RONALD KNOX by Evelyn Waugh


Email this review


Although this biography was respectfully reviewed when it was first published in England -- due, one suspects, as much to its author as to its subject -- it was apparent that, for his countrymen, Ronald Knox, the man, remains essentially remote. It is not likely then that the personality of this priest-scholar-artist will be any more meaningful to American readers, whether or not they have the advantage, in this case, of being Catholic. This is a failure due, it would seem, not to his biographer who has spared little detail in attempting to capture his elusive subject, but to the particular nature of Ronald Knox: he was, Mr. Waugh admits, "essentially a private person". Ronald Knox was born in 1888, the youngest of a family of four sons and two daughters. His ancestry and upbringing (his father was later to be Bishop of Manchester) made the Church seem a natural profession. He excelled at Eton and at Balliol College, Oxford where he was one of the most promising members of the College. In 1915 he became a priest of the Church of England and later, during the war, in 1917, he became a Catholic. He spent some unhappy years at an inferior Catholic school where his talents, it was felt, were not put to proper use. But later he took over the Catholic chaplaincy at Oxford and spent 13 years there. In 1939 he revised the Westminster Hymnal and Manual of Prayer, in 1942 he completed his translation of the New Testament and in 1948 he finished the Old Testament. He died in 1957 at 69. Mr. Waugh states that "the primary purpose of this book is to tell the story of Ronald Knox's exterior life, not to give a conspectus of his thought; still less to measure his spiritual achievements". He does more than record his subject's exterior life; he provides a record of a lost era -- which World War I changed forever.
Pub Date: June 15th, 1959
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1959



NonfictionPENELOPE FITZGERALD by Hermione Lee
by Hermione Lee