The Quest for Corvo: An Experiment in Biography

Overview

One day in 1925 a friend asked A. J. A. Symons if he had read Fr. Rolfe's Hadrian the Seventh. He hadn't, but soon did, and found himself entranced by the novel — "a masterpiece"— and no less fascinated by the mysterious person of its all-but-forgotten creator. The Quest for Corvo is a hilarious and heartbreaking portrait of the strange Frederick Rolfe, self-appointed Baron Corvo, an artist, writer, and frustrated aspirant to the priesthood with a bottomless talent for self-destruction. But this singular work, ...

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Overview

One day in 1925 a friend asked A. J. A. Symons if he had read Fr. Rolfe's Hadrian the Seventh. He hadn't, but soon did, and found himself entranced by the novel — "a masterpiece"— and no less fascinated by the mysterious person of its all-but-forgotten creator. The Quest for Corvo is a hilarious and heartbreaking portrait of the strange Frederick Rolfe, self-appointed Baron Corvo, an artist, writer, and frustrated aspirant to the priesthood with a bottomless talent for self-destruction. But this singular work, subtitled "an experiment in biography," is also a remarkable self-portrait, a study of the obsession and sympathy that inspires the biographer's art.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Symons's biography of a little-known writer named Frederick Rolfe is unique in biographical literature in bringing the reader in on how the biographer knows what he knows about his subject; and in owning up to what he doesn't know or feels cannot be known. 'The Quest for Corvo' is biography in the form of a detective story, and as such it is riveting....The surest formula for a masterpiece biography—of which there are not that many—is an extraordinary human being writing about a great one. In 'The Quest for Corvo' we have an utterly charming man writing on a madly eccentric one....A slender book, an odd book, a completely original book, [it] also represents a new method of writing biography that has never been copied."  —Joseph Epstein, The Wall Street Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780940322615
  • Publisher: New York Review Books
  • Publication date: 3/28/2001
  • Series: New York Review Books Classics Series
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 700,049
  • Product dimensions: 5.02 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

A.J.A. Symons (1900-1941) pursued a wide variety of projects in his short life, writing and editing works on the verse of the 1890s, the history of the Nonesuch Press, and critical studies of various figures of note. He is remembered for his groundbreaking biography of the bizarre genius Baron Corvo and for his own eccentric hobbies, as chronicled in a biography written by his brother, the mystery novelist Julian Symons.

A S Byatt is renowned internationally for her novels and short stories. Her novels include the Booker Prize-winning PossessionThe Biographer’s Tale and the quartet,The Virgin in the GardenStill LifeBabel Tower and A Whistling Woman. Her most recent novel, The Children’s Book was published in 2009.

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