Thursday, September 05, 2013

Frederick Rolfe Centenary: Donald Weeks and the Tragara Press

This year sees the centenary of the death of Frederick Rolfe Baron Corvo. To mark this, from now until the actual anniversary on the 25th October I shall be posting about the Baron and his life and work on a regular basis here on Front Free Endpaper.

Through the 1970s and 80s The Tragara Press in Edinburgh issued a total of 15 monographs about Frederick Rolfe's life and work by Donald Weeks. It is not for me to comment of Weeks's character, I did not know him, and many who are still alive did, suffice to say that like many for whom Corvo appeals, Weeks had a touch of the Corvine about him. 

As anyone who has read Weeks's biography of Rolfe will know, Weeks's prose style was tortuous. The novelist Francis King was initially involved in getting Weeks's biography of Rolfe to the press and was going to edit the manuscript but, in the end, it proved too baroque a task and he opted out. The same grammatically difficult style is present throughout these Tragara Press monographs but they are still a very useful resource. Several of them (Frederick Rolfe and The Times, Reviews of Unwritten Books etc.) are valuable reprints of Rolfe material that would be otherwise very difficult to find.  There is also material by Rolfe which hadn't been published before (Saint Thomas). At other times Weeks uses the opportunity to pursue his one of his ongoing vendettas (Two Friends - Frederick Rolfe & Henry Harland which is entirely devoted to disproving a paragraph's worth of material in his rival, Miriam Benkovitz's biography of Rolfe), and he even has one monograph (Rolfe Without Frederick) which has almost nothing to do with Rolfe at all, focusing on a diplomatic incident in which one of Rolfe's brothers was involved. 

Each title has a different limitation, a decision which was made in each case by Weeks himself and each title had a certain number, about 20, printed with a different colophon, 'for the use of the editor/author'. All are beautifully produced, printed by hand by Alan Anderson and bound in soft card or marbled paper. 


J said...

Apart from the "Reviews of Unwritten Books," which of these would you say is essential for the Corvo collector?

TdK said...

I'd say 'Different Aspects', Rolfe's letters of 1913 to The Foreign Office, Venice, because they show a less well known side of the Raven's personality i.e. his compassion for his fellow men.

J said...

I found a copy of that online, not too outlandishly priced, so I ordered it. The nice thing is that it is one of Weeks' "reserved" copies...and so are my copies of the "Unwritten Books" pamphlets!

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