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Robert Payne Author
Pierre Stephen Robert Payne (4 December 1911 - 18 February 1983) was an English-born author, known principally for works of biography and history, although he also wrote novels, poetry, magazine articles and many other works. After working in Singapore and China, he moved to the United States in 1946 and became a professor of English literature. From 1954 onwards he lived as a writer in New York.
Payne moved to the United States in 1946 and from 1949-54 was Professor of English and author in residence at Alabama College, Montevallo. He became a US citizen in 1953 and settled in New York in 1954, devoting himself to writing and shifting his focus in part from novels and poetry to biography. He was chairman of the Translation Committee of PEN International, and in 1976 co-founded the Translation Center at Columbia University. He edited The Russian Library series for Washington Square Press. He died in Bermuda on 18 February 1983.
Payne married Rose Hsiung, daughter of Hsiung Hse-ling, a former prime minister of China, in 1942. They divorced in 1951. He married Sheila Lalwani in 1981.
Early writing by Payne included two novels, The War in the Marshes and The Mountain and the Stars. He also reported for newspapers on the Spanish Civil War and from China on the war with Japan. While in China he also wrote autobiographical works, historical novels, and worked on The White Pony, a compilation of Chinese poetry.
Payne's biographies were sometimes informed by his personal encounters with his subjects. Payne had actually met Hitler in 1937 in Munich at the Hotel Vierjahrenzeiten at the invitation of Rudolf Hess. As Payne recounted in his book "Eyewitness", Hitler offered him a strawberry cream cake. Payne also dined and had long conversations with Mao Zedong in 1946.
As a novelist, Payne used the pseudonyms Richard Cargoe, John Anthony Devon, Howard Horne, Valentin Tikhonov, and Robert Young. In 1954, he published a pastiche novella, The Deluge, as Leonardo da Vinci; the book was mostly Payne's writing, incorporating "fragmentary da Vinci notes." He also performed translations into English from many languages, including works by Pasternak and Kierkegaard.
Many of Payne's better-known works have been re-published in digital form by the British publisher Endeavour Press. World rights to all works by Payne are handled by David Higham Associates, London, U.K.
Francis Ford Coppola, who was the co-screenwriter of the award-winning 1970 film "Patton", lifted almost verbatim the last words of the film from the first paragraph of Payne's book "The Roman Triumph", ending with the phrase, "all glory is fleeting." Payne received no screen credit for this contribution.
Payne was described in 1947 as "a poet and a believer in the permanent power of beauty", and as a "young English author whose versatility and prolific output have astonished the literary world". The New York Times in 1950 called him "the most versatile writer of the year".Orville Prescott, book reviewer for the New York Times, claimed that "No man alive can write more beautiful prose than Robert Payne."
Payne's biography of Hitler was seen as attempting to "humanize the inhuman Hitler". The American critic Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote that the effect of this approach was "interesting and terrifying". The historian Alan Bullock commented that Payne's focus on Hitler's personal life resulted in a good account of Hitler's earlier years, but proved less productive for his later life when he "becomes absorbed in politics".The Biography Book recognised the "narrative and imaginative power" of Payne's account, while stating that "it incorporates speculation as fact". One example of this was the book's acceptance of claims by Bridget Dowling (Hitler's sister-in-law) and others that Hitler had spent time in Liverpool before 1914, a claim later described as "conclusively disproved".
Payne was said to be "a firm adherent to the conspiracy theory of politics" and among biographies of Lenin, Payne's book was described as "the easiest to read ... also the easiest to forget". The Los Angeles Times commented on the Leonardo biography that "Payne makes a persuasive case ... The biography is ... a rendering of respect and admiration for the man."
Sun Yat-Sen: a Portrait, Asia Press (1946).
Mao Tse-tung: Ruler of Red China (1950). Revised editions published as Portrait of a revolutionary: Mao Tse-tung (1961) and Mao Tse-tung (1969). All editions include an historical account of China from the Taiping Rebellion, but are centered around Mao's life and philosophy.
The Marshall Story: A Biography of General George C. Marshall, Prentice-Hall (1951); republished as General Marshall: A Study in Loyalties, William Heinemann, Ltd. London (1952).
The Great God Pan: A Biography of the Tramp Played by Charles Chaplin, Heritage House (1952); republished as The Great Charlie, Deutsch (1952).
The Three Worlds of Albert Schweitzer, Thomas Nelson & Son (1957); republished as Schweitzer, Hero of Africa Hale (1958).
The Life and Death of Lenin, Simon and Schuster (1964) (no ISBN).
The Rise and Fall of Stalin, Simon and Schuster (1965).
Marx, Simon and Schuster (1968). Library of Congress Catalog number 68-11014.
The Life and Death of Mahatma Gandhi, E.P. Dutton (1969).
A Portrait of André Malraux, Prentice-Hall (1970).
The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, Praeger (1973) LCCN 72-92891.
The Life and Death of Trotsky, McGraw-Hill (1977) (no ISBN).
Leonardo (1978), a biography of Leonardo da Vinci in which Payne asserts that the Mona Lisa is a portrait of Isabella of Aragon and that the traditional chalk self-portrait of da Vinci is actually a portrait of his father.
The Mountains and the Stars, William Heinemann, London (1938), published under the pseudonym Valentin Tikhonov.
The War In The Marshes, Faber and Faber, London (1938), published under the pseudonym Robert Young. A political allegory influenced by Rex Warner.
Love and Peace, William Heinemann, London (1945), the first of a series of novels describing the life of a Chinese family from 1908 to the present day; republished as Torrents of Spring, Dodd, Mead (1946).
The Loard Comes: A Novel on the Life of Buddha, publisher W. Heinemann (1948).
The Lovers, William Heinemann, London (1951), the second of a series of novels describing the life of a Chinese family from 1908 to the present day.
Alexander the God, Wyn (1954); an abridged version was republished as Alexander and the Camp Follower, Elek (1961).
Brave Harvest, Ballantine Books (1954), published under the pseudonym Richard Cargoe; republished as Harvest, William Heinemann, London (1955).
A House in Peking, Doubleday (1956); republished as Red Jade, William Heinemann, London (1957).
O Western Wind, Putnam, (1957), published under the pseudonym John Anthony Devon.
The Barbarian and the Geisha, New American Library (1958).
The Tormentors, Hillman (1959), original hardcover published under the pseudonym Richard Cargoe by William Sloane.
The Back of the Tiger, Belmont Books (1961), published under the pseudonym Richard Cargoe.
Caravaggio, A Novel, published by Little Brown and Company (1968). Library of Congress number 68-17272.
The Tortured and The Damned, Horizon Press (1977).
The Story of Q (1977).
The Fathers of the Western Church, Viking (1951).
Ancient Greece: The Triumph of a Culture, Norton (1964); also published as The Triumph of the Greeks, Hamish Hamilton (1964).
The Horizon Book of Ancient Rome, American Heritage Publishing Company (1966); republished as Ancient Rome, American Heritage Press (1970).
Fortress, Simon and Schuster (1967).
Massacre (The Tragedy of Bangladesh & the Phenomenon of Mass Slaughter Throughout History), Thompson Press (1973).
The Dream and the Tomb A history of the Crusades. Cooper Square Press, originally published New York: Stein and Day (published posthumously in 1984).