The first literary phase in the brilliant and protean career of Conor Cruise O'Brien was his work as critic for Dublin literary magazine The Bell, which begat this collection of essays first published in 1952 (under the pseudonym 'Donat O'Donnell', as O'Brien was then a working civil servant.) In it, O'Brien set himself to a study of 'the patterns of several exceptionally vivid imaginations which are permeated by Catholicism' - from Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh to Francois Mauriac and Paul Claudel - and to analyse 'what those patterns might share'. The originality and flair of Maria Cross won O'Brien many vocal admirers, among them Dag Hammarskjold, cerebral Secretary-General of the United Nations.
'A most interesting and at times brilliant book, admirably and wittily written.'New Statesman
'One of the most acute and stimulating books of literary criticism to be published for some years.' Spectator