Saturday, April 12, 2008

Frederick Rolfe: The Attack on St Winefride's Well

The Attack on St Winefride's Well or Holywell Gone Mad is among the rarest of the rare when it comes to Corvine collectables. In fact, on reflection, it is probably rarer than the other piece of Frederick Rolfe rareissima, Tarcissus The Boy Martyr of Rome.

Cecil Woolf describes the pamphlet in his bibliography saying it: "written in Rolfe's most pyrotechnic style, contradicts allegations the St Windefride's Shrine had passed into the hands of a bottling company."

When Woolf 'discovered' this anonymous pamphlet in the British Library he decided very quickly that it was obviously Rolfe's handiwork and included it in his bibliography. By the time of the 1960 centenary exhibition of Corvine goodies at the St Marylebone Central Library, The Attack could only still be represented by a photocopy of the British Library copy as it is described as the only known copy. By the time the second edition of Woolf's bibliography was published in 1972 he was able to say there were two known copies: in the British Library and in the collection of Donald Weeks. Which is odd since it seems that Weeks was cool about the attribution of this item to Rolfe but, one suspects, this might be as much a fit of peek at Woolf having found it first as any reasoned case against the authorship.

Of course, I am looking forward to publishing the text of The Attack at some point, but I'm not going to be too rushed about it since I would like to produce a reasonable introduction to go along with it.

In the pursuit of that introduction, I notice that in the adverts at the rear of The Attack are note about three books/leaflets about St Winefride which I thought it would be fun to try and track down. The St Winefride Virgin & Martyr pamphlet arrived today from a UK bookseller. Unfortunately it has reference to events in 1930 on the last page so I suspect this is one of those kinds of local publications that just gets updated and added to over the years. I have found also a copy of Thomas Swift's Life of St Winefride and that is on its way to me now. The third book advertised in The Attack as being available from Father Beauclerk is The Pilgrim's Manual of Prayers, Hymns and General Instructions which I have not yet been able to track down a copy of, which is a shame because of the three it is perhaps the one most likely to be of interest in terms of background to Rolfe's stay in Holywell.

(And before anyone from the British Library reading this post gets shirty that I've scanned their photocopy and broken their copyright - I haven't, I've broken someone else's copyright for the image on this post)

1 comment:

Chris Bellinger said...

Have you come accross Blurb or Lulu? Bothof which allow you to publish books at reasonable cost, the Blurb one seems more user friendly and I think you can grt the book within coule of weeks also i understand they can give you your own ISB number!
I am now comming up to planning my dissertaion planning as regards my degrere looking at Cornwall ...

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