26 November 2020, The Tablet

Word from the Cloisters: Catholicism through the looking glass

Word from the Cloisters: Catholicism through the looking glass

“Who ever made a stranger course towards Rome?” wondered Ronald Knox of Stanley B. James, the writer and journalist.

Stanley, born in 1869, emigrated from Wimbledon to the Canadian West, becoming in turn a cowboy, shepherd, logger, hobo, journalist, soldier, poet, playwright and actor – “a kind of 1890s hippy”, as his grandson Robert Nurden puts it, in his entertaining and, as he himself confesses, slightly obsessive biography.

Back in England, Stanley became a fiery Nonconformist minister in Walthamstow. Nurden’s assiduous research has turned up letters and diaries that reveal clandestine liaisons with several members of the congregation. In 1923 Stanley converts to Catholicism, and swaps socialism and pacifism for distributism and fondness for Mussolini. He has seven children and writes nine books and hundred of newspaper articles. Michael de la Bédoyère took him on for a few years as assistant editor of the Catholic Herald in 1941, when he was 71. He died in 1951.

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