Author(s): Frederick Baron Corv
The titlular character of Hadrian the Seventh is inextricably entangled with his creator, Frederick Rolfe, the self-titled Baron Corvo. Both were Catholic converts and unsuccessful candidates for priesthood, who led bitter, misunderstood lives, betrayed (they thought) by friends, bishops and prelates. Both were at times struggling writers and failed inventors, their brilliance (they believed) insufficiently recognized, who lived alternately extravagantly and in squalor. Rolfe put all his obsessions, all his hate and suffering, his dreams and fantasies into George Arthur Rose, the outcast who through a bizarre sequence of events is elected Pope. Hadrian VII, the first English pontiff in five centuries, is a mass of contradictions- infallible and petulant, ascetic and corrupt, humble and despotic, he empties the Vatican's coffers to feed the poor and reshapes nations in a bid for world peace. With this blend of satire and self-knowledge which runs through the pages of this, his finest novel, Rolfe both vindicates and condemns himself.
A new introduction by Richard Davenport-Hines untangles the many deceptions of this most autobiographical of fictions, and those which surround its author.
One of the strangest novels ever written - part daydream, part diatribe and part autobiography - by one of the great eccentrics of English literature.
Frederick Rolfe (1860-1913), also known as Baron Corvo, was born of a respectable Dissenting family in Cheapside. He converted to Catholicism when he was twenty-six and attempted to enter the priesthood. After he was ejected from the seminary, on the grounds of his extremely 'difficult' temperament and eccentricities, he pledged himself to two decades of celibacy and proceeded to write several semi-autobiographical novels. His relations with his publishers and friends, on whose beneficence he relied, were frequently fractious, and he died poor at his preferred restaurant in Venice.