Ruthven Todd

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Ruthven Campbell Todd (pronounced 'riven') (14 June 1914 – 11 October 1978) was a Scottish poet, artist and novelist, best known as an editor of the works of William Blake, and as a writer of children's books. He wrote detective fiction also under the pseudonym R. T. Campbell.[1]


Born in Edinburgh, Todd was educated at Fettes College and Edinburgh College of Art. After a time in the office of his father, an architect, he worked for two years as an agricultural labourer on Mull.[2] He then started a career in copy-writing and journalism, while writing poetry and novels, living in Edinburgh, London, and later Tilty Mill near Dunmow in Essex (later rented to poet and novelist Elizabeth Smart).

He was involved with the surrealists at the time of the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition. During the 1930s, he was friendly with Dylan Thomas, Geoffrey Grigson, Humphrey Jennings, David Gascoyne[3] and Wyndham Lewis, contributing to the Lewis issue of Julian Symons's Twentieth Century Verse.[2] Lewis recruited Todd to keep awake the dozing Ezra Pound, whose portrait Lewis was painting. A character based on Todd was included in Symons' first detective story, The Immaterial Murder Case. Todd's two allegorical novels Over the Mountain and The Lost Traveller both feature protagonists on symbolic journeys; Todd acknowledged the influence of Lewis and Rex Warner on the latter novel.[1] Over the Mountain, a satire on fascism, has its hero travel to a dystopian nation with an oppressive government.[4] During World War II he was a conscientious objector.[2] He moved to America in 1947, where he held a position at a university in Iowa, and ran the Weekend Press during the 1950s. He contributed to children's literature, with the fifties Space Cat series.[1]

He was married to sculptor Joellen Hall Rapée (1921–2006).[5] In 1960, he settled in El Terreno, Palma de Majorca, Spain, and moved in 1965 to the mountain village of Galilea. He spent the remainder of his life there until his death in 1978.


  • Proems (Fortune Press, 1938) as contributor
  • Over the Mountain (Harrap, 1939)
  • Poets of Tomorrow (Hogarth Press, 1939) as contributor
  • The Laughing Mulatto (Rich and Cowan, [1940]) biography of Alexandre Dumas
  • Ten Poems (privately printed, 1940)
  • William Blake: Songs of Innocence and of Experience (privately printed, 1941) folio of prints
  • Until Now (1942) Fortune Press, poems
  • The Life of William Blake by Alexander Gilchrist (Dent, 1942) as editor
  • Poems for Penny (privately printed, 1942)
  • The Lost Traveller (Grey Walls Press, 1943)
  • The Acreage of the Heart (William Maclellan, 1944) poems
  • The Planet in my Hand (privately printed, 1944) poems
  • Unholy Dying (John Westhouse, 1945) as R. T. Campbell
  • The Planet in my Hand (Grey Walls Press, 1946) poems (different selection from 1944 version)
  • Tracks in the Snow (Grey Walls Press, 1946) essays on William Blake, Henry Fuseli and John Martin
  • First Animal Book (Peter Lunn, 1946) juvenile verses accompanying Thomas Bewick engravings
  • Take thee a Sharp Knife (John Westhouse, 1946) as R. T. Campbell
  • Adventure with a Goat (John Westhouse, 1946) as R. T. Campbell
  • Apollo Wore a Wig (John Westhouse, 1946) as R. T. Campbell
  • Bodies in a Bookshop (John Westhouse, 1946) as R. T. Campbell
  • Death for Madame (John Westhouse, 1946) as R. T. Campbell
  • The Death Cap (John Westhouse, 1946) as R. T. Campbell
  • Swing Low, Swing Death (John Westhouse, 1946) as R. T. Campbell
  • Blake: Songs of Innocence and of Experience (United Book Guild, 1947) as editor
  • William Blake: America, a prophecy (United Book Guild, 1947) as editor
  • A Century of British Painters (Phaidon Press, 1947) as editor, original authors Richard Redgrave and Samuel Redgrave
  • Christopher Smart: A Song to David and other poems (Grey Walls Press, 1947) as editor
  • William Blake: Poems (Grey Walls Press, 1949) as editor
  • In Other Worlds (The Piper's Press, 1951) poems
  • Two Poems: Christmas 1951 (Weekend Press, 1951)
  • Space Cat (Scribner's, 1952) juvenile
  • Loser's Choice (Hermitage House, 1953)
  • The Tropical Fish Book (Fawcett, 1953)
  • Poem: 1954 (privately printed, 1954)
  • A Mantelpiece of Shells (Bonacio and Saul, 1954) poems
  • Trucks, Tractors, and Trailers (Putnam, 1954) juvenile
  • Indian Pipe (privately printed, 1955) poem
  • Space Cat Visits Venus (Scribner's, 1955) juvenile
  • Space Cat Meets Mars (Scribner's, 1957) juvenile
  • Space Cat and the Kittens (Scribner's, 1958) juvenile
  • Tan's Fish (Little, Brown and Co., 1958) juvenile
  • Blake: Selected Poetry (Dell, 1960) as editor
  • Funeral of a Child (privately printed, 1962) poem
  • Garland for the Winter Solstice (Dent, 1961) poems
  • Poetry of the Thirties (Penguin Books, 1964) as contributor
  • The Geography of Faces (privately printed, 1965) poem
  • Blake's Dante Plates (Book Collecting and Library Monthly, 1968)
  • William Blake: The Artist (Studio Vista, 1971)
  • John Berryman 1914–1972 (Poem of the Month Club, 1972) poem
  • Lament of the Cats of Rapallo (privately printed, 1973) poem
  • A Short Happy Poem for Marianne Moore (University of Buffalo, 1973) poem
  • A Godson Born in the 70s (privately printed, 1973) poem
  • The Ghost of Dylan Thomas (Happenstance Press, 2014) posthumously published memoir


  1. ^ a b c John Clute, "Todd, Ruthven", in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, edited by Clute and Peter Nicholls. London, Orbit,1994. ISBN 1-85723-124-4 (p.1299-1300).
  2. ^ a b c David Goldie and Roderick Watson, From the Line: Scottish War Poetry 1914–1945. Glasgow; Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 2014. ISBN 1906841160 (p. 204)
  3. ^ Robert Fraser, Night Thoughts: The Surreal Life of the Poet David Gascoyne Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-19-955814-8 (p. 245-6)
  4. ^ Petra Rau, English Modernism, National Identity and the Germans: 1890 – 1950 Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2009. ISBN 0754656721, (p. 150).
  5. ^ Horrocks, Roger (2001) Len Lye: A Biography, Auckland University Press p250