‘The primary object of a novelist is to please’, said Anthony Trollope, but he also wanted to show vice punished and virtue rewarded. More roundly, Somerset Maugham declared that pleasing is the sole purpose of art in general and of the novel in particular, although he granted that novels have been written for other reasons. Indeed, good novels usually embody a worldview, even if only an anarchic or atheist one, and the religious novel is not the only kind to have a dogma at its heart. There is the further issue of literary merit, which certain modern Catholic novelists such as Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene have achieved, giving the lie to Newman’s assertion that in an English Protestant culture, a Catholic literature is impossible. But Newman and his fellow cardinal Wiseman both wrote novels; Wiseman’s novel, Fabiola, with its many translations, had an enthusiastic readership in the College of Cardinals, and was described by the archbishop of Milan as ‘a good book with the success of a bad one’. Victorian Ireland was a predominantly anglophone Catholic country, and despite poor literacy rates into the modern era, the three thousand novels in 1940 in the Dublin Central Catholic Library indicate a sizeable literary culture, comparable to the cultures of other Churches. The ‘literary canons’ who contributed to this literature around 1900 included the Irishman Canon Patrick Augustine Sheehan, the subject of this essay; another Irishman, Canon Joseph Guinan, who wrote eight novels on Irish rural life; Canon William Barry, the son of Irish immigrants in London, whose masterpiece was the best-selling feminist novel, The New Antigone; Henry E. Dennehy, commended by Margaret Maison in her classic study of the Victorian religious novel; and the prolific Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, the convert son of an archbishop of Canterbury. Catholic writers were often ignored by the makers of the contemporary Irish literary revival, non-Catholics anxious to separate nationalism from Catholicism (sometimes by appealing to the nation’s pre-Christian past), but this Catholic subculture is now being studied.