The Literary Images of Frederick Rolfe
Chapter IV: Nicholas Crabbe: Between Autobiography and Fiction
In the introduction to her 1969 novel, The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin writes that an author’s profession is inadvertently connected with lying. Philippe Lejeune would most likely disagree with her, as he has expressed his belief that a work of fiction essentially is a product of an author’s imagination; as one wields creative authority over it, one cannot be accused of lying. However, he would undoubtedly agree with Le Guin that authors commonly use elements of the real world in order to lend their novels a feeling of authenticity.349 Frederick Rolfe’s Nicholas Crabbe novels are characterised by a very peculiar mixture of fact and fiction, treading over the border between these two in a manner that often perplexed researchers. For this reason many elements of these books were considered autobiographical, to the extent that they were used as a source of biographical information. These elements invite further discussion, both in the aspect of the border between fiction and autobiography, as well as the impact they have on the author’s image.
Nicholas Crabbe is the protagonist of three novels and several short stories. Two out of these novels (Nicholas Crabbe or the One and the Many and The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole) are abundant in elements directly drawn from Rolfe’s life, and, unlike Hadrian the Seventh, their plots deal with situations taken directly from Rolfe’s experience. However, the case is different with The Weird of the Wanderer,...
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