Item #8476 ALS. Frederick ROLFE, Baron Corvo.


Item #8476

Frederick Rolfe, aka Baron Corvo (1860-1913) was a rather obscure figure in modernist literature, but his influence has been discerned in novels written by Henry Harland, Ronald Firbank, Graham Greene, and Alexander Theroux. His biography by A.J.A. Symons, The Quest for Corvo, is regarded as a minor classic in the field.
A lengthy and revealing 4 pp. ALS letter to English poet Charles Kains Jackson, which covers a number of subjects, such as photography, Catholicism, and boys, with Rolfe thanking his friend for his "charming letter…one most grateful to me for I am undergoing one of my periodical fits of dumps." He encourages Jackson to send papers relating to photography, and then provides a description of the tombs at Ariccia near Albano, “…you may walk the 11 miles if you like…the straddling is awful. Moreover out of the crevices in the walls where you wedge your elbows dire & dreadful beasts put out horns & claws & hoofs at you like this.” Rolfe has added a pair of bold sketches here: one of a man walking gingerly into the receding tunnel, and the other of horns and claws. On the next page Rolfe adds the peculiar line “Lady Burton is a woman,” before launching into a tirade against Papists, “…I am trying to kick up some awful row about the way papist treat their converts in one of the newspapers…I've sent a letter to the Manchester Guardian.” In Miriam J. Benkovitz's biography of Rolfe, she notes this passage as being Rolfe's first attack on Catholics. He continues on and writes about ongoing paintings, an Arras, St. Edmund, and how “There is a St. Martin coming on & now what I want is a perfectly naked boy floating in mid air perpendicularly, head thrown back & arms up. I'll give him a golden bow & quiver & call him 'Love.'” He proceeds to complain that he hasn't the right bathing places to pose his boy models, and describes them as “ribald & ugly. Pose they couldn't for their lives,” comparing them unfavorably in front of the camera to the models he found in Italy. He mentions that Gleeson White has offered his 13-year-old son Eric as a model, a proposition that causes Rolfe alarm: “I am sure he regards me with a suspicious eye & expects me to give way to genuflections or some other Jesuitry.” He asks for Henry Tuke's address in order to send him some photographs, and closes with a candid statement on his "relations with boys. You know I never make friends of them now, I am too old & uninteresting. But I make them my bondslaves & worship their beauty.” In very good to fine condition, with ink erosion-related loss to the bottom of the drawing on the first page.

Price: $4,500.00

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