A pipe that refuses to draw just after breakfast is guilty of desertion in the face of the enemy.

Ronald Knox


































BIOGRAPHIES ONLINE

Catholic Authors

A Spiritual Aeneid

Reluctant Legend (PDF)




The inscription on Knox's headstone reads: 

RONALD
ARBUTHNOT
KNOX
PRIEST SCHOLAR
PREACHER & WRITER
HE SPENT THE LAST
YEARS OF HIS LIFE
IN MELLS
HERE FINISHED HIS
TRANSLATION OF 
THE BIBLE
AND HERE DIED
THE 24TH AUGUST 1957
AGED 69 YEARS

PRAY FOR HIS SOUL 

and on the other side: 

YOU HAVE DIED AND YOUR LIFE IS HIDDEN WITH CHRIST IN GOD


Father Ronald Knox


INTRODUCTION

"At Ronald's death the Roman Catholic Church in every English-speaking country lamented the loss of a rich ornament, and the story unfolded in pulpit and newspaper was one of the cherished and privileged survivor of a golden age. The brilliantly precocious youth, cossetted from childhood; the wit and scholar marked out for popularity and fame; the boon companion of a generation of legendary heroes; the writer of effortless felicity and versatility; the priest who never bore the burden of a parish or a diocese, but always lived where he chose, in patrician country-houses and university common-rooms; who was always the 'special preacher' on great occasions; who never lost a friend or made an enemy; the man whose exquisite politeness put everyone at his ease; the translator who brought the Vulgate to life for his own generation and for the future; the author of numberless unrecorded, unforgotten quips - this, is it not?, is rather the impression left by the obituaries. But genius and sanctity do not thrive except by suffering. If I have made too much of Ronald's tribulations, it is because he hid them, and they must be known to anyone who seeks to appraise his achievement." - Evelyn Waugh, The Life of the Right Reverend Ronald Knox, 1959, Chapman & Hall


THE LIFE OF THE RIGHT REVEREND RONALD KNOX: Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford and Protonotary Apostolic to His Holiness Pope Pius XII (1959) Evelyn Waugh, as Ronald Knox's literary executor, decided to write this biography with Ronnie's glad acquiescence. Waugh, himself a master of English prose, was up to the task and his work remains the definitive source of biographical material. 

RONALD KNOX : The Priest (by Thomas Corbishley) & The Writer (by Robert Speaight) (1964-1966) looks at two different aspects of Knox's life from the points of view of a priest - Father Corbishley - and a writer - Robert Speaight.

THE KNOX BROTHERS (1977) by Penelope Fitzgerald, is a delightful look at Ronald and his three remarkable brothers from the intimate perspective of his niece. It is here that we able to look at Ronald's early family life and see its influence on his character and development. 

RONALD KNOX AS APOLOGIST: Wit, Laughter and the Popish Creed (2007) and SECOND FRIENDS: C.S. Lewis and Ronald Knox in Conversation (2008) are more recent additions to the study of Ronald Knox by Father Milton Walsh.

THE WINE OF CERTITUDE: A Literary Biography of Ronald Knox (2009) by David Rooney

RONALD KNOX AND ENGLISH CATHOLICISM (2009) by Terry Tastard



A SPIRITUAL AENEID (1918) is Knox's only autobiography. It was written immediately upon Knox's reception into the Catholic Church. It chronicles the intellectual developments which let to his conversion. Knox himself revised it in 1950 but was mostly content to let it stand as an historical document, only adding a foreward entitled 'After 33 Years'.

"In an Aeneid, as in an Odyssey, you may be driven from your course; but, to crown the sense of adventure, in an Aeneid you do not even know where your port lies; you must make experiments, hark back to beginnings, throw yourself upon celestial guidance. Nor is it, as in an Odyssey, the thought of familiar scenes and remembered faces that hurries you on when you are tempted to linger; it is a mere sense of mission, imperiously insistent, that inflames your discontent." - Ronald Knox

Read an excerpt in PDF


APOSTOLIC PROTONOTARY

"In 1951 [Knox] was appointed Protonotary Apostolic ad instar, a grade in the papal service defined by the Catholic Encyclopedia as enjoying 'the same external insignia as the real protonotaries'. [Knox] used to say that it entitled him to wear a mitre once a year, but he never availed himself of this privilege. The polysyllables of his new title quickened his old appetite for parody, and in reply to some verses of congratulation from Cyril Alington he wrote the imitation of Gilbert's 'Modern Major General..." - Evelyn Waugh, The Life of the Right Reverend Ronald Knox, 1959

I'm the sort of man they make an Apostolic Protonotary- I've written reams and reams of prose, and quite a lot of poetry; To walk on garden-rollers is among my minor glories, And I used to be prevailed upon to write detective stories; I can also punt canoes (or, as they say in Greenland) kayaks, And had quite a flair at one time for composing elegiacs; I can look up trains in Bradshaw, on occasions locomotory, As undoubtedly becomes an Apostolic Protonotary.

In short, when I've unravelled all the complicated mystery, About what the Holy Office does, the Rota, the Consistory; When I've studied more theology, and don't get quite so drowsy on, Attending learned lectures which discuss the Homoousion; When I've somehow put behind me (with my poor command of French) a list, Of authors whose philosophy is known as Existentialist, When my learning on a multitude of themes is less bucolic - There's ne'er a Protonotary will be so Apostolic.

from In Three Tongues, 1959, Chapman & Hall