Ronald Knox: A Man for All Seasons

Edited by
Francesca Bugliani Knox

Essays on his life and works with selections from his published and unpublished writings

xviii, 386 pp. plus 16 plates. 2016. ISBN 978-0-88844-425-7 • Cloth • $65

Ronald Knox occupies a conspicuous role in English religious, cultural and literary history, and he was also one of the leading lights of the English “Catholic revival” of the first half of the twentieth century. This collection of essays examines his many interests, setting them in their historical context. It discusses the profound effect that the Great War had on his religious life, his engagement with Benedictine spirituality, the distinctive characteristics of his apologetics and preaching, and his engagement with a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. In so doing, it illuminates aspects of his life, as well as the circumstances of his several pastoral ministries, that have been neglected.

Like Thomas More, whom Erasmus famously dubbed “a man for all seasons for all men,” Ronald Knox was a man of many talents. He was a classicist, writer of fiction, translator, theologian, essayist, journalist, historian, preacher, and spiritual guide. His aptitude for writing in a variety of literary genres was evident from an early age. This volume addresses Knox’s original contribution to each area of his interests, literary as well as theological. It illustrates his insights into Virgil’s Aeneid, explains the value of his fiction and discusses the merits of his translation of the Bible. It also looks into Knox’s deep understanding of the liturgy and the reasons why his spirituality had and continues to have such a strong appeal. Finally, it suggests that many aspects of his theology and his use of humour and satire remain pertinent today. Two extensive selections of Knox’s unpublished writings and correspondence, as well as published pieces that are now difficult to trace, complement the essays in this volume.


Illustrations • xi
Foreword • xv
Acknowledgments • xvii

Introduction • 1

Part I: Life
Francesca Bugliani Knox • Ronald Knox and the Great War • 23
Dominic Aidan Bellenger • Ronald Knox and the Benedictines • 36
Terry Tastard • The Friendship of Evelyn Waugh and Ronald Knox • 52
Clare Asquith • Ronald Knox at Mells: 1947–1957 • 63
Francesca Bugliani Knox • Ronald Knox’s Two Recording Angels • 75

Writings by Ronald Knox and Other Documents
An Apologia (1917) • 97
Unpublished Preface to A Spiritual Aeneid (1917) • 99
The Benedictines of Caldey (1940) • 103
Panegyric for Abbot Matthews at the Requiem (1939) • 108
Correspondence between Derek Worlock and Evelyn Waugh (1959) • 112
Monsignor Ronald Knox – John M.T. Barton (1957) • 119
Letters to and Recollections by Former Pupils (1947–1957) • 125
Encomium for Monsignor Knox – Martin D’Arcy (1957) • 140

Part II: Works
Francesco Montarese • Ronald Knox as Classicist • 147
Sheridan Gilley • Ronald Knox as Writer of Fiction • 166
Nicholas King • Ronald Knox as Translator of the Bible • 185
Richard Price • Ronald Knox and the Old Testament • 202
Andrew R. Wadsworth • Ronald Knox and Liturgy • 216
David Lonsdale • The Spirituality of Ronald Knox • 232
David Rooney • Enthusiasm: The Continuing Lure of Emotional Religion • 253
Ashley Beck • Was Ronald Knox a Theologian? • 270
Milton T. Walsh • Ronald Knox and Humour in the Service of God • 288

Further Writings by Ronald Knox
Letters to Richard Rawstorne (1913–1914) • 307
A Collection of Prayers (1914) • 317
A Sermon Preached at St Mary’s, Graham Street (1915) • 323
Our Need of Easter (1929) • 326
Twenty Years After (1937) • 331
The Prayer of Acts and the Prayer of Stupidity (1939) • 337
Virgil and the Future Life (1941) • 349
Spiritual Reading (1956) • 355

Appendix: Uses of the Aeneid in A Spiritual Aeneid • 361
Contributors • 371
Index • 374


Francesca Bugliani Knox graduated from the University of Pisa (Dott. Lett.) and taught English Literature at the Università IULM, Milan, from 1986 to 2003. In 2009 she received her doctorate in Religious Studies from Heythrop College, University of London. She is now Research Associate at Heythrop and Teaching Fellow at University College London. She has published widely on English and Italian literature and culture from the Renaissance to the present, focusing in particular on the relation­­ship between literature and theology. The author of Anatomia dello snob: William Makepeace Thackeray (1990) and The Eye of the Eagle: John Donne and the Legacy of Ignatius Loyola (2011), she has also edited and translated into Italian A Treatise of Melan­cholie by the Elizabethan physician and inventor of shorthand, Timothie Bright (1990). Her essays and articles have appeared in various collections and in journals ranging from Lingua e lettera­tura, Renais­sance Studies, and The Heythrop Journal to Dante Studies, Hamlet Studies, and Yeats Annual. With David Lonsdale, she has co-edited Poetry and the Religious Imagination (2015) and, with John Took, Poetry and Prayer (2015); she has also contributed an essay to the third volume in this series on “The Power of the Word,” entitled Poetic Revelations and edited by Mark Burrows, Jean Ward, and Małgorzata Grzegorzewska (2016). 


“This impressive collection is a significant achievement. It combines unpublished primary source material, contemporaneous reflections, and thoughtful critical essays that both advance scholarship on Ronald Knox in their own right and suggest how fecund a field of study his oeuvre is for future scholars. Its refreshingly serious treatment of Knox’s work thus furthers a much overdue reappraisal of a leading figure in the Catholic literary revival, and therefore makes a valuable contribution to scholarship in British religious and literary history. This volume is a rich resource for those already familiar with Knox, an intelligent introduction to him for the uninitiated, and a catalyst for further studies of his life and legacy and of the many fields to which he contributed.” 
Adam SchwartzChristendom College


“We should be deeply grateful for this book which is a labour of love and the recovery of an English churchman of the 20th century whose quiet wisdom, sharp humour, and unassuming scholarship are rare commodities in our own darkened times, and who is still capable of shining a clear light upon Christian sensibility and spirituality.”
David Jasper for Literature & Theology (2017)


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