Monday, September 06, 2010

Raven No. 12 The Pedestrian Uncle

If you come to this blog on a regular basis, and I am surprised but flattered to know that that there are many people who do, then if there is ever a short hiatus, as there has been recently, you might surmise that I have been working on a new book. In particular, the Raven series take a fair amount of work and so I tend to hole up for a few days and get through it. Well, the announcement for Raven 11: The Pedestrian Uncle went out today. I'm pasting the blurb below but it's not really possible to get across in that format, the fascination of this monograph. Robert Scoble has unearthed a true original in Rolfe's uncle whose wild self-promotion and exaggerated lifestyle is a real treasure of Victorian eccentricity.

Raven Twelve: The Pedestrian Uncle
by Robert Scoble

One of the more puzzling aspects of the way Frederick Rolfe related to others was his compulsion to embroider what he told them of the details of his life, hinting at his colourful antecedents and record of impressive accomplishment. The family into which he was born was in fact entirely respectable and worthy, but its very ordinariness seems to have dissatisfied him, and he constantly sought to represent his earlier life as having been more interesting and remarkable than it actually was.

In his latest addition to the Raven Series, Robert Scoble reveals that Rolfe had an uncle who was an even more accomplished fantasist than he was. William Henry Patten Saunders had been married to Rolfe's Aunt Augusta, but by the time of Rolfe's childhood had embarrassed the family so irretrievably that his name was no longer mentioned among them.

'Captain' Patten Saunders, as he took to calling himself, was one of the most accomplished impostors of the Victorian era, convincing the newspapers that he was a renowned scholar, decorated soldier and champion athlete. These claims were ultimately exposed in the press as utterly bogus and fanciful, but the Captain was undeterred, moving seamlessly on to further preposterous impersonations.

Successive biographers, unaware of Patten Saunders's existence, have missed his part in Frederick Rolfe's story. Like his uncle, Rolfe turned to fiction as a part answer to the wounding injustice of a scathing press exposure, and it is tempting to speculate that it was from the Captain's life story that young Frederick learnt the power of public relations and the advantages to be gained from exaggerating his accomplishments.
There hasn't been much other news of late because of the concentration on book-making but I am currently very excited by the fact that the TV series Merlin is about to start again on BBC1. I know that makes me sound a little sad but I am, frankly, more than a little bit in love with Colin Morgan who plays Merlin and the trailers I've been seeing on BBC1 on a regular basis for the last week or so have been making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
And talking of recent obsessions, music has, in the last year or so, become a huge part of my life again, after an absence of a decade. I am writing this whilst listening to a more or less constant loop of Seth Lakeman and Mumford and Sons. If you have ever enjoyed a little folk-rock in your time then I can recommend either. Lakeman is about as talented as it gets, singer and fiddler (often at the same time) and songwriter he sings old Cornish legends and has, of late, had more recognition through a big fat Mercury award (but I was there before that I promise you). The latter group, Mumford and Sons are just phenomenal. Their first album is an amazing concoction in which they manage to shift from inspirational joy to screaming rage in about two bars of music and then back again. Hard to describe but I read one reviewer who said that they play like a group who know they're onto something special and I can't really think of a better way of putting it.
I'm rambling... I'm off to bed...

1 comment:

J said...

I got it today, and (as always) it looks lovely. It is also, as you say, a fascinating story, though I've only skimmed it so far. One wonders if Rolfe maintained the secrecy about his uncle for simple fear that someone might notice the similarities in his own fabrications...

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