Thursday, December 01, 2011
Vintage Venice and Serendipity
It seems that philosophy has served me well because in the process of scanning these for the blog, I was idly reading the back of the card of the Rio delle Maravegie above and my heart skipped a beat as the rather spidery handwriting on the back began to resolve: in a completely random way, in a church hall near Portsmouth, I had managed to pick up a postcard sent from Venice to Oxford by the Rev'd Canon Lonsdale Ragg. For those who aren't already gasping in amazement, that's okay, we can't all be Corvine obsessives, the good Canon and Mrs Ragg were an independently wealthy couple who lived in Venice and who gave lodgings to Frederick Rolfe. It was whilst he was staying in their palazzo that Rolfe wrote the bulk of The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole. It was the same book which resulted in Rolfe having to forgo their hospitality: Mrs Ragg begged Rolfe to show her the manuscript that he'd been working on so assiduously, and Rolfe eventually, but ill-advisedly gave in. The book paints a viciously Corvine picture of the English community in Venice at the time and Mrs Ragg couldn't countenance more of it being written under her roof and so matters came to a head.
The card is just a note really from Canon Ragg to a Professor at Oxford with whom he was going to stay and annoyingly the stamp has been removed which has, in turn, removed the postmark and therefore the date. There is, however, every possibility that this card could have been written in Venice when Rolfe was staying with them. A delightful and serendipitous find!