Sunday, May 10, 2009

Another Raven Flies

Much of the last few days has been spent sorting through, packing and dispatching orders for the lastest in the Raven series of monographs about Frederick Rolfe's life and work. This one, A Duchess and Her Past, tells the life story of the Duchess Caroline Sforza-Cesarini, a quite remarkable story which sheds quite some light on why she found such kinship with Rolfe when he was thrown out of the Scots College in Rome and took him into her home and into her life for quite some time.

The plum coloured covers do look particularly nice with the gilt titles on the special state, very smart! As usual the special state was oversubscribed and sold out within hours. The blurb for the new title it below and it will shortly appear on the website.

Raven Eight: A Duchess and Her Past

by Robert Scoble

When Frederick Rolfe was expelled from the Scots College in Rome in May 1890, he turned for help to the members of the Sforza Cesarini family, from whom he felt sure of a sympathetic hearing. The elderly Dowager Duchess Sforza Cesarini did not hesitate. She immediately invited him to spend the summer as her guest at the family's magnificent palazzo south of the city. The following six months in idyllic Genzano were crucially important to Rolfe's development as a writer, and gave him a lasting insight into Italian history and character. While his psychological wounds were being dressed, he was finding inspiration for the extraordinary books he was soon to write.

This is the first biographical sketch ever written about the feisty duchess. It is only when we know the circumstances of her eventful life that we begin to understand why she felt such an immediate sympathy for Rolfe. Herself an Englishwoman, and like Rolfe a convert to Catholicism, she had been born illegitimately, and had faced an uncertain future before she met her future husband, a rich Italian aristocrat whose early life had been as checkered as her own. Together they played a not inconsiderable role in the fight for Italian unification, and the duchess's husband and son were both appointed to the Italian Senate. By the time she met Rolfe she was a rich and lonely old widow, with a history of standing up to the church authorities.

Of a full edition of 70, the first 12 copies of A Duchess and Her Past constitute the special state, case bound in plum-coloured paper-covered boards with gilt titles, and signed by the author. Numbers 13-70 form the ordinary state of the edition, and are sewn into plum-coloured card covers with a paper label and acetate wrappers.

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