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Unafraid of Virginia Woolf Paperback – 15 Jul 2004


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Unafraid of Virginia Woolf + Remembering Roy Campbell: The Memoirs of His Daughters Anna and Tess
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Roy Campbell (1902-57) led an unquiet life marked by numerous affairs (both real and imagined), brawls (he once attacked Stephen Spender on stage during a poetry recital), and assorted stunts (with the help of Dylan Thomas, he once ate a vase of daffodils in celebration of St. David's Day). It was also marked by numerous scandals, often concerning Campbell's relationship with Virginia Woolf and her Bloomsbury group, about whom he remarked in "The Georgiad": "Hither flock all the crowds whom love has wrecked / Of intellectuals without intellect / And sexless folk whose sexes intersect...."Capturing the imagination of the English intelligentsia with his romantic background and controversial style, Campbell was acknowledged as one of the finest poets of his generation. Joseph Pearce's biography vividly recounts the story of Campbell's wonderfully romantic life, including his youth in South America, his dangerous sojourn in revolutionary Spain during World War II, the literary friendship he forged with figures such as C. S. Lewis, T. S. Eliot, and the Sitwells, and his and his wife Mary's eventual conversion to Roman Catholicism. In Pearce's judgement, Campbell's poetry was "both perplexing and challenging - yet no more so than the poet himself."

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Amazon.com: 2 reviews
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Top Drawer 5 Aug. 2004
By Athanasius - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm a fan of Roy Campbell, and have long been dismayed by the fact that a poet of his talent is today largely forgotten and almost completely unread. I'm grateful, therefore, to Joseph Pearce for this truly excellent biography (which, unlike his work on Belloc, actually contains photos!)

But, with all respect and appreciation, I must mention some aspects that annoyed me. First, Mr. Pearce's prissy tut-tutting regarding Campbell's gloves-off attacks on his detractors (as well as his -- gasp! -- "reactionary" politics) is rather wearisome. Second, I was stunned to read [p. 161] "When, three years later, Hart Crane committed suicide by throwing himself off the very same [Brooklyn] bridge...." Come now, Mr. Pearce! Even the most elementary research would have informed you that Crane committed suicide by jumping from a ship in the Gulf of Mexico. Finally, Mr. Pearce's "Postmortem" is a bit weak, as he doesn't offer his assessment of Campbell's reputation as a poet some 50 years after his death.

Well, I had to get that off my chest. None of the mentioned negatives, however, detract in any way from my hearty recommendation of this book.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A great forgotten poet, a great biography 17 July 2013
By Matt W. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
he South African poet Roy Campbell (1902-1957) is a perfect example of how "great literature" is defined more by politics than by actual talent. While far from perfect, Campbell's verse is energetic, masculine and passionate, a joy to read. Think Hemingway in iambic pentameter. But the reason you've never heard of him is because he made the fatal mistake of siding with the wrong group of thugs: he was a passionate supporter of Franco's Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War when every major literary figure was on the Republicans' side. Merely because of this, Campbell was wiped from the public consciousness, condemned to languish in the backs of college libraries.

Of course, Campbell was a far more complicated character than his enemies made him out to be. A lifelong iconoclast and outdoorsman, he became notorious for attacking the racism of his fellow South Africans in his satirical poem The Wayzgoose; relocating to England, he became active in the Bloomsbury Group, the circle of intellectuals and authors that included Virginia Woolf, Vita Sackville-West, John Maynard Keynes, and Bertrand Russell. Tiring of their snobbery, Marxism and anti-Christian attitude (and upset over Sackville-West's lesbian affair with his wife Mary), Campbell shredded them in another satirical poem, The Georgiad. Relocating to southern France and later Spain, Campbell and his wife converted to Catholicism and became Nationalists after witnessing first-hand the horrors of the Red Terror. Despite his fascist sentiments, he later enlisted in the British Army during World War II despite being well over the draft age, when the communist chickenhawks who had been agitating for war with Germany in the first place either fled the country (W.H. Auden) or slithered into noncombatant positions in the civil service (Stephen Spender). So whatever you may think about Campbell, he was definitely difficult to pigeonhole.

If you want a comprehensive and unbiased look at Roy Campbell's life and works, Unafraid of Virginia Woolf is your best bet. Author Joseph Pearce covers Campbell's life from his childhood to his untimely death by car crash, extensively quoting from his poems and interviews with his daughters. The book also includes rare photographs of Campbell and his associates. While Pearce is overly critical of Campbell's satiric verse, his treatment of the man's career is unparalleled and worth a look.
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