Bodley Head acquires 'definitive' Casement biography by Philipps

Bodley Head acquires 'definitive' Casement biography by Philipps

The Bodley Head has acquired a “definitive” biography of diplomat, humanitarian and Irish nationalist Roger Casement by Roland Philipps.

Stuart Williams, publishing director, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights to Broken Archangel from Natasha Fairweather at RCW, for publication in autumn 2023. The deal was announced after Philipps’ new book, Victoire: A Wartime Story of Resistance, Collaboration and Betrayal, was released by The Bodley Head on 15th April.

The publisher explained: “Roger Casement was a trailblazing humanitarian who, at great personal cost gave voice to the oppressed, describing the brutal mistreatment of the citizens of Belgian Congo to the world. In doing so he pioneered human rights advocacy, became an overnight global celebrity, was knighted, and went on to other roles in public life. He was acclaimed as the first of the 20th century’s anti-slavery activists. But the divisions within him – neither fully Irish nor English, brought up Protestant but baptised Catholic, of the establishment but appalled by the cruelty of global imperialism, and tormented by his homosexuality – would eventually overwhelm him.”

Casement was executed for treason following the Easter Rising in 1916.

Philipps said: “Roger Casement has long fascinated me as an unusually modern figure whose life is dominated by very current issues of race and the colonial past, gender and sexuality, mental health and nationalism. His story, from sitting up late at night in the Congo jungle to provide the as-yet unpublished Joseph Conrad with material for Heart of Darkness, through international acclaim for his courageous human rights work in Africa and South America, to a dawn U-Boat landing on the Kerry coast, is one of physical and inner drama that is hard to beat. He was a man ahead of his time, and it is only now that we can get a true perspective – as well as access to all the material – on a figure T E Lawrence described as 'a broken archangel'. I am thrilled to be working with Stuart Williams and his outstanding team at The Bodley Head once again on such a major project.”

Williams added: “Roland excels at describing the conflicted inner lives of his subjects, in particular characters who maintain a double identity. He has made a speciality of tracing the psychological journey from true believer to traitor; mapping that onto the choices and events in a life makes for rich and layered books. In that respect Roger Casement is a perfect next subject. I expect this to appeal to readers of Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s The Pike as much as of John Preston’s A Very English Scandal.”