Category Archives: Great Writers

Great Writers

In Medieval universities, the first three subjects a student was instructed in were grammar, logic, and rhetoric: what Aristotle called the Trivium of the seven liberal arts. Respectively, they are the arts of writing, thinking, and speaking well. They are called liberal, because they are skills that every man should acquire in some degree, in contrast with the fine arts, which specialize.

This section of our website is dedicated not to great books, although many are referenced, but to great articles, essays, and poems, composed by great Catholic writers. These masters of the pen were not all exceptionally gifted wordsmiths, but they were all gifted in the art of communicating important Catholic information in logical and lucid composition.

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Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One

While recently re-reading—after almost forty-five years—Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One, his piercing 1948 novel set in the United States—in Southern California, in and around Los Angeles and Hollywood—I gratefully came to realize for the first time the deep and purifying pathos artfully expressed in that often disturbing, but carefully nuanced, text—especially when one also becomes gradually aware of what is missing. For, there are certain … More →


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A Synopsis of the Sixteen Novels of Robert Hugh Benson

Ann Applegarth, Catholic World Report: An impressive list. And, unlike many “Christian”—even “Catholic”—novels that may entertain yet contain no insight whatever into the human condition, Benson’s fictional fare is sustenance for mind and soul. Intended by the author to be tales of timeless truths rather than timeless literature—which he would never have had the patience to write—these stories can help guide readers to a surer footing … More →

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G.K. Chesterton’s View of Tolstoy’s Aspiration to Simplicity

When in 1902 G.K. Chesterton first published his essay “Tolstoy’s Cult of Simplicity” in a book of twelve of his collected essays, he was only twenty-eight years of age, and it was then only two years after he had first met Hilaire Belloc in a London Soho Pub in 1900. Although Chesterton would finally be received into the Catholic Church only some twenty years later … More →


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Maurice Baring’s Insights on the Russian Character

How might a deeply reflective book of almost four hundred pages written by a Catholic Englishman some seven years before the 1917 Communist Revolution in Russia — and thus also seven years before Our Lady of Fatima’s own 1917 sustained appearances in Portugal — help us to understand “the errors of Russia” and well as Russia’s distinctive religious and moral strengths? To include Russia’s persevering … More →


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Longfellow and the Faith

And in despair I bowed my head “There is no peace on earth,” I said, “For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth, good will to men.” Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail With peace on earth, good will to men.” These lines of … More →


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Dostoievsky’s Prince Myshkin, “The Idiot”

After reading together with my wife last night our Austrian friend Friedrich Romig’s carefully crafted and profound review of a 2013 book in German by Botho Strauss, we even started to consider, in light of Dostoievsky’s presentation of Prince Myshkin, a rather unexpected theme, namely (in my wife’s own words) “holiness as counterrevolution.” We also then continued—though it was very late in the evening—to talk … More →


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The Disadvantages of Comfort

When an inspiring Scottish friend recently teased me with a trenchant quote from John Henry Newman’s sermon, entitled “Religious Cowardice,” I deployed my resourcefulness promptly to find, if I could, the entire homily and to read it. Gratefully, I did. It is to be found in the second volume of his eight-volume collection of Anglican Sermons over the years 1834-1843, and it was originally delivered … More →

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Neither Communism Nor Capitalism — a Christian Society

Review of Solzhenitzyn, A Soul in Exile, by Joseph Pearce. Ignatius Press, 2012. Having recently been in a Russian kind of mood after my review of Dr. Warren Carroll’s 1917, Red Banners, White Mantle, when I saw this book in my favorite bookstore (at Saint Benedict Center, naturally), I eagerly picked it up and quickly became absorbed in it. Considering the fact that in between … More →

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‘The Penalties of Truth’ and Belloc’s Traveller

It is often the case, well known to the close readers of Hilaire Belloc’s varied essays, that he surprises us with some of his profoundest reflections and most memorable formulations in those lighter essays of his so full of banter and irony; or even in his brief, magnanimous considerations of other prose writers and poets, such as Dr. Samuel Johnson or Lord Byron, neither of … More →


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Belloc’s Verse on Our Lady and the Challenge of Faith

As we ourselves gratefully remember Hilaire Belloc this year, especially on the 60th Anniversary of his death, let us first consider “Courtesy,” his brief and evocatively allusive poem of seven short, rhymed stanzas (six four-line ones, and a final three-line stanza). For, it shows a special aspect of Belloc’s own humble answering heart: indeed the intimate bond he perceived between attentive courtesy and charity. We … More →


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Baring, Dostoievski, and the Prevaricating Press

In 1927—some twenty-three years after the Menshevik Revolution and a decade after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia—Maurice Baring published an anthology of his earlier writings, entitled What I Saw in Russia. Lenin had died in 1924, and Stalin was on the verge of securing his own rule, which was largely consolidated by 1928. Therefore, Baring chose to report on those earlier things he had observed … More →


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Maurice Baring’s Memorable Perceptions of War

After considering several varied, but representative, insights from Maurice Baring’s 1905 book, With the Russians in Manchuria, we shall be even more grateful to reflect upon the admonitory conclusions he draws from his trenchant depiction of modern war, which he so diversely experienced in several foreign cultures before the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Moreover, his piercing and humane warning about the nature … More →


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The Intellectual Magnanimity of Chesterton and Belloc’s Humor

On this manifold Sacred Feast Day, we propose to offer a perhaps unexpected, but quite illuminating contrast with the honored historical figure of Saint Joan of Arc, Virgin—who was killed by the English at nineteen years of age in 1431. And thus we shall now consider another vivid, but very different sort of woman in literary history, as distinct from religious or political history: herself … More →


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G.K. Chesterton in Praise of Chaucer

In 1932, four years before his death and only ten years after his having entered the Catholic Church, G.K. Chesterton wrote a vivid and capacious book on the medieval Catholic poet, Geoffrey Chaucer (d.1400). With his characteristic modesty, his book was simply entitled Chaucer. (One year later, Chesterton would also publish his even more profound book on Saint Thomas Aquinas (d.1274), and once more it flowed … More →

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Hilaire Belloc’s Canterbury Tale

In 1905, just before he entered the House of Commons for four discouraging years (1906-1910), Hilaire Belloc published a variegated and copious book, entitled The Old Road, about his eight-day journey afoot from Winchester to Canterbury, the latter also being the place where, on the 29th of December in 1170, Saint Thomas à Becket was martyred. Click here to VIEW full size, DOWNLOAD as PDF … More →


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