Ronald Knox Ed by Francesca Bugliani Knox, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, £48
Mgr Ronald Knox (1888-1957) is finally getting the revival he deserves. This handsome volume joins other recent studies making the case for Knox’s varied achievements as a classicist, translator, theologian, priest and writer of fiction.
The son of an Anglican bishop and one of five accomplished Knox brothers, “Ronnie” Knox excelled both at Eton and Oxford. Upon becoming a Catholic in 1917, he became a member of the Catholic revival of the last century including those such as GK Chesterton and Evelyn Waugh (whose friendship with Knox is explored in an essay included here).
He wrote a number of important works and sermons that reflected the richness of the English Catholic tradition. More than that, Sheridan Gilley notes, Knox was “an entertainer of the first order”, and he praises his detective stories such as The Three Taps and The Viaduct Murder. These largely remain out of print, but much in demand.
His conversion was due to “intellectual disagreement with Anglican modernism” and an “emotionally painful journey of discernment and surrender” in part as a result of the devastation of the Great War. His experience was something like that of the poet David Jones, who also found solace and an interpretive tool in the Church.
Knox’s path is reflected in works such as his Spiritual Aeneid, as well as the prayers he composed throughout his life. In an essay on Knox’s spirituality, David Lonsdale notes that Knox often focuses on the “image of Christian spiritual life [as] a movement that involves a recognition of God’s gift and a human response to that gift”.
The volume includes some of Knox’s sermons where he plays out this theme, as well as a reflection on his conversion, “Twenty Years After”. This book is highly recommended for those wishing to learn about an important figure in English Catholic intellectual life.