Rolfe is alone in his room, talking to his unseen servant. He is
I should have been a painter. But thanks to that damned Beauclerk, I lost all my apparatus and was reduced to a state of penury. I turned to writing –-a loathsome occupation-– because literature was the only outlet which Catholicks left me. And oh, I have so much to say. It would make me rich if it were not for the publishers and agents and lawyers and layabouts who have all conspired to deprive me of my dues.
What books I have written, Zildo! Stories of young Italians as innocent and wise as you. The history of the Borgias, the greatest family that Italy ever knew. Tales of centuries past. Poetry. What has it brought me, Zildo? Nothing. All my efforts have made others rich, not me. From one book alone – the commercial future of Rhodesia – I should have made two thousand sterling but I lost it all and more to the military moron who published my work under his name. With that money I could have lived like a Doge on the Grand Canal instead of huddled in my boat on winter nights or shivering in this miserable room in a crumbling palace where the wind blows night and day.
(His attention has drifted to the crucifix.) No matter. I would have given it all up for the Church. The happiest day of my life was when I received into the Faith. It should have been when I became a priest. But my vocation, given by God, was denied to me by jealous Pharisees who could not accept that a man of my abilities should be granted the privileges that they enjoyed. Monsignor James Campbell. The Reverend William Rooney. Bishop Hugh MacDonald of Aberdeen and many, many more were deaf to God’s command. God’s command, not mine. A roll of infamy that will echo down the ages.
What good I could have done the Church! Make me not just a priest, not even a Cardinal. Make me Pope and I would cleanse the church of the hypocrites and toads and money-lenders. As Pope I would restore the Faith to the lands where it was forgotten. Bring order out of the Chaos that threatens all Europe. Instead of which, I was forced into spiritual exile. I have always found the Faith comfortable but the Faithful intolerable, almost every Catholick a sedulous ape, a treacherous snob, a slanderer, an oppressor or a liar.
Foreman, Martin. Now We Are Pope: Frederick Rolfe in Venice, Arbery Publications, 2012, pp 27-29.
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