Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Frederick Rolfe: Baron Corvo

All at once three books by Frederick Rolfe appear on Ebay: In His Own Image, Songs of Meleager and his translation of The Rubaiyat of Umar Khaiyam. Just like buses! The copy of In His Own Image in particularly intriguing as it would appear to be the Colonial and India Edition. In His Own Image has one of the most complicated bibliographies of any of Rolfe’s books as it was issued in the US and in the UK almost simultaneously in three or four different coloured bindings and no-one is quite sure which has priority – if any. Even the esteemed Cecil Woolf in his Bibliography admitted defeat in trying to establish which is a ‘true’ first, if such a thing there be. These three books together would pretty much fill the gaps in my collection of Rolfe’s full length works – if I could afford them!

I have two Rolfe projects which never seem to get off the ground: an essay on the way that Rolfe conflated his sexuality and his religion into an erotic image of Christ throughout his writing and, further research leading to a more biographical essay on the significance of a boy called Robert Clement Austin on Rolfe’s life, which I believe was more significant than either of Rolfe’s main biographers ever noticed.

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