Macaskie Twins Surface at London Book Launch

A posting on the Ronald Knox Society of North America website describes a book launch in London earlier this week. The book is edited by Francesca Knox and is entitled Ronald Knox: A Man for All Seasons. It is a collection of essays and other writings by Ronald Knox, some of which have not been previously published. The book launch was attended by, inter alia, two women of an advanced age who are referred to as the Macaskie twins.

These two ladies are prominently mentioned by Waugh in his biography of Ronald Knox. They met Knox during WWII when both attended the convent school at the Aldenham estate where Knox was acting as chaplain. The school and convent had been removed from London at the beginning of the war to the estate of Lord Acton where Knox was already in residence. Waugh’s description of their meeting with Knox is quoted at length in the Knox Society article, and their importance to Knox’s biography is summarized in this passage (Penguin, 2011, pp. 369-70):

The twins invited him to stay in the holidays, and soon their house in Kensington Square became his regular lodging in London. He said they should put up a plaque: ‘Ronald Knox practically lived here.’ Later they were among the very few of his friends to whom he wrote letters in his old, free, affectionate manner. In May 1947 he wrote to Nicola: ‘You and Claudia are the only people I want to write to except on business.’ In the drab and sour period of victory their friendship was a substantial solace. With his habitual reticence, he seldom spoke of them. At the dinner given to him in London on his sixtieth birthday the appearance of Claudia, dressed for a ball and prematurely called away by a young man in a white tie, created a stir of curiosity among his elderly friends.

Waugh cites Knox’s letters to them frequently in the final pages of the biography and mentions them both in his list of those who helped him in its preparation. Their appearance at the book launch is described in the Knox Society article:

They were as thoroughly English, and thoroughly charming, as one might expect. They reminded me of two Miss Marples, complete with twinkling eyes at almost 90 years of age! The Creed in Slow Motion and The Mass in Slow Motion were dedicated to them, and the sermons Knox preached at their respective weddings are included in Bridegroom and Bride.

The book launch was held at Heythrop College of the University of London which is housed in Kensington Square in the former quarters of the convent school which had been evacuated to Aldenham. 

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