[ilds] DG Bitter Lemons -- more corvo

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Fri Jul 6 10:49:43 PDT 2007

Thanks, Charles.  Now I know a lot about Corvo and can't imagine how the guy escaped my notice.


-----Original Message-----
>From: slighcl <slighcl at wfu.edu>
>Sent: Jul 5, 2007 7:33 PM
>To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
>Subject: Re: [ilds] DG Bitter Lemons -- more corvo
>On 7/5/2007 9:56 PM, william godshalk wrote:
>>Bruce, it's a literary allusion which Charlie will explain -- because 
>>he knows more than I do about Corvo. 
>Well, where to begin?  Rolfe/Corvo might be best defined in Durrell's 
>words:  he was one of those "/deeply wounded in his sex/."   If he had 
>lived beyond his Venice years I can imagine him showing up in 
>Alexandria.  He left a broken trail behind him and there was no 
>returning.  Alexandria was the perfect climate for a "bankrupt" like him.
>I suppose that Durrell is citing Corvo and having the bat-lark because 
>Rolfe lived in Venice for a while by mooching and died there 
>impoverished and bitterly paranoid after writing /The Desire and Pursuit 
>of the Whol/e and his /Venice Letters/.   If you enjoy reading /fin de 
>siecle/, Yellow-Bookish prose limning homosexual themes and 
>crypto-catholic imagery--and who does not?--then these books might be 
>for you. 
>>     In August 1908 Rolfe left for Venice and never returned, living
>>     out a kind of degenerate and vituperative envoi to his earlier
>>     years. His squabbles with publishers and his vicious exploitation
>>     of those who befriended him continued as before. He began to
>>     compose detailed fantasies about mystic cults signed 'Frederick of
>>     Venice', and embarked upon a series of sexual relationships with
>>     adolescent boys. Don Renato appeared in 1909, but was immediately
>>     suppressed. The Weird of the Wanderer, the last novel published in
>>     his lifetime, was brought out in 1912 in collaboration with Harry
>>     Pirie-Gordon. Rolfe then established residence at the Albergo
>>     Cavaletto, where he died of a stroke on 26 October 1913. He was
>>     unmarried, and his Venetian will left his estate to his brother,
>>     Alfred, a schoolteacher in Australia, who was unable to claim it
>>     for fear of creditors. The estate, consisting mostly of
>>     'incriminating' letters, photos, and manuscripts, was confiscated
>>     by the British consul, and most of it was destroyed. Rolfe was
>>     buried on 30 October 1913 in a pauper's grave in San Michele
>>     cemetery, Venice, where he was re-interred in 1924. His last
>>     novel, a homoerotic fantasy, The Desire and the Pursuit of the
>>     Whole, was published in 1934 to critical acclaim.
>>     David Bradshaw [DNB]
>Rolfe also claimed to have been adopted by the Duchess of 
>Sforza-Cesarini--Durrell would have liked that name.  So would Pynchon.
>/Hadrian the Seventh/ is a marvelous little fantasy novel--fantasy in 
>the sense that it is Rolfe's own projection of how the priest he never 
>could be finds himself suddenly tapped by the College of Cardinals and 
>rising from obscurity to the Papacy.  Hilarious and moving, perhaps both 
>at times, especially when Rolfe did not intend. 
>Corvo's /Chronicles of the House of Borgias/ is something that I imagine 
>Durrell reading.  That would be fit since Corvo himself was a magpie who 
>liked taking up and making off with other folks' shiny prose and shiny 
>    http://books.google.com/books?id=p7gNAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA1&dq=inauthor:frederick+inauthor:rolfe&as_brr=1#PPR3,M1
>And Symons's /Quest/, as Michael and Bill have said, is simply 
>unavoidable for anyone interested in twentieth-century biography as a 
>prose art.
>Charles L. Sligh
>Department of English
>Wake Forest University
>slighcl at wfu.edu

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