HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY IN THE MIDDLE AGES, by Etienne Gilson (Sheed and Ward, 42s.).
IT is difficult to persuade oneself that a hook with the title " History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages," of which the text runs to 550 pages and the notes to a further 250, and the cost is 42s., is likely to prove a best-seller in the ordinary sense of the term. Yet it is not hard to prophesy that when many of to-day's bestsellers are known only in the 3d. box outside bookshops, and are otherwise quite forgotten, this book will still be selling steadily; for it is a masterpiece in a genre of literature and humane studies which has held its primacy for at least 2300 years now.
It is a masterpiece, even by the test of the best-seller: because for anyone remotely interested in the history of human thought, the writing, and the way the story, or history, is told carries one on so that it is difficult to put down this ponderous and heavy tome.
By the other accepted criteria of masterpieces this book will stand steady in that class; for few will deny to the author Etienne Gilson the required pre-eminence in the art of writing on these matters, and the vast breadth and ,depth of scholarship to attempt. without impertinence, the task of depicting the history of human thought and knowledge through the 12 centuries which included the apogee of Christian philosophical history in the Golden Age of Scholasticism in which St. Thomas Aquinas stood SLI prcene. It would be useless to pretend that this hook will not find its critics; hut its overall achievement is too great for that luxury to be indulged in a review of this length. Here it is necessary only to say that the author more than fulfils the promise of his own foreword, in which he writes: " The aim and scope of this book is to provide general readers and students with an introduction to the history of Christian philosophy From Justin Martyr in the second century after Christ up to Nicholas of Cues; whose work stands on the borderline of a new historical period. . , .
" Although it intends to convey some measure of literary information, the emphasis of this book is on philosophy itself; it is primarily concerned with the history of philosophical ideas, even though, as Is generally the case in the middle ages, philosophy is only found in a theological context.
"The text itself represents, we hope, a sufficient introduction to the significant developments that took place during the 14 centuries under consideration. The notes should provide teachers and advanced students with the first technical information they need in order to conduct their courses or start their own research work. Special bibliographies, indicated in our own, will take them to the relevant sources of information."
The author then goes on to pay a special tribute to those who, 25 years ago, were responsible for collecting the library of the Ponti• fical Institute of Mediaeval Studies in Toronto. of which he is the director, the students and his colleagues, without whose " erudi. tion " he says the book would have been " still more imperfect."
THE MYSTICAL ROSE, edited by
J. Regina, S.T.D. (Society of St.
Paul, Ns.). SERMONS UNI
VERSITAIRES. Trans. P.
Renaudin (Desclee de Brouwer). " MYSTICAL ROSE " is a collection of passages from the writings of Cardinal Newman on Our Blessed Lady, illustrating almost all the doctrine and all the titles, under which we honour the Mother of God. The first part of the hook, consisting of some 144 pages, is taken chiefly from Newman's letter to Pusey, and from Discourses to Mixed Congregations," and the second from " Meditations and Devotions,This book is eminently suited for meditations, or spiritual reading: and all in a prose that would be valued if the subject were Diana of the Ephesians.
Only in England, it seems, have we not yet got round to studying Newman. In the U.S. his prose and poetry are closely studied in universities both for their style and their substance. In Germany there is a definite Newman cult, in France it is gathering momentum. The latest evidence is a great publishing venture taken on by the house of Desclee de Brouwer: " Textes Newmaniens."
A VINCENT McNABB ANTHOLOGY (Blackfriars, 13s. 6d.).
TT is not without its irony, and its significance. that the first anthology of the writings of Fr.
Vincent should be made by an
American; and should appear and sweep the boards. published by Kenedy of New York in 1954. Now Blackfriars have made it their own here.
A fine, handsome volume of 225 pages, it is introduced by a short sermon preached by Fr. Hilary
Carpenter. 0.P., on the tenth anniversary of Fr. Vincent's death; the
editor is Fr. Francis Edward
Nugent. and the book falls into five main sections: Essays; Rio
graphy; Verse; Apolegetics and Theology; and Retreat Conferences.
This is a fine selection and does lust what an anthology of this nature is expected to do, that is, give a conspectus of the work of the writer of such a kind as to
make the reader of the " flowers " go to seek the stems and roots of the original whole works. There is to our mind only one notable omission, Pr. Vincent's
great work for the understanding and reading of the Bible. But how grand to come again across Fr. Vincent as literary critic in his magnificent essay on Thompson. .
And how easy it has been to forget, as against God's holy folly of Hyde Park Corner with Fr.
Vincent leading the audience in the Siamese National Anthem : "0 Wa Ta Na Siam " (Oh, what an
ass am), that he was no mean versifier himself:
The Rose's hue and scent Are meant By Him who made the rose,
to adorn A thorn.
And thus, when sorrow irks, Who shirks, Forgets to count the gain Of pain
Nor joy-benighted, knows The rose.