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This article is taken from PN Review 87, Volume 19 Number 1, September - October 1992.

Conversations with Roy Campbell David Wright

MY FRIENDSHIP with Roy Campbell really began with a letter from John Heath-Stubbs:

The latest fracas in London … was caused by Roy Campbell. He strode into the Hall of the Ethical Church, Bayswater, where Spender was billed to read his own poems, accused him of calling him a coward and trying to get his books banned, and tried to hit him (but Spender ducked, and he missed).* After which the hall rose in an uproar of moral indignation to throw Campbell out … Campbell was got peaceably out of the room, with a Parthian shot - 'You're a filthy old Lesbian governess!' … Some of the audience were quite puzzled by the whole affair. 'Who is this Roy Campbell, is he a poet or something?' Spender replied, 'Yes, he is a poet and a very good one.'


I had met Roy Campbell in the Wheatsheaf two years before, one wet black evening in the spring of 1947. As it happened I never saw him again in Soho. That night the steaming uniforms of allied servicemen packed the approaches to the bar as I fought my way in. My eye was drawn to a flamboyant cocked slouch hat, which I recognized as the headgear of the King's African Rifles. Its owner was sitting on a stool at the bar counter, his face partly obscured by a long, undulant figure with flowing black hair - Tambimuttu of course - who turned round, reached a long, undulant ...


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