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Rolfe, Frederick

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1860-1913) UK author and eccentric, known as much for claiming the name Baron Corvo as for his writing. The nine Reviews of Unwritten Books (February-June 1903 The Monthly Review; plus one added piece December 1904 Gentleman's Magazine; coll 1985-1988 4vols each chap) with Sholto Douglas are an early articulation of the concept of Alternate History, if only in a nonfiction format (one of the reviews, for instance, being of "Machiavelli's Despatches from the South African Campaign"). Hubert's Arthur: Being Certain Curious Documents Found among the Literary Remains of Mr N C (written 1908-1912; 1935) with H C H Pirie-Gordon as by Prospero and Caliban, in which King John fails to kill and is overthrown by his nephew Arthur, is an early Alternate-History novel, although its late publication date precludes any influence on that genre. The Weird of the Wanderer (1912), again with Pirie-Gordon as by Prospero and Caliban, is a fantasy involving Timeslips, but Hadrian the Seventh (1904), on which Rolfe's reputation as an author almost solely rests, is a genuine Near-Future sf novel, set in 1910. Dealing with the rise to the Papacy of a frustrated English candidate for priesthood (see Decadence), the novel offers a number of predictions regarding the future of Europe, including a vision of the Russian Revolution. [GF]

Frederick William Rolfe

born London: 22 July 1860

died Venice, Italy: 25 October 1913


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