Robert Payne (author)

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Pierre Stephen Robert Payne (4 December 1911 – 3 March 1983) was a professor of English literature, lecturer in naval architecture, novelist, historian, poet and biographer. Born at Saltash, Cornwall, Payne was the son of an English naval architect and a French mother.[1]


Payne worked as a shipbuilder and then for a time with the Inland Revenue. In 1937, Payne met Adolf Hitler in Munich through Rudolf Hess, an incident which Payne describes in his book Eyewitness.[1] In 1941 he became an armament officer and chief camouflage officer for British Army Intelligence at Singapore. Driven out of Singapore by Japanese forces, he ended up first in Chungking and then in Kunming, in both of which places he kept extensive diaries which were published in 1945. In Kunming he was a close friend of the influential intellectual Wen Yiduo who was assassinated by Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang. Between 1943 and 1946 Payne taught naval architecture at Lianda University in China.[1]

In 1946, Payne met and interviewed Mao Zedong in Yenan. During the interview Mao correctly predicted that it would only take the Communist forces a year and a half to conquer China once the armistice with Chiang Kai-shek and his followers was broken.[2] Between 1949 and 1954 Payne was a professor of English literature at the University of Montevallo in the United States.[1]


Payne had more than 110 books published, including novels, histories and biographies. He was best known for the biographies, which included studies of Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Leon Trotsky, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Ivan the Terrible, Chiang Kai-shek, Karl Marx, Mao Zedong, Sun Yat-sen, André Malraux, William Shakespeare, Alexander the Great, the White Rajahs of Sarawak and George C. Marshall.

As a novelist, Payne used the pseudonyms Richard Cargoe, John Anthony Devon, Howard Horne, Valentin Tikhonov, and Robert Young. For his biographies, he wrote under the name "Robert Payne." 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."[3]

One of Payne's better-known works is The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler (1973). This biography is now perceived to be tremendously flawed. It is widely acknowledged that Payne uncritically accepted unreliable sources—including Bridget Dowling (Hitler's sister-in-law) for a completely fictional year spent in Liverpool, England.[4] However at this time, Dowling's claims regarding this non-existent visit had been under-researched, and even the well-known Hitler biographer Alan Bullock was unaware that they were false.[5]



  • 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)
  • 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
  • Ivan the Terrible (co-authored with Nikita Romanoff) Crowell-Collier (1975) ISBN 0-690-00582-2
  • The Great Garbo, Praeger (1976)
  • 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.
  • Sun Yat-Sen: a Portrait, Asia Press (1946)


  • 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.[6]
  • 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 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 Back of the Tiger, Belmont Books (1961), published under the pseudonym Richard Cargoe
  • The Tortured and The Damned, Horizon Press (1977)
  • The Loard Comes: A Novel on the Life of Buddha, publisher 'W. Heinemann (1948)'
  • 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)

The Dream and the Tomb A history of the Crusades. Cooper Square Press, originally published New York: Stein and Day.

Other works

  • Forever China (Dodd, Mead 1945) (Diaries 1941-44, includes Chungking Diary published by W. Heinemann (London, Toronto) (1945)(no ISBN))
  • China Awake (Dodd, Mead 1947) Diaries continued.
  • The Wanton Nymph: A Study of Pride published by William Heinemann, Ltd. London (1951)(no ISBN)
  • The Deluge, Twayne 1954 (as Leonardo da Vinci) (no ISBN)
  • A House in Peking Doubleday (1956) (no ISBN)
  • The Holy Fire: The Story of the Early Centuries of the Christian Church in the Near East Harper, New York (1957)(ISBN 0-913836-61-3)
  • The Holy Sword Harper & Brothers (published in 1957; republished in 1987 under the title The History of Islam)
  • The Gold of Troy - The story of Heinrich Schliemann and the buried cities of ancient Greece Funk & Wagnalls, NY (1959) Library of Congress catalog number 58-11361
  • Hubris: A Study of Pride Harper Torch Books NY (1960) (no ISBN), with an introduction by Sir Herbert Read. Hubris is a revised paperback version of The Wanton Nymph: A Study of Pride.
Walter Kaufmann footnotes Hubris in his book Tragedy and Philosophy. He wrote that Few have crowded as many popular misconceptions about Aeschylus and Sophocles into as few pages as has Robert Payne in Hubris: A Study of Pride (1960), 20-31, p.63
  • The Splendour of Greece published by Hale (London) (1961)(no ISBN)
  • Trumpet in the Night, London: Robert Hale (1961), 188pp
  • Lawrence of Arabia: a triumph published by Pyramid Books (1962)
  • The Civil War in Spain, 1936-1939. Gathered and annotated by Robert Payne. NY: Putnam, 1962.
  • The Splendour of Israel Robert Hale, London (1963)
  • Marx Simon and Schuster (1968)Library of Congress Catalog number 68-11014
  • Caravaggio, A Novel, published by Little Brown and Company, 1968 Library of Congress number, 68-17272
  • Eyewitness: A Personal Account of a Tumultuous Decade, 1937-1946 Doubleday (1972) (no ISBN)
  • The Corrupt Society: From Ancient Greece to Present-Day America Praeger (1975) ISBN 0-275-51020-4
  • The Dream and the Tomb Stein and Day (published posthumously in 1984)
  • The Splendor of Persia[7]
  • Zero - The story of Terrorism published by Windgate London/Newyork in 1951


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Robert Payne Collection". Robert Payne biography. Stony Brook University. Retrieved 6 November 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Halberstam The Coldest Winter, pp.233-34.
  3. "Recommended Reading," F&SF, September 1954, p.93.
  4. Brigitte Hamann, Hans Mommsen, Hitler's Vienna: A Portrait of the Tyrant As a Young Man, 2010, Tauris Parke, p.198.
  5. Alan Bullock, "Hitler à la Mode", New York Review of Books, June 28, 1973.
  6. Andy Croft,Red letter days : British fiction in the 1930s London : Lawrence & Wishart, 1990. ISBN 978-0-85315-729-8. 1990. (p.228)
  7. Robert Payne Collection
  • Halberstam, David (2007). The Coldest WInter - America and the Korean War. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 978-1-4013-0052-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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