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'He Was Low But Was He Honest?'

On Roy Campbell's Fascist Poetry

John E. Coombes

The immediate impression is of a figure outrageously Quixotic, albeit bereft of the elaborate structure of chivalric belief which sustained that earlier hero; of a figure of catholic fideistic absurdity which approaches the ‘endearing’. Later, post-war photos of Campbell show a figure bearing an uncanny resemblance to W.C. Fields though – it has to be said – without the charm. The Campbell of the anecdote – simultaneously, as we are told, author of the longest fascist poem in English (apart from Ezra Pound’s) – would moreover seem to have stepped out of one of Chesterton’s Father Brown stories. Their author had, it will be remembered, moved, under the influence of his friend Belloc, from a position of amiable if ineffectual liberalism to increasingly pronounced anti-Semitism. Yet the play of paradox in the earlier Father Brown stories shows little of this: its function is in general to demonstrate the resolvability of paradox through the operations of grace and the intimations of the enquiring subject, a kind of functional accommodation of deism and liberal individualism.

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