Rev. Robert Ignatius Gannon, S.J.
AS A BRIEF OUTLINE OF A "WRITER'S"
PAST, THIS MUST BE the story of a misspent life. I have studied
and taught and travelled and preached and lectured and engaged
in endless wrangles on education, public relations and finance,
but the literary output of the last sixty-four years has been
practically nil: a textbook, a book of after-dinner speeches,
a fat brochure, some magazine articles and now in 1957 a biography.
There is no sense of guilt however. Everything can be blamed
on my vow of obedience. I have been a Jesuit taking orders for
forty-four years and not being regarded by my superiors as an
intellectual, have never been ordered to write a book. Without
such motivation, it always seemed to me that there should be
an excellent reason for giving in to any such weakness and only
a few times have I felt comfortably justified about rushing into
The first time was in my teaching
days at Fordham University. I had Freshman English and Dramatics.
I wanted a Play Shop and there were no helpful texts that would
prepare for an appreciation of all dramatic literature, get boys
interested in writing plays and at the same time teach them the
art of the short story. So in 1923 I wrote The Technique of
the One-Act Play. It was published by the Fordham University
Press. It is being used now chiefly in television circles.
Thereupon mine ancient wisdom
and austere control returned and except for occasional dissipation
in a magazine, I let the public alone until the good Paulist
Fathers asked me to do a hundred pages or so on God in Education
for a series that they were getting out at this time. That must
have been about 1942. Nothing further happened until a Fordham
boy starting a publishing venture, came to me with the idea of
making a book of after-dinner speeches. I was appalled. Such
curiosities of American life are hard enough to listen to, impossible
to read. But he persisted and After Black Coffee appeared
in 1945. It was published by Declan X. McMullen.
That should have been the end,
but to my astonishment, His Eminence Francis Cardinal Spellman
decided in 1953 that I should write the authoritative story of
his life. The vow of obedience made up for the usual qualifications,
access was granted to all the necessary letters, diaries and
reports, and a five-hundred-page book resulted. It was published
by Scribner's in 1957. I thought it was going to be pretty dull,
one cornerstone after another, but I found that the Cardinal
Archbishop of New York had done several things that made the
true and unvarnished account read like fiction.
So that is the end.
I am at work now on my epitaph.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Father Gannon
was born at St. George, Staten Island, in 1893, joined the Jesuits
in 1913, and was ordained in 1926. He was an instructor at Fordham
from 1919 to 1923 and president of the University from 1936 to
1949. Besides his S.T.D., earned at Gregorian University, Rome,
he holds an A.B. from Georgetown and an M.A. from Cambridge,
and has had honorary doctorates conferred upon him by nineteen
institutions. In 1952 he has became pastor of St. Ignatius Loyola
Parish in New York City, as well as rector of The Loyola School
and Regis High School.]