"I LEARNED, TO MY GREAT ASTONISHMENT, THAT THE MANUSCRIPT… HAD LAIN THERE FORGOTTEN, IN FACT, SINCE THE TIME OF ROLFE'S DEATH": FIRST EDITION OF BARON CORVO'S THE DESIRE AND PURSUIT OF THE WHOLE
(CORVO, Baron) ROLFE, Frederick. The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole, A Romance of Modern Venice. London: Cassell and Company, 1934. Octavo, original dark green cloth, top edge green, original dust jacket. $350.
First edition, first state, of the last work of Baron Corvo, discovered and rescued from oblivion by A.J.A. Symons, who provides an Introduction to the book.
Frederick William Rolfe (1860-1913), the self-styled Baron Corvo, is known to many chiefly through Symons' masterful biography, The Quest for Corvo, a classic of the genre, in which the biographer recalls, "I learned, to my great astonishment, that the manuscript of The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole lay… in Messrs. Chatto's safe, had lain there forgotten, in fact, since the time of Rolfe's death." The book was deemed unpublishable during Rolfe's lifetime as "it would have given ground for too many suits for libel" (Symons). "The story of the writer Nicholas Crabbe's exile to Venice and his love for a boyish girl named Zildo is a tale of decline, fall, and ultimate romantic salvation… [It] is an elegant testament to a daydream that is as much an outrage of erotic obsession as it is of literary daring" (Kaye, The Boston Review, 1994). Rolfe takes his title from Plato's Symposium, in which Aristophanes posits that humans were first created as pairs joined into a circle, subsequently split in two by Zeus to diminish their power, and thus left feeling an intense yearning because "human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called love" (Plato, Symposium, ed. Jowett). First state, with spine cloth lettered green on gilt panel. Woolf A10. Small dealer label on front pastedown.
Book fine with spine unfaded and gilt bright, very minor foxing to first few leaves; scarce dust jacket exceptionally good with light foxing, minor chipping to head of sunned spine. A desirable copy.