Thursday, February 23, 2012
Don Tarquinio by Frederick Rolfe: An Unpublished Manuscript
The published version has Rolfe introduce the story from the present day as himself, claiming that the bulk of the novel is, in fact, his translation of a medieval manuscript. This is a device he uses a number of times in various novels. However, worried that his publisher might think the whole thing just a little too arcane, he also created a second version of the novel. This, as he wrote to his brother Herbert, the dedicatee, was written in the voice of "an entirely modern rather slangy story-teller". Rolfe submitted both versions to Chatto and, himself, preferred the second. However, Chatto had already accepted the first and that was the version that was published. The manuscript, hand-wrriten and bound in cream cloth and decorated on the upper cover with an image and lettering in black ink (above), was returned to Rolfe and he then gave it to Herbert. The decoration on the front cover of this MS contains a version of the image which was eventually used on the published version. The main difference is that, in the hand drawn cover you can see at the top right of the insert illustration of the boy on the battlements, a bird in the sky. This would certainly have been intended to be a Raven which is how Rolfe signed his artwork.