Monday, January 09, 2012

A Letter from Frederick Rolfe Baron Corvo to the Morning Post

This is a new discovery: a previously unknown letter by Frederick Rolfe to the Morning Post of 15th October 1887 published here for the first time since then.

THE PILGRIMAGE TO WESTMINSTER ABBEY

Sir-, I should be glad if you would allow me, through the medium of your paper, to thank the Dean of Westminster for the courtesy the Catholics of England have received at his hands to-day. Last year our pilgrimage to the shrine of St Edward the Confessor was disturbed by several unseemly incidents. To-day every facility was given us to pursue our devotions in comfort, and I noticed that the rule which last year forbade us to touch the shrine with our rosaries was removed to-day. The civility of the officials was also deserving of the highest praise. -I am, sir, yours, &c., FREDERICK ROLFE

208, Belsize-road, St. John's-wood, Oct. 13.

This will be of particular interest to Corvine scholars for a number of reasons. Partly because this year and a bit of Rolfe's life is not well documented. The address is new, (and if I read Google Street View correctly, now nothing more than a shudderingly awful 1960s municipal development) from a time when Benkovitz (one of Rolfe's biographers) despairs of getting all the details of a succession of boarding houses. But more important perhaps is that this letter adds just a little more context to Rolfe's conversion. He is, at this point, a new convert to Catholicism and has left a post at Grantham Grammar School partly because of this and has taken the tutorship of two boys in a catholic household in London. Clearly Rolfe is trying to 'fit in' to his new religious home. Even making the pilgrimage in the first place could be seen as part of that attempt, but also his writing about it in such a public forum is a very public way of asserting his Catholicism.

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