Frederick William Rolfe

(1860—1913) writer

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who liked to call himself ‘Baron Corvo’, or, equally misleadingly, Fr Rolfe. His most outstanding novel, Hadrian the Seventh (1904), appears to be a dramatized autobiography—a self‐justification and a dream of wish‐fulfilment, in which Rolfe's protagonist, George Arthur Rose, is rescued from a life of literary poverty and elected pope. His other writings include Stories Toto Told Me (published in 1898, after first appearing in the Yellow Book), Chronicles of the House of Borgia (1901, an eccentric historical study), and The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole: A Romance of Modern Venice (1934), in which Rolfe describes his own poverty, his homosexual fantasies, and the beauties of Venice, as well as abusing in characteristic vein many of those who had previously befriended him, including R. H. Benson. Rolfe's style is highly ornate and idiosyncratic, and his allusions erudite. He alienated most of his admirers by his persistent paranoia and requests for financial support. The story of his unhappy life is told by A. J. A. Symons in The Quest for Corvo: An Experiment in Biography (1934).

Subjects: Literature.

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