Baron Corvo Summary


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Frederick William Rolfe, known by the pseudonym Baron Corvo (CAWR-voh), wrote and published in obscurity while he lived. Although he never attracted a wide readership, his prose style, with its emphasis on the exact word and the sentence beautiful in itself, later influenced such writers as Henry Harland, R. H. Benson, and Leslie Shane. Rolfe achieved some notoriety twenty-one years after his death, when A. J. A. Symons, intrigued by both the charm of Rolfe’s writing and the “eccentricity, misery, and scandal” of Rolfe’s private life, published a lively biography, The Quest for Corvo, in 1934.{$S[A]Rolfe, Frederick William;Corvo, Baron}

Born in London in 1860, the eldest son of a piano manufacturer, Rolfe left home at fifteen, rejecting his middle-class Protestant background. In 1886, he became a Roman Catholic and began his unsuccessful attempts to become a priest, meanwhile maintaining his erratic existence by painting, writing, and seeking patronage. Wherever he went, he accumulated debts and enemies, and he eventually turned on most of those who befriended and assisted him.

Rolfe was first noticed as a writer when his stories, based on Italian folk tales, were published in the Yellow Book and subsequently collected in Stories Toto Told Me and In His Own Image. His historical work, Chronicles of the House of Borgia, is a learned but biased glorification of...

(The entire section is 508 words.)