Of many selves we all possess
My meanest has the most persisted . . .
A shifty and insidious ghost,
Of all my selves he is the one,
Though it’s with him I meet the most,
I’d go the longest way to shun . . . .
Within his heart, so chilled and squamous,
He knows I’ve but to sell my pride
To make him safe, and rich, and famous;
And he would fatten if I died.
—Roy Campbell, in “Reflections”
For the biographer or critic, there can be few tasks less appealing than the rehabilitation of a universally despised writer. At the very least there is always the risk that the odium heaped upon the writer in his lifetime will rub off on the author of anything written in his defense after his death. In the case of the South African poet Roy Campbell, who forged an uneasy place for himself on...