Ronald Knox

English priest and theologian

Ronald Arbuthnott Knox (17 February 188824 August 1957) was an English theologian, priest and crime writer.

Quotes edit

  • When suave politeness, temp'ring bigot zeal
    Corrected I believe to One does feel.
    • "Absolute and Abitofhell", Oxford Magazine, October 1913
  • There once was a man who said: "God
    Must think it exceedingly odd
    If he finds that this tree
    Continues to be
    When there's no one about in the Quad."
    • Langford Reed, The Complete Limerick Book (1924)
    • The topic of this limerick and the following one is George Berkeley's philosophical principle, "To be is to be perceived".
  • Dear Sir,
Your astonishment's odd:
I am always about in the Quad.
And that's why the tree
Will continue to be,
Since observed by
Yours faithfully,
  • Elizabeth Knowles, ed (23 August 2007). Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 184. ISBN 978-0-19-920895-1. Retrieved on 20 November 2018. 
  • Although this reply is anonymous, it is usually also attributed to Knox. (See, for example, a Guardian editorial for 3 September 2010.) Given the supposed divine provenance of the limerick, the lack of a human author would appear to be part of the joke.
  • Only man has dignity; only man, therefore, can be funny.
    • Essays in Satire, Introduction (1928)
  • It is so stupid of modern civilization to have given up believing in the devil, when he is the only explanation of it.
    • "Chapter VIII". Let Dons Delight (1939 ed.). London: Sheed & Ward, Ltd. p. 214. Retrieved on 18 January 2023. 
  • The prevailing attitude of the speakers was one of heavy disagreement with a number of things which the reader had not said.
    • "Note on Chapter VIII". Let Dons Delight (1939 ed.). London: Sheed & Ward, Ltd. p. 238. Retrieved on 18 January 2023. 
    • Describing a discussion following the presentation of a paper at a student society.
  • Only those of us, I think, who were born under Queen Victoria know what it feels like to assume, without questioning, that England is permanently top nation, that foreigners do not matter, and that if the worst comes to the worst, Lord Salisbury will send a gunboat.
    • God and the Atom (1945). London: Sheed & Ward, pp. 53–54
  • Words are living things, full of shades of meaning, full of associations; and, what is more, they are apt to change their significance from one generation to the next. The translator who understands his job feels, constantly, like Alice in Wonderland trying to play croquet with flamingoes for mallets and hedgehogs for balls; words are for ever eluding his grasp.
    • On Englishing the Bible (1949). London: Burns Oates, p. 11
  • I suppose there has been no subtler attack upon the Christian faith devised by its enemies in these last hundred years than the attack made in the name of "comparative religion". If you pick up a book on "Atonement", and plough your way through ideas of atonement among primitive tribes, pagan ideas of atonement, Jewish ideas of atonement, Christian ideas of atonement, you will find by the end of it that atonement, for the author's mind, has ceased to have any meaning. And he has been successful, in so far as he has managed to infect your mind with the wooliness which is the leading characteristic of his own. Comparative religion is an admirable recipe for making people comparatively religious.
    • The Hidden Stream (1952). London: Burns Oates, p. 105
    • Often misquoted as "The study of comparative religions is the best way to become comparatively religious."
  • It doesn't do to say that heresy produces the development of doctrine, because that annoys the theologians. But it is true to say that as a matter of history the development of doctrine has been largely a reaction on the Church's part to the attacks of heresy.
    • The Hidden Stream (1952). London: Burns Oates, p. 139.
  • All these riches, then, of her theology the Church has acquired, one might almost say, like the British Empire, in a fit of absence of mind. She was so busy scrapping with the heretics that she wasn't conscious of saying anything she hadn't always said; and yet, when she had time to sit down and look about her, she found it took ten minutes to sing the Credo instead of three.
    • The Hidden Stream (1952). London: Burns Oates, p. 142.
    • Knox alludes to John Robert Seeley's much-quoted statement in The Expansion of England (1883) that "we seem, as it were, to have […] conquered half the world in a fit of absence of mind".
  • If you have a sloppy religion you get a sloppy atheism.
  • He who travels in the Barque of Peter had better not look too closely into the engine room.
    • Reply when asked why he did not visit Rome, quoted in Penelope Fitzgerald, The Knox Brothers (1977)

Disputed edit

  • A loud noise at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.
    • Definition of a baby, quoted by Colin Blakemore in his 1976 Reith Lectures, Mechanics of the Mind
    • The earliest print occurrence is credited to Elizabeth I. Adamson in the July 1937 issue of Reader's Digest, according to Quote Investigator.

Quotes about Ronald Knox edit

  • Sir Max Beerbohm and Mgr Ronald Knox; each stands at the summit of his own art. They differ in scope. Where they attempt the same tasks, in parody, they are equal and supreme over all competitors. Sir Max has confined himself to the arts; Mgr Knox goes higher, to the loftiest regions of the human spirit. His Enthusiasm should be recognized as the greatest work of literary art of the century.
    • Evelyn Waugh, 'Literary Style in England and America', Books on Trial (October 1955), quoted in The Essays, Articles and Reviews of Evelyn Waugh, ed. Donat Gallagher (1983), p. 479

External links edit

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