"A pipe that refuses to draw just after breakfast is guilty of desertion in the face of the enemy." Ronald Knox
Father Ronald Knox
Ronald Knox has been well served by several excellent biographers. Most notable is Evelyn Waugh, who was asked by Knox to perform this task as an old friend. Waugh's work (The Life of the Right Reverend Ronald Knox - 1959) remains the definitive source of biographical material but Thomas Corbishley (Ronald Knox, the Priest - 1964), Robert Speaight (Ronald Knox, the Writer - 1966) and Penelope Fitzgerald (The Knox Brothers - 1977) have also written eloquently on various aspects of Knox's life.
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 Knox himself revised it in 1950 but was mostly content to let it stand as an historical document, only adding a foreward entitled 'After 33 Years'.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)
RECOLLECTIONS OF RONALD KNOX
An excerpt from a letter written by Dom Hubert van Zeller to Evelyn Waugh.
What would be of more interest to you than these stray recollections would be an account of our visit to
His colour was very bad and he was speaking with pauses between the sentences: I wondered how he would possibly make himself heard in the Sheldonian that evening after the two hours drive from Mells to
He was less tired than was to be expected, sitting up till eleven while friends from various colleges – dons, mostly from Trinity, -- talked with him while he sipped very dull-looking fruit juice. J. C. Masterman could not have been a better host, and I think Ronnie was as happy as I have ever seen him. But it must have been a strain because when I called him in the morning he looked desperately ill. He said he had slept well, having taken another little pill, and had not been in the least disturbed by the shunting of trains which had kept me awake almost the whole night through. “Trains to me, you must remember, are music” he said.
"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
The inscription on Knox's headstone reads:
PREACHER & WRITER
HE SPENT THE LAST
YEARS OF HIS LIFE
HERE FINISHED HIS
AND HERE DIED
THE 24 TH 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