University of Texas at Austin

Roy Campbell:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Campbell, Roy, 1901-1957
Title: Roy Campbell Collection
Dates: 1920-1987 (bulk 1942-1957)
Extent: 4 document boxes (1.68 linear feet), 1 galley file (gf)
Abstract: The Ransom Center's collection of Roy Campbell spans the years 1920 to 1987 and includes drafts of poems, prose works, and translations, as well as family and other correspondence. Also present are biographical and bibliographical material, including published reviews and criticism and a few photographs.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-00672
Language: English
Access: Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Gifts and Purchases, 1962-1998 (G1077, G1297, G11205, R1233, R2253, R3900, R13111)
Processed by: Bob Taylor, 2011

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Roy Campbell was born at Durban, Natal, on October 2, 1901, to Dr. Samuel G. and Margaret Campbell, the father African-born of Ulster Scots stock, the mother a Scot. Roy grew up in the rough-hewn setting of colonial Natal, displaying an early affinity for creative writing and an active outdoor life. Sent to Britain to attend Oxford at the end of World War I, he failed his entrance exams, but defended himself by explaining to his father that "university lectures interfere very much with my work."
Campbell plunged into a bohemian literary life, acquiring literary friends including William Walton, the Sitwells, and Wyndham Lewis. He met and married (in 1922) Mary Margaret Garman, a young beauty no less independent-minded than himself; they soon became the parents of daughters Teresa (Tess) and Anna. His first substantial work, a poem entitled The Flaming Terrapin, was written in the loft of a Welsh cowshed early in the couple's marriage and published in 1924.
In 1925, Campbell returned to Durban to help found the journal Voorslag as a vehicle to help rid southern Africa of what he saw as its smug and parochial world view. This effort failed, and upon his return to England Roy Campbell published The Wayzgoose, a South African Satire. The Wayzgoose did little for Campbell's reputation, but his following collection of poems, Adamastor, published by Faber, was well received critically.
By the end of the 1920s, Campbell's attitude toward Bloomsbury and the British intelligentsia in general had grown increasingly critical, and in 1931, after publishing The Georgiad, an anti-Bloomsbury poetic diatribe, Roy and Mary Campbell left England for the Mediterranean, settling first in Provence and by 1935 in Spain, where they were received into the Catholic Church.
The Campbells were living in Toledo, Spain, when the Spanish Civil War erupted in the summer of 1936, and Roy's witnessing the murder of Catholic priests and nuns at the hands of militiamen of the Spanish Republic provoked the final break between Roy Campbell and conventional British literary leftism. Campbell became ever more outspoken on behalf of Francisco Franco and the cause of the rebelling Spanish Nationalists, and in February 1939 published Flowering Rifle, a book-length poem filled with praise of Franco and condemnation of the Spanish Republic.
When World War II broke out in September 1939, Campbell denounced Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany and returned with his family to Britain. After serving for a time as an air raid warden Roy Campbell was able to enlist in the British army despite his age and physical condition. A lengthy period spent shuttling between army camps in Wales and Scotland finally ended when he was sent to East Africa in 1943, only to be invalided out of the service in April 1944.
Campbell returned to England and worked as a government clerk before being offered employment by the British Broadcasting Corporation at the end of the war. In the late 1940s and into the 1950s, Campbell was a producer for the BBC before moving one final time to Sintra, Portugal. While Campbell had found Franco's ties to Nazi Germany in the late 1930s increasingly distasteful the authoritarian Salazar regime ruling Portugal at mid-century was to him endurable.
In his final years Campbell turned more and more to literary translation, producing English versions of The Poems of St. John of the Cross (1951), Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal (1952), and two novels of Antonio d'Eça de Queiroz (Cousin Basilio in 1952, The City and the Mountains in 1955). In 1951, he published his second volume of autobiography, Light on a Dark Horse, later finding time for a North American lecture tour in 1953 and a 1954 visit to South Africa to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Natal.
Roy Campbell died on April 23, 1957, in an automobile accident near Setúbal, Portugal, while returning to Sintra from Toledo after attending Holy Week ceremonies in Seville.


Alexander, Peter F. Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography. Cape Town: David Philip, 1982.
Alexander, Peter F. "Campbell, (Ignatius) Royston Dunnachie [Roy] (1901- 1957)" in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004 [online edition March 2011]

Scope and Contents

The Ransom Center's collection of Roy Campbell spans the years 1920 to 1987 and includes drafts of poems, prose works, and translations, as well as family and other correspondence. Also present are biographical and bibliographical material, including published reviews and criticism and a few photographs. The collection is based on acquisitions from the collections of T. E. Hanley and Ellsworth and Joan Mason, along with portions of the papers of Uys Krige and the Campbell family. The collection, as arranged at the Ransom Center, is in three series: I. Works, 1931-1957 (2 boxes); II. Correspondence, 1920-1987 (1 box); and III. Biographical and Critical Materials, 1933-1979 (1 box).
The Works series contains, in the main, projects Roy Campbell worked on the last half decade of his life while living in Sintra, Portugal. Translations of Horace's Ars Poetica and Federico García Lorca's La Casa de Bernarda Alba--neither yet published--are found here, along with Campbell's published versions of The Poems of St. John of the Cross and Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal. A partial manuscript of the critical work Lorca, along with the unpublished Taurine Epistles are also present.
Drafts--often multiple drafts--of poems written in Campbells's years in Portugal are primarily contained in the 35 exercise books found under the headings "Manuscript notebooks" and "Notebooks." Of this group, only manuscript notebook 30 appears to date from the years before the Second World War.
The largest part of the Correspondence series is Roy Campbell's letters to his wife. The earliest piece of this correspondence dates from 1924, but the bulk of the letters were written during the war years when Campbell was stationed at various army camps in Great Britain and later in East Africa. There are also smaller groups addressed to Campbell's mother and to his eldest daughter Teresa.
Literary correspondence is not prominent in the collection, but letters written by Wyndham Lewis, Alan Paton, and Edith Sitwell are found in Campbell's incoming correspondence and in the Third Party correspondence. The Third Party correspondence also includes letters between Teresa Campbell and Ellsworth Mason dealing with the sale of materials relating to Roy Campbell. The Campbell-Mason correspondence also includes biographical notes on the Campbell family supplied by Teresa, her sister Anna, and Anna's husband Rob Lyle.
The Bibliographical and Critical Materials series is dominated by several drafts of articles about Roy Campbell written by his friend Uys Krige between the early 1930s and 1958. The earliest of these date from Krige's first meeting with Campbell in the south of France in October 1932 and conclude with two pieces dating from shortly after the poet's 1957 death. Also found here are a number of bibliographies and reviews from the Ellsworth and Joan Mason collection of Roy Campbell.
Note: Following the Index of Correspondents there is additionally an Index of Titles and First Lines. While this latter index is not exhaustive, it was believed that it would help give a better idea of the contents of the exercise books which comprise a large part of this collection. Many of the poems, essays, and other works by Campbell found here in draft form are perhaps not well known nor yet, in many cases, published.

Related Material

The Art Collection holds, in the Olaf de Wet collection, a portrait head of Campbell of painted plaster; in the Photography Collection are photographs of Roy and Mary Campbell and their family, as well as of places associated with them.
Manuscript collections in the Center possessing Campbell-related material are those of Edmund Blunden, Herman Charles Bosman, Jocelyn Brooke, Richard Church, Nancy Cunard, Ronald Duncan, Edward Garnett, John Gawsworth, John M. Gwynne Hughes, R. G. Howarth, Hugh Kenner, T. E. Lawrence, John Lehmann, Hugo Manning, Herbert E. Palmer, Frederic Prokosch, Edith Sitwell, Francis Carey Slater, Stephen Spender, L. A. G. Strong, Dylan Thomas, and David Wright.
Other archives holding material concerning Roy Campbell include the BBC Written Archives Centre, the British Library, the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and the University of Reading.

Separated Material

The Ransom Center's Vertical File contains material relating to Roy Campbell from the Hanley collection and elsewhere.

Index Terms


Campbell, Mary, 1898-1979
Campbell, Teresa
Krige, Uys, 1910-1987
Lewis, Wyndham, 1882-1957
Mason, Ellsworth
Paton, Alan
Sitwell, Edith, Dame, 1887-1964


Poets, South African -- 20th century

Document Types

First drafts

Container List