Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

The Wine of Certitude: A Literary Biography of Ronald Knox

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

The Wine of Certitude: A Literary Biography of Ronald Knox

Article excerpt

BRIEFLY NOTED THE WINE OF CERTITUDE: A LITERARY BIOGRAPHY OF RONALD KNOX by David Rooney Ignatius, 412pages, $17.95 paper

Any man who elicited the veneration of Evelyn Waugh and could do the Times crossword in his head without benefit of pencil deserves more than one biography. There have been biographies of Ronald Arbudinott Knox, the Anglican convert to Catholicism, with that of Waugh heading the list, but this is a study of the vast Uterature of Knox, who simply was a genius and polymadi, as a classicist and priestly apologist. Besides that, he was a splendidly agreeable man, and not one of my acquaintances who knew him well spoke less than affectionately of "Ronnie."

David Rooney is a professor of engineering and a specialist in aerodynamics, but this is not the work of a dilettante: The preface and first chapter are as fine a synopsis of Knox's life as one could want. About one-fourth of the text is excerpted from the subject's writings. I am glad they include Let Dons Delight, his historical tour de force; Literary Distractions, which places him with Wodehouse as premier wit; and Enthusiasm, whose pages would be a calming influence on any overwrought charismatic inspired to read it. …

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