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Roy Campbell

[1]6,309 words

Editor’s Note:

This much-expanded version of a previously-published essay on Roy Campbell is chapter 10 of Kerry Bolton’s Artists of the Right: Resisting Decadence, forthcoming from Counter-Currents.

Roy Campbell, 1901–1957, was born in the Natal District of South Africa. He enjoyed an idyllic childhood, imbued as much with Zulu traditions and language as with his Scottish heritage.[1] He showed early talent as an artist, but an interest in literature including poetry soon became predominant.[2]

In 1918 he traveled to England to attend Oxford. By this time he was an agnostic with a love for Elizabethan literature.[3] Campbell’s friendship with the composer William Walton at Oxford brought him into contact with such literati as T. S. Eliot, the Sitwells, and Wyndham Lewis.[4] He was by now reading Freud, Darwin, and Nietzsche.[5] He had a distaste for Anglo-Saxonism and the “drabness of England” but found an affinity with the Celts.[6] Campbell identified with the Futurists, but his views are suggestive of the classicism of T. E. Hulme. He also became attached to the Vorticist movement of Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis:

Art is not developed by a lot of long-haired fools in velvet jackets. It develops itself and pulls those fools wherever it wants them to go . . . Futurism is the reaction caused by the faintness, the morbid wistfulness of the symbolists. It is hard, cruel, and glaring, but always robust and healthy.

It is art pulling itself together for another tremendous fight against annihilation. It is wild, distorted, and ugly, like a wrestler coming back for a last tussle against his opponent. The muscles are contorted and rugged, the eyes bulge, and the legs stagger. But there it is, and it has won the victory.[7]

Campbell escaped from England’s “drabness” to Provence where he worked on fishing boats and picked grapes. Despite his agnosticism he was impressed by the simple faith of the peasants and the fishermen with whom he worked  and started writing poems of a religious nature such as Saint Peter of the Three Canals—The Fisher’s Prayer, which took ten years–beginning in 1920—to complete, and portrays Campbell’s spiritual odyssey. He returned to London in 1921, married Mary Garman, and became highly regarded among the Bloomsbury coterie, who were impressed with his rough manners and hard drinking.

His wife inspired his first epic poem The Flaming Terrapin, written while the couple lived for over a year in a remote Welsh village where their first daughter was born. T. E. Lawrence was immediately impressed with the poem and took it to Jonathan Cape for publication.[8] This established Campbell’s reputation as a poet.

Nietzsche, Christ, & the Heroic Poet

The Flaming Terrapin is a combination of Christianity and Nietzsche. In a letter to his parents, Campbell sought to explain the symbolism as being founded on Christ’s statement: “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into fire,” and “Ye are the salt of the earth, but if that salt shall have lost its savor, it shall he scattered abroad and trodden under the feet of men.”

Campbell now realized that Christ was the first to “proclaim the doctrine of heredity and survival of the fittest,” and that his “aristocratic outlook” was misunderstood by Nietzsche as being a religion of the weak. World War I had destroyed the best breeding stock and demoralized humanity. The Russians, for example, had succumbed to Bolshevism. But Campbell hoped that a portion might become ennobled from the suffering.[9]

He continued to explain that the deluge in The Flaming Terrapin represents the World War and that the Noah family represents “the survival of the fittest,” triumphing over the terrors of the storm to colonize the earth. The terrapin in eastern tradition is the tortoise that represents “strength, longevity, endurance, and courage” and is the symbol of the universe. It is this “flaming terrapin” that tows the Ark, and wherever he crawls upon the earth, creation blossoms forth. He is “masculine energy,” and where his voice roars man springs forth from the soil. His acts of creation are born from “action and flesh in one clean fusion.”[10]

The poem, published in 1924 in Britain and the USA, received critical acclaim from the press as a fresh and youthful breath, as breaking free from both the banalities of the past and from the skeptical nihilism of the new generation.

Campbell and his family returned to South Africa where he was welcomed as a celebrity. Campbell lectured on Nietzsche, praising Nietzsche’s condemnation of the meanness of modern democracy.[11] He also started expressing a life-long neo-Luddite attitude to technology:

Our progress in mechanical science during the last century has so far outpaced the development of our intellectual and moral faculties that we have suddenly lost ourselves. All those useful mechanical toys which man primarily invented for his own convenience have begun to tyrannize every moment of his life . . .[12]

This was a theme that concerned Campbell throughout his life. In a poem written a year later entitled “The Serf,” Campbell proclaimed the tiller of the soil as “timeless” as he “ploughs down palaces and thrones and towers.” The tiller of the soil, states a hopeful Campbell, endures through eternity while the cycles of history rise and fall around him. This gives a sense of permanence in a constantly shifting world. It is a theme shared by other literati of the time, in particular Knut Hamsun and Henry Williamson.

His poem in honor of his wife, “Dedication to Mary Campbell,” is Nietzschean in theme but also a criticism of his fellow South Africans, referring to the poet as “living by sterner laws,” as not concerned with their commerce, and as worshipping a god “superbly stronger than their own.”

Estranged from South Africans

In 1925  Campbell became editor of Voorslag[13] and was closely associated with William Plomer whose first novel, Turbott Wolfe, involves inter-racial marriage. However, despite their friendship and Campbell’s disdain for the racial situation in South Africa, he reviewed Plomer’s novel and found it to have “a very strong bias against the white colonists.” Nevertheless, Campbell was not impressed by what he considered as white South Africa, “reclining blissfully in a grocer’s paradise on the labor of the natives.”[14]

Some of Campbell’s poems written in South Africa at this time are considered to be among his best. “To a Pet Cobra” returns to Nietzschean themes, describing poets in heroic terms, the Zarathustrian solitary atop the mountain peaks:

There shines upon the topmost peak of peril
There is not joy like them who fight alone
And in their solitude a tower of pride

Bloomsbury & Provence

On their return to Britain, Campbell and his wife were introduced to the Bloomsbury coterie, including the poetess Vita Sackville-West, her husband the novelist Harold Nicolson, Virginia and Leonard Wolfe, Richard Aldington, Aldous Huxley, Lytton Strachey, et al. The robust Campbell found their refined manners, pervasive homosexuality, and pretentiousness sickening, writing in “Home Thoughts on Bloomsbury” that his own voice is the only one he likes to hear when around all the “clever people.”[15]

It is little wonder that Campbell found such an affinity with the fierce critic of Bloomsbury, Wyndham Lewis, becoming Lewis’ militant defender when Bloomsbury savaged him. Several years later in The Georgiad, Campbell satirizes the dinner parties of Bloomsbury where wishing to stop the “din” of his “dizzy” head he imagines stuffing his ears with meat and bread, and wishes the diners would choke on their food that their chattering would be halted.[16]

To septuagenarian Peter-Pans
To Bloomsburies, to Fabians, to Sissies,
To swotters-up of philosophic blisses,
To busybodies of the wagging tongue
And all whose follies have remained unsung,
Some of whom are good fellows, I admit,
And gain in niceness what they lack in wit:
But whose collective dictatorial rule
Would make the devil in the tamest mule . . .

. . . Our whole identity into one same
Class, sex, community, where even name
And all distinctions in the dust shall slumber . . .

. . . When prudery, anonymity, and chat
Have killed all difference between this and that . . .[17]

In 1928 the Campbells returned to Provence. The atmosphere was altogether different from England’s wealthy socialist intelligentsia, from whom he sought escape. The Campbells fully involved themselves in the community, celebrated the harvest feasts, and welcomed the local folk into their home. Campbell became a celebrated figure in the dangerous sport of “water jousting.”[18] He also assisted in the ring at bullfights. In the customs and culture of the Provencal villagers, he found a stability and permanence in a changing world obsessed by science and “progress.” His own aesthetics, at the basis of his rejection of liberalism and socialism, was a synthesis of the romanticism of Provence and the Classicism of the Graeco-Romans. He admired Caesar and the stoicism and martial ethos of the ancients. His ideal was a combination of aesthete and athlete.

In “Taurine Provence,” which his publisher described as the “philosophy, technique, and religion of the bullfighter,”[19] Campbell writes of this:

So men in whom the heroic principle works will be driven by their very excess of vitality to flaunt their defiance in the face of death or danger, as in the modern arena.[20]

Campbell, freed from the English intelligentsia, now renewed his attack with fury. In an essay on contemporary poetry published in Scrutinies, he states that the dominant philosophy of the contemporary writer is dictated more by fear of discomfort, excitement, or pain than by love of life.”[21] His attack on the “sex-socialism” of Bloomsbury as being flabby and effete is contrasted with his own robust nature that could not fit in with the simpering and decadent atmosphere of the intellectual salon.

Following on from Wyndham Lewis’ scathing attack on Bloomsbury, The Apes of God, which Campbell enjoyed immensely, Campbell wrote his own broadside The Georgiad. This would bring down on him the same mixture of condemnation and silence that the intellectual coterie had used against Wyndham Lewis.

Not surprisingly, Campbell relished being Lewis’ literary “bodyguard.” After the Bloomsbury literary boycott in response to The Apes of God, Campbell wrote Wyndham Lewis: An Essay, but this too was boycotted and was not published until recently. In the essay, Campbell sets out to explain and defend the key polemical positions of Lewis’ books. He describes Lewis’ Paleface, an attack on D. H. Lawrence’s revival of the “cult of the primitive,” as “scrupulously fair,” Lewis and Campbell considering Lawrence to have launched a literary attack on “the consciousness of the European white, [which] exalts the blind tom-tom beating instincts of the savage.”[22] Paleface moreover should be read in conjunction with Lewis’ book Hitler, where Lewis shows that the “racial solution of Hitlerism should not entirely be despised (if not necessarily to be swallowed whole),” whereas the revival of the utopian preconceptions about the noble savage from the 18th century is “an entirely despicable and crass form of sentimentality.”[23]

The 1918 novel Tarr, where Lewis satirizes Parisian bohemia, is described by Campbell as “prophetic and inspired.”[24] Campbell characterized The Art of Being Ruled as

. . . a colossal work which focuses from an entirely new point of view the whole modern social world in a state of transition, and the whole history of the modern social revolution from the time of Rousseau. . . . the liberal-democratic European idea is doomed, for in its tendency towards petty franchises and nationalisms and in its superficial idea of “freedom,” it is anarchistically hostile to the organization of the white race as a whole, and is one of he chief causes of the decline of European power.[25]

Campbell also takes up the theme of the nature of liberal-democracy and plutocracy in describing Doom of Youth where, as Campbell puts it, “it is ‘big business’ that rules the state.”

Instead of centralising itself in the state it rules the masses impersonally and indirectly through the Press, which for all the “freedom” and “independence” of the individual, democracy can turn him into cannon-fodder in two seconds . . . . Big business, of course, with the gradual unification of trusts and cartels, becomes more and more like a dictatorial government, as in the bolshevik state—but not being identified with the life of the state, it operates independently of the welfare of the state, and quite irresponsibly . . .[26]

As for Bloomsbury, The Apes of God “crashes finally and triumphantly through the barriers of modern social and literary shams.”[27] Although the essay was not published during Campbell’s lifetime, his defense of Lewis was still costly to Campbell’s career.

Bulwark of Christendom

In 1933 the Campbells left Provence for Spain due to financial hardship, despite the success of Campbell’s acclaimed volume of poems, Adamastor. This was the final work to be well-received from the Bloomsbury crowd, while The Georgiad received a “conspiracy of silence,” as The Times Literary Supplement was to recall in 1950.

The Campbells arrived in Barcelona, where a right-wing electoral victory resulted in strikes and violence by the anarchists and machine guns were much in evidence on the streets. However, the Campbells were greatly impressed by the traditional Catholic culture.

Campbell described himself for the first time as a “Catholic” in his 1933 autobiography Broken Record, attacking both English Protestantism as “a cowardly form of atheism” and the Freudianism that pervaded the Bloomsbury progressives. He contrasted this with the “traditional human values” that continued to form the basis of Spanish culture. Broken Record was a break with modernism, Campbell writing:

 . . . The modern healer, who has usually more interest in, and sympathy with, the disease than the patient, spreads about ten infections for every one he cures, and invents ten chemical poisons for every cure.[28]

Despite the reference to Catholicism, Campbell had not yet converted, but spiritual questions had long occupied him. An interest in Mithraism had emerged in Provence, where echoes of the cult still remained. Mithraism was the religion most favored by the Roman legions. Its strong martial ethos, together with the mythos of the slaying of the bull,[29] appealed to Campbell.[30]

However, he had also been strongly impressed with the faith and traditionalism of the fishermen and farmers among whom he had been so popular in Provence. His Mithraic Sonnets are a reflection of Campbell’s own spiritual odyssey, beginning with Mithras and ending with the triumph of Christ, a mixture of the two religions. The Mithraic conquering sun, Sol Invictus, the byword of the Roman legions, becomes transmogrified as the Sun of the Son of God, “the shining orb” reflecting as a mirrored shield the image of Christ.[31]

It is with these vague feelings towards Christianity and Catholic culture that the Campbells moved south to the rural village of Altea in 1934. Campbell continued to sing the praises of Catholicism in martial terms, of the solar Christ as the “captain” winning the battle of faith. Spain breathed the martial Catholic tradition, and in The Fight Campbell writes of an aerial dog-fight for his soul, his “red self” of atheism shot down by the “white self” of the Solar Christ, “the unknown pilot.” At Altea, Campbell was again impressed with the “freshness, bravery, and reverence” of the people. In this atmosphere, Campbell’s who family—actually at the initiative of his wife—converted to Catholicism in 1935 and were received by the village priest Father Gregorio.[32]

Campbell’s daughter Anna related many years later that for her father, Spain was the last country left in Europe that was still a pastoral society while much of the rest had become industrialized under the  influence of Protestantism. Such was Campbell’s aversion to machinery that he never used a typewriter or learned to drive.[33]

At this time Campbell wrote “Rust,” the rust of time that brings ruin to the intentions of those who would industrialize and modernize:

So there, and there it gnaws, the Rust,
Shall grind their pylons into dust . . .

Lackeys of Capitalism

Campbell’s political outlook becomes coherent with his religious conversion. An article published in 1935 in the South African magazine The Critic shows just how clear Campbell’s knowledge of politics now was:

The artist as romantic ”rebel” is the tamest mule imaginable. He dates from the industrial era and has been politicized to play into the hands of the great syndicates and cartels. First by dogmatizing immorality, breaking up the “Family,” that one definitive unit that has withstood the whole effort of centuries to enslave, dehumanize, and mechanize the individual, thereby cheapening and multiplying labor. It is the “Intellectual” which had been chiefly politicized into selling his fellow mates to capitalism, whether the capitalism be disguised as a vast inhuman state[34] or whether a gang of individuals. The last century has seen more class-wars, and wars between generations, than any other period. They have been deliberately fostered by capitalism, of which bolshevism is merely an anonymous form.[35] Divide and rule, said Cicero: encourage your slaves to quarrel and your authority will be supreme. A thousand artists and reformers with the highest ideals have leaped ignorantly and romantically into these rackets, and by means of causing hate between man and woman, father and son, class and class, white and black, almost irretrievably embroiled the human individual in profitless, exhausting struggles which leave him at the mercy of the unscrupulous few.[36]

In 1936 Campbell met British Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley, at the suggestion of Wyndham Lewis.[37] Although Campbell declined to join Mosley as British Fascism’s official poet, his poetry was to appear in Mosley’s journals.[38]

Toledo, the Sacred City

The Campbells next moved to Toledo, which had been Spain’s capital under Charles V during the Holy Roman Empire. The city was isolated and timeless, medieval, full of churches, monasteries, convents, and shrines. The old Fortress, the Alcazar, destined to play a pivotal role in the defense of Christendom against Bolshevism, served as a military academy. The city was full of priests, nuns, monks, and soldiers, a combination of the religious, the military, and the traditional that prompted Campbell to call Toledo the “sacred city of the mind.”

The Left-wing Popular Front’s assumption to power resulted in the release of communist and anarchist revolutionaries from gaol amidst increasing political violence in Madrid and Barcelona and street fighting between Left-wing and Right-wing factions.[39] Churches were now being desecrated and destroyed throughout Spain.[40] The violence reached Toledo, despite its Rightist majority, where priests and monks were attacked and a church set ablaze.[41]

The Campbells sheltered several Carmelite monks in their home.[42] Despite the danger, Campbell’s retort later was: “Better a broken head than a broken spirit every time!”[43] Campbell, well known for his anti-Bolshevik views and for his faith, was indeed severely beaten by Government “red” guards and paraded through the streets to police headquarters.[44] His gypsy friend, with whom he was riding at the time of his capture, “Mosquito” Bargas, was murdered at the time of the arrest.[45] In his tribute to his friend, “In Memoriam of Mosquito,” Campbell writes with typical stoicism and faith when beaten bloody and dragged through Toledo:

I never felt such glory
As handcuffs on my wrists.
My body stunned and gory
With tooth marks on my wrists . . .

While Spain was on the verge of civil war and any display of faith was fraught with danger, the Campbells were confirmed into the church by Cardinal Goma, Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain, in a secret ceremony.

In July 1938, the Government’s red guards killed parliamentary opposition leader Calvo Sotelo, the leader of the monarchists.[46] Four days later, the military under General Franco revolted against the Government to restore order and liberty of worship. The Alcazar being a military academy, Toledo was easily taken by Nationalist troops, and peasants from the surrounding countryside fled to the city for refuge from their “proletarian liberators.” The Government militia from Madrid prepared to attack Toledo, and the Alcazar was bombed and shelled. The Campbells hid the rare and valuable archives of the Carmelite monks at their home for the duration of the Civil War, the Carmelite library having been razed.

Seventeen Carmelite monks were herded into the streets by the red forces and shot. Among them was the Campbells’ Father Confessor who died with a smile and the shout of “Long live Christ! Long live Spain!”[47]

In Campbell’s excursion into the city he came across the Carmelites lying in the street and found the bodies of the Marista monks. Smeared in their blood on a wall was: “Thus strike the Cheka,” a reference to the original  Bolshevik secret police. In the city square religious artifacts from churches and private homes were tossed onto bonfires.

In the besieged Alaczar were 800 Civil Guards and 500 civilians, including over 200 children.[48] Under the Command of Colonel Moscardo they held out, even as the Colonel’s 24-year-old son Louis, captured by the Red forces, was compelled to telephone his father and say that he would be shot unless the Alcazar was surrendered. In an epic act of heroism and martyrdom that helped make the Alcazar a shrine to this day, the Colonel replied to his son: “Commend your soul to God, shout ‘Viva Espana!’ And die like a patriot.”[49]

Campbell’s tribute to the Alcazar was published in Mosley’s British Union Quarterly:

The Rock of Faith, the thunder-blasted-
Eternity will hear it rise.
With those who (Hell itself out-lasted)
Will lift it with them to the skies!
Till whispered through the depths of Hell
The censored Miracle be known . . .

The towers and trees were lifted hymns of praise,
The city was a prayer, the land a nun:
The noonday azure strumming all his rays
Sang that a famous battle had been won,
As singing his white Cross, the very Sun,
The Solar Christ and the captain of my days
Zoomed in the azure; and his will was done.[50]

The Campbells left Spain and returned to London. They felt isolated in England, where most of the literati supported the “Left” in the Spanish Civil War.[51] The family soon moved to a fishing village in Portugal, a nation that, under the corporatist regime of Salazar, retained the same spirit of faith and tradition as that for which Spain was fighting to restore.

Campbell returned to Spain as a correspondent for the British Catholic newspaper The Tablet and was given safe conduct to the Madrid front.[52] His desire to enlist in the Nationalist forces was unsuccessful, as the Nationalist authorities were insistent that he could do more good for the cause as a writer. Nonetheless, he was awarded the Cruz de San Fernando for saving life under fire, fourteen times.[53] With the conclusion of the Civil War, the Campbells resettled in Spain, and he was present at the Nationalist victory parade in Madrid.[54]

The Civil War resulted in the murder of 12 bishops, 4,184 priests, 2,365 monks, and around 300 nuns. George Orwell, who had gone to Spain along with others of the literati to fight with the Reds, was to remark that, “Churches were pillaged everywhere as a matter of course. In six months in Spain, I only saw two undamaged churches.”[55]

Flowering Rifle

Campbell’s epic saga Flowering Rifle[56] is a detailed explanation of his political credo inspired by the Civil War. It is a tribute to his Catholicism and to Spain’s faith and martyrdom, as well as a condemnation of the British intelligentsia. In his introductory note, Campbell explains that a hypocritical “humanitarianism” is the “ruling passion” of the British intelligentsia which “sides automatically with the Dog against the Man, the Jew against the Christian, the black against the white, the servant against the master, the criminal against the judge.”

As a form of “moral perversion” it was natural that such humanitarians sided with Bolshevik mass murderers. The poem begins with a description of the (fascist) salute, the “opening palm, of victory” the sign, of “palms triumphant foresting the day.” By contrast is the clenched fist of communism, “a Life-constricting tetanus of fingers,” the sign of an “outworn age” under which “all must starve under the lowest Caste.” The Bloomsbury intelligentsia represents the connection between capitalism and communism. Behind these stand “the Yiddisher’s convulsive gold”: one of many allusions to the prominent role played by Jews in Communism and in the International Brigades.

Spain is heralded as a resurrected nation that might show the rest of Europe the path to regeneration and stand against Bolshevism “which no godless democracy could quell.” The martyrs of the Nationalist cause are described in mystical terms, each death “a splinter of the Cross,” each body building a Cathedral to the sky. Nobility is achieved through suffering and sacrifice, as Christ, the “Captain” suffered. But when suffering and sacrifice are eliminated from life, mankind is “shunned by the angels as effete baboons.”

Primo de Rivera, the charismatic young leader of the Falangists, who had been shot without trial while in the custody of the Leftist Government, was similarly eulogized:

Whose phoenix blood in generous libation
With fiery zest rejuvenates the nation . . .

The Marxist deaths, on the other hand, were vacuous, for their gods are economics, science, gold, and sex, and as exponents of abortion and birth control they are the essence of anti-life. But capitalism is just as much a debasement of man, as communism:

To cheapen thus for slavery and hire
The racket of the Invert and the Jew
Which is through art and science to subdue.
Humiliate, and to pulp reduce
The Human Spirit for industrial use
Whether by Capital or by Communism
It’s all the same despite their seeming schisms

Those who are debased the most are, under democracy, elevated to positions of honor and state, elected by the voting masses who are mesmerized by the media and the literati, while the politicians hang about the League of Nations:

That sheeny club of communists and masons
He bombs the Arabs, when his Jews invade.

Britannia’s trident had become a “graveyard spade” while condemning Germany and Italy. “Who from the dead have raised more vital forces . . .” Franco, Mussolini, and Portugal’s Salazar had “muzzled up the soul destroying lie” of communism, and as Spain had shown, victory would come through nationhood, not League sanctions, wealth, or arms. Meanwhile, Britain shunned its unbought men, such as Campbell, who brings “the tidings that Democracy is dead.”

When the Campbells traveled to Italy in 1938, the exiled Spanish King Alfonso XIII, who was greatly impressed with Flowering Rifle, cordially greeted them.[57] Of course the British literati were outraged, and even some Catholics felt the poem lacked “charity,” but it did have its enthusiasts, such as Arthur Bryant, who were willing to speak out, while predictably Stephen Spender, one of the most prominent of the literary Bolsheviki, despite his secret admiration of Campbell’s style, was scathing.[58]

War Service

Campbell and his wife returned to Toledo in 1939. But there was now widespread famine. Mary opened a soup kitchen and refurbished the damaged chapel by selling all her jewelry. Both literally gave their clothes away to help the distressed inhabitants.[59]

As the world war approached, Campbell considered that there would be two great contending forces: Fascism and Communism. With the exception of what he considered to be a pagan orientation in Germany, the Fascist states were eminently Christian and allowed Christians the right to live, whereas Bolshevism simply killed and degraded everything, being the enemy of every form of religion.[60]

However, despite his antagonism to the English bourgeoisie and democratic Britain, Campbell always had an admiration for the heroic spirit of the British Empire and a feeling for those Britons facing an enemy. He sought to enlist, although under no illusions about the justice of the Allied cause. His animosity by this time was against all systems, fascism, democracy, and bolshevism, which he dubbed as Fascidemoshevism.[61] The Hitler-Stalin Pact prompted Campbell’s reassessment,[62] which is not to say that he ever considered rejecting his Rightist, Catholic beliefs.

His ideal was not the cumbersome state of any of these systems but that of small, self-reliant and co-operating, family based communities, like those he had experienced in Provence, Spain, and Portugal.

In the “Moon of Short Rations,” Campbell considered the Allied cause to be that of both socialism and the multi-national corporations, twin figures of a universal sameness. He saw that the post-war world would be ever more depersonalized and mechanical. Campbell could not sit still or take a soft option as a number of his pro-war Left-wing intellectual accusers were doing while Britons marched to war. He lampooned these hypocrites such as Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis who had  jobs  at the Ministry of Information, when they attacked his “fascism,” and he wrote “The Volunteer’s Reply to the Poet” stating:

Oh yes! It will be the same, but a bloody sight worse . . .
Since you have a hand in the game . . .
You coin us the catchwords and phrases
For which to be slaughtered . . .

However, because of his age and a bad hip Campbell had to be content with the Home Guard until 1942, when he was recruited into the Army Intelligence Corps due to his skills in languages. Britain in wartime had in Campbell’s view awakened from its “drabness” to become again a “warrior nation.” Campbell was popular with the troops as a “grandfatherly” figure, and was stationed in East Africa. Contracting malaria and with a deteriorating hip condition necessitating the use of a cane, he was discharged with an “excellent military record.”

The Post-War World

The England of the post-war years returned to its drab routine and, worse still for Campbell, the prospects of an all-embracing welfare state. Campbell soon went back into fighting mode against the Left-wing poets, writing Talking Bronco.[63] Even Vita Sackville-West, part of the Bloomsbury clique, acclaimed this volume, calling Campbell “one of our most considerable living poets.” Desmond McCarthy, writing in The Sunday Times, regarded Campbell as “the most democratic poet,” not politically, but in his feeling for the common man and for the common soldier. Others were of course outraged. Cecil Day-Lewis, another of the literary Bolsheviki, believed Campbell should be sacked as a “fascist” from the job he now had as producer of the BBC talk programs, since he was not fit to “direct any civilized form of cultural expression.”[64]

Campbell was horrified by the Allied victory that had placed half of Europe under the USSR. For Campbell, the Cold War was a contention between two equally internationalist forces.[65]

His daughter Anna wrote in 1999 that Campbell admired all types of ethnic civilization as opposed to the mass conformity of Marxism and the globalization of the likes of MacDonalds and Coca-Cola. His concern was in the nightmare of “everything becoming the same.” He would have been “horrified by what the world has become now,” she wrote.[66]

Despite Campbell’s sensitivity to being called a “fascist,” he was unapologetically a man of the “Right,” of tradition and nationalism, and continued to forthrightly expound this position after the war in his poetry and essays. Writing in a Jesuit journal, he refers to the “Gaderene stampede” of progress for the want of two sensible standbys (a brake and a steering wheel). In “Tradition and Reaction,” he writes: “A body without reactions is a corpse. So is a Society without Tradition.”[67]

In 1949 Campbell left his job with the BBC to take over the editorship of The Catacomb, founded by his close friend, the poet Rob Lyie, as a defense of Catholic and Classical traditions against socialism and secularism. The Catacomb stopped publication in 1951.

In 1952, the family moved to Portugal, which had remained the bastion of Catholic civilization under Salazar. Before leaving England, Campbell got together with a number of South African literary friends, including Alan Paton and Laurens van der Post, and signed an open letter to the South African Government protesting voting restrictions on the colored population.[68] However, Campbell’s misgivings about the South African situation were not prompted by the liberal desire for a democratic, monocultural state. He feared that antagonism between the races would result in Bolshevism and the destruction of his rustic ideal. With the advent of Black rule, free market capitalism was ushered in on the wings of Marxism and revolution, which would hardly have surprised Campbell. Today the ANC today calls globalization and trade liberalization the “correct path to Marxism-Leninism.”[69]

In 1954, he gave his views on his native land while accepting an honorary doctorate from Natal. In an off-the-cuff speech, much to the embarrassment of the liberal audience, he defended South Africa against England’s condemnation of apartheid, ridiculing Churchill and Roosevelt, who had sold “two hundred million natives of Europe” to the far worse slavery of Bolshevism.[70]

While in the USA on a speaking tour, he praised “the two greatest Yanks,” Senator McCarthy and General MacArthur.[71]

On April 23, 1957, Campbell and his wife had a motor accident while returning from Spain to Portugal. Campbell’s neck was broken, and he died at the scene. Mary survived him by 22 years.

Edith Sitwell, who converted to Catholicism through the example of the Campbells, remarked that he was, “The true Knight of Our Lady. . . . He died as he had lived, like a flash of lightning.”[72]

Campbell, despite his rejection of affiliation with the pre-war British Union, remained a hero of the Right and was eulogized in Mosley’s journal, The European, by Richard Aldington[73] and by Henry Williamson, who concluded by describing Campbell as, “the only unencumbered man of genius I have known . . .”[74]


[1] Joseph Pearce, Bloomsbury and Beyond: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell (London: Harper Collins, 2001), pp. 1–2.

[2] Pearce, p. 9.

[3] Pearce, p. 23.

[4] Pearce, p. 22.

[5] Pearce, p. 30.

[6] Pearce, p. 44.

[7] Roy Campbell, Light on a Dark Horse: An Autobiography 1901–1935, (London: Hollis and Carter, 1951), p. 230.

[8] Peter Alexander, Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), p. 34.

[9] Pearce, pp. 50–51.

[10] Pearce, pp. 51–52.

[11] Pearce, p. 60.

[12] Pearce, p. 60. This is a problem that was also at the forefront of Nobel Laureate Dr. Alexis Carrel’s concern, Carrel also turning to the “Right” in recognition of the need for tradition and religion. See: K. R. Bolton, Alexis Carrel: A Commemoration (Paraparaumu Beach, New Zealand: Renaissance Press, 2010). Jung held the view that there are levels of man’s psyche that are still not finished with the primeval and the Medieval yet that are suddenly thrust into the technological era, causing psychological fragmentation (C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 263).

[13] Campbell resigned from editorship of Voorslag after the publisher’s interference.

[14] Roy Cambell, Voorslag, Vol. 1, No. 1, June 1926, published in Collected Works IV: Prose, pp. 195–96.

[15] Roy Cambell, “Home Thoughts on Bloomsbury,” Collected Poems, Vol. 1, p. 196.

[16] Campbell, “The Georgiad,” Part Three, Collected Works (South Africa, 1985), p. 207.

[17] Campbell, “The Georgiad,” Part Three, p. 216.

[18] Pearce, p. 109.

[19] Alexander, p. 121.

[20] Campbell, Adamastor, “Taurine Provence (London: Desmond Harmsworth, 1932).

[21] D. H. Lawrence, Robert Graves, Dorothy Edwards, Edwin Muir, Roy Campbell, Scrutinies, E. Rickword, ed. (London: Wishart, 1928).

[22] Roy Campbell, “Wyndham Lewis: An Essay,” 1931, Blast 3 (Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1984), p. 20.

[23] Campbell, Wyndham Lewis, p. 27.

[24] Campbell, Wyndham Lewis, p. 23.

[25] Campbell, Wyndham Lewis, p. 23.

[26] Campbell, Wyndham Lewis, p. 25.

[27] Campbell, Wyndham Lewis, p. 37.

[28] Campbell, Broken Record (London: Boriswood, 1934), p. 154.

[29] See: M. J. Vermaseren, Mithras, The Secret God (London: Chatto and Windus, 1963).

[30] Pearce, p. 158.

[31] Rpy Campbell, Mithraic Emblems (London: Boriswood, 1936).

[32] Pearce, p. 164.

[33] Anna Campbell Lyle, Son of Valour, pp. 84–85, citied by Pearce, p. 166.

[34] A reference to communism.

[35] Spengler made this observation of the “capitalistic” nature of socialist movements: “There is no proletarian, not even a communist, movement that has not operated in the interests of money, in the directions indicated by money, and for the time permitted by money—and that without the idealist amongst its leaders having the slightest suspicion of the fact.” Oswald Spengler, The Decline of The West, 1926. (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1971), Vol. 2, p. 402.

[36] Campbell, “Uys Krige: A Portrait,” The Critic: A South African Quarterly, Cape Town, Vol. 3, No. 2; reprinted in Campbell, Collected Works IV: Prose, p. 268.

[37] Pearce, p. 199.

[38] His tribute to the Alcazar, having been besieged by the Spanish Reds, appeared in Mosley’s British Union Quarterly in 1936. See below.

[39] Alexander, p. 148.

[40] Alexander, p. 158.

[41] Alexander, p. 159.

[42] Alexander, p. 160.

[43] Campbell, Light on a Dark Horse, p. 339.

[44] Alexander, p. 160.

[45] Pearce, pp. 182–83.

[46] Pearce, p. 184.

[47] Pearce, p. 186.

[48] Brian Crozier, Franco: A Biographical History (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1967), p. 205.

[49] Crozier, Franco, p. 206.

[50] Roy Campbell, “The Alcazar Mined,” British Union Quarterly (Selections from BUF Quarterly (Marietta, Georgia: The Truth At Last, 1995), pp. 56–57.

[51] When the Left Review surveyed 148 British writers as to whether they were “for, or against, the legal Government and the People of Republican Spain . . . for or against, Franco and Fascism?” only five supported Franco. Fifteen, including even Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, from whom one would expect a commitment to the Right, remained neutral. Shaw’s answer was unclassified, and the rest were supportive of the Reds. Of course, the question was phrased in an absurd, loaded manner, but putting it differently would unlikely have changed the results. See: Alastair Hamilton, The Appeal of Fascism (New York: Macmillan, 1971), p. 259.

[52] Pearce, p. 206.

[53] Campbell in a letter to Harvey Brit, 1956, cited by Pearce, p. 326.

[54] Pearce, p. 224.

[55] George Orwell, “Homage to Catalonia,” Collected Works (London: Secker and Warburg, 1980), p. 260.

[56] Campbell, Flowering Rifle (London: Longman, 1939).

[57] Pearce, p. 217.

[58] Pearce, pp. 218–19.

[59] Alexander, p. 182.

[60] Pearce, p. 225, citing a letter from Campbell to his mother, June 3, 1939.

[61] Pearce, p. 254.

[62] Pearce, p. 225.

[63] The name that Stephen Spender had applied to Campbell.

[64] Pearce, p. 271. Day-Lewis to Stephen Spender.

[65] Pearce, p. 282.

[66] Pearce, p. 281. Anna Campbell Lyle to Pearce, June 9, 1999.

[67] Roy Campbell, “A Decade in Retrospect,” The Month, May 1950.

[68] Alexander, p. 224.

[69] K. R. Bolton, “Multiculturalism as a process of globalization,” Ab Aeterno (Academy of Social and Political Research), No. 1, November 2009, p. 27.

[70] Pearce, pp. 318–19.

[71] Pearce, p. 316.

[72] Edith Sitwell, Taken Care Of (New York: Atheneum, 1964), p. 166.

[73] Richard Aldington, The European, Vol. XII, no. 5, January 1959.

[74] Henry Williamson, “Roy Campbell: A Portrait,” The European, Vol. XII, No. 6, February 1959, p. 358.