The Catholic Revival in English Literature, 1845-1961

Newman, Hopkins, Belloc, Chesterton, Greene, Waugh

Ian Ker

The Catholic Revival in English Literature, 1845–1961 presents a thorough discussion of the six principal writers of the Catholic revival in English literature—Newman, Hopkins, Belloc, Chesterton, Greene, and Waugh. Beginning with Newman’s conversion in 1845 and ending with Waugh’s completion of the triology The Sword of Honor in 1961, this book explores how Catholicism shaped the work of these six prominent writers.

John Henry Newman claimed in The Idea of a University that post-Reformation English literature was overwhelmingly Protestant and that there was no prospect of a Catholic body of literature. Describing this claim as “happily lacking in prescience,” Ian Ker persuasively argues that Newman, Hopkins, Belloc, Chesterton, Greene, and Waugh succeeded in producing a substantial body of literature written by Catholics who wrote as Catholics. These revivalists were not so much influenced by traditional themes of guilt, sin, and ceremony, as they were attracted to unexpected facets of Catholicism. The idea of a Catholic priest as a craftsman is a recurring motif, as is the celebration of the ordinariness and objectivity of Catholicism.

Ker’s compelling and intelligent reading of these six major writers will appeal to anyone with an interest in nineteenth- and twentieth-century English literature, or the relation between literature and theology.

IAN KER is a member of the theology faculty at Oxford University. His many works include Newman on Being a Christian, The Achievement of John Henry Newman, Newman the Theologian, and Newman and Conversion, all published by the University of Notre Dame Press.


”. . . Ian Ker has done all those who have an interest in nineteenth- and twentieth-century English literature a service by his compelling and intelligent reading of these six authors.” — The Antioch Review

”. . . this study is a pleasure to read for its strong argument, bold analyses of Roman Catholic and Anglo-Catholic religions, and close readings of texts.” — The Journal of Religion

“Ker’s book is well written, well informed and . . . interesting. . . . ” — Theologie

“Any future studies taking up the intersection of Catholicism (indeed, of religion) and literature will be indebted to this book.” — Evelyn Waugh Newsletter and Studies

“In England, the period between John Henry Newman’s conversion in 1845 and the beginning of Vatican II in 1962 was a golden age for Catholic writing. A good introduction to the central figures in this story is provided by Ian Ker in The Catholic Revival in English Literature, 1845-1961: Newman, Hopkins, Belloc, Chesterton, Greene, Waugh. . . . [E]ven readers who are already very familiar with the work of the six writers will find this book highly rewarding.” — National Review

“_The Catholic Revival in English Literature_ is a useful addition to the study of the six writers it covers. All of it is elegantly written and . . . carefully argued.” — First Things

“. . . well-written essays on Catholic writers from John Henry Newman to Graham Greene. Each of the essays (chapters) contains sensitive insights into the variety of the Catholic experience in the 20th century.” — Choice

“. . . first-rate. . . .” — The New York Sun

“This is a fine, very enjoyable book, and deserves to be in all academic libraries and in the hands of all who appreciate English literature.” — Catholic Library World

“. . . Ker has made a significant contribution to understanding modern Catholic literature.” — Crisis Magazine

”. . . sprightly and readable. . . .” — North Dakota Quarterly

“What is most fascinating about this book for Victorianists is that it reveals a Newman scholar who wants to show that what Newman sought was in fact achieved. Ker’s study is really an account of the afterlife of Newman. . . This work is worth reading not just for the questions it raises, but for its open acknowledgement of the ongoing influence of Newman, or the idea of Newman, in the author’s work.” — Victorian Studies

“Ker’s study is an engaging work. It serves well as an introductory book for those interested in the Catholic literary revival, and offers the scholar an insightful reading of these authors and their texts by a fine theologian and literary critic.” — Comparative Literature Studies