Monsignor Ronald Knox, Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford: And Protonotary Apostolic to His Holiness Pope Pius XII

Monsignor Ronald Knox, Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford: And Protonotary Apostolic to His Holiness Pope Pius XII

Monsignor Ronald Knox, Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford: And Protonotary Apostolic to His Holiness Pope Pius XII

Monsignor Ronald Knox, Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford: And Protonotary Apostolic to His Holiness Pope Pius XII

Excerpt

Ronald Knox lacked only longevity to be a national figure. Had lived to be eighty he would, most unwillingly, have found himself assumed into that odd circle of ancient savants and charlatans whom the Sovereign delights to honour and the popular press treats with some semblance of reverence. He died at sixty-nine still essentially a private person.

This book, I surmise, will prove to be the forerunner of many weightier studies of him. Its primary purpose is to tell the story of his exterior life, not to give a conspectus of his thought; still less to measure his spiritual achievements. His published works provide abundant material for research and criticism by specialists in many subjects. Here I have attempted to give the essential biographical facts they will need.

How do I come to be writing it? the reader may ask. In 1950 Ronald asked if he might appoint me in his will as his sole literary executor. There was not much more than fifteen years between us; the clergy are notoriously longer lived than the laity; I did not think it likely my services would be needed. But he put my name down and left it there. One of my duties was to appoint his official biographer.

He was himself one of Hilaire Belloc's literary executors and, three years later, when we were discussing the choice of Belloc's biographer, I raised the question of his own. 'Yes, I suppose someone will want to write something,' he said without enthusiasm. He had grown up in a tradition by which everyone had some literary commemoration, even the men of twenty who were killed in battle, and he regarded the attention of a biographer as an inevitable concomitant of death like that of the coffinmaker and grave-digger. Later he spoke of writing his autobiography. Until the end of 1956 it did not occur to me that I should outlive him; early in 1957 it seemed probable that I would do so, and I conceived the ambition of attempting the portrait myself. At the end of June, when he knew he was dying, he gave . . .

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