Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Corvo's Letters

There has been, for a long while, a large gap in my collection. It is often remarked that Rolfe reached the true heights of his writing genius in his letters so no real Corvine collection is complete until the three volumes of the Centenary Letters have been placed on the shelf. They are the Letters to Pirie-Gordon, Letters to Leonard Moore and Letters to R. M. Dawkins and they were published around 1960, the centenary of Rolfe's birth by Nicholas Vane. They wouldn't have been possible, of course, without the sharp and detailed scholarship and research of Cecil Woolf who edited and introduced the letters. Some of Cecil's letters have recently been catalogued in the Weeks Collection that has been sold to Leeds University and according to Tim d'Arch Smith, the cataloguer, they clearly demonstrate the depth of investigation that Woolf put into his editing. There were to be a number of other volumes which, for one reason or another, were never published. In a letter I have seen Woolf is fairly laid back about that saying to his correspondant that he was aware that some were desparing of seeing the next volume but that everything would come eventually and that others would carry on with anything he couldn't do. Voume four was to have been Rolfe's letters to Canon Ragg and his wife and to Mr and Mrs van Someren with an epilogue by Laura van Someren. I'm glad to say that Rolfe's letters to the Raggs at least are currently under a skilled editor and Woolf was right, others would do anything that he didn't get round to...

As for my copies of the Centenary Letters, finally discovered in their glassine wraps still, the tiny tear in Volume III being the only thing to spoil their otherwise very minty air. And for a price at which I couldn't say no. Wonderful things to have finally tracked down.

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