The novelist and critic Wilfrid Sheed, who died last month at eighty, served as drama critic and literary editor of Commonweal from 1964 to ’69, and continued to contribute occasionally to the magazine after that. His criticism and essays are collected in a series of books, including The Morning After and Essays in Disguise. Among his better-known novels are Max Jamison, People Will Always Be Kind, and Transatlantic Blues. He also wrote Frank and Maisie, A Memoir with Parents, a remembrance of his father and mother, who were the founders of the Sheed & Ward publishing house. Sheed’s mother was G. K. Chesterton’s biographer, and Chesterton was his godfather. A selection of Wilfrid Sheed’s writing for Commonweal is available at commonwealmagazine.org/sheed.
The day I first arrived at Commonweal’s offices in 1964, Richard Gilman, who had served as drama reviewer and book editor, was clearing out a book-strewn cubicle for his successor, Wilfrid Sheed. I was twenty-two and, to be honest, Wilfrid terrified me.
He was affable, unpretentious, and apparently content with the...