Writer and editor; b. Dec. 24, 1892, Forest Garte, Co. Essex, England; d. Feb. 3, 1977, Storington. Of devout, Wesleyan parentage, in his youth Attwater became, with his family, an Anglican and at 18, on his own, a Catholic. After schooling in private and public institutions, he studied law, but did not earn a degree. He was in Egypt and Palestine with the Royal Artillery during World War I (1916–1919). While there, he began to take an interest in Eastern Christianity, an interest that would lead him into becoming a writer and a specialist on the Christian Orient. Among his works in this field are The Dissident Eastern Churches (Milwaukee 1937), The Golden Book of Eastern Saints (Milwaukee 1938), Life of St. John Chrysostom (Milwaukee 1939), Eastern Catholic Worship (Milwaukee 1945), The Christian Church of the East (Milwaukee 1947), and Saints of the East (New York 1963).
After the war, Attwater settled on the Isle of Caldey where he came under the influence of the Benedictines and of Eric Gill, both of whom were to mold his life. He took over the editorship of the Benedictines' quarterly review, Pax. He also edited a popular review on the liturgy, contributing many articles to it. This led to his becoming, in 1925, associate editor for England of the American review Orate Fratres (later to become Worship ). For a time, he was also contributing editor of the American weekly Commonweal. He was on the staff of the Catholic Herald, London, from its inception, and served as its editor from 1935 to 1936. He was assistant editor of a daughter paper, The Glasgow Observer, from 1939 on.
Prior to his work on The Glasgow Observer, he founded the Society for the Vernacular in English. The liturgy became one of his absorbing interests, and he was a strong voice in the liturgical movement. He wrote liturgical pieces for Catholic reviews both in England and the U.S. and, in 1961, published his Layman's Missal.
Attwater also authored several dictionary-type works. In 1931, e.g., he published A Catholic Dictionary (issued in England as A Catholic Encyclopedic Dictionary ). His Dictionary of Saints, published in 1938, was later reissued as the Penguin Dictionary of Saints (Baltimore 1965), a continuing best seller. Earlier he published an edition of the monumental Alban Butler-Herbert Thurston, SJ, Lives of the Saints (4 v., with notes and commentaries, New York 1956).
During World War II, Attwater was employed by the British Military Forces as a lecturer on current affairs. At war's end, he went on three lecture tours of the United States and became a visiting lecturer at Notre Dame University.
Attwater's other works include The Catholic Church in Modern Wales (London 1935), The White Fathers in Africa (London 1937), Names and Name Days (Milwaukee 1939), A Dictionary of Mary (New York 1956), and Dictionary of the Popes (London 1965). Among his translations are V. Solov’ev, God, Man, and the Church ; N. A. Berdiaev, The End of Our Time; Dostoievsky (New York 1934); and Christianity and Class War (London 1932). His last book The Cell of Good Living (London 1969) is a study of the life and views of Eric Gill, the artist who deeply influenced the renaissance of English letters, of which Attwater was a part.
Bibliography: The London Tablet (Feb. 12, 1977) 161. The Times of London (Feb. 5. 1977) 18.
[p. f. mulhern]