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Joseph Pearce (1) (1961–)

Author of Tolkien: Man and Myth

For other authors named Joseph Pearce, see the disambiguation page.

58+ Works 2,759 Members 30 Reviews 3 Favorited

About the Author

Joseph Pearce has written ground-breaking biographical books on authors. Oscar Wilde, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and William Shakespeare. His books covering more than one author include Literary Converts and Catholic Literary Giants. He is the editor of the multi-volume show more Ignatius Critical Editions series. show less

Works by Joseph Pearce

Tolkien: Man and Myth (1998) 316 copies
The Quest for Shakespeare (2008) 117 copies
The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde (2000) 116 copies
Through Shakespeare's Eyes (2010) 50 copies
Monaghan : a life (2016) 11 copies
Moby Dick: Study Guide (2011) 6 copies
La vida humana naciente (2014) 5 copies
The Three Ys Men (1998) 5 copies
OSCAR WILDE (2006) 3 copies
Divining Divinity (2008) 3 copies

Associated Works

Pride and Prejudice (1813) — Editor, some editions — 79,795 copies
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) — Editor, some editions — 39,071 copies
Saint Thomas Aquinas / Saint Francis of Assisi (2002) — Introduction, some editions — 342 copies
J.R.R. Tolkien: Myth, Morality, and Religion (1984) — Foreword, some editions — 110 copies
Wuthering Heights [Ignatius Critical Edition] (2008) — Editor — 43 copies
Selected Poems (2001) — Editor — 10 copies


1001 books (302) 19th century (2,075) Austen (751) biography (343) British (1,102) British literature (1,208) classic (4,490) classic fiction (312) classic literature (614) classics (4,601) ebook (528) England (1,408) English (573) English literature (1,216) family (304) fantasy (388) favorite (347) favorites (525) fiction (9,425) gothic (446) historical (355) historical fiction (429) horror (625) Jane Austen (1,029) Kindle (530) literature (2,356) love (498) marriage (366) novel (1,640) own (551) owned (247) read (1,266) Regency (519) Roman (278) romance (2,590) sisters (272) to-read (3,015) unread (304) Victorian (474) women (250)

Common Knowledge



Just the right mixture of morbidity and the sublime that really gels with me, expansive horizons up and down our beautiful Isles are indicative of both death and the magnanimity of God. Pearce writes in that Christian, essentially English and patriotic mode that I love so much - he probably enjoys a good coronation chicken sandwich and a can of G&T from M&S, yet isn’t chanting colonial verses from Kipling or being an insufferable conservative arse (aside from lamenting the prevalence of materialism and the ugliness of modern English cities - but who could deny him that? He’s bloody spot-on, even if he does sometimes indulge in grumbling with the affectation of a jaded and cantankerous old man).

Anything that acknowledges the particularity of the English countryside, which manages to recognise its slight daemonic quality (in the same way that Socrates would describe his poetic bent as daemonic), is worth reading. Despite appearances, and even in spite of our national characteristic of bearing a stiff upper lip and of possessing a mediocre utilitarian/scientific temperament (just look at how scathing Nietzsche was when it came to the British), there’s a reason why folk-horror has such deep roots here and has borne such an abundance of fruit.

But of course everything in this book has an overbearing dimension of beauty as well, and to emphasise the bleakness, the wonderful bleakness of these vistas, their barren quality, would be to do Pearce a disservice. The Cathedrals he visits, the poets he quotes, the little spots he takes a break in during his long pilgrimage, they’re all perfectly lovely - and I say perfectly not in the sense of it just being sufficient, or to try to demean their significance in anyway whatsoever, they are all truly wonderful and provide a great comfort.

But the allusions to death are many, England is a land of ghosts, is animated and energised by these ghosts, which are more significant than those who wander blindly through the streets. And remember: always travel by foot! That is how one attains both revelations and madness, just ask Werner Herzog. (also my town was mentioned, big up the C-town massive, the largest crater and cesspit to ever be cobbled together on Blighty’s pictureseque shores, the true arsehole of the world).

Read this if you want a more Christian and human counterpart/companion to J.A. Baker’s The Peregrine.

“In between, vast and unavoidable, lies London. Its suburban outcrops creep, relentless and uninvited, to the very edge of Belloc’s beloved Sussex, crawling into Crawley and looming as an ever-present threat to the rural virginity of the weald.”

“Hedgerow, farmland, copse, and meadow, serenaded by robin, thrush, and blackbird, feast his eyes and ears. Wandering through villages with the delightful names of Good Easter and High Easter, his heart is resurrected. Here, at last, we see nature nurturing nativity and life itself defying the culture of death.”
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theoaustin | 1 other review | Dec 26, 2023 |
SrMaryLea | 4 other reviews | Aug 23, 2023 |
Literary Converts tells the stories of prominent British intellectuals' conversions to, in the main, Roman Catholicism from the Anglican church or from an atheist/agnostic standpoint. The ranks of the converts included famous novelists such as Evelyn Waugh, Dorothy Sayers, Muriel Spark and Graham Greene, historians such as Christopher Dawson, theologians such as Ronald Knox, philosophers such as F.C. Copleston and Cyril Joad, author/journalist/editor Hugh Ross Williamson, poets such as Siegfried Sassoon, Edith Sitwell, Roy Campbell and David Jones and of course G.K. Chesterton - poet, novelist, biographer, historian, critic and journalist, E.F. Schumaker, one of the stalwarts of the ecological movement, author, journalist and radio/TV host Malcolm Muggeridge and actor Alec Guinness.

There were a few prominent intellectuals who did not quite go all the way, most notably T.S. Eliot who converted to the Anglican Church, and C.S. Lewis who opted to remain in the Anglican Church. In both cases there was no intellectual impediment to "Poping". Their decisions were mostly a matter of allegiance to the history and culture of their adopted and native country.

One other noteworthy conversion, due more to the incongruity of his situation more than due to his lasting fame was that of Douglas Hyde, Communist news editor of the Daily Worker by day, and working his way towards the Catholic Church in the evenings, reading works by Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc and Ronald Knox, and eventually becoming a staff writer for the Catholic Herald in 1952. Ultimately, he did backslide due to what felt was a failure on the part of the Church to deliver on the promises of reform following Vatican II. He was attracted to liberation theology and opposed the efforts by John Paul II to rein in the movement in Latin America.

So what were the reasons why so many British intellectuals converted to Roman Catholicism during the course of the 20th century? For many of the literary converts one of the primary influences turns out to be literary, specifically the writings of cradle Catholic Hilaire Belloc and the other half of what George Bernard Shaw sarcastically called "Chrsterbelloc", namely G.K. Chesteron. Many of the subjects referred to Chesterton's "Orthodoxy", "The Everlasting Man" and the poem "The Ballad of the White Horse" which some considered to be in a class with Eliot's "The Waste Land".

Some were influenced by the social teaching of the Catholic Church, particularly Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum. Many were influenced by Belloc and Chesterton's articulation of an alternative to capitalism and communism in the form of an economic theory called Distributism.

Some converts were attracted to the universality of the Catholic Church, having come to the conclusion that the Anglican Church could never be more than a half-way house to salvation, as its boundaries would always be dictated by its national origins and thus could never unite any nations that were neither English speaking nor part of the British Empire. In fact, many of the converts were attracted by the Latin liturgy in that it represented a universal language of Christendom. Any Catholic could attend Mass in any Catholic Church in the world and be at home with the liturgy. Following the reforms of Vatican II, the discarding of Latin in favor of the vernacular sparked a common and often bitter criticism.

Some converts could be simply described as men and women who had a "hole in their soul" and were seeking peace and community that was not satisfied by their inherited religion, their education, or the modernism that was pervasive in the English culture following World War I.

It was somewhat ironic, given English history, that many of the converts went for instruction and were received into the Catholic Church by Jesuits who staffed a church in London known as Farm Street. Among the more notable priests who brought distinguished authors into the fold, was Fr. Martin D'Arcy an outstanding scholar in the philosophy of history.

I was so impressed with the stories related by Pearce that I have decided to follow up this book with D'Arcy's "The Meaning and Matter of History - A Christian View, Belloc's "The Servile Sate". Chesterton's "Orthodoxy" and Colpleston's "Aquinas".

There is not likely to be a large audience for a work like Literary Converts, given the spirit of our age, but I recommend it without reservation in the hope that it will give a fresh perspective to readers who might remember what we have lost and inspiration to readers who like the subjects of this work are seeking to fill the hole in their souls.
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citizencane | 4 other reviews | Jul 7, 2022 |



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