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Ronald Knox

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Msgr. Ronald Arbuthnott Knox (17 February 1888 - 24 August 1957) was an English theologian, priest and crime writer.

Life

Ronald Knox was born in Leicestershire, England into an Anglican family (his father was Edmund Arbuthnott Knox who became bishop of Manchester), and was educated at Eton College, where he took the first scholarship in 1900 and Balliol College, Oxford, where again he won the first Classics scholarship in 1905. Knox, a brilliant classicist, won the Craven, the Hertford and the Ireland scholarships in Classics, as well as the Gaisford Prize for Greek Verse Composition in 1908 and the Chancellor's Prize for Latin Verse Composition in 1910. In 1910, he became a fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1912, and was appointed chaplain of Trinity, but left in 1917 when he was received as a Roman Catholic. He explained his spiritual journey in two privately printed books, Apologia (1917), and A Spiritual Aeneid (1918). In 1918 he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest; in 1919 he joined the staff of St Edmund's College, Ware, Hertfordshire, remaining there until 1926.

He wrote and broadcast on Christianity and other subjects. While a Roman Catholic chaplain at the University of Oxford (1926-1939) and as domestic prelate to Pope Pius XI (1936), he wrote classic detective stories. In 1929 he codified the rules for detective stories into a 'Decalogue' of ten commandments (see Golden Age of Detective Fiction).

Monsignor Knox singlehandedly translated the St. Jerome Latin Vulgate Bible into English. His works on religious themes include: Some Loose Stones (1913), Reunion All Round (1914), The Spiritual Aeneid (1918), The Belief of Catholics (1927), Caliban in Grub Street (1930), Heaven and Charing Cross (1935), Let Dons Delight (1939), and Captive Flames (1940). Monsignor Knox's Roman Catholicism caused his father to cut him out of his will.[1] This did not make much difference to his finances, however, as Knox earned a good income from his detective novels.

An essay in Knox's Essays in Satire (1928), "Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes", was the first of the genre of mock-serious critical writings on Sherlock Holmes and mock-historical studies in which the existence of Holmes, Watson, et al. is assumed. Another of these essays (The Authorship of "In Memoriam") purports to prove that Tennyson's poem was actually written by Queen Victoria. Another satirical essay ("Reunion All Round") mocked the fabled Anglican tolerance in the form of an appeal to the Anglican Church to absorb everyone from Muslims to atheists, and even Catholics after murdering Irish children and banning Irish marriage and reproduction. Knox was led to the Catholic Church by the English writer G. K. Chesterton, before Chesterton himself became a Catholic. When Chesterton was received into Roman Catholic Church, he in turn was influenced by Knox. Knox delivered the homily for Chesterton's Requiem Mass in Westminster Cathedral.

In 1953 he visited the Oxfords in Zanzibar and the Actons in Rhodesia. It was on this trip that he began his translation of the Imitation of Christ and, upon his return to Mells, his translation of Thérèse de Lisieux's Autobiography of a Soul. He also began a work of apologetics intended to reach a wider than the student audience of his Belief of Catholics (1927). But all his activities were curtailed by his sudden and serious illness early in 1957. At the invitation of his old friend, Harold Macmillan, he stayed at 10 Downing Street while in London to consult a specialist. The doctor confirmed the diagnosis of incurable cancer.

He died on 24 August 1957 and his body was brought to Westminster Cathedral. Bishop Craven said the requiem at which Father Martin D'Arcy, a Jesuit, preached the panegyric. Knox was buried in the churchyard of St Andrew's Church, Mells.

His first biography appeared a few years after his death, the work of his friend and literary executor, Evelyn Waugh. Waugh, a devout Catholic and fervent admirer of Knox's works, had obtained his friend's permission for the task. The second biography of Knox - the work of his niece, Penelope Fitzgerald - devoted equal weight to him and his three brothers (E. V. Knox, the editor of the humor magazine Punch, Dillwyn Knox, a mathematician, and Wilfred Knox, an Anglican monk and New Testament scholar). In 2009 appeared The Wine of Certitude: A Literary Biography of Ronald Knox by David Rooney, which followed two recent studies, Ronald Knox as Apologist: Wit, Laughter and the Popish Creed and Second Friends: C. S. Lewis and Ronald Knox in Conversation, both by Milton Walsh.

Radio hoax

In 1926, for one of his regular BBC radio programmes, Knox broadcast a pretended live report of revolution sweeping across London entitled Broadcasting from the Barricades. In addition to live reports of persons being lynched, his broadcast cleverly mixed supposed band music from the Savoy Hotel with the hotel's purported destruction by trench mortars. Because the broadcast occurred on a snowy weekend, much of the UK was unable to get the newspaper until days later, and a minor panic ensued.

A 2005 BBC report on the broadcast suggests that the innovative style of Knox's programme may have influenced Orson Welles' 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast and foreshadowed it in its consequences. The script of the broadcast is reprinted in Essays in Satire (1928).

Selected works

  • Bible Translation, Knox's Translation of the Vulgate, see Modern English Bible translations
  • Spiritual Aeneid (1918)
  • The Belief of Catholics (1927). His survey of Catholic belief, considered a classic of its sort and a Catholic equivalent to C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity.
  • The Hidden Stream: Mysteries of the Christian Faith (1953). Msgr. Knox evaluates fundamental dogmas and stumbling blocks of Catholicism.
  • The Scoop and Behind the Screen (1983) (Originally published in The Listener (1931) and (1930), both written by members of the Detection Club)
  • Difficulties: Being a Correspondence About the Catholic Religion, with Arnold Lunn (1932). An exchange of letters with Lunn, then a curious but skeptical Protestant, about the Catholic Church. Lunn later converted.
  • A Barchester Pilgrimage (1935).
  • Let Dons Delight (1939). One of Knox's most famous works, though currently out of print, takes as its theme the history of Oxford from the reformation to shortly before World War II. It records the conversations of the dons of Simon Magus, a fictional college, first in 1588, and then by fifty year intervals.
  • Enthusiasm: A Chapter in the History of Religion with Special Reference to the XVII and XVIII Centuries (1950). One of his most famous books, a study of what he calls "ultrasupernaturalism."

Novels

  • The Viaduct Murder (1925)
  • The Three Taps (1927)
  • The Footsteps at the Lock (1928)
  • The Body in the Silo (1933)
  • Double Cross Purposes (1933)
  • Still Dead (1934)

References

  1. UK: Fitzgerald, Penelope (1977) [1977]. The Knox Brothers (1st ed.). London: Macmillan. p. 261. ISBN 9780333194263. OCLC 59050056.  USA: Fitzgerald, Penelope (1977) [1977]. The Knox Brothers (1st ed.). New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan. p. 261. LCCN 00055492. ISBN 9780698108608. OCLC 3090064. 

External links

fi:Ronald Knox

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