BIBLICAL AND SCEPTICAL-BIBLICAL NOVELS
persecuted in the Rome of Nero. They both sold in their millions. They were both dramatised and filmed a number of times in both silent and sound versions. They were both completely pietistic in tone (even if Wallace set out to write a sceptical story but changed his mind mid-way through his research). And, of course, they are now regarded with something near to contempt by respectable literary critics, who see them as little more than superannuated bestsellers written in a fake “ye olde” style. Perhaps this is to underrate them. I admit that I only ever read a kiddie’s version of Ben Hur when I was quite young (though I have seen both the silent 1925 and talkie 1959 film versions of it). But I did read Quo Vadis? with some pleasure when I was a teenager; and Sienkiewicz was an early Nobel Prize winner.