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The Corvo Festival


Howard just sent an email I should share with you.

corvo pic

Wednesday evening / 05 June

Hi, Ron: Just got back from a meeting and wanted to let you in on the consequences of last year’s Christmas gift.

Hadrian the Seventh was such a fine read that I mentioned it at lunch one day to Ellen Weiss. She just got promoted, by the way, and will chair Language Arts at the college this fall. Ellen knew about Frederick Rolfe, alias Baron Corvo, and even loaned me her disintegrating copy of his Toto stories. I was hooked after just a few pages. A week or so later, we had pizza and beer with her colleague Jasper Finney, director of the theater, and a conspiracy began to form before the second pitcher: In the centennial year of his death, Agincourt would have its first—and, very likely, only—Corvo Festival.

This evening (over a kettle of wild rice soup) we roughed out a week’s worth of activities for the last half of October. Our wish list is pretty bold:

  • Jasper will direct Peter Luke’s play “Hadrian the Seventh” based on the Corvo novel, but probably at the Auditorium rather than Reinhardt Hall at the college—maybe two evenings and a Sunday matinee.
  • We’ve written to Cecil Woolf, British publisher now in his 80s, who seems to be the authority on Frederick Rolfe. Besides being the nephew of Leonard and Virginia Woolf—how’s that for a fringe benefit?—he’s written introductions to recent editions of Rolfe novels and even published some of Rolfe’s surviving correspondence. You told me about A.J.A. Symons’ discovery of some of those letters; apparently a great many more have come out of hiding. We hope Woolf will accept an invitation to be our keynote speaker. Possibly on Tuesday night, October 22nd, at Reinhardt.
  • Did you know Rolfe was a camera enthusiast? Four or five years ago Donald Rosenthal published a volume of surviving photographs—goodness knows from whence they came—and Mitsuo Urushibara thinks we can borrow them and convince Rosenthal to speak, a talk at the Tennant Gallery among the photos themselves.
  • Ellen will present Rolfe in context—title to be determined.
  • And the college Film Society will sponsor a showing of “Death in Venice” the 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s 1912 novel. It’s creepy how the film parallels some of the events leading to Rolfe’s sad end—except the novel was published the year before. I guess Life can sometimes imitate Art.

What do you think of our scheme? Looks like a fairly ambitious agenda, just short of asking the Coen Brothers to apply their documentary skills to Rolfe’s remarkable life. Then there’s the question of money. And if we build it, will they come? At least we can count on you and Peter—for attendance at least, if not cash.

Say hello to Dr Bob.



PS: Did you know Rolfe died on October 25th (in 1913)? What a wonderful coincidence! That’s also St Crispin’s Day, a.k.a. Founders Day, hereabouts, and about which we’re inclined to make a fuss.

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