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Hadrian the VII

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  365 ratings  ·  62 reviews
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 c ...more
Paperback, Wordsworth Classics, 368 pages
Published 1993 by Wordsworth Editions (first published 1904)
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Bill Kerwin
May 09, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

Hadrian VII is one of those books that sound more interesting than they are, at least for someone like me who delights in eccentrics, ornate writing, decadence, bitter old queens, and the pomp and politics of the Catholic Church. Yet Frederick Rolfe's book is so self-indulgent, and the personality it reveals so repellent, that the very act of completing it became a distasteful chore.

A brief biography can make Rolfe sound like a fascinating man. Born in London in 1860 of a prosperous Pro
January 2011

"Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles."

Wait, sorry, my mistake. And now:

NYRB: A History of an Addiction (With Book Porn!)
July 2006
Half-Price Books, Madison, Wisconsin
Hello there, aren't you a pretty thing. But what are you doing on the $1.00 clearance shelf? You poor guy, you should come h2011
Apr 08, 2015 marked it as read-enough-of  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
And while I'm giving up on books I hate (see this review), I'm going to give up on this one too. I'm sorry to. There's a lot to admire in it and it is occasionally breathtaking.

I'm especially loath to give up on it because I think that my father liked it, and told me about it when I was young. (I think, but I'm not sure. It's certainly the kind of learned but reactionary nonsense that would have appealed to him.) I've been meaning to read it almost my entire life, and now I'm giving up. It f
Sep 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
I'm writing this on an evening when the papal throne has just become vacant. Pope Benedict has retired and a new pope has yet to be chosen. What better time to read "Hadrian the Seventh"? It's a strange book, by a strange author who was one of the great literary scoundrels. Yet...for all the mad fancies and posturing arrogance of Fr. Rolfe ("Baron Corvo") the book is a small gem. It's one of those works that only a certain kind of English eccentric could've written--- someone from the lost world ...more
Apr 03, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-white-square
I thought this sounded like enormous fun. Another Ronald Firbank.

It opened very well, with the weirdo, the Bishop and the Cardinal. But after the election, it soon became rather dull.

"All my life is a pose. Somehow or other I have taken the pose, or stolid stupids force me into the pose, of strange recondite haughty genius, very subtile, very learned, inaccessible, - everything that's foolish. God, You know what a sham I am: how silly this is: how little I know really. ... Theref
James Lundy
Mar 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: People who love eccentric losers with delusions of grandeur
A.J.A. Symons's investigative biography "The Quest for Corvo" will make you think Corvo's "Hadrian VII" is an overlooked masterpiece. Well, when I finally got my hands on a copy, expecting to have my socks knocked off, and started reading it, let's just say I wondered what the devil Symons was smoking. This book is bizarre rant from a (more) bizarre man, thinly veiled in the guize of a story. How's this for bad: our hero is a down and out loafer living in a boarding house and about 5 pages later ...more
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Not for everybody's taste, but if it is to yours, it will quickly become a book you reread. I just finished my umpty-umpth go-round with Frederick Rolfe's masterpiece, and as always, it did not disappoint. Set in 1903, Rolfe creates George Arthur Rose, a failed seminarian eking out a precarious living as a writer. He is hampered by a ferocious intellect, inflexible moral sense and the inability to refrain from criticism of the Roman Catholic hierarchy that has dismissed him from seminary. In sho ...more
Rhonda Keith
May 16, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Years ago a psychologist of my acquaintance asked me to tell him what I thought of this book. I had never heard of it, or the author. As I remember, my impression was that the writer was projecting himself into Hadrian, who had been unaccountably made Pope, and that Rolfe obviously had dreams of grandeur. Later I learned that Rolfe had made himself a Baron -- wonder what significance Baron Crow had. I thought he was either homosexual or at least disliked women, because the handsome young (as I r ...more
Oct 16, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: goodbye, r-r, two-star

"Hadrian the Seventh" is a 1904 novel by the English novelist Frederick Rolfe, who wrote under the pseudonym "Baron Corvo". Every time I see those words, in introductions, on the back of the novel, on the internet, wherever I see it, it always says (also known as "Hadrian VII") which always makes me wonder how it could also be known by the same name it said in the first place, so I skipped saying it. :-} Before I tell you how much I didn't like this novel I'll tell you a little about the author, a very
J.M. Hushour
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're like me and you've ever wondered what would happen if Ignatius Reilly became the Pope, then "Hadrian the Seventh" answers that question.
Indeed, if I didn't know better I'd say that Toole read this novel scores of times and they delightedly stole the character for "Confederacy of Dunces", because they are remarkably similar and nearly equal in sheer entertainment value.
"Hadrian", written by Rolfe, a.k.a Baron Corvo (no shit), a failed, gay Catholic priest who was bitter at t
I've been looking for this book for ages as one of my missing 1001 books you must read but found it dreadfully disappointing.

It sounds on paper that it might be great fun with a megalomaniac, self aggrandising, vitriolic, waspish, anti-left wing minor cleric actually becoming pope. In a modern idiom think David Starkey making PM.

I quite liked the first chapter (chap 0) which introduces the character and his cat after he has been out of clerical world due to wrongful alleg
Jan 28, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The self-aggrandizement and self-pity falls heavy at first, never disappears entirely, and reaches it apogee in a four-page monologue near the end, but once George is elected Pope (for reasons never adequately explained), the novel becomes fun - at times, a lot of fun. His idealism enchants and softens, and his righteous anger is terrific. The pontifical chat with the Cardinal of Pimlico (Chapter 6) is ruthlessly charitable. So is the rhetorically violent take-down of the "Prepositor-General" of ...more
May 20, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
‘Hadrian VII’ should probably be published as an appendix to A. J. A. Symons famous biography of Rolfe, as an example of the author’s curious fin-de-siecle pathology (he was a truly dreadful man), rather than as a book to be read in its own right. Actually, I like to imagine this absurd, clumsy and delusional book as it might be if it was rewritten by Ronald Firbank, in a spirit of high camp excess, with illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley – and then made into a film by Ken Russell. Now that would ...more
Feb 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure that it helps to know that this is a sustained piece of wish fulfilment on the part of the author, it makes for even more uncomfortable reading. It dragged a little in the middle, too much intricate Catholic detail for me, but the end is magnificent. And Flavio is a total star, I'm glad Hadrian thought of him at the last.
Dec 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hadrian VII the man is a fascinating creation. The novel of the same name is something less of an accomplishment. Trads will probably be tickled by the concept of a Young Pope but I got tired of Rolfe's dated reactionary politics and lame attempts at global political intrigue.
Dec 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not a bad book. For all of the authors obsession for the pomp and ceremony of the paparchy his hero-pope Hadrian is quick to shed the wealth of the Vatican by selling its treasures. He shows humility in the face of the world, winning over her rulers with modesty and sincerity rather than stubbornly entrenching himself in the Vatican like his predecessors. In the end, his death in the "arms of Caesar" show Rolfe's ideal of a Church more willing to humble itself and reach out to the modern world e ...more
Jonathon Dabell
Mar 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Hadrian the VII ranks as one of the most flowery, self-indulgent, extraordinarily vain books ever written. It's also pretty entertaining, at least in patches.
The plot deals with an overlooked, failed priest who remains true to his beliefs in spite of his many setbacks. Later, his loyalty to the code of religious life impresses a number of his colleagues and he becomes, by a strange series of circumstances, the new Pope. Upon taking this mightiest of religious offices, he quickly sets about rewr
Stuart Dean
Jan 03, 2016 rated it liked it
George Arthur Rose wanted to be a priest but was expelled from the seminary without reason. All his friends abandoned him and he lived in near poverty for the next twenty years as a freelance journalist. He is bitter but maintains his Catholic ways in preparation for the day when he is exonerated. He doesn't like men, loathes women, and is terrified of children. He despises Socialists and doesn't care for Democracy either.

When Leo XIII dies the Cardinals are deadlocked in voting for a new Pope
May 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 1001-books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carmie Callobre
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the weirdest, frustrating, and crazytown bananapants books that I've ever read; and one that I go back to every few years. I mean, how many other clerical revenge fantasies are out there? And all those made up words, what fun!

I'm not even going to comment on the life of Fredrick Rolfe or try to explain why he wrote it. I only know that every time the Vatican goes through the process of choosing a new pope (since I began reading this book it's like 4 times?) I get a kic
Apr 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is nothing short of an excellent and quite accidental, ‘what-if’ scenario for the Catholic Church and early 20th century world history. Through this semi-autobiographical novel written in 1904, Rolfe manages to give his take on the issues that plagued, and still plague, the Catholic Church. In a quite exciting conclave George Rose is unexpectedly elected Pope and immediately sets out to single-handedly change the fate of the church as well as European politics. Rolfe manages to gives u ...more
Michael Spring
You have to read this after The Quest for Corvo by AJA Symons. It's only then that you'll realise what an ego fuelled piece of wish fulfilment this is - but maybe all novels are really internal desires unleashed? (Let's hope not.) Corvo was clearly delusional, dysfunctional, bitter, vitriolic and unbalanced but he was also unlucky - never getting paid much, even though this, his magnum opus, was quite successful in its way. And it's still quite readable, despite the weird Latin-English words tha ...more
Oct 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Excellently done, pseudo fantasy. The edition I read seemed to possess abundant print errors, unless they were intentional or anachronisms. The story itself is absurd and idyllic, with beautifully descriptive for a Victorian era novel. My particular interest was its relation and apparent influence on author/musician Nick Blinko, author of Primal Screamer and focal member of the band Rudimentary Peni, with several tie ins between subjects of this book Hadrian VII, album Pope Adrian XXXVII and s
Jan 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Published in 1904, this is a very strange book. A recluse suddenly becomes Pope. He does like his cat. And he reforms the world. Apparently a television series I just saw advertised in the New Yorker titled The Young Pope is loosely based on this premise. AJA Symons wrote a biographical study The Quest for Corvo (1934) on the author. This is an example of the writings of an English Edwardian eccentric. It is gay, Catholic, and has strange spellings. The term "wish fulfillment" keeps coming to mi ...more
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sweetly charming and achingly sad, Hadrian the Seventh skirts a fine line between subtle gem and simply baffling. So much of its appeal comes from the unabashedly clear relationship between its author and Hadrian. It is impossible to read this book about a prickly, unhappy and much wronged failed priest who is suddenly given the chance to show everyone why they were wrong without seeing in it an image of Rolfe soothing his own battered soul. Ultimately how much you enjoy this book will depend on ...more
If I were Pope . . .
This is an interesting book with an interesting premise: a former seminary student now living as failed poverty-stricken journalist is by an unlikely technicality elected Pope and works for world peace, selling off the Vatican treasures in the process. It's cranky, sometimes self-pitying, often mean-spirited, but mighty compelling. This is essentially Corvo spinning out the fantasy of his own Papacy, something I've done myself in idle moments, but never with this kind of sh
Jan 31, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Written more than a hundred years ago, this tale of a misanthropic cleric is chosen to become Pope Hadrian VII is intriguing -- but not an enjoyable read. The main character is based on the author himself, who was cynical and solitary by nature. He chose to sign himself as Fr. Rolfe, shortening his first name to suggest that he was in religious orders. The writing style is ponderous and rather dated, and the book was a disappointment from what I'd expected from reviews.
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Droll, insightful, wise. Were there only more men, and more Christians, who applied biblical principles of peace and God's love as did Hadrian VII.
Skilfully and engagingly written, though my edition had more misprints (and not new, unknown words, as I first thought, though it did have those, too) than I've ever seen in a published novel.
Monty Milne
Mar 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ludicrous - the entire plot is utterly absurd, and the prose is monstrously purple. High camp, politically reactionary, self pitying, and full of vicious bitching. I loved every page, and often laughed out loud - and am left with a sad poignancy for the maddeningly impossible tragic genius that was Baron Corvo.
Jan 22, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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English writer, novelist, artist, fantasist and eccentric. Rolfe is also known as Baron Corvo. His best known work is the novel Hadrian the Seventh.
“Shall I tell you the difference between our Holy Father and ourselves? We see things from a single view-point. He sees things from several. We decide that the thing is as we see it. But He has seen it otherwise, and He presents it as a more or less complete coaction of its qualities. See this sapphire. Well, you see the face of it: underneath, if I take it off my finger, there are a number of facets to be seen and a number more which are hidden by the gold of the setting. Now my meaning is that our Holy Father has seen all the facets as well as the table of the sapphire, or the thing. Consequently He knows a great deal more about the sapphire, or the thing, than we do. You must have noted that in Him. You must have noted how that every now and then, when He deigns to explain, He makes mysteries appear most wonderfully lucid.” 3 likes
“All His life long He had yearned to be giving. Now, under any circumstances, He always had something to give, ten words and a gesture; and people seemed so thankful for it. He was glad.” 0 likes
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