Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Literary Converts

Literary Converts is a somewhat vague title, but it is simpler than Literary British Men and Women of the Twentieth Century Who Converted to the Catholic Church (or Very High Church Anglicanism, If Your Name is Eliot, Lewis, or Sayers).  While this latter title is more descriptive, it still fails to convey the breadth of the stream of literary Britishers to Rome chronicled here, flowing through the twilight of the Empire, beginning on the deathbed of Oscar Wilde in Paris and continuing through to the burial of George Mackay Brown at Stromness in the Orkneys.

Pearce, himself a convert (Race With the Devil), has written at length on the lives of Roy Campbell, Wilde, Lewis, Tolkien, and Schumacher, and this book sometimes resembles background notes to more focused biographies, or even one of Tolkien's appendices.  What it lacks in focus, however, is more than compensated for by the skill with which Pearce manages to illuminate the lives of the better known subjects, while simultaneously calling the readers attention to a galaxy of intriguing lesser talents, mostly forgotten today.

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