ROLFE (FREDERICK WILLIAM) 'Baron Corvo' Autograph letter signed ("Uncle Freddy"), to his nephew Claud, 69 Broadhurst Gardens, Hampstead, London, England, 26 January 1903
Lot 300*
ROLFE (FREDERICK WILLIAM) 'Baron Corvo'
Autograph letter signed ("Uncle Freddy"), to his nephew Claud, 69 Broadhurst Gardens, Hampstead, London, England, 26 January 1903
Sold for £8,750 (US$ 14,298) inc. premium

Lot Details
ROLFE (FREDERICK WILLIAM) 'Baron Corvo' Autograph letter signed ("Uncle Freddy"), to his nephew Claud, 69 Broadhurst Gardens, Hampstead, London, England, 26 January 1903
From the Collection of Dr. Rocco Verrilli
ROLFE (FREDERICK WILLIAM) 'Baron Corvo'
Autograph letter signed ("Uncle Freddy"), to his nephew Claud, 2 pages (bifolium, text on recto only), WITH 5 PEN AND INK DRAWINGS (including 4 self-portraits; the other a profile of Claudius), laid on card, folio (340 x 555mm.), 69 Broadhurst Gardens, Hampstead, London, England, 26 January 1903

Footnotes

  • THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT OF A LETTER TO CLAUD, INCLUDING FIVE ORIGINAL ILLUSTRATIONS, four of which are caricature self-portraits.

    The Letter is addressed to Rolfe's nephew Claud. Asked to write, Rolfe begins "First I get a big piece of paper like this... then I get a big pen like this... and write on a board on my knee...", interspersing the text with caricature self-portraits of himself. The final self-portrait is a more realistic head and shoulders version, bespectacled in tie and suit, with a large signet ring on his pen-holding hand. Claiming not to know what to write to a boy he has never met he decides on "a true tale about another man whose name was Claud like yours, eighteen hundred and forty Years ago [i.e. Emperor Claudius 41-54 AD]... when he was a little boy he was always ill, and no one looked after him. So instead of playing and running and swimming and jumping like you he used to shut himself up and read books. When he grew up the people made him king." There follows the tale of how the Claudian Aqueduct came into being. The parallels with Hadrian are clear, and as in that work, Claud can clearly be read a self-portrait - "Because he [Claudius/Rolfe} had read many books he was very wise".

    Provenance: Donald Weeks. In May 1964 A Letter to Claud was exhibited at the Rolfe exhibition held at the University of Iowa. To coincide with the exhibition Weeks published the Letter, the illustrations redrawn and reduced, in book form [Woolf A24]. Limited to only 134 copies, with an introduction by Clarence A. Andrews, it was issued gratis on the opening night of the exhibition (4 May).
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