Evelyn Waugh wrote this book between 1934 and 1935, in homage to the Jesuit College of Oxford University (Campion Hall) and Father Martin D’Arcy SJ, who years earlier had guided him in his conversion to Catholicism. Although it is an unusual work In his production, his portrait of the English martyr contains vibrant narrative passages and a sound historical survey, valid for Catholics of all times, from the cruel persecutions of the Elizabethan era.
In the preface to the American edition, Waugh explained that he had not set out to write a scholarly biography of St. Edmund Campion (1540-1581), but “to select the incidents which would strike a novelist as important, and put them into a narrative which I hope may prove readable. ” We can affirm that he achieved that purpose, and that he did it with the command of the English language that is habitual in all his books, and with his typical tense, compact, precise style, which says more when it seems to say less.
This is followed by a well written and concise summary of the book and concludes with this:
In 1946, when he wrote the preface to the American edition of the book, Waugh (1903-1966) warned that the world of that year, at the beginning of the Cold War, was in a better position to understand the martyrdom of Saint Edmund Campion than the more tolerant Victorians. Perhaps the same can be said of this deranged 2020. With other excuses, the “unending war” on faith continues and promises to intensify. Waugh warned the reader: “The hunted, trapped, murdered priest is amongst us again, and the voice of Campion comes to us across the centuries as though he were walking at our side.”
The book was translated into Spanish and published in Madrid in 2009. The reviewer seems, however, to have read it in an English language edition that included the 1946 introduction. The introduction was written for the American edition which appeared after the success of Brideshead Revisited but has also been included in UK editions printed since then. The computerized translation of the article into English is quite readable with very few minor adjustments. In the excerpts above, the language from the book that quotes Waugh’s writing has been taken from the original and substituted for the retranslation from Spanish.