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Hadrian the Seventh by Frederick Rolfe
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Hadrian the Seventh (1904)

by Frederick Rolfe

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  1. 00
    Laura Warholic: Or, The Sexual Intellectual by Alexander Theroux (slickdpdx)
    slickdpdx: Both are stories of embittered artists redeemed, told by authors with a love for language and the esoteric.
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» See also 42 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
George Arthur Rose is a staunch Catholic and a wannabe-priest, but for twenty years all his efforts to have his vocation made official have been torpedoed either by bad luck, or by bishops disinclined to put up with his difficult character and his erratic behaviour. As a result, Rose, eking out an existence as a freelance writer, has become bitter and easy (and very eager!) to take offence; he takes pride in rubbing his misfortunes in the face of those responsible precisely by ostentatiously not rubbing them in their face. He’s got several magnanimous monologues prepared, for when his tormentors finally see the light and apologize to him. He’s also an inveterate cat person.

So far, the story is really that of the author himself: Frederick Rolfe, the self-styled Baron Corvo, who abbreviated his first name Fr. so as to give the impression of being a priest. But then, one day, Rose gets elected pope. He takes it in stride, and sets out to become the best, most memorable, and most innovative pope ever. Also, he mews occasionally.

Hadrian the Seventh is a fun romp of a book. It’s Roman-Catholic fanfic, a delightful what-if tale that takes its silly premise and runs with it, emphatically not caring about what anyone may think. Rolfe’s pope, scrupulously exact and sternly megalomaniacal, is what the entire book hangs on, lavishing well-deserved attention on him, letting him shine in all his contradictory glory; as such, he joins my pantheon of memorable characters that transcend their book.

And it isn't just the main character -- it’s the entirety of Hadrian the Seventh that so fascinatingly walks that fine line between sincerity and satire. It is written in an elegantly baroque style that is so full of its own aloofness it almost parodies itself; its central character, so impossibly smug, is treated with the utmost gravity; and its attitudes towards women, socialists, non-Catholics and assorted nationalities are ridiculous, yet presented as such self-evidencies and taken so far that it’s hard to take them entirely seriously.

I'm not quite sure just how tongue-in-cheek this book is: is it mostly self-aware over-the-top wishful thinking with an honest desire at its core? Or does it aim to create an exaggerated but mostly honest attempt at what-if? Or was the author unaware of how self-aggrandizing the book is? Or perhaps he was and he intended it so. From what I've read, all of these are possible. (Incidentally, I've also purchased Symons' The Quest for Corvo, a biography of Rolfe (which appears to be a fêted classic in its own right), and will certainly read it.)

Whatever the case may be, Hadrian the Seventh was enormous fun to read, endlessly entertaining and more whimsical than any other book I read this year. ( )
1 vote Petroglyph | Dec 22, 2014 |
Hadrian the Seventh is a megalomaniacal fantasy in which a struggling writer (frequently taken as Rolfe’s alter-ego) is inexplicably made Pope. The book succeeds because both the fictional George Arthur Rose and the actual Frederick Rolfe are better than their respective doubles. Rose as Hadrian constructs a persona “immense, intangible, potent, detestable—and most desirable.” He masters the Roman curia with his remarkable rhetorical prowess, and very nearly secures the peace that would have avoided the Great War. And because we are made to feel how much Hadrian is a creation of Rose, we see that Rolfe was capable of artistic feats that Rose could only dream of. Rolfe’s prose is poignant, grandiose, hilarious and sad. I’m glad I read this. Rose’s guileless, exculpatory nine-page confession before he is appointed to the Chair of Peter is a small masterpiece.

p.s. The introduction by Alexander Theroux in the NYRB edition gives away the ending. It should be an Afterword. ( )
  HectorSwell | Sep 4, 2014 |
Idiosyncratic virtuosic wish-fulfillment. ( )
2 vote slickdpdx | Jun 10, 2013 |
I don't know how closely this short play is based upon the original semi-autobiographical novel* but it was apparently successful enough to launch the new career of Peter Luke, a former artist/soldier. I can't believe I'm going to say this but I think today's standards might be a little higher. The story is of an angry, debt-ridden, foul-mouthed, ill-mannered, unsuccessful misanthrope with a kind heart (I imagine a Mr. Roper from Three's Company) who has dreamed his whole life of becoming a priest so he can finally reform the church to his liking. When he is suddenly elected Pope (named Hadrian after the last and only English Pope), you'd think the hilarity would ensue, right? No. Dry, dull, and parochial in its grasp of basic church structure and theology. And in the end, it was all just a dream. For all the complaints about the ending of the TV show LOST, at least they didn't take that route...

Just silly.

*The only reason I read this was because the online seller that I purchased it from apparently didn't understand that it was not the actual "Hadrian VII" novel written by Frederick Rolfe that I was expecting to get. Either that or he just suckered me knowing that nobody would buy it otherwise.
( )
  cjyurkanin | May 22, 2013 |
Brought to the BC-meeting in Castricum for me :-)
  BoekenTrol71 | Mar 31, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rolfe, FrederickAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Croegaert, GeorgesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mathias, RobertCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Theroux, AlexanderIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weinstock, HerbertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0940322625, Paperback)

One day George Arthur Rose, hack writer and minor priest, discovers that he has been picked to be Pope. He is hardly surprised and not in the least daunted. "The previous English pontiff was Hadrian the Fourth," he declares. "The present English pontiff is Hadrian the Seventh. It pleases Us; and so, by Our own impulse, We command."Hadrian is conceived in the image of his creator, Fr. Rolfe, whose aristocratic pretensions (he called himself Baron Corvo), religious obsession, and anarchic and self-aggrandizing sensibility have made him known as one of the great English eccentrics. Fr. Rolfe endured a lifetime of indignities and disappointments. However, in the hilarious and touching pages of this, his finest novel, he triumphs.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:52 -0400)

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"One day George Arthur Rose, hack writer and minor priest, discovers that he has been picked to be Pope. He is hardly surprised and not in the least daunted. "The previous English pontiff was Hadrian the Fourth," he declares. "The present English pontiff is Hadrian the Seventh. It pleases Us; and so, by Our own impulse, We command."" "Hadrian is conceived in the image of his creator, Frederick Rolfe, whose aristocratic pretensions (he called himself Baron Corvo), religious obsession (he abbreviated his first name to Fr., giving the impression he was a priest), and anarchic and self-aggrandizing sensibility make him one of the great English eccentrics. Rolfe endured a lifetime of indignities and disappointments. However, in the hilarious and touching pages of this, his finest novel, he triumphs."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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