Baron Corvo is the assumed name of the English writer and photographer Frederick Rolfe (1860-1913). One of the most colorful characters of late Victorian times, Rolfe was a convert to Catholicism. In an effort to become a priest, he journeyed to Rome. The effort failed, but he formed a lifelong attachment to Italy--and to the boys he befriended there.
Seeking to make a living as an independent writer, his finances were always precarious. Rolfe had a knack for finding patrons, but eventually he fell out with them. Finally, out of money and out of luck, he died of a stroke in Venice. His life was reconstructed in the fascinating “The Quest for Corvo” of A. J. A. Symonds.
Today his best-known work is “Hadrian the Seventh” (1904), a fantasy novel in which an obscure literary Englishman, George Arthur Rose (evidently Rolfe himself), finds himself elected pope, where he assumes vast powers.
His homosexuality is more evident in his autobiographical novel “Nicholas Crabbe,” and in his posthumous work “The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole” (published in 1934) in which he sought to pay off old scores. Boys were the favorite subjects of his photographs; in this work he experimented with color and underwater photography. He also created a number of paintings and designs, including cover designs for some of his books, as well as some church paintings.
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