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The Making and Unmaking of the English Catholic Intellectual Community, 1910-1950

James R. Lothian

Publication Year: 2009

In The Making and Unmaking of the English Catholic Intellectual Community, 1910–1950, James R. Lothian examines the engagement of interwar Catholic writers and artists both with modernity in general and with the political and economic upheavals of the times in England and continental Europe. The book describes a close-knit community of Catholic intellectuals that coalesced in the aftermath of the Great War and was inspired by Hilaire Belloc's ideology. Among the more than two dozen figures considered in this volume are G. K. Chesterton, novelist Evelyn Waugh, poet and painter David Jones, sculptor Eric Gill, historian Christopher Dawson, and publishers Frank Sheed and Maisie Ward. For Catholic intellectuals who embraced Bellocianism, the response to contemporary politics was a potent combination of hostility toward parliamentary democracy, capitalism, and so-called “Protestant” Whig history. Belloc and his friends asserted a set of political, economic, and historiographical alternatives—favoring monarchy and Distributism, a social and economic system modeled on what Belloc took to be the ideals of medieval feudalism. Lothian explores the community's development in the 1920s and 1930s, and its dissolution in the 1940s, in the aftermath of World War II. Frank Sheed and Maisie Ward, joined by Tom Burns and Christopher Dawson, promoted an aesthetic and philosophical vision very much at odds with Belloc’s political one. Weakened by internal disagreement, the community became fragmented and finally dissolved.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

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pp. ix-x

A number of people have made this book possible. At the University of Chicago my dissertation supervisor, Emmet Larkin, not only guided the project through its many stages but also provided a peerless example of professionalism. He is a model as to how to conduct oneself as a scholar and a teacher...

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pp. xi-xxiii

George Orwell noted in several of his essays of the 1940s that what he referred to as “political Catholicism” had been a central feature of intellectual life in England between the two world wars. Comparing au courant intellectuals’ recent interest in the Communist Party to the earlier influence of Catholicism, Orwell, writing in 1940, observed of the late 1930s, “It became as normal...

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1. From Political Radicalism to Political Catholicism: Hilaire Belloc and the Roots of the English Catholic Intellectual Community

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pp. 1-70

When he was an Oxford undergraduate in the 1890s, Hilaire Belloc (1870–1953) established a Republican club with a few friends. Their patron was Thomas Jefferson, and their feast days included the anniversaries of the beheadings of Charles I of England and Louis XVI of France...

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2. The Greater Servants: McNabb, Gill, Chesterton, and the Establishment of the Bellocian Orthodoxy

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pp. 71-141

Hilaire Belloc’s first notable disciples included a Dominican friar, an avant-garde sculptor, and a giant—literally and figuratively—of the Edwardian literary scene.1 In Fr. Vincent McNabb, O.P., Belloc found a clerical ally, someone he had despaired of discovering among the English clergy, whom he considered too conservative...

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3. The Lesser Servants: The Next Generation and the Maturation of the Bellocian Orthodoxy

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pp. 142-220

The five subjects of this chapter—Douglas Jerrold, Douglas Woodruff, Christopher Hollis, Evelyn Waugh, and Arnold Lunn—formed the hard core of the new generation of Catholic intellectuals who came to prominence in the late 1920s and early 1930s...

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4. The Dawsonite Challenge

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pp. 221-291

In October 1926, Frank Sheed and his wife, Maisie Ward, established in London a Catholic publishing house, Sheed & Ward.1 Less than two years later, in May 1928, Tom Burns, managing editor of the young firm, produced anonymously an influential, albeit short-lived, new journal...

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5. The Unmaking of the English Catholic Intellectual Community

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pp. 292-369

By 1935 the English Catholic intellectual community faced an incipient threat to its cohesiveness. The first group of Bellocians had been followed after the Great War by another, younger generation. By the early 1930s these two cadres had formed the core...

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pp. 370-384

The eventual decline of the English Catholic intellectual community had been assured even before World War II. As George Orwell had pointed out, by the late 1930s it was Communism, rather than Bellocianism, that had become the fashionable ideology...


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pp. 385-444

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 445-460


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pp. 461-487

E-ISBN-13: 9780268085650
E-ISBN-10: 026808565X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268033828
Print-ISBN-10: 026803382X

Page Count: 496
Publication Year: 2009