Rogue Scholar

The Sinister Life and Celebrated Death of Edward H. Rulloff
Richard W. Bailey
The tragic saga of a nineteenth-century fugitive, ne'er-do-well, and would-be savant that touches on themes as compelling today as they were in Victorian times


This is the tale of the insalubrious and utterly failed life of the notorious nineteenth-century thief, murderer, professional impostor, and would-be philologist Edward Rulloff, who was condemned to die and hanged for his crimes. The life of Rulloff is a sordid account of misguided genius and abysmal consequences. Those who loved him courted disaster, and, in every case, the courtship flowered into catastrophe.

Richard Bailey's narrative, calm and impartial yet spiked with wit and suspense, captures perfectly the slightly haunted and overwrought air of Victorian rural America, calling on newspaper accounts, interviews, and eyewitness reports of the day. Inevitably, the quiet accumulation of details builds to a story that transcends its individual events to touch on the universal themes of any age.

Rogue Scholar is about the evil of one man who lived a life of deception and crime. Yet in a larger sense it is also the portrait of a condemned soul in its final hours, an examination of the death penalty, and a reminder that media sensationalism is nothing new.

For Rulloff, nothing in his life became him like the leaving it. His death was awkward---a new method of hanging proved a bad idea---but he accepted it gracefully, and thus, after death, won sympathy that had eluded him in life.

Praise / Awards

  • "In the unlikely event that anyone before has told a tale of thievery, murder and philology, it could have been no more suspenseful or surprising than Rogue Scholar. Richard Bailey has unearthed a story as compelling and strange as Simon Winchester's The Professor and the Madman, and he tells it with a beguiling combination of erudition and narrative verve."
    ---James Tobin, author of To Conquer the Air: The Wright Brothers and the Great Race for Flight
  • "Out of the dark narrative of wordsmithing and murder, genius and evil, ripe with a whiff of formalin and scholarship, Dr. Bailey brings us the thing to be wished for---a great good read."
    ---Thomas Lynch

Look Inside

Copyright © 2003, University of Michigan. All rights reserved. Posted September 2003 and January 2006.

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 275pp.
  • 20 photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2003
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11337-8

Add to Cart
  • $39.95 U.S.