In The Pen and the Cross, Richard Griffiths takes on a vast topic. As a professor of French, though, he does bring a special competence to the work. The cultural centre of Roman Catholicism in the late nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries was not Rome, but Paris. If you want to understand, for example, Graham Greene’s place in Catholic literature, you first need to look across the Channel.
As a reaction to the institutional atheism of the Third Republic, the French church enjoyed a revival, drawing in intellectual and literary converts such as Bloy, Péguy, Claudel and, later, Mauriac and Bernanos. In Britain, there was a similar run of converts, beginning with Newman; at the same