Home » England » Frederick Rolfe (Baron Corvo)

Frederick Rolfe (Baron Corvo)


Frederick Rolfe was born in London in 1860. He left home at age fifteen and worked for the next ten years as a school teacher. During this period, he moved away from his Anglican upbringing and became a Roman Catholic, being confirmed into the Catholic Church in 1886. He also realised that he was gay. He trained for ordination as a priest but was dismissed for his strange behaviour, including his arrogance and his verbal attacks on fellow students. After being thrown out (literally) from Scots College, Rome, he returned to England, where he struggled to survive on his painting and photography skills. He also took on many personae, including, in particular, the name by which he is known to posterity – Baron Corvo. (Corvo is the Italian for raven, which he used on his crest.)

His first published book – Stories Toto Told Me – led to his exposure in the press for ridicule, which led him to a breakdown. On recovery, he resumed his writing career, producing a series of fantastical works, including Hadrian The Seventh, the work for which he is best known. It represents his own private fantasy of becoming Pope. In 1908 he left Britain to live in Venice. He never returned. He lived off his writing and a series of begging letters he sent to various people (including the Queen Mother, who sent him ten pounds). He died in Venice of a stroke in 1913.

Books about Frederick Rolfe (Baron Corvo)

Miriam J. Benkovitz: Frederick Rolfe: Baron Corvo – A Biography
A. J. A. Symons: The Quest for Corvo

Other links

Frederick Rolfe
Frederick Rolfe
The Photographic Experiments of Frederick Rolfe (Baron Corvo)
His grave


1880 Tarcissus: The Boy Martyr of Rome
1898 Stories Toto Told Me
1898 The Attack On St. Winefride’s Hall
1900 A History of the Borgias (later: Chronicles Of The House Of Borgia)
1901 In His Own Image
1901 A Suggested Criterion of the Credibility of Historians
1904 Hadrian The Seventh
1905 Don Tarquinio
1909 Don Renato, An Ideal Content
1912 The Weird Of The Wanderer
1929 Bull Against Enemy Of The Anglican Race
1935 Hubert’s Arthur
1934 The Desire And Pursuit Of The Whole
1950 Three Tales Of Venice
1951 Amico Di Sandro
1951 Letters To Grant Richards
1957 The Cardinal Prefect Of Propaganda
1958 Nicholas Crabbe
1958 A Letter from Baron Corvo to John Lane
1959 Letters to C. H. C. Pirie-Gordon
1959 The Centenary Edition of the Letters of Frederick William Rolfe
1960 A Letter to Father Beauclerk
1960 Letters to Leonard Moore
1962 The Letters of Baron Corvo to Kenneth Grahame
1962 Letters to R. M. Dawkins
1963 The Architecture of Aberdeen
1963 Without Prejudice. One Hundred Letters From Frederick William Rolfe to John Lane
1964 A Letter to a Small Nephew Named Claud
1967 The Venice Letters A Selection
1972 Letters To James Walsh
1972 Ballade Of Boys Bathing
1974 Collected Poems Of Fr Rolfe, Baron Corvo
1974 The Reverse Side Of The Coin: Some Further Correspondence Between Frederick Wiliam Rolfe And Grant Richards
1974 The Venice Letters
1974 The Armed Hands and Other Stories
1975 Aberdeen Interval
1976 Different Aspects : Frederick William Rolfe & the Foreign Office
1977 Letters To Harry Bainbridge
1977 Frederick Rolfe and The Times, 4-12 February 1901
1988 Frederick Rolfe’s”Reviews of Unwritten Books”