One summer afternoon A.J.A. Symons is handed a peculiar novel called Hadrian the Seventh and, captivated by this forgotten masterpiece, determines to learn everything he can about its mysterious author. Symons proceeds as a detective might, investigating leads, collecting evidence and corresponding with witnesses. The object of his search is Frederick Rolfe, the self-appointed Baron Corvo - artist, rejected candidate for priesthood and author of serially autobiographical fictions - and its story is told in The Quest for Corvo: a dazzling portrait of an insoluble tangle of talents, frustrated ambitions, arrogance and paranoia.The book, which reads with all the excitement of detective fiction, is at once a literary pilgrimage and reflection on the obsessions and deceptions which lie at the heart of biography.
The short life of A.J.A. Symons (1900-41) was described by his biographer as an intricate and largely harmless confidence trick. His many interests included the collection of musical boxes and rare books as well as the study and practice of forgery; they left him time to edit an anthology of Edwardian verse and compose studies of H.M. Stanley and other notable figures. He is remembered for The Quest for Corvo, one of the most remarkable biographies ever written, and for co-founding the Wine and Food Society.
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