ROLFE (FREDERICK WILLIAM) 'Baron Corvo' Autograph letter signed ("Rolfe"), to James Walsh, discussing at length his "Divine Vocation", relations with his Jesuit superiors, and interest in prognostic astrology, 69 Broadhurst Gardens, Hampstead, 3 June 1903
Lot 303*
ROLFE (FREDERICK WILLIAM) 'Baron Corvo'
Autograph letter signed ("Rolfe"), to James Walsh, discussing at length his "Divine Vocation", relations with his Jesuit superiors, and interest in prognostic astrology, 69 Broadhurst Gardens, Hampstead, 3 June 1903
Sold for £1,500 (US$ 2,421) inc. premium

Lot Details
From the Collection of Dr. Rocco Verrilli
ROLFE (FREDERICK WILLIAM) 'Baron Corvo'
Autograph letter signed ("Rolfe"), to James Walsh, discussing at length his "Divine Vocation", relations with his Jesuit superiors, and interest in prognostic astrology, 8 pages, on blue paper, 8vo, 69 Broadhurst Gardens, Hampstead, 3 June 1903

Footnotes

  • "I PERSIST IN MAINTAINING I HAVE A DIVINE VOCATION... PRAY FOR ME. PRAY THAT I MAY NOT BE IN A LUNATICK ASYLUM... I'M AFRAID". An expansive letter, sent at a time when Rolfe was furiously revising the manuscript of Hadrian the Seventh. The letter is filled with reflections of Hadrian (as elucidated by Weeks). 'Sometimes these were phrases which he had used before and would use again with variations... More often details in the book and the letters were identical" (Benkovitz, pp.158/8). In our letter Rolfe writes with genuine affection, seemingly taken by surprise that Walsh had maintained the correspondence: "I anticipated that my last [letter] would choke you off... I am glad you have taken it urbanely: but Americans are exquisitely urbane, though I never met a Kelt who was...".

    Finding that Walsh, like himself, had been found by Jesuit superiors to have had "no Vocation", he is eager to know "how did their verdict strike you? Did you believe it? Did you (and do you) believe that you had (or have) a Divine Vocation, and that you alone could know finally that, and that those or [sic] could not see it must be fools and blind? Of course you accepted the consequence of the verdict. One has to... You can do me immense intellectual service by giving me your opinion on the above". Obviously intrigued that Walsh has steadfastly held his beliefs despite the rejection of his Vocation, Rolfe discusses his own experiences: "I received a Divine Vocation to serve God as a secular priest when I was a protestant boy of fifteen. I was very fervent about it... A few years later I was unfaithful to my Vocation, played the fool, sowed wild oats (if you like)... But I never relinquished my divine gift". Years later, after being taken in by the Jesuits, and his experiences in Oscott and Rome "came the verdict I had no Vocation... Well I said they were wrong. I swore and and swear that I have a Vocation, to say mass for the dead in particular...". He states than only he can know, and that there was a mistake in the judgement, "... a justifiable mistake seeing that I am an abnormal creature and my superiors were about as commonplace a gaggle of fatwitted geese as this hemisphere produces". After the crescendo of this outburst Rolfe calms down to explain that his doctor has suggested he must stop work and seek "freedom from worry for a year... If not, I shall have a serious nervous break-down within the month". Resignedly he writes that he cannot stop for he would be "penniless and homeless, and the three books which I have completed and the one which I am completing now will all be wasted... [I am] quite determined not to stop until I have the means to stop, or until I drop". In the latter part of the letter Rolfe discusses aspects of prognostic astrology, once more asks if Walsh has come across Percy O'Sullivan, before asking for Walsh's prayers, and signing off "And I'm Afraid".

    Our letter is published in Frederick Rolfe. Baron Corvo. Letters to James Walsh, edited by Donald Weeks, 1972, Letter IV, pp.14-18.
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