have recently written a little book called Some Catholic
Writers which is due to appear in the months ahead. Considering
the influence of the faith on the minds and imaginations of
authors reveals how various and unpredictable that influence
can be. It occurs to me that one might gather together authors
who lost the faith and ask how that affected their work.
the moderns, James Joyce most dramatically sought to make
a religion of art, which is all he had left when he lost the
faith of his childhood. Art or faith? William Butler
Yeats has a short poem called The Choice that suggests that
the artist must choose between moral goodness and artistic
intellect of man is forced to choose
of the life or of the work,
if the latter must refuse
mansion, raging in the dark.
about many poets can certainly suggest that they think the
ordinary moral life does not apply to them. There is
a vestige of the Romantic notion of the artist in this, But
I keep thinking of such writers whose lives were a veritable
B Delmore Schwartz, Dylan Thomas,
Edna St. Vincent Millay. One could go on. Clearly
it is nonsense to see a per se connection between artistic
creativity and the rejection of morality. Think of Dante,
think of Shakespeare, think of Cervantes, think of Manzoni.
Or is there a special moral danger in the immersion in feeling
and imagination? Disputandum est.