Ruthven Campbell Todd was born on this day in 1914, not a well known but an artist of merit. He was a Scottish-born poet, artist, novelist and early scholar of William Blake, he also wrote detective fiction under the pseudonym R.T. Campbell.
Although he was born in Edinburgh and had his education in Scotland, Todd spent most of his colourful travelling life in self-imposed exile in various places around Europe and America and ended his days in Spain. It was in 1947 that Todd moved to America and took up US citizenship in the 1950s. His life in Spain began while visiting Robert Graves in Mallorca in 1960. Todd fell ill with pneumonia and pleurisy and found that, without insurance, he could not afford to return to America and opted to stay. He died in 1978 after his hard-drinking bohemian lifestyle caught up with him.
Todd was also an author of children’s books, his ‘Space Cat’ series was and is popular enjoyed by children and adults alike.
His time in Paris and London brought him into contact with many avant-guard people such as Joan Miro, Salvador Dali and Dylan Thomas. His friendship with Dylan Thomas would later haunt Todd, he was with Thomas when he died in New York in 1953 and he helped arrange the transportation of Thomas’ body back to Wales. His closeness to Thomas meant that he was the first person approached to write Thomas’ biography. The process of interviewing people, and gathering notes brought him almost to the point of mental exhaustion and the biography never materialised. The ordeal can be read in Todd’s own candid and raw words in The Ghost of Dylan Thomas.
The elegy ‘Laugharne Churchyard in 1954’, for Thomas, Todd argues that for all of the follies and mistakes of poets, their work can endure and improve life itself, in the image below I have included the last stanza of the poem.
The full poem can be found here: