Joseph Pearce

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Joseph Pearce
Pearce in 2007
Pearce in 2007
Born (1961-02-12) February 12, 1961 (age 60)
East London, England

Joseph Pearce (born February 12, 1961), is an English-born American writer, and as of 2014 Director of the Center for Faith and Culture[1] at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee, before which he held positions at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire, Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti, Michigan and Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Florida.

Formerly aligned with the National Front, a white supremacist group, he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1989, repudiated his earlier views, and now writes from a Catholic perspective. He is a co-editor of the St. Austin Review and editor-in-chief of Sapientia Press. He also teaches Shakespearian literature for an online Catholic curriculum provider.

Pearce has written biographies of literary figures, often Christian, including William Shakespeare, J. R. R. Tolkien, Oscar Wilde, C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, Solzhenitsyn and Hilaire Belloc. His books have been translated into at least nine languages.


Early life[edit]

Joseph Pearce was born in Barking, London, and brought up in Haverhill, Suffolk.[P 1] His father, Albert Arthur Pearce, was a heavy drinker with a history of brawling in pubs with Irishmen and non-Whites, an encyclopedic knowledge of English poetry and British military history, and an intense nostalgia for the vanished British Empire.[2] In 1973 the family moved to Barking in the East End of London, so that the Pearce boys would grow up with Cockney accents. Pearce had been a compliant pupil at the school in Haverhill, but at Eastbury comprehensive school in Barking he led the racist disruption of the lessons taught by a young Pakistani British mathematics teacher.[P 2]


At 15, Pearce joined the youth wing of the National Front, an anti-Semitic and white supremacist political party advocating the repatriation of immigrants. He came to prominence in 1977 when he set up Bulldog, the organisation's racist newspaper.[2] He became an enthusiastic supporter of Ulster Loyalism during the Troubles from 1978,[2] and joined the Orange Order, a Protestant fraternal association.[2] In 1980, he became editor of Nationalism Today, advocating white supremacy.[3] Pearce was twice prosecuted and imprisoned under the Race Relations Act of 1976 for his writings, in 1981 and 1985.[2][4] At one stage, he contacted John Tyndall to suggest an alliance with the British National Party, but it rejected the plan.[5] Pearce was a close associate of Nick Griffin, helping him to oust Martin Webster from the party's leadership.[6] As a spokesman for the Political Soldier group, Pearce argued for white supremacy, publishing the Fight for Freedom! pamphlet in 1984.[7] He adopted the group's support for ethnopluralism, contacting the Iranian embassy in London in 1984 in a vain attempt to secure funding.[8] He became a leading member of the Flag Group, writing for its publications and contributing to its ideology, arguing for distributism in a 1987 edition of the party magazine Vanguard.[9]


Pearce's conversion to Catholicism was influenced by the writer G. K. Chesterton.[2]

Pearce decided to convert to Catholicism during his second prison term (1985-1986).[10] He joined the Catholic Church on 19 March 1989.[4] He attributed his conversion to reading books by Catholic authors including G. K. Chesterton.[2]


As a Catholic author, Pearce has focused mainly on the life and work of English Catholic writers, such as J. R. R. Tolkien, G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc.[11] The Guardian commented that Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc "skates over" Belloc's anti-semitism, "the central disfiguring fact of his oeuvre".[12] Ed West, writing in The Catholic Herald in 2010, called Pearce "a happy man" and one of the English-speaking world's leading Catholic biographers, hard to square with "the figure familiar to anti-racist campaigners of the Seventies and Eighties: the pugnacious and frightening leader of the Young National Front".[13]

He chose the nom de plume "Robert Williamson" after a character in the Ulster Loyalist ballad The Old Orange Flute, who, like Pearce, is an Orange Order member who converts to Roman Catholicism.[P 3] Pearce's biography of G. K. Chesterton, Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G. K. Chesterton, was published, under the pseudonym of Robert Williamson, by Hodder and Stoughton in 1996. Jay P. Corrin, reviewing the book for The Catholic Historical Review, called it "a venture of love and high praise", but which adds little to existing biographies. Its contribution, Corrin wrote, is its focus on Chesterton's religious vision and personal relationships, contrasting his friendly style with the combative Belloc.[14]

Pearce's 2000 biography The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde focused on the conflict between Oscar Wilde's homosexuality and his lifelong attraction to the Roman Catholic Church and how it was finally settled by his reception into the Church on his deathbed in Paris.

In a review for The Wildean, Michael Seeney, described Pearce's biography, as "badly written and muddled", "woefully poorly annotated" and using "odd sources without question".[15] Seeney wrote that it "does not 'unmask' anything", but contains too much "cod psychology" and "hyperbolic cliché" to be a "workmanlike biography".[15]

In 2001, Pearce published a biography of Anglo-South African poet and Catholic convert Roy Campbell, followed in 2003 by an edited anthology of Campbell's poetry and verse translations.


Pearce's essay Letting the Catholic Out of the Baggins discusses how a 1997 nationwide poll which voted The Lord of the Rings the greatest book of the century, and how the outraged reaction to the poll by various British writers, journalists and intellectuals led to his decision to write the books Tolkien: Man and Myth (1998), Tolkien, a Celebration (1999) and Bilbo's Journey: Discovering the Hidden Meaning in The Hobbit (2012). All of Pearce's Tolkien-themed books consider his subject's person and writings from a Catholic perspective. Bradley J. Birzer writes in The J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia that scholars had hardly discussed Tolkien's Catholicism until Pearce's Tolkien: Man and Myth, describing the book as "outstanding", treating The Lord of the Rings as a "theological thriller" that "inspired a whole new wave of Christian evaluations".[16]

New life, new world[edit]

Pearce married Susannah Brown, an Irish-American woman with family roots in Dungannon, County Tyrone, in St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church in Steubenville, Ohio in April 2001.[P 4] They have two children. He then received a telephone call and a job offer from the President of Ave Maria College in Michigan. The Pearces arrived in the United States on September 7, 2001. Pearce recalls that his first day of teaching coincided with the September 11 attacks, "making my arrival in the States something of a baptism of fire."[P 4]

In his 2017 stage play Death Comes for the War Poets, according to Catholic Arts Today, Pearce weaves "a verse tapestry," about the military and spiritual journeys of war poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen.[17]

Pearce was the host of the 2009 EWTN television series The Quest for Shakespeare. Based upon his eponymous book, the show is concerned with Pearce's belief that Shakespeare was a Catholic.[18]



  • Skrewdriver: The First Ten Years: The Way It's Got to Be!. London: Skrewdriver Services. 1987.
  • Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G. K. Chesterton. London: Hodder & Stoughton. 1996. ISBN 0-340-67132-7.
  • The Three Ys Men. London: Saint Austin Press. 1998. ISBN 1-901157-02-4.
  • Tolkien: Man and Myth. London: HarperCollins. 1998. ISBN 0-00-274018-4.
  • Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief. London: HarperCollins. 1999. ISBN 0-00-628111-7.
  • Tolkien: A Celebration. Collected Writings on a Literary Legacy. London: Fount. 1999. ISBN 0-00-628120-6.
  • Flowers of Heaven: 1000 years of Christian Verse. London: Hodder & Stoughton. 1999. ISBN 0-340-72220-7.
  • Solzhenitsyn: A Soul in Exile. London: HarperCollins. 1999. ISBN 0-00-274040-0.
  • The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde. London: HarperCollins. 2000. ISBN 0-00-274042-7.
  • Bloomsbury and Beyond: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell. London: HarperCollins. 2001. ISBN 0-00-274092-3. Published in the United States as Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell. Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books. 2004. ISBN 978-1-932236-36-1.
  • Small Is Still Beautiful. London: HarperCollins. 2001. ISBN 0-00-274090-7. Published in the United States as Small Is Still Beautiful: Economics as if Families Mattered. Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books. 2006. ISBN 978-1-933859-05-7. (Book Review and Summary)
  • Campbell, Roy (2001). Pearce, Joseph (ed.). Selected Poems. London: Saint Austin. ISBN 1-901157-59-8.
  • Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc. London: HarperCollins. 2002. ISBN 0-00-274096-6.
  • C. S. Lewis and the Catholic Church. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2003. ISBN 0-89870-979-2.
  • Literary Giants, Literary Catholics. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2005. ISBN 978-1-58617-077-6.
  • The Quest for Shakespeare: The Bard of Avon and the Church of Rome. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2008. ISBN 978-1-58617-224-4.
  • Divining Divinity: A Book of Poems. Kaufmann Publishing. 2008. ISBN 978-0-9768580-1-0.
  • Through Shakespeare's Eyes: Seeing the Catholic Presence in the Plays. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2010. ISBN 978-1-58617-413-2.
  • Bilbo's Journey: Discovering the Hidden Meaning in The Hobbit. Charlotte, North Carolina: Saint Benedict Press. 2012. ISBN 978-1-61890-058-6.
  • Shakespeare on Love. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2013. ISBN 978-1-58617-684-6.
  • Candles in the Dark: The Authorized Biography of Fr. Ho Lung and the Missionaries of the Poor. Charlotte, North Carolina: Saint Benedict Press. 2013. ISBN 978-1-61890-398-3.
  • Race with the Devil: My Journey from Racial Hatred to Rational Love. Charlotte, North Carolina: Saint Benedict Press. 2013. ISBN 978-1-61890-065-4.
  • Beauteous Truth: Faith, Reason, Literature and Culture. South Bend, Indiana: St. Augustine's Press. 2014. ISBN 978-1-58731-067-6.
  • Merrie England: A Journey Through the Shire. Charlotte, North Carolina: Saint Benedict Press. 2016. ISBN 978-1-50510-719-7.
  • Monaghan: A Life. Charlotte, North Carolina: Saint Benedict Press. 2016. ISBN 978-1-50510-890-3.



  1. ^ Pearce 2013, pp. 35–37
  2. ^ Pearce 2013, pp. 37–48
  3. ^ Pearce 2013, pp. 208–212
  4. ^ a b Pearce 2013, pp. 226–229


  1. ^ "Joseph Pearce Joins Aquinas College". Aquinas College, Nashville. 23 April 2014. Archived from the original on 31 July 2017. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Gress, Carrie (6 September 2013). "From Skinhead Bulldog to Catholic Man of Letters". Catholic World Report. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  3. ^ "Two booklets by Joseph 'Joe' Pearce". Roots of Radicalism. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  4. ^ a b Walker, Clare (23 November 2013). "Radical Conversion From 'Racial Hatred to Rational Love'". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  5. ^ Ray Hill; A. Bell (1988). The Other Face of Terror. London: Grafton. pp. 173–174.
  6. ^ N. Copsey (2004). Contemporary British Fascism: The British National Party and the Quest for Legitimacy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 34.
  7. ^ M. Durham (1991). "Women and the National Front". In L. Cheles; R. Ferguson; M. Vaughan (eds.). Neo-Fascism in Europe. London: Longman. pp. 265–266.
  8. ^ Ray Hill; A. Bell (1988). The Other Face of Terror. London: Grafton. p. 254.
  9. ^ G. Gable (1991). "The Far Right in the United Kingdom". In L. Cheles; R. Ferguson; M. Vaughan (eds.). Neo-Fascism in Europe. London: Longman. p. 262.
  10. ^ Hall, James (23 August 2017). "How Britain's Nazi punk bands became a gateway drug for US white supremacy". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  11. ^ Salai, Sean (S.J.) (7 October 2019). "Writer Joseph Pearce on the Case for Shakespeare's Catholicism". America: The Jesuit Review.
  12. ^ Williams, Hywel (17 August 2002). "Beer and Sussex". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  13. ^ West, Ed (5 February 2010). "Rescued from racism by the love of GK". The Catholic Herald. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  14. ^ Corrin, Jay P. (1998). "Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G. K. Chesterton by Joseph Pearce". The Catholic Historical Review. 84 (1): 134–136. doi:10.1353/cat.1998.0149. ISSN 1534-0708. S2CID 159438937.
  15. ^ a b Seeney, Michael (July 2000). "Review: "The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde" by Joseph Pearce". The Wildean (17): 65–67. JSTOR 45270102.
  16. ^ Birzer, Bradley J. (2013) [2007]. "Christian Readings of Tolkien". In Drout, Michael D. C. (ed.). The J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia. Routledge. pp. 99–101. ISBN 978-0-415-86511-1.
  17. ^ Catholic Arts Today Editors (10 January 2018). "Death Comes for the War Poets" An Interview with Joseph Pearce". Benedict XVI Institute.
  18. ^ The Quest for Shakespeare. EWTN Television, 6 March 2009 Accessed 5 May 2009.

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