The Chap founder Gustav Temple is collaborating with historical biographer Alexander Larman, author of Byron’s Women and Blazing Star, (The Life of the Earl of Rochester), to produce The Rake’s Progress, a comprehensive and splendidly entertaining look at twenty men and women who all, in different ways, can be described as ‘rakes’.
The Rake has drifted in and out of every decade since man first realised he could choose between good and evil, but we shall start with Lord Rochester in the 17th century. Concise chronological biographies of our subjects will address questions of social, sexual and sartorial propriety, with tongue in cheek and brain firmly engaged. The rakes will be defined by their occupations – ‘the Imperial Rake’, ‘the Hollywood Rake’, the Occult Rake’– but, as we shall see, an occupation and a life are two often quite distinct things.
From Lord Byron to Mata Hari, Charles Baudelaire to Tallulah Bankhead and Kenneth Tynan to Amy Winehouse, our cast of characters could not be more diverse, save in their being united by unconventional actions and reputations. Some are still (unfairly) pilloried today. Others have had their full eccentricities all but airbrushed from history. We will bring our international cast of emperors, poets, prostitutes and demi-mondaines to life, and follow their progress through life and history. This will be neither a prurient nor a tasteless book. The likes of Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein – definitely not rakes – will be omitted, as will other purely unpleasant characters. Rather than make moral judgements, we aim to present our cast of rakes as recognisable human beings, and seek to ask what leads someone to embrace a lifestyle so completely contra mundum. The rake is the fall guy or gal for every suppressed sin, indulgence and reckless extravagance that the rest of us are too cautious to express. They burn out in a blaze of glory, usually before their time, and leave a trail of fascinating anecdotes in their wake, many of which we will recount in this book.
The Rake’s Progress will end with ‘the last rake’, Sebastian Horsley, who also qualifies as ‘the narcotic rake’ and ‘the dandy rake’. Both authors were close friends with Sebastian, who has somewhat passed into Soho legend since his death in 2010. Using previously unseen material, we will ensure that Horsley is once again elevated, or lowered, into the brilliant and eclectic company that he strove to walk among in life.
The Rake’s Progress will be published by Unbound, a successful new addition to the world of book publishing. Printing costs are raised via crowdfunding before the book is published, after which it enters the world like any other published book.
For further details on how to pledge and make this book happen, visit www.unbound.com