I was delighted on Tuesday last to be invited to Maggs Bros sumptuous shop in Berkeley Square (and one of the most haunted houses in London I'm told), for an evening in memory of Baron Corvo and his most dedicated fan, the late Donald Weeks. It has been a number of years now since Weeks's death and by all accounts, getting his unsurpassed collection of Corvine material catalogued and sold has been tortuous. However, that is what we were celebrating on Tuesday.
It was a remarkable occasion in the first instance as both Tim d'Arch Smith, who compiled the catalogue for Maggs, and and great doyen of Corvine studies Cecil Woolf were both there. It was a remarkable evening also because how often is one at a party where you can hear, "there's a Beardsley man", and "there's a Wratislaw chap" and "there's the greatest scholar of Enoch Soames": a truly 1890s bunch of people. And for me an amazing opportunity to put faces to names that I have known for years as customers or fellow researchers, publishers, writers etc. Even Dame Edna's manager and great 1890s collector Barry Humphries popped in for a while.
The best news of all is that not only has the collection been sold en bloc but it is going to a public collection: the Brotherton Library in Leeds. This is library which already has extensive 1890s holdings including Rolfe MSS. The librarian and staff of the university who were there were simply charming and, having inhaled the catalogue on the way home on the train I'm very much looking forward to getting up to Leeds to renew my acquaintances as soon as possible.
In case you were wondering, the gun was Rolfe's. It was left in the possession of one of Rolfe's Gondoliers who kept it. It was, the Gondolier said, used by Rolfe only as a bird scarer. It was Cecil Woolf who tracked down the aging boatman in the 1960s and persuaded him to give up the gun which was then smuggled back into the UK. The gun is now lost, it's only relic in the collection is the photograph used on the cover of the catalogue.
I am extremely chuffed with my copy of the catalogue, inscribed as it is, by Woolf, d'Arch Smith and Ed Maggs.