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35 THE DATE OF COMPOSITION OF FREDERICK ROLFE 'S HADRIAN THE SEVENTH By G. P. Jones (Memorial University of Newfoundland) There has been considerable confusion over the date of composition of Frederick Rolfe·s Hadrian the Seventh, in large part due to commentators · having overlooked or misinterpreted relevant internal and external evidence. I have seen it stated, for example, that the novel was inspired by and commenced after the papal conclave of July-August I903.I The statement is completely erroneous. Determining the date of composition of Hadrian is complicated rather than simplified by the fact that it is pseudonymously referred to in another of Rolfe's semi-autobiographical novels, Nicholas Crabbe. The allusions therein to the writing and circulation to publishers of Hadrian cannot well be ignored since they constitute the most publicly accessible pieces of evidence relating to the genesis of Hadrian and since virtually all commentators on Rolfe·s life and work have followed the practice of A. J. A. Symons in The Quest for Corvo of pillaging Rolfe 's novels for information about his life. But nor can the allusions be accepted at face value. Hadrian is pseudonymously represented in Nicholas Crabbe not, as Cecil Woolf maintains in his edition of the latter, by Necessary Propositions (which represents one of Rolfe·s historical novels, Don Renato) but by Amorroma. The Latin words making up the pseudonymous title (amor, •love· j roma. 'Rome') are apposite to the subject and setting of Hadrian and do not suit any of Rolfe·s other works. The disparaging description of Amorroma as "a very modern novel, a deliberately low and sensational thing such as the publisher believes to be loved by the public" (NC, Ch. XXVIII) is not untypical of Rolfe's early feelings about Hadrian, feelings which are illustrated by his referring to it in an unpublished letter to G. T. Maquay dated 27 May I903 as "a really vulgar sentimental novel."2 Moreover, the style which the author-hero of Nicholas Crabbe concocts to represent the speech of the protagonist of Amorroma is described in a fashion strikingly similar to the description of the manner of the protagonist's speech in Hadrian. The first of the following passages is taken from Chapter XXIX of Nicholas Crabbe. the second from Chapter VIII of Hadrian» He had hit on the dodge of making his hero always talk in hendecasyllabics. It was not the poetic prose of Dickens trying to be pathetic: for the hendecasyllabic measure is an almost unknown one¡ and, as far as he could see, it simply gave a characteristic keen sweetness to his hero's diction. He was rather pleased with the effect. It was quaintly delicate and sober, suited well to the figure he was delineating: but it was difficult. His quaintly correct and archaic diction exasperated men who had no means of expressing their thoughts except in the fluid allusive clipped verbosity of the day. Objections were made to His hendecasyllabical allocutions, by mediocrities who could not away with a man who discoursed in ithyphallics. 36 Even when it is established which pseudonymous work represents Hadrian, the accuracy of Rolfe's dating of events within Nicholas Crabbe remains problematical, for notwithstanding the diaristic nature of much of the novel, there is no reason to suppose that the author felt bound to retain the chronology of the original events in his fictional representation of them. The most obvious example of his availing himself of chronological license in this respect is provided by his radical antedating of his friendship and collaboration with Sholto Douglas, which commenced in March, 1902. In Nicholas Crabbe this becomes the much longer friendship and collaboration between Crabbe and Kemp, which is backdated to begin shortly after Crabbe's arrival in London and before his work on his Medici Book (representing Rolfe 's Chronicles of the House of Borgia, which, according to the author's notation in his copy of the work, was in progress "between XX Nov. I899 and XXX Jul 1900").3 It cannot, therefore, be assumed that the biographical and chronological particularity of Nicholas Crabbe is entirely accurate. It follows that individual events and dates mentioned within the novel may be...


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