New York: Oxford University Press, 1952. First edition. Octavo, original burgundy cloth, original dust jacket. Small adhesion to base of front board, tiny ink stamps to inner flap and blank flyleaf, tape-repairs and edge-wear to dust jacket. Very good indeed. Item #880
"THE REVERBERATION, EVEN AT THE OBLIQUE TOUCH OF A FINGERNAIL, OF THE GREAT CATHOLIC BELL"
True first edition of Conor Cruise O'Brien's first book—written under the pseudonym Donat O'Donnell—not published in England until 1954.
O'Donnell acknowledges in the short Preface that "many great writers have tried to answer the question whether imaginative literature can be Catholic." This question is at the center of O'Donnell's collection of critical essays sifting the "patterns" among a disparate group of eight writers bound primarily by their Roman Catholicism: Mauriac, Bernanos, Greene, O'Faoláin, Waugh, Péguy, Claudel, and Bloy. Each author is introduced with a brief bio-bibliography: I. Francois Mauriac, II. The Faust of Georges Bernanos, III. Graham Greene: The Anatomy of Pity, IV. The Parnellism of Seán O'Faoláin, V. The Pieties of Evelyn Waugh, VI. The Temple of Memory: Péguy, VII. The Rhinegold of Paul Claudel, VIII. The Paradise of Léon Bloy, IX. Maria Cross.
O'Donnell begins and ends his book with Francois Mauriac, "the last of the great giants of the Catholic literary revival that flourished in France between the wars" (Robert Ellsberg). The closing essay, with a title taken from Mauriac's The Desert of Love, "is especially insightful and synthesizes the image of the woman/cross in several modern Catholic writers" (Robert Royal). O'Donnell concludes: "The power of conviction which the best in these writers has over others, who are not conscious of sharing either their religious outlook or their pattern of feeling, comes, I think, from this intuitive harmony of mystery and suffering, the reverberation, even at the oblique touch of a fingernail, of the great Catholic bell." The text is supplemented with a second Bibliography and an Index. Ellsberg. All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets and Witnesses for Our Time. Royal. A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century.