Roy Campbell (1901–1957) was a South African poet and satirist.
He was born in 1901 in Durban and was educated at Durban High School.
His first loves were literature and the outdoor life. He became an accomplished horseman and fisherman and was fluent in Zulu
He left South Africa in 1918 intending to matriculate at Oxford University. He never did, yet his intellectual life bloomed in the university city. He wrote verse imitations of T.S. Eliot and Paul Verlaine, and later met Eliot, the Sitwells, and Wyndham Lewis. He published his first collection of poems The Flaming Terrapin 1924 when he was just 22.
This established his reputation as a rising star. Moving in the literary set, he criticised the Bloomsbury Group whom he thought were sexually promiscuous, snobbish, and somewhat anti-Christian.
His satire The Georgiad (published in 1931) was a scathing attack on them. His wife’s affair with Vita Sackville-West (who was the lover of Virginia Woolf) was a contributing cause to this.
Returning to South Africa, he started Voorslag a literary magazine. However, he found the local cultural scene to be too introspective. After publishing the satirical poem The Wayzgoose 1928 he moved to France.
The French period saw the publication of Adamastor (1930), Poems (1930), The Georgiad (1931) and the first volume of his autobiography Broken Record (1934).
Moving on to Spain, he supported General Francisco Franco and the Nationalist Army during the Spanish Civil War. Finding great sympathy with the Catholic faith, he and his family converted in the small Spanish village of Altea in 1935. His support for Franco was expressed in Flowering Rifle 1939.
This support made him many enemies but he was convinced that the civil war was a basic conflict between Christian standards and tradition and communist atheism. Most Western artists and writer’s sympathies lay with the republicans during this time. His support against the weight of public opinion has coloured the later reviews and analysis of his work.
Although he served in the British Army during the Second World War (reaching the rank of sergeant) and fought against the same fascists that he had once supported, his reputation never recovered.
Campbell was invalided out of the army in 1944. He subsequently moved to Portugal in 1952. Here the second volume of his autobiography Light on a Dark Horse was published. He was killed in a car accident in 1957.
Campbell’s conversion to Catholicism inspired him to write what some consider to be the finest spiritual verse of his generation. He translated the poems of St John of the Cross and documented his conversion in verse in Mithraic Emblems 1936.
Although considered by some of his peers e.g. T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas and Edith Sitwell to have been one of the best poets of the 20th century, his uncompromising support of unfashionable causes and his ability for making bitter enemies of influential people resulted in his decline into relative obscurity. Loved and loathed in equal measure, he suffered from the fact that he had the moral courage of his convictions and refused to be ‘politically correct’.
Voorslag 1926-1927 a monthly magazine edited by Roy Campbell, William Plomer, Laurens Van der Post Allen & Ulrich
The Georgiad - A Satirical Fantasy in Verse 1931 Boriswood Ltd
Flowering Reeds 1933 Boriswood Limited
Mithraic Emblems 1936
Flowering Rifle 1939
Talking Bronco 1946 Faber & Faber Limited
Adamastor 1950 Paul Koston
The Mamba's precipice 1953 Frederick Muller
Hommage a Roy Campbell / F.-J. Temple ... [et al.] ; choix de poemes, traduits par Armand Guibert 1958 Societe Cevenole du Mercou
Sons of the mistral 1965 Faber and Faber
Light on a Dark Horse: An Autobiography, 1901-1935 ISBN 037001314X Vintage/Ebury
Flaming Terrapin 1970 ISBN 0403005450 Native American Books Distributor
Lorca: An Appreciation of His Poetry 1971 ISBN 0838312268 Haskell House Pub Ltd
Broken Record, Reminiscences: Reminiscences 1971 ISBN 0403005442 Scholarly Press
Wayzgoose : A South African Satire 1971 ISBN 0403005477 Scholarly Pr
Selected poems / Roy Campbell 1981 edited by Marcia Leveson ISBN 0949937932 Ad. Donker
The selected poems of Roy Campbell 1982 chosen by Peter Alexander ISBN 019211946X Oxford University Press
Mass at dawn / Roy Campbell ; a poem set to music by Christopher Connolly 1984 Typographeum
Life Is a Dream, and Other Spanish Classics 1985 Roy Campbell, Eric Bentley ISBN 0879102489 Applause Theatre Book Publishers
Collected works / Roy Campbell 1985-1988 edited by Peter Alexander, Michael Chapman, Marcia Leveson ISBN 0868520756 Ad. Donker
Voorslag : a magazine of South African life and art : facsimile reprint of Numbers 1, 2 and 3 (1926) 1985 edited by Roy Campbell, William Plomer , Laurens van der Post ; with an introduction and notes by Colin Gardner and Michael Chapman ISBN 0869804235 University of Natal Press
Wyndham Lewis 1996 Roy Campbell, Jeffrey Meyers ISBN 086980412X University KwaZulu-Natal Press
The Poems 2000 Saint John of the Cross, Roy Campbell, P.J. Kavanagh, Roy Campbell (Translator) ISBN 1860465897 Trafalgar Square
Books about Roy Campbell
Roy Campbell: A Descriptive and Annotated Bibliography, With Notes on Unpublished Sources 1982 David Parsons, Stewart Japp ISBN 082409526X Garland Science
Poetic Justice : A Memoir of My Father, Roy Campbell 1986 Anna Campbell ISBN 0930126173 Typographeum Bookshop
Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography 1989 Peter Alexander ISBN 0192117505 Oxford University Press
Bloomsbury and Beyond: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell 2002 Joseph Pearce ISBN 0007137753 HarperCollins UK