary history." Cope further praised Roy Campbell, William Plomer, and Laurens van der Post, saying, "Their brief but glorious sortie helped to break up the smug and comfy little bushveld camp of colonial English writing which had been sending up it's pipe fumes, coffee scents, and smoke screens for a century past."[2]

Furthermore, through his friendship and mentorship of Afrikaner poet Uys Krige, Roy Campbell's legacy also includes an enormous influence over the subsequent development of Afrikaans literature. Also according to Jack Cope, Uys Krige's linguistic and literary talents, his passion for French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese literature, and having absorbed the literary translation philosophy of Roy Campbell made Krige the greatest translator of poetry from Romance languages into Afrikaans during the 20th century.[149] In addition to his acclaimed translations of both European and Latin American poetry, Uys Krige also translated many of the works of William Shakespeare into Afrikaans from Elizabethan English. [150]

Furthermore, Krige would also go on to become a literary and political mentor to the many young Afrikaans language poets and writers of the literary movement known as the Sestigers,[151] which Louise Viljoen, in her biography of poetess Ingrid Jonker, has described as nothing less than, "a cultural revolt," against Apartheid and the National Party from within, "the heart of Afrikanerdom." Due in large part to Krige's influence, membership in the Afrikaner intelligentsia in South Africa under Apartheid became synonymous with opposition to the South African Government.

Elsewhere, however, although Campbell's translations of the French Symbolist poets Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud have been reprinted in a few modern poetry anthologies, Campbell's support for Francisco Franco's Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War has caused him to continue being labelled as a Fascist and blacklisted from the vast majority of other poetry anthologies and university literature courses.

According to his daughters and his biographer Joseph Pearce, however, the Campbell's opposition to the Second Spanish Republic was based on personal experience with both Republican war crimes and with the systematic religious persecution that targeted both the clergy and laity of the Catholic Church in Spain. Also according to Pearce, Campbell's verse satires, which his wife and daughters often begged him to stop writing, were modelled after the very similar poetry published in 17th- and 18th-century England by satirists John Dryden and Alexander Pope,[152][153][154] who in turn had modelled their poems upon the satirical verse of Ancient Roman poets Gaius Lucilius, Catullus, Martial, and Juvenal.

Other scholars have also made efforts to restore Roy Campbell's reputation and his place in World Literature.

For example, in a 1968 lecture at Harvard University, Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges praised Campbell's translations of the mystical Christian poetry of St. John of the Cross. Borges called Campbell, "a great Scottish poet who is also South African", and cited Campbell's renderings of St. John's poetry as an example of how literary translation can produce superior works of poetry to the original poems in the original language.[155]

Furthermore, Campbell may be credited with bringing the traditions of mock epics and satirical poetry in heroic couplets from the lifetimes of John Dryden and Alexander Pope into the 20th century and with updating both traditions accordingly. In this regard, Campbell continues to have followers, particularly in the literary movement within American poetry known as New Formalism.

In 1981, American poet and satirist R.S. Gwynn, a native of North Carolina, published one of the best known examples, The Narcissiad. Literary critic Robert McPhillips has dubbed Gwynn's The Narcissiad, "a Popean mock epic lambasting contemporary poets".[156]

Dana Gioia has also written of The Narcissiad, "Formal and satiric, this mock epic in heroic couplets pilloried the excesses of contemporary American poetry by recounting the adventures of Narcissicus, an ambitious but talentless poet. In Gwynn's mercilessly satiric tale American poets simultaneously realize that to achieve artistic fame in the overcrowded field of contemporary verse they must kill all competitors. After a series of outrageous comic battles fought by recognizable caricatures of fashionable American poets, Narcissus ineptly triumphs. Gwynn's irreverent poem cannot have pleased the irreverent targets of his humor, but it enjoyed a lively underground life and has been repeatedly reprinted."[157]

When The Narcissiad, takes aim at Confessional poetry, Gwynn used a level of invective that would have made Campbell proud:

"Our Younger Poet, weaned early from his bottle,
Begins to cast about for a role-model
And lacking knowledge of the great tradition,
Pulls from the bookstore shelf a slim edition
Of Poems of Now, and takes the offered bait,
And thus becomes the next initiate.
If male he takes his starting point from Lowell
And fearlessly parades his suffering soul
Through therapy, shock-treatments, and divorce
Until he whips the skin from a dead horse.
His female counterpart descends from Plath
And wanders down a self-destructive path
Laying the blame on Daddy while she guides
Her readers to their template suicides –
Forgetting in her addled state, alas,
Her all-electric oven has no gas."[158]

Furthermore, the essays which comprise American Catholic literary critic and poet James Matthew Wilson's 2016 book The Fortunes of Poetry in an Age of Unmaking were inspired by Wilson's experiences while attending a convention of the Modern Language Association during the early 2000s. During the convention, a female scholar praised Anglo-Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen for being an only child and used Bowen to attack, "purveyors of hate," like Patrick J. Buchanan, who have praised having large families. Another scholar praised Irish playwright Samuel Beckett and used, "the famous inaction and infertility," within Beckett's plays to denounce the Roman Catholic Church for discouraging disparity of cult marriages and for similarly encouraging large families. Wilson commented, "Much like the Bowen scholar before him, he seemed interested in his author primarily as a means of striking a blow against birth."[159]

In response, Wilson writes that he was reminded of Roy Campbell's mockery of similar ideas among the British intelligentsia of the 1930s in the poem The Flowering Rifle. In the poem, Campbell vowed to, "flaunt Truth:

Before the senile owl-roosts of our youth
Whom monkeys' glands seem powerless to restore,
As Birth Control was profitless before,
Which sponsored by their mockery of a Church,
Like stranded barbels, left them in the lurch,
Whose only impact on the world's affairs,
Has been to cause a boom in Rubber shares,
Who come to battle with both arms held up
And ask to be invited home to sup –
While back at home, to sound their battle-horn,
Some self-aborted pedants stray forlorn
And pity those who venture to be born."[160]

Literary style[edit]

Much of Campbell's verse was satirical and written in heroic couplets, a form otherwise rare in 20th-century English verse. Rhymed verse was generally his favoured medium. One modern assessment of his poetry is that "he was vigorous in all he wrote, but not distinctly original."[161]

This is Campbell celebrating fertility and sexuality, in an extract from The Flaming Terrapin (1924):

Maternal Earth stirs redly from beneath
Her blue sea-blanket and her quilt of sky,
A giant Anadyomene from the sheath
And chrysalis of darkness; till we spy
Her vast barbaric haunches, furred with trees,
Stretched on the continents, and see her hair
Combed in a surf of fire along the breeze
To curl about the dim sierras, where
Faint snow-peaks catch the sun's far-swivelled beams:
And, tinder to his rays, the mountain-streams
Kindle, and volleying with a thunderstroke
Out of their roaring gullies, burst in smoke
To shred themselves as fine as women's hair,
And hoop gay rainbows on the sunlit air.

On the subject of nature, Campbell produced poetry such as this in his The Zebras (1930):

From the dark woods that breathe of fallen showers,
Harnessed with level rays in golden reins,
The zebras draw the dawn across the plains
Wading knee-deep among the scarlet flowers.
The sunlight, zithering their flanks with fire,
Flashes between the shadows as they pass
Barred with electric tremors through the grass
Like wind along the gold strings of a lyre.

Into the flushed air snorting rosy plumes
That smoulder round their feet in drifting fumes,
With dove-like voices call the distant fillies,
While round the herds the stallion wheels his flight,
Engine of beauty volted with delight,
To roll his mare among the trampled lilies.

In popular culture[edit]

Selected works[edit]

  • 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)
  • Sons of the mistral (1938)
  • Talking Bronco (1946)
  • Poems of Baudelaire: A Translation of Les Fleurs du Mal (1946)
  • Light on a Dark Horse: An Autobiography (1952)
  • Lorca (1952)
  • Cousin Bazilio by José Maria de Eça de Queiroz (Trans. 1953)
  • The Mamba's Precipice (1953) (Children's story)
  • Nativity (1954)
  • Portugal (1957)
  • Wyndham Lewis (1985)


  1. ^ Perkins, David (1976). A History of Modern Poetry. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. pp. 184–186. ISBN 0-674-39946-3.
  2. ^ a b Jack Cope (1982), The Adversary Within: Dissident Writers in Afrikaans, page x.
  3. ^ Judith Lütge Coullie (2011), Remembering Roy Campbell: The Memoirs of his Daughters Anna and Tess, pages xx.
  4. ^ Scruton, Roger (October 2009). "A Dark Horse". Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  5. ^ a b Between the Lines by Tim Cartwright. Sunday Times, 21 August 2012.
  6. ^ Campbell (1952), page 4.
  7. ^ a b c Pearce (2004), page 4.
  8. ^ a b c d Campbell (1952), page 3.
  9. ^ Pearce (2004), pages 4–5.
  10. ^ Pearce (2004), pages 2–3.
  11. ^ a b c d e f The Dictionary of National Biography
  12. ^ Pearce (2004), page 5.
  13. ^ Pearce (2004), pages 5–6.
  14. ^ Pearce (2004), page 6.
  15. ^ Pearce (2004), pages 1–2.
  16. ^ Pearce (2004), page 2.
  17. ^ Roy Campbell (1951),Light on a Dark Horse, Hollis & Carter, London. Page 30.
  18. ^ Campbell (1951), page 30.
  19. ^ Campbell (1952), Light on a Dark Horse, page 22.
  20. ^ Pearce (2004), page 7.
  21. ^ Campbell (1952), Light on a Dark Horse, page 23.
  22. ^ Campbell (1951), page 46.
  23. ^ Pearce (2004), pages 7–8.
  24. ^ Pearce (2004), page 9.
  25. ^ Roy Campbell (1934), Broken Record, page 59.
  26. ^ Pearce (2004), page 10.
  27. ^ Roy Campbell (2001), Selected Poems, Edited and Introduced by Joseph Pearce. Pages 6–7.
  28. ^ Campbell (2001), page 5.
  29. ^ Campbell (2001), page 6.
  30. ^ a b Joseph Pearce (2004), Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, ISI Books. Page 21.
  31. ^ a b Joseph Pearce (2004), Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, ISI Books. Page 23.
  32. ^ Joseph Pearce (2004), Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, ISI Books. Page 24.
  33. ^ Joseph Pearce (2004), Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, ISI Books. Pages 24–25.
  34. ^ a b Joseph Pearce (2004), Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, ISI Books. Page 25.
  35. ^ a b c d Joseph Pearce (2004), Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, ISI Books. Page 26.
  36. ^ Pearce (2004), pages 57–58.
  37. ^ a b Pearce (2004), page 58.
  38. ^ Joseph Pearce (2004), Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, ISI Books. Page 27.
  39. ^ Pearce (2004), pages 37–38.
  40. ^ Pearce (2004), pages 27.
  41. ^ Pearce (2004), page 27.
  42. ^ Pearce (2004), pages 27–28.
  43. ^ Pearce (2004), pages 28.
  44. ^ Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), pp. 26, 33–34
  45. ^ Pearce (2004), page 31.
  46. ^ a b Pearce (2004), page 32.
  47. ^ Joseph Pearce (2004), Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, ISI Books. Pages 45–47.
  48. ^ Joseph Pearce (2004), Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, ISI Books. Page 47.
  49. ^ Joseph Pearce (2004), Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, ISI Books. Page 44.
  50. ^ a b c d Joseph Pearce (2004), Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, ISI Books. Page 48.
  51. ^ Joseph Pearce (2004), Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, ISI Books. Page 51.
  52. ^ a b c d e f Joseph Pearce (2004), Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, ISI Books. Page 52.
  53. ^ Joseph Pearce (2004), Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, ISI Books. Pages 53–54.
  54. ^ a b c d Roy Campbell (1952), Light on a Dark Horse: An Autobiography, Henry Regnery Company. Page 223.
  55. ^ Joseph Pearce (2004), Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, ISI Books. Page 53.
  56. ^ Roy Campbell (1952), Light on a Dark Horse: An Autobiography, Henry Regnery Company. Page 222.
  57. ^ Joseph Pearce (2004), Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, ISI Books. Page 55.
  58. ^ Joseph Pearce (2004), Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, ISI Books. Page 54.
  59. ^ a b c d Peter Alexander (1982), Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography, Oxford University Press. Page 32.
  60. ^ Roy Campbell (1952), Light on a Dark Horse: An Autobiography, Henry Regnery Company. Page 224.
  61. ^ Judith Lütge Coullie (2011), Remembering Roy Campbell: The Memoirs of his Daughters Anna and Tess, pages xii.
  62. ^ Joseph Pearce (2004), Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, ISI Books. Pages 55–56.
  63. ^ a b c d Joseph Pearce (2004), Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, ISI Books. Page 56.
  64. ^ Peter Alexander (1982), Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography, Oxford University Press. Page 32-33.
  65. ^ a b c The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, no. 83, to Christopher Tolkien, 6 October 1944
  66. ^ Pearce (2004), pages 56–57.
  67. ^ Peter Alexander (1982), Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography, Oxford University Press. Page 33.
  68. ^ Pearce (2004), pages 58.
  69. ^ Pearce (2004), pages 59.
  70. ^ Pearce (2004), pages 58–59.
  71. ^ Pearce (2004), page 59.
  72. ^ a b Pearce (2004), page 60.
  73. ^ a b c d e Peter Alexander (1982), Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography, Oxford University Press. Page 34.
  74. ^ Pearce (2004), pages 60–61.
  75. ^ Pearce (2004), page 61.
  76. ^ a b Pearce (2004), page 63.
  77. ^ Peter Alexander (1982), Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography, Oxford University Press. Page 34-35.
  78. ^ Peter Alexander (1982), Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography, Oxford University Press. Page 35.
  79. ^ Pearce (2004), page 82.
  80. ^ Pearce (2004), pages 82–83.
  81. ^ Pearce (2004), page 83.
  82. ^ Pearce (2004), pages 83–84.
  83. ^ Joseph Pearce, Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), pp. 81–85, 92–93.
  84. ^ Pearce (2004), page 95.
  85. ^ Roy Campbell (1955), Selected Poems, Henry Regnery Company, Chicago. Pages 27–28.
  86. ^ Campbell (1955), pages 40–43.
  87. ^ Roy Campbell, Selected Poems, Henry Regnery Company, 1955. Pages 243–268.
  88. ^ Pearce (2004), page 423.
  89. ^ American Spectator, October 2009. [1]
  90. ^ Joseph Pearce, Roy Campbell; Selected Poems, Saint Austin Press, 2001. Page xx.
  91. ^ Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), p. 195
  92. ^ Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), pp. 199–200
  93. ^ Joseph Pearce, Literary Giants, Literary Catholics, Ignatius Press, 2001. Pages 196–197.
  94. ^ Roy Campbell; Selected Poems, Saint Austin Press, 2001. Edited by Joseph Pearce. pp. 52–60.
  95. ^ Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), p. 247
  96. ^ Pearce (2004), pages 249–260.
  97. ^ Pearce (2004), pages 259–260.
  98. ^ Bolton, Kerry, Artists of the Right, Counter-Currents Publishing, USA, 2012
  99. ^ Pearce (2004), page 422.
  100. ^ a b Pearce (2004), page 261.
  101. ^ Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), p. 267
  102. ^ Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), pp. 269–272
  103. ^ Christopher Othen, Franco's International Brigades: Foreign Volunteers and Fascist Dictators in the Spanish Civil War (Destino, 2007) p. 107
  104. ^ Roy Campbell: Selected Poems, Edited and Introduced by Joseph Pearce. Saint Austin Press, London, 2001. Page 65.
  105. ^ Judith Lütge Coullie (2011), Remembering Roy Campbell: The Memoirs of his Daughters Anna and Tess, pages xii–xiii.
  106. ^ MacDiarmid, Hugh, 'The Battle Continues' (1957) in MacDiarmid, Complete Poems 1920–1976, Volume II London: Martin Brien & O'Keeffe, 1978), p. 905
  107. ^ C. S. Lewis: "To the Author of Flowering Rifle", The Cherwell, 6 May 1939
  108. ^ Joseph Pearce, Literary Giants, Literary Catholics, Ignatius Press, 2005. Page 236.
  109. ^ Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), pp. 281–294
  110. ^ Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), pp. 318, 321
  111. ^ Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), p. 323
  112. ^ a b c Campbell (1952), page 9
  113. ^ Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), p. 329
  114. ^ Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), p. 330
  115. ^ Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), p. 333.
  116. ^ a b Campbell (1952), page x.
  117. ^ Campbell (1952), page xi.
  118. ^ Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), p. 335
  119. ^ Humphrey Carpenter: The Inklings. C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and their friends, Unwin Paperbacks (1981), p. 192.
  120. ^ a b c d Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), p. 343.
  121. ^ Glyer, Diana (2007). The Company They Keep. Kent, OH: Kent State UP. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-87338-890-0.
  122. ^ Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), p. 343–344.
  123. ^ Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), p. 344.
  124. ^ Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), p. 344–345.
  125. ^ Peter Alexander, Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography, 214; Joseph Pearce, Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, pages 376–377; Parsons, D. S. J. Roy Campbell: A Descriptive and Annotated Bibliography with Notes on Unpublished Sources, New York: Garland Pub, 1981, 155.
  126. ^ Pearce (2004), page 377.
  127. ^ Peter Alexander (1982), Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography, page 222.
  128. ^ Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), pages 402–403.
  129. ^ Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), p. 397.
  130. ^ a b Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), p. 402.
  131. ^ Peter Alexander (1982), Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography, page 224.
  132. ^ a b Peter Alexander (1982), Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography, page 227.
  133. ^ a b c Peter Alexander (1982), Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography, page 228.
  134. ^ The Letters of John Sutherland, Bruce Whiteman, ed. (Toronto: ECW Press, 1992), p. 285.
  135. ^ a b c d Pearce (2004), page 412.
  136. ^ a b Peter Alexander (1982), Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography, page 231.
  137. ^ a b c Peter Alexander (1982), Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography, page 232.
  138. ^ a b Pearce (2004), page 413.
  139. ^ Pearce (2004), page 413-414.
  140. ^ a b c Pearce (2004), page 414.
  141. ^ Pearce (2004), page 415-415.
  142. ^ a b c Pearce (2004), page 415.
  143. ^ The Daily Telegraph, obituary of Lady Mosley, 13 August 2003.
  144. ^ The Oxford Companion to English Literature
  145. ^ Roy Campbell; Selected Poems, Saint Austin Press, London, 2001. Pages 124–134.
  146. ^ Roy Campbell, Selected Poems, Henry Regnery Company, 1955. Page 283. "On the Martyrdom of F. Garcia Lorca."
  147. ^ Anna and Teresa Campbell (2011), Remembering Roy Campbell: The Memoirs of His Daughters Anna and Tess, Winged Lion Press. Edited by Judith Lütge Coullie. Preface by Joseph Pearce. Page 1.
  148. ^ a b Anna and Teresa Campbell (2011), page 3.
  149. ^ Cope, Jack, The Adversary Within, Dissident Writers in Afrikaans, David Philip, Cape Town 1982, p.38.
  150. ^ Cope, Jack, The Adversary Within, Dissident Writers in Afrikaans, David Philip, Cape Town 1982, pp.38.
  151. ^ Barnard, Ian (Winter 1992). "The "Tagtigers"?: The (Un) Politics of Language in the "New" Afrikaans Fiction". Research in African Literatures. Indiana University Press. 23 (4): 77–95.
  152. ^ "Roy Campbell: Bombast and Fire" – Catholic Author's article
  153. ^ Joseph Pearce, "Introduction," in Roy Campbell: Selected Poems (London: Saint Austin Press, 2001), xxv
  154. ^ "A Dark Horse" American Spectator
  155. ^ Jorge Luis Borges, This Craft of Verse, Harvard University Press, 2000. Pages 64–65.
  156. ^ Robert McPhillips (2006), The New Formalism: A Critical Introduction, Textos Books. Page 98.
  157. ^ Dana Gioia (2004), Twentieth Century American Poetry, page 962.
  158. ^ R.S. Gwynn (2001), No Word of Farewell: Selected Poems 1970–2000, Story Line Press. Page 109.
  159. ^ James Matthew Wilson (2016), The Fortunes of Poetry in an Age of Unmaking, Wiseblood Books. Page 16.
  160. ^ James Matthew Wilson (2016), The Fortunes of Poetry in an Age of Unmaking, Wiseblood Books. Pages 16–17.
  161. ^ The Bloomsbury Guide to English Literature, Bloomsbury: 1989


Books about Roy Campbell[edit]

External links[edit]