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Ronald Firbank
(January 17, 1886 - May 21, 1926) U.K.

Ronald Firbank



Born in London as Arthur Annesley Ronald Firbank, the son of Sir Thomas Firbank, a Member of Parliament, he received little encouragement as a writer during his lifetime. Under the guidance of a fashionable Cambridge preacher, Hugh Benson, he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1907. Dandy, aesthete, exotic, homosexual and habitué of the Café Royal, Fairbank succeeded in creating a distinctive, personal style, only now appreciated.

His work, set in the Edwardian decadent period, has a malicious humor, and includes Odette d'Antrevernes (1905), Vainglory (1915), Inclinations (1916), Caprice (1916), Valmouth (1918), Santal (1921), and The Flower beneath the Foot (1923). Sorrow in Sunlight (called "Prancing Nigger" in the USA, 1924) was his first novel to be financed by a publisher, not by himself.

A play, The Princess Zoubaroff, was published in 1920, but never put on stage. There are also posthomous publications - Concerning the Eccenticitie of Cardinal Pirelli (1926), The Artificial Princess (1934) and The New Rythum and other pieces (1962).

Throughout his life Fairbank was as open about his homosexuality, as it was then possible to be, he seems to have had no long-term relationships, relying on casual encounters. Their nature is perhaps indicated by his response to a comment that he must be lonely: "I can buy companionship".

He died in Rome from a disease of the lungs, probably as a result of acute alcoholism and general debility. In a truly Firbankian scenario, he was accidentally buried in a Protestant cemetery, but - upon discovery of the error - was subsequently reinterred in the Catholic cemetery of San Lorenzo.


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