Trevor Haddon, at one point an acquaintance of Frederick Rolfe, Baron Corvo, submitted this anecdote to A.J.A. Symons’ biography The Quest for Corvo (1934). Somebody is playing the goat here, but it is not clear who.
“It is possible that the inception of the Dom Gheraldo book was an incident that Rolfe related to me as occurring in Rome when he was in the town palace of the Duchess Sforza-Cesarini, who was employing workmen to take up the pavement of the ground floor in connection with the installation of a new calorifer. In the course of the work a deep oubliette was discovered. The household was in a great state of excitement when the workmen who had descended reported the discovery of a skeleton, which was intensified on his remains being brought to light, when the skull was seen to be pierced. “That proved him to have been a priest,” said Rolfe, and [he] explained to me that this form of assassination was reserved for the priesthood. The hero in the unpublished book I have mentioned perished by that means.
“More than twenty-five years later I read Mr. Shane Leslie’s essay in which he describes a visit paid by Rolfe to W.T. Stead, “who before testing Rolfe’s literary talents, handed a penny held by the Baron to his medium Julia, who from another room furnished the oracular reply, “He is a blackguard! He has a hole in his head.” Mr. Stead thereupon chased and seized Rolfe until he could feel his cranium, when behold there was a perceptible hole to be found in the skull! He was accordingly dismissed as a blackguard, and for once Rolfe was baffled by powers more sinister than his own.”
“… Was Rolfe a modern projection of Dom Gheraldo, or had he built up a dream-entity of such psychic stability that it coincided with himself – or what?”
[Tychy is presently reviewing Rolfe’s Stories Toto Told Me. Ed.]