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If you grow up known to one and all as "Frank and Maisie's son," you might feel resentful when it comes time to reminisce about them. Not so WIlfrid Sheed, novelist (THE BOYS OF WINTER) and biographer of playwright Clare Boothe Luce. Shortly after his famous father's death, Wilfrid began writing FRANK & MAISIE: A MEMOIR WITH PARENTS (1985). Frank was Australian lawyer and theologian Frank Sheed. Maisie was Mary Sheed nee Ward, biographer of Robert Browning and G. K. Chesterton. Married in 1926, in the same year they founded what was to become the most famous Roman Catholic publishing house in the world, Sheed & Ward. They had two children, Wilfrid and Rosemary.
Wilfrid always loved his cheery, intensely devout parents but was slow in coming to appreciate their greatness. They discovered and published widely read Catholic writers of Europe and North America: Jacques Maritain, G. K. Chesterton (Wilfrid Sheed's godfather, who dashed off a cartoon of his baptism), Hilaire Belloc, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, Father Leonard Feeney, S. .J. (FISH ON FRIDAY, THE LEONARD FEENEY OMNIBUS), Robert Lowell, Romano Guardini and on and on. Wilfrid met them all and traveled with his parents, sister and grandmother between Britain, the USA and Australia.
Read FRANK & MAISIE for its Oscar Wilde-like flashes of insight in persons (such as detective writer and Bible translator Father Ronald Knox), places (wartime Britain, any time Australia), politics and turning points in American history.
An example of wit, insight and turn of phrase: the Second Vatican Council of 1962-3. At that time "some fairy godmother of dubious origin granted us almost everything we (Catholics) wanted, after which nothing was quite the same" (p. 218). Theologian Frank Sheed read "Vatican II as a ratification of his life work" (253). Son Wilfrid saw the Council differently, bright decent men "negotiating over the previously nonnegotiable" and "simply the sheer sensibleness of it all: these were just the decisions we would have made ourselves. And no sane person can be impressed by a church of his own devising" (253f).
Frank Sheed and Maisie Ward loved each other deeply and it showed. They really enjoyed their Catholic faith and it showed. Maisie's magazine editing grandfather had been a hotheaded young disciple of John Henry Newman when both were Catholic-leaning Anglicans and opposed to Newman when both were Roman Catholics. It seemed natural, then, that Cardinal Newman became virtually a family member of every subsequent generation of first Wards then Sheeds.
Advice on FRANK & MAISIE: "Take the book and eat it up" (Revelation 10:9). -OOO-
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