30 review for Ronald Knox: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Richard Bartholomew

    This is a scholarly biography of Knox, although Waugh's deft literary hand means that its learning and research is worn lightly. Its subject is perhaps today somewhat obscure outside of Catholic circles, but Knox, who lived from 1888 to 1957, played a significant role in British Christianity and in public intellectual life. Knox was for most of his life based in Oxford, and his output included light novels (particularly detective fiction), theological works, and translations - most famously, a tr This is a scholarly biography of Knox, although Waugh's deft literary hand means that its learning and research is worn lightly. Its subject is perhaps today somewhat obscure outside of Catholic circles, but Knox, who lived from 1888 to 1957, played a significant role in British Christianity and in public intellectual life. Knox was for most of his life based in Oxford, and his output included light novels (particularly detective fiction), theological works, and translations - most famously, a translation of the Bible into English from the Latin Vulgate, although he also had a flair for witty Latin composition. He also broadcast talks on the BBC, and engaged in debate over religion and, more reluctantly, current affairs. Later biographers have made comparisons with CS Lewis, although apparently Knox did not know him very well and he does not get a mention in Waugh's biography. However, while Lewis was an Anglican layman who has been posthumously appropriated by evangelicalism, Knox broke with his evangelical Anglican background (his father was a Bishop) to become a high church clergyman and then a Catholic priest. Knox’s reasons for converting – drawing on legacies from the Oxford Movement and controversies such as the Kikuyu Incident – seem esoteric when compared with today's fault-lines over women priests and attitudes towards homosexuality, and his agonising, while certainly based on serious conviction, comes across as a bit self-indulgent as the world descends into the abyss of the First World War. Waugh puts this in context, though, noting that "The Church of England was the religion of a governing class which then ruled a great part of the world... Her fortunes were the concern of statesmen and journalists." Also, Knox was certainly far from untouched by the horrors: Waugh paints a scintillating picture of Knox's undergraduate circle of friends, all brilliantly precocious scholars and wits who were also religiously serious and who, for the most part, were soon to perish in the conflict. The biography is also a useful source for English high Anglicanism and Catholicism during Knox's lifetime. Knox was early influenced by a book by RH Benson, called The Light Invisible; Waugh judges it to have been "occult rather than genuinely mystical". Later he became friendly with the Anglo-Catholic clergyman Maurice Child and the Society of Saint Peter and Paul, and influenced by Dom Aelred Carlyle at Caldey Abbey; this was the Anglican monastic community which converted to Catholicism in 1913. Waugh introduces the Abbot as a self-taught layman named Benjamin Carlyle, who created the community following "a cursory visit to Buckfast". There's also a discursive footnote about Father Ignatius Leycester Lyne of Llanthony (with whom Knox had no association), who was ordained by "a curious prelate named Mar Timotheus". Timotheus had in turn been made an Archbishop in Ceylon by the Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch and later "obligingly offered to consecrate Father Ignatius Primate of England". Another eccentric mentioned in the book is "Father Gapon", who claimed to be an exiled Russian Orthodox priest raising money for prisoners in Siberia. Knox's friend Charles Lister supported him; according to a footnote Gapon "is said to have gambled away the proceeds of his tour and to have enlisted in the Imperial Secret Police". As other intellectual converts to Catholicism found, coming under Catholic authority had its frustrations for Knox. Waugh tells us that Cardinal Bourne was "quite devoid of anything which would have passed for scholarship, taste, or humour in Ronald's Anglican circle". There was opposition from parts of the hierarchy to his prayer book revisions, and to his new translation of the Bible. Bourne was unamused when Knox wrote a satirical play for BBC Radio about a left-wing riot in London; it was presented in the form of news bulletins, with an effect that foreshadowed Orson Welles' more famous play a few years later. Bourne huffed that "hireling Communists" would have been encouraged that "many Britons were badly scared last Saturday". Among Knox’s other literary achievements was a critical analysis of the Sherlock Holmes stories, meant to illustrate and satirise the methods of Biblical scholarship. This was apparently the impetus for what has since become known as "the Grand Game", although Knox tired of the subject. Knox's life brought him into contact with a number of prominent individuals, both Catholic and non-Catholic. He played a part in GK Chesterton's conversion from Anglicanism, and was responsible for Arnold Lunn's conversion from agnosticism. He also gave the panegyric at Belloc's Requiem Mass, after which he was taken to luncheon at "Mrs Ian Fleming's, a lively modern hostess unknown to him". Here he met Nancy Mitford, Cecil Beaton, and Osbert Lancaster. Mrs Asquith was friend, and in his later life he was private chaplain to Lord and Lady Acton, and had particular rapport with Lady Acton. Siegfried Sassoon and Anthony Powell were other literary friends, and his agent, WP Watt, was also a long-time close associate. Knox's engagement with other public intellectuals was encouraged by Francis Sheed, whose sister Maisie Ward was married to Knox's friend Fr Leo; Knox's contributions to the debates were published by Sheed & Ward. Incidentally, in the year in which 400th anniversary of the King James Bible is being celebrated (2011), it is interesting to read of Knox's sceptical view of the text as he considered his own translation: "there were memorable passages whose rhythm, by constant repetition, had mesmerized English reads so that they failed to observe the many passages of gibberish – Amos iv 2, 3 was a favourite example".

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    A wonderful read. I need to catch up on my Knox now: Enthusiasm & his "slow motion" sermons in particular. A wonderful read. I need to catch up on my Knox now: Enthusiasm & his "slow motion" sermons in particular.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Allamanda

    A biography written in the older (and truer) sense of the word--an account of a life without an agenda or anything to prove. Waugh gives readers the sources for almost anything he asserts about Ronald Knox, and tells us what he doesn't know as well as what he knows. The result is a detailed portrait of Knox through his letters and the letters of close friends, leaving the readers to make up their own minds about him. A biography written in the older (and truer) sense of the word--an account of a life without an agenda or anything to prove. Waugh gives readers the sources for almost anything he asserts about Ronald Knox, and tells us what he doesn't know as well as what he knows. The result is a detailed portrait of Knox through his letters and the letters of close friends, leaving the readers to make up their own minds about him.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Geo Forman

    I was surprised to find that Ihad to add this book since Goodreads was unable to located it for me. I had encountered Ronald Knox's name in so many of the things I was reading that I decided to find a biography to learn more. His father was a bishop in the Church of England so it was rather scandalous when Knoxed "poped" as they used the word "pope" as a verb in early 20th century in England referring to someone converting to Roman Catholicism. Know as a priest in the Church of England for sever I was surprised to find that Ihad to add this book since Goodreads was unable to located it for me. I had encountered Ronald Knox's name in so many of the things I was reading that I decided to find a biography to learn more. His father was a bishop in the Church of England so it was rather scandalous when Knoxed "poped" as they used the word "pope" as a verb in early 20th century in England referring to someone converting to Roman Catholicism. Know as a priest in the Church of England for several years, much to the delight of his family but when he decided to pope his family became estranged and he was cut from his father's will. A renowned speaker and columnist much in demand, he was also, for many years, chaplain at Oxford. This biography written at his request of his old friend, Evelyn Waugh, is not entirely complimentary but certainly sympathetic.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gerard de Bruin

    Couldn't handle it. Sorry. I tried but there are things I'm not up to. I even tried one of Knox' detective stories. Let's put it his way: Knox was not a great writer. Couldn't handle it. Sorry. I tried but there are things I'm not up to. I even tried one of Knox' detective stories. Let's put it his way: Knox was not a great writer.

  6. 5 out of 5

    sch

    A delight I don't have time to finish. A delight I don't have time to finish.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Francis Hand

  8. 4 out of 5

    James Pitsula

  9. 5 out of 5

    Marcel

  10. 5 out of 5

    John

  11. 5 out of 5

    OTIS

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anne

  13. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paul Krevs

  15. 4 out of 5

    Steven Hepburn

  16. 5 out of 5

    Roberto

  17. 4 out of 5

    Terry Brown

  18. 4 out of 5

    Fernanda Santos

  19. 4 out of 5

    Josh

  20. 4 out of 5

    Fonch

  21. 5 out of 5

    Todd SWIFT

  22. 4 out of 5

    Adam

  23. 4 out of 5

    Linda Adkins

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mariaje

  25. 4 out of 5

    Glen G

  26. 5 out of 5

    Keith

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tony

  28. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Schmalhofer

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

  30. 5 out of 5

    JH BEVAN

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