Rolfe, Frederick William

Updated About content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Frederick William Rolfe, 1860–1913, English novelist, also known as Baron Corvo. After a vain attempt to become a priest, Rolfe earned a living painting and teaching before he began to write under the name Baron Corvo. His most famous work is the novel Hadrian the Seventh (1904), which chronicles the life of Arthur Rose, who, although rejected for the priesthood, eventually becomes pope. One of the strangest novels in English, Hadrian the Seventh was dramatized by Peter Luke in 1967 and successfully produced in London and New York. Rolfe's bizarre, abusive, and erudite personality is revealed in his The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole (1934), which tells of his final sordid years in Venice.

See his letters (3 vol., 1959–62); biographical studies by A. J. A. Symons (1955) and D. Weeks (1971).