In the Church of England, Oscar Wilde once quipped, a man succeeds “not through his capacity for belief, but through his capacity for disbelief.” In the case of the English biographer and novelist A.N. Wilson, however, skepticism did not come easily. After reading English at Oxford, he trained for ordination as an Anglican minister. Though he withdrew from the seminary to become a writer, he remained, by his own account, a devout Christian—one, moreover, who was drawn to biographical subjects with strong religious contours. In his portraits of Milton, Hilaire Belloc, and C.S. Lewis, Wilson showed a respect for supernatural faith that is rare in modern letters. Whereas most modern biographers simply assume that a person does not possess a soul, at least in Saint Augustine’s sense of the word, Wilson had no trouble writing of Belloc that “it is not wholly absurd to see in his last years the work of sanctification and grace in...

 
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