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Hollis, (Maurice) Christopher


Writer, editor, politician; b. Axbridge, England, March 2, 1903; d. Mells, Somerset, England, May 6,1977. His father, Anglican bishop of Taunton, England, had been headmaster of Wells Theological College; his mother was a writer of Anglican histories and stories which continue to command an audience. Hollis went to Eton on scholarship and, while there, won further scholarships to Oxford. As a student at the university (Balliol College), he fell under the influence of Bernard Shaw, and, especially, of Belloc and Chesterton. During his last year at Oxford, at 22, he became a Catholic. He next took part in an extended debating tour as a member of the Oxford Union in company with Douglas Woodruff and Malcolm McDonald, visiting the United States, New Zealand, and Australia. For the ten years following, 192535, he was an instructor at Stonyhurst, a Jesuit college in Lancashire.

His first book, The American Heresy (1930), about assorted American political figures, belongs to this period, as do his Thomas More (1934), St. Ignatius (1931), and The Monstrous Regiment (1930) on Queen Elizabeth and her times. His next two books marked the economic phase of his miscellaneous interests. On the Breakdown of Money (1937) and The Two Nations (1935) were effects of the influence on his mind of McNair Wilson, then a correspondent of the Times. These led to his "American period," 193539, when he was lecturing in economics at the University of Notre Dame. These years also saw the appearance of a series of letters on foreign issues of the day: Foreigners Aren't Fools; Foreigners Aren't Knaves ; and We Aren't So Dumb. The war brought him back to England. After a term as instructor at Downside Abbey School, he entered the Royal Air Force. By a rather unusual arrangement, he worked as an intelligence officer by night, and supervised the Catholic publishing house, Burns & Oates by day. Somehow, at the same time, he wrote his most successful work, Death of a Gentleman (1945).

At war's end, Hollis joined with Douglas Jerrold, who had brought Hollis into Burns & Oates, in forming a company, Hollis and Carter, for the publication of books on education. This also was the political phase of his life; he became the Conservative member of parliament for Devizes, held the seat for ten years, and then gave it up, undefeated. As an MP he had played a part in the abolition of capital punishment for murder. In his last years he joined the Liberal Party. From 1936 until his death, he was a director of the London Tablet and up to a few weeks before his death, he contributed numerous signed articles and reviews to that publication. Meanwhile he was a regular contributor to the obituary columns of the London Times. For years, under Malcolm Muggeridge, he was on the board of Punch, writing a parliamentary sketch.

His literary output, mostly Catholic in character, was very extensive. Among his better known works are Erasmus (Milwaukee 1933); Lenin (Milwaukee 1938); G.K. Chesterton (London 1950); Evelyn Waugh (London and New York 1954); The Achievements of Vatican II (New York 1967); Newman and the Modern World (New York 1968); and The Mind of Chesterton (Coral Gables, Fla.1970).

Bibliography: Tablet (London), May 14, 1977, 466467; Times (London), May 9, 1977, 16.

[p. f. mulhern]

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