THE KNOX BROTHERS by Penelope Fitzgerald


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Edmund Knox was the editor of Punch who rescued the magazine from ossification and saw it through World War II. Dillwyn was a classical scholar and a champion cryptologist, crucial to cracking the Enigma machine. Perhaps the most likable of the four was Wilfred, an Anglican priest of pastoral and academic achievement. Ronald was the best known, and became a Roman Catholic priest famous for his wit and for his translation of the Vulgate Bible into modern English. All this is chiefly of historical concern now, so the book stands or falls on the interest it generates in the family. Penelope Fitzgerald is EVK's daughter and the ideal writer for this task. She drives her four-in-hand with pace and direction, guided by the brothers' ""distinctive attitude to life which made it seem as though they shared one sense of humor and one mind.""' She can indicate a social nuance in passing, and spell out a political situation or scholarly problem in a paragraph. A set piece on the brothers' maternal grandfather makes a comment on all that follows. An authentic Anglo-Indian oddball, with several Oriental languages to his credit, he traveled alone and on foot even when Bishop of Lahore for the sake of the discussion in the bazaars. Their father, also a bishop, was less broad-minded: ""Between ourselves, Winnie, I cannot understand what it is the dear boys see in the Blessed Virgin Mary."" Altogether a substantial and entertaining story of intellectual growth and change told in a setting of family affection.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1978
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan