- Publisher: NYRB Classics
- Format: Paperback | 424 pages
- Dimensions: 127mm x 203mm x 28mm | 431g
- Publication date: 31 March 2001
- Publication City/Country: New York
- ISBN 10: 0940322625
- ISBN 13: 9780940322622
- Edition: New edition
- Edition statement: New edition
- Sales rank: 301,588
One day George Arthur Rose, hack writer and minor priest, discovers that he has been picked to be Pope. He is hardly surprised and not in the least daunted. "The previous English pontiff was Hadrian the Fourth," he declares. "The present English pontiff is Hadrian the Seventh. It pleases Us; and so, by Our own impulse, We command."Hadrian is conceived in the image of his creator, Fr. Rolfe, whose aristocratic pretensions (he called himself Baron Corvo), religious obsession, and anarchic and self-aggrandizing sensibility have made him known as one of the great English eccentrics. Fr. Rolfe endured a lifetime of indignities and disappointments. However, in the hilarious and touching pages of this, his finest novel, he triumphs.
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Fr. Rolfe (1860-1913) also known as Frederick Rolfe and Baron Corvo, converted to Catholicism when he was twenty-six and attempted to enter the priesthood. After he was ejected from the seminary, he pledged himself to twenty years of celibacy and proceeded to write several semi-autobiographical novels that were simultaneously pious and irreverent. He lived alternately extravagantly and in squalor, depending on his means at the time, and died bitter and poor in Venice. Alexander Theroux is an American novelist, poet, and essayist. His most recent novel is "Laura Warholic."
It is extraordinarily alive, even though it has been buried for twenty years. Up it rises to confront us...Only a first-rate book escapes its date...The book remains a clear and definite book of our epoch, not to be swept aside. -- D.H. Lawrence Frederick Rolfe alias Baron Corvo is certainly one of the most fascinating of those various literary curiosities of England. -- "Saturday Review"
Rolfe, who was neither a priest nor an aristocrat, though his names might suggest so, was in fact something of a crackpot genius, as Alexander Theroux notes in his new introduction to this eccentric masterpiece, a fantasy of colossal wish fulfillment that shares with Theroux's books a love of baroque sentence structure, a passion for unusual and nonce words, and delight in an orgy of color. A failed Roman Catholic priest, Frederick Rolfe (1860-1913) translated his sense of failure into this amazing story of George Arthur Rose, a hack writer, much like Rolfe, who is suddenly accepted into the priesthood and through a series of bizarre events becomes the second English-born pope. He's an admitted misanthrope ("and "altruist), and Rose's "feline" nature serves him well in Rome, where he proceeds to remake the Church in his own image: liturgically conservative but open, honest and ecumenical. His reforms startle his cardinals, and his vision for world history is equally odd. He indulges in a taste for astrology, designs a new cross, and vents constantly about ugly and ill-mannered socialists. While Rolfe's Hadrian speaks in purple prose, with a distinct level of inspired pomposity, the novel in general displays an unerring skill in Latin and Greek and a dazzling ease with canon law, scripture, and Church esoterica. Arch, campy, but not as froufrou as Ronald Firbank, Rolfe's mind-boggling tale exists somewhere between reverence and heresy: be grateful it's back. (Kirkus Reviews)