London: Sheed & Ward, 1938. Small octavo (8 inches tall), original green cloth, original dust jacket. Early owner signature, Bookseller's label, early owner signature, discrete reinforcement to jacket verso. A crisp, near-fine copy. Item #934
"THE BARK OF THE CHURCH WAS INDEED LOST NOW IN A STORMY NIGHT, AND HER DAILY LIFE WAS A CRY TO GOD TO WALK OVER THE WATERS TO THEM" Lovely early printing of the Irish lay writer's best-selling Life of St. Catherine of Siena—"one of the greatest saints of a tumultuous era" (Robert Ellsberg). Catherine Benincasa was born in 1347 into a troubled world on the brink of the catastrophic Black Death and torn by schism and disunion in the Church. A personal reputation for asceticism and mysticism "even in her lifetime made her something of a celebrity. What was distinctive about the holiness of Catherine was the way she mediated through her own heart the burning love of Christ and the needs of her time" (Ellsberg). Catherine began to attract disciples ("the Caterinata") and she was increasingly drawn into the conflicts surrounding popes Gregory XI and Urban VI. Catherine's loyalty to Pope Urban VI left her unable to resolve the fracture and she ultimately failed to heal the schism in the Church before her early death in 1380. "Effective use of history has been made by Alice Curtayne in her brilliant study of St. Catherine of Siena. Among the lay writers of saints' lives Miss Curtayne holds a place of pre-eminence" (Calvert Alexander). The book consists of a Historical Introduction and two sections: Part One, Crusading: "It is the rule of God's Providence that we should succeed by failure" (epitaph by Cardinal Newman) and, Part Two, Schism. Curtayne's "large and genuine talents would seem to destine her for a career as a literary critic or a novelist—a fine feeling for prose, firm but unobtrusive scholarship, a nature delicately attuned to the poetry, the drama, the humor of life and facility in its representation. The saints with her are first, the rest merely incidental...in this resides her claim to pre-eminence among other English authors who write only occasionally of the saints." First published in March 1929, Curtayne's biography of Saint Catherine was popular enough to warrant multiple printings in the 1930's. This printing of Sheed & Ward's "Cheap Edition" retains a nice example of the simple typographical wrapper with contemporary reviews printed on the front panel and advertisements for two other recent Sheed & Ward editions on the back panel. Approbations. A bright, clean copy. Ellsberg. All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets and Witnesses for Our Time. Alexander. The Catholic Literary Revival.