|Born||17 February 1888|
Kibworth, Leicestershire, England
|Died||24 August 1957 (aged 69)|
Mells, Somerset, England
|Buried||Church of St Andrew, Mells|
51°14′31″N 2°23′26″W / 51.241928°N 2.390525°W
|Parents||Edmund Knox (father)|
|Previous post(s)||Anglican priest in the Church of England (1912–1917)|
Ronald Arbuthnott Knox (17 February 1888 – 24 August 1957) was an English Catholic priest, theologian, author, and radio broadcaster. Educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, where he earned a high reputation as a classicist, Knox was ordained as a priest of the Church of England in 1912. He was a fellow and chaplain of Trinity College, Oxford until he resigned from those positions following his conversion to Catholicism in 1917. Knox became a Catholic priest in 1918, continuing in that capacity his scholarly and literary work.
Knox served as Catholic chaplain at the University of Oxford from 1926 to 1939. He completed the "Knox Bible", a new English translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible that was used in Catholic services during the 1960s and 1970s. In 1951, Pope Pius XII appointed Knox protonotary apostolic ad instar, which entitled Knox to the honorific "monsignor".
Knox published extensively on religious, philosophical, and literary subjects. He also produced several popular works of detective fiction. He is remembered for his "Ten Commandments" for detective stories, which sought to codify a form of crime fiction in which the reader may participate by attempting to find a solution to the mystery before the fictional detective reveals it.
Ronald Knox was born into an Anglican family in Kibworth, Leicestershire, England. His father was the Rev. Edmund Arbuthnott Knox, who later became the Bishop of Manchester in the Church of England, and who was a descendant of the 8th Viscount of Arbuthnott.
Ronald was educated at Eaton House School in London and Summer Fields School in Oxford. He then entered Eton College, where he took the first scholarship in 1900. At age 17, he privately vowed to remain celibate for life.
Ronald proceeded to Balliol College, Oxford, where he won the first classics scholarship in 1905. In 1908, he won the Craven, Hertford, and Ireland scholarships, as well as the Gaisford Prize for Greek Verse Composition. He won the Chancellor's Prize for Latin Verse Composition in 1910 and was elected fellow of Trinity College, Oxford.
Interested in Anglo-Catholicism, Knox became a key member of Maurice Child's fashionable "set". He would not begin tutorials until 1911, so during his sabbatical, he accepted the job of classics tutor to Harold Macmillan, the brother of a friend from Eton. Macmillan's mother Nellie later dismissed Knox after discovering he was a high-church Anglican.
Knox was ordained an Anglican priest in 1912 and was appointed chaplain of Trinity College. During World War I, he served in military intelligence for the British Armed Forces. In 1915, Cyril Alington, the headmaster of Shrewsbury School, invited Knox to join the teaching staff. Knox was long remembered at Shrewsbury as the highly dedicated and entertaining form master of Vb.
In 1917 Knox converted to Roman Catholicism and resigned as Anglican chaplain, prompting his father to cut Knox out of his will. In 1918, Knox was ordained a Roman Catholic priest and in 1919 joined the staff of St Edmund's College in Ware, Hertfordshire, remaining there until 1926. Knox explained his spiritual journey in A Spiritual Aeneid, published by Longmans in 1918. Knox stated that his conversion was influenced in part by G. K. Chesterton, who was a High Church Anglican at the time, but not yet a Catholic. In 1922, Chesterton converted to Catholicism and said that Knox had influenced his decision.
Knox wrote and broadcast on Christianity and other subjects. While chaplain at the University of Oxford (1926–1939) and after his elevation to a monsignor in 1936, he wrote classic detective stories. In 1929 Knox codified the rules for detective stories into a "decalogue" of ten commandments. He was one of the founding members of the Detection Club and wrote several works of detective fiction, including five novels and a short story featuring Miles Bredon, who is employed as a private investigator by the Indescribable Insurance Company.
In 1936, directed by his religious superiors, Knox started retranslating the Latin Vulgate Bible into English using Hebrew and Greek sources. His works on religious themes include: Some Loose Stones (1913), Reunion All Round (1914), A Spiritual Aeneid (1918), The Belief of Catholics (1927), Caliban in Grub Street (1930), Heaven and Charing Cross (1935), Let Dons Delight (1939) and Captive Flames (1940). When G. K. Chesterton died in 1936, Knox delivered a panegyric for his Requiem Mass in Westminster Cathedral.
An essay in Knox's Essays in Satire (1928), "Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes", was the first of the genre of mock-serious critical writings on Sherlock Holmes and mock-historical studies in which the existence of Holmes, Watson, et al. is assumed. Another of these essays, "The Authorship of In Memoriam", purports to prove that Tennyson's poem was actually written by Queen Victoria. Another satirical essay, "Reunion All Round", mocked Anglican tolerance by appealing to the Anglican Church in Swiftean literary style to absorb Muslims, atheists, and even Catholics who had murdered Irish children.
In 1953 Knox visited Julian and Anne Asquith in Zanzibar and John and Daphne Acton in Rhodesia. While in Africa, Knox began his translation of The Imitation of Christ. After returning to Mells in England, he started translating Thérèse of Lisieux's Autobiography of a Saint. He also began a work of apologetics intended to reach a wider audience than the student one of his The Belief of Catholics (1927). In 1957, Knox suffered a serious illness that curtailed all his work. At the invitation of Harold Macmillan, Knox stayed at 10 Downing Street while consulting a medical specialist in London. The doctor confirmed that Knox had terminal cancer.
Knox died on 24 August 1957, and his body was brought to Westminster Cathedral. Bishop George L. Craven celebrated the Requiem Mass and Father Martin D'Arcy preached the panegyric. Knox was buried in the churchyard of St Andrew's Church in Mells.
In January 1926, on BBC Radio, Knox presented Broadcasting the Barricades, a simulated live report of revolution in London. The broadcast reported the lynching of several people, including a government minister. It also mixed what it called band music from the Savoy Hotel with sounds of the hotel's purported destruction by trench mortars. The broadcast also claimed that the Houses of Parliament and the Clock Tower had also been destroyed.
Because the broadcast occurred on a snowy weekend, newspaper delivery was unavailable to much of the United Kingdom for several days. The lack of newspapers caused a minor panic, as people believed that the broadcast events in London were to blame. In May 26, there was considerable public disorder during the General Strike, so people were previously open to the possibility of a revolution.
In a 1980s interview for his biography This is Orson Welles (1992), Orson Welles says that the BBC broadcast gave him the idea for his own 1938 CBS Radio dramatization of "The War of the Worlds", which led to a similar panic among some American listeners. A 2005 BBC report also suggested that the Knox broadcast may have influenced Welles.
The script of the broadcast is reprinted in Essays in Satire (1928) as "A Forgotten Interlude".
The majority of novels of Knox's era, coined The Golden Age of Detective Fiction, were "whodunits" with codified rules to allow the reader to attempt to solve the mystery before the detective. According to Knox, a detective story
must have as its main interest the unravelling of a mystery; a mystery whose elements are clearly presented to the reader at an early stage in the proceedings, and whose nature is such as to arouse curiosity, a curiosity which is gratified at the end.
He expanded upon this definition by giving ten rules of writing detective fiction:
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