Friday, September 23, 2011

Raven 14: The Artist and the Scholar

As I mentioned in the previous post, the penultimate Raven has flown the nest. This one is a particularly fascinating insight into the life of one of Rolfe's most singular friends/combatants, Professor Dawkins. It also includes the text of the infamous letter 30 (ominously but not particularly appropriately lettered XXX in roman numerals!) that was omitted from Cecil Woolf's edition of Rolfe's letters to Dawkins that he published in 1962. The blurb below will fill you in on all the details...

If you have ordered on of these Ravens then it should either be with you by now or (in the case of overseas order) be on its way. There are just a couple of orders still to be sent out so please don't panic yet if you haven't had yours, it is coming...

Callum James Books runs two mailing lists. The first carries the announcements of new publications (including the Ravens) and the second contains the occasional Short List Catalogue of rare and interesting books and ephemera that we issue from time to time. Both the titles we publish, and the books and other items that we sell, often but not always have a flavour of gay history and literature about them. If you would like to be included on either or both of the lists, please drop me a line at

Raven Fourteen: The Artist and the Scholar
by Robert Scoble

It was Frederick Rolfe's good fortune to find himself invited to accompany the archaeologist Richard MacGillivray Dawkins in the summer of 1908 on a trip to Venice. Dawkins was intelligent, good-natured and equanimous, and it would have been a great advantage to Rolfe had he cultivated this new friendship in the conventional way. True to form, however, Rolfe squandered the opportunity, quarrelling with Dawkins and subjecting him over the next few years to a barrage of insulting letters.

With the publication in 1934 of A J A Symons’s The Quest for Corvo, the more disreputable aspects of Rolfe’s life became public knowledge, and Dawkins came under pressure to explain his friendship with Rolfe and his bankrolling of their trip to Venice. This he did by emphasising Rolfe’s charming and unusual personality, hinting that he had had to terminate the friendship when he realised Rolfe’s propensity for unseemly behaviour.

Subsequent commentators, including Rolfe’s several biographers, have reinforced this narrative. Rolfe has been portrayed as grasping and ungrateful, with Dawkins as his kindly and long-suffering victim. This telling of only half the story, with its homosexual subtext downplayed, does a disservice to Rolfe.

In this penultimate addition to the Raven Series, Robert Scoble describes the trajectory of the short-lived friendship between Rolfe and Dawkins, a friendship unable to survive the incompatibility of their temperaments.

The Raven Series has been planned as a set of fifteen scholarly essays which will add substantially to our knowledge of the life and work of Frederick Rolfe. Each essay is being published in a strictly limited edition, and there is little doubt that complete sets of the fifteen monographs will be sought after by collectors in the years to come.

Of a full edition of 70, the first 12 copies of The Artist and the Scholar constitute the special state, case bound in bright green 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 bright green card covers with a paper label and acetate wrappers.

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