Once you start trying to acquire knowledge merely for the sake of knowledge, it's ... well, strictly speaking, it's the abuse of a faculty.
Ronald Knox








ESSAYS IN PDF

Father Brown

Monsignor Ronald Knox


INTRODUCTION

To his wide reading Knox brought the nuanced judgment of the scholar, the incisive wit of the born satirist, the humanist's enlightened fascination with the range of experience, and the unalloyed delight of the good reader in the presence of good reading. To all this he also brought something imperishably important: the conviction that literature is ultimately redeemed from triviality by the fact that it describes "not the things on the retina of the eye, or the enormous irrelevancy of encyclopedias, but some condition to which the human spirit can come." - Ronald Knox


BARCHESTER PILGRIMAGE (1935) Knox continues the history of Barchester for two generations after Trollope, until 1934. From the Explanatory Dedication to Maurice Baring:

Dear Maurice,

I owe you a deep debt of ingratitude for pointing out to me, when this book was nearly three parts written, that practically nobody would read it, because practically nobody had ever heard of Barchester.

Do you really suggest that we have got to tell people what the title means? To say that there was a man called Anthony Trollope, who was born in the year of Waterloo, and died in 1882 – died of laughing at a new book called Vice Versa? That this man, however much you rank him below the Immortals, is the novelist of the Victorian era, because most of all he was its unconscious spokesman; and that among the great library of his writings, five novels are endeared beyond all others to those who read them, the five which centre round the imaginary Cathedral city of Barchester? Will it be any use to tell them all this, and give them a few more stray pieces of information such as would help them in a General Paper – as, that Mrs.Proudie, the Bishop’s wife, hen-pecked him and tried to run the diocese for him; or that Mr.Harding, the precentor, was the gentlest and most lovable of characters in fiction, or that Dr.Grantley, the Archdeacon, was a fine, domineering clergyman of the old school? Would such information help one who has never had the entrée of Courcey Castle, or strolled with the Archdeacon across Barchester Close, or faced up to the anger of Lady Lufton in her "den" at Framley Park; or blushed and wept over the poverty of Hogglestock Parsonage?

However, I dare say you are right in thinking that some kind of explanation is needed. To publish a book written entirely in the style of somebody else, when your reader is not expecting it, is to put yourself in the position of one who meets callers at the front door when he is dressed up in an eiderdown and an old cavalry helmet to amuse the children. To be an ass in a lion’s skin is dangerous work at the best of times; but you look even more of an ass if you are meeting people who have never heard of the lion. So I have done what you suggested, and explained it all in words of one syllable; only insisting that my explanation should take this dedicatory form. My readers may be few enough; but it will be something to have told my non-readers – the people who will put down the book in disgust at this point – that you think as poorly of them as I do, for taking so little interest in Trollope.


LITERARY DISTRACTIONS (1958) is literary criticism at its best, conceived not as a kind of science but as the good talk of civilized minds. These essays cover a wide range: from the place of the sea in Greek literature, through Dr. Johnson and Pascal, to Father Brown.


IN THREE TONGUES (1959) is a curious and charming anthology edited by Laurence Eyres, a student and dear friend of Knox. It contains original English, Latin and Greek poems and short prose, as well as Knox's translations of  'Jabberwocky', 'Auld Lang Syne', and 'The Suicide's Grave' into Greek, and Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales into Latin.


There was a young man of Devizes,

Whose ears were of different sizes;

The one that was small

Was no use at all,

But the other won several prizes.


Visas erat; huic geminarum

Dispar modus auricularum;

Minor haec nihili;

Palma triplici

Iam fecerat altera clarum.


In Three Tongues, 1959, Chapman & Hall