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.
Part detective story, part spiritual journey, and part meditation on biography. Steeped in arcane learning, queer encounters, and fanciful symbolist prose, it is a very peculiar operation indeed, leaving he reader unconvinced that there was ever such a real person as Frederick Rolfe - or, possibly, his biographer -- Hermione Lee
A slender book, an odd book, a completely original book ... a masterpiece * Wall Street Journal *
One of the genre's most notable - if also quirkiest - triumphs * New Criterion *
Extraordinary ... a new template for twentieth-century biography * Times Literary Supplement *