Heretical Songs is a book of historical fictions written by an author with an admitted aversion to historical fact.
The first two stories in this collection, "Mahler's Last Symphony" and "The Poet's Sister" play on rumors about the domestic lives of Gustav Mahler and William Wordsworth. Mr. White toys with the thought of Alma Mahler's infidelities and Dorothy Wordsworth's incestuous rage.
In the next two stories, "Rossetti's Blessed Lady" and "Claude," two great men of art and life, D.G. Rossetti and Claude Debussy, are treated with more dignity. Delightful cameo appearances are made by the notorious pansexuals Algernon Awinburne and Eric Satie.
Finally, in "The Heretical
Singing of Pietro Carnesecchi," the novella which caps the book, the
author takes advantage of the obscurity of the historical figure
(who was executed by Duke Cosimo of Florence) to present Carnesecchi
as a man with Bruno's past, Savonarola's future, and the character
of Tomasso Campanella, the great Magician to the Pope.