G&K Chesterton Essays

A prolific English writer of the early 20th century; a popular and an influential writer during this period, inspiring many historic figures with his works. He was notably concerned in what he wrote with religious matters, and was received into the Catholic Church in 1922. Chesterton has been called the "prince of paradox". He wrote in an off-hand, whimsical prose studded with startling formulations. For example: "Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it." Pen name: G. K. Chesterton
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A prolific English writer of the early 20th century; a popular and an influential writer during this period, inspiring many historic figures with his works. He was notably concerned in what he wrote with religious matters, and was received into the Catholic Church in 1922. Chesterton has been called the "prince of paradox". He wrote in an off-hand, whimsical prose studded with startling formulations. For example: "Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it." Pen name: G. K. Chesterton

Scans

Works[edit]

Fiction[edit]

  • The Ball and the Cross (1909) (External scan)
  • Basil Howe (2001) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2048
  • The Club of Queer Trades (1905) Illustrated by
  • Daylight and Nightmare (1986) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2048
  • The Disadvantage of Having Two Heads (1938) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2033
  • The Flying Inn (1914) (External scan)
  • For Lovers Only (1929) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2024
  • Four Faultless Felons (1930) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2025
  • Manalive (1912)
  • The Man Who Knew Too Much (1922)
  • The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)
  • The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904) (External scan) (publ 1906)
  • The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond (1937) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2032
  • The Poet and the Lunatics (1929) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2024
  • The Return of Don Quixote (1927) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2022
  • The Sword of Wood (1928) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2023
  • Tales of the Long Bow (1925) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2020
  • The Trees of Pride (1922)

Plays[edit]

  • Magic: A Fantastic Comedy in a Prelude and Three Acts (1913)
  • The Judgment of Dr. Johnson (1927) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2022
  • The Surprise (1952) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2047
  • The Turkey and the Turk (1930) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2025

Father Brown[edit]

(Wikipedia article on Father Brown)

  • The Innocence of Father Brown (1911)
  • The Wisdom of Father Brown (1914)
  • The Donnington Affair, with Max Pemberton (1914) Short story; no scan
  • The Incredulity of Father Brown (1926) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2021
  • The Secret of Father Brown (1927) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2022
  • Father Brown Omnibus (1929) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2024
  • The Scandal of Father Brown (1935) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2030

Non-fiction[edit]

Biographies[edit]

Poetry[edit]

Anthologized

Selected Poems[edit]

Essays & Other[edit]

Collections of Essays[edit]

  • All I Survey (1933) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2028
  • All is Grist (1931) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2026
  • The Apostle and the Wild Ducks (1975) U.S. public domain selections only
  • As I Was Saying (1936) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2031
  • Avowals and Denials (1934) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2029
  • Chesterton on Shakespeare (1972) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2067
  • Come to Think of It (1930) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2025
  • The Common Man (1950) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2045
  • The End of the Armistice (1940) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2035
  • Fancies Versus Fads (1923) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2019
  • Generally Speaking (1928) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2024
  • The Glass Walking-Stick (1955) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2050
  • A Handful of Authors (1953) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2048
  • On Lying in Bed and Other Essays (2000) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2095
  • Sidelights on New London and Newer York (1932) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2027
  • The Spice of Life and Other Essays (1965) U.S. public domain selections only
  • The Uses of Diversity (1920)
  • Utopia of Usurers and Other Essays (1917)
  • The Well and the Shallows (1935) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2030
  • Where All Roads Lead (1961) – Copyrighted in the United States until (2056)

Speeches & Debates[edit]

  • Culture and the Coming Peril (1927) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2022
  • Do We Agree? (1928) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2023

Other[edit]

  • PrefaceLove and Freindship and other early works, Austen, J. New York: Stokes. 1922
  • Brave New Family (1990) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2048
  • The Coloured Lands (1938) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2033
  • G.K.C. as M.C. (1929) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2024
  • The Spirit of Christmas (1984) – Copyrighted in the United States until 2048

Works about Chesterton[edit]

  • “Chesterton, Gilbert Keith,” in A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature by John William Cousin, London: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1910.
  • “Chesterton, Gilbert Keith”, in Encyclopædia Britannica, (11th ed.), 1911
  • “Chesterton, Gilbert Keith,” in Collier's New Encyclopedia, New York: P. F. Collier & Son Co. (1921)

Parodies of G. K. Chesterton[edit]

Works available at Bibliowiki[edit]

(These works are protected in the United States (where Wikisource servers are located) by its legislature's copyright laws, and should not be downloaded in this country, but this is not the case in the U.K., Canada, Australia and many other countries of the world. See Help:Public_domain#Copyright terms by country to help determine if it is available under the laws of your country. Bibliowiki is not owned by the Wikimedia Foundation.)

  • Fancies Versus Fads, 1923
  • St. Francis, 1923
  • The Everlasting Man, 1925
  • Tales of the Long Bow, 1925
  • The Catholic Church and Conversion, 1926
  • The Incredulity of Father Brown, 1926
  • William Cobbett, 1926
  • The Return of Don Quixote, 1927
  • The Secret of Father Brown, 1927
  • Rotarians, 1927
  • Robert Louis Stevenson, 1927
  • The Outline of Sanity, 1927
  • Do We Agree?, 1928
  • The Sword of Wood, 1928
  • The Poet and the Lunatics, 1929
  • Four Faultless Felons, 1929
  • The Thing, 1929
  • For Lovers Only, 1929
  • St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox, 1933
  • All I Survey, 1933
  • The Scandal of Father Brown, 1935
  • The Well and the Shallows, 1935
  • As I Was Saying, 1936
  • Autobiography, 1936
  • The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond, 1937
  • The Coloured Lands, 1938
  • The Common Man, 1950
  • The Apostle and the Wild Ducks, 1952
  • The Spice of Life and Other Essays, 1964

Public domainPublic domainfalsefalse

 

Some or all works by this author are in the public domain in the United States because they were published before January 1, 1923.


The author died in 1936, so works by this author are also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. Works by this author may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

G. K. Chesterton

G. K. Chesterton, by E. H. Mills, 1909

BornGilbert Keith Chesterton
(1874-05-29)29 May 1874
Kensington, London, England
Died14 June 1936(1936-06-14) (aged 62)
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England
Resting placeRoman Catholic Cemetery, Beaconsfield
OccupationJournalist, novelist, essayist, poet
CitizenshipBritish
EducationSt Paul's School
Alma materSlade School of Art
Period1900–1936
GenreEssays, Fantasy, Christian apologetics, Catholic apologetics, Mystery, poetry
Literary movementCatholic literary revival[1]
Notable worksThe Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904), Charles Dickens: A Critical Study (1906), The Man Who Was Thursday (1908), Orthodoxy (1908), Father Brown stories (1910–1935), The Everlasting Man (1925)
SpouseFrances Blogg
RelativesCecil Chesterton (brother)

Signature

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, KC*SG (29 May 1874 – 14 June 1936), better known as G. K. Chesterton, was an English writer,[2] poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, lay theologian, biographer, and literary and art critic. Chesterton is often referred to as the "prince of paradox".[3]Time magazine has observed of his writing style: "Whenever possible Chesterton made his points with popular sayings, proverbs, allegories—first carefully turning them inside out."[4]

Chesterton is well known for his fictional priest-detective Father Brown,[5] and for his reasoned apologetics. Even some of those who disagree with him have recognised the wide appeal of such works as Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man.[4] Chesterton routinely referred to himself as an "orthodox" Christian, and came to identify this position more and more with Catholicism, eventually converting to Catholicism from High ChurchAnglicanism. George Bernard Shaw, his "friendly enemy", said of him, "He was a man of colossal genius."[4] Biographers have identified him as a successor to such Victorian authors as Matthew Arnold, Thomas Carlyle, Cardinal John Henry Newman, and John Ruskin.

Early life[edit]

Chesterton was born in Campden Hill in Kensington, London, the son of Marie Louise, née Grosjean, and Edward Chesterton.[8][9] He was baptised at the age of one month into the Church of England, though his family themselves were irregularly practising Unitarians. According to his autobiography, as a young man Chesterton became fascinated with the occult and, along with his brother Cecil, experimented with Ouija boards.

Chesterton was educated at St Paul's School, then attended the Slade School of Art to become an illustrator. The Slade is a department of University College London, where Chesterton also took classes in literature, but did not complete a degree in either subject.

Family life[edit]

Chesterton married Frances Blogg in 1901; the marriage lasted the rest of his life. Chesterton credited Frances with leading him back to Anglicanism, though he later considered Anglicanism to be a "pale imitation". He entered full communion with the Catholic Church in 1922.[13]

Career[edit]

In September 1895 Chesterton began working for the London publisher Redway, where he remained for just over a year. In October 1896 he moved to the publishing house T. Fisher Unwin, where he remained until 1902. During this period he also undertook his first journalistic work, as a freelance art and literary critic. In 1902 the Daily News gave him a weekly opinion column, followed in 1905 by a weekly column in The Illustrated London News, for which he continued to write for the next thirty years.

Early on Chesterton showed a great interest in and talent for art. He had planned to become an artist, and his writing shows a vision that clothed abstract ideas in concrete and memorable images. Even his fiction contained carefully concealed parables. Father Brown is perpetually correcting the incorrect vision of the bewildered folks at the scene of the crime and wandering off at the end with the criminal to exercise his priestly role of recognition and repentance. For example, in the story "The Flying Stars", Father Brown entreats the character Flambeau to give up his life of crime: "There is still youth and honour and humour in you; don't fancy they will last in that trade. Men may keep a sort of level of good, but no man has ever been able to keep on one level of evil. That road goes down and down. The kind man drinks and turns cruel; the frank man kills and lies about it. Many a man I've known started like you to be an honest outlaw, a merry robber of the rich, and ended stamped into slime."[15]

Chesterton loved to debate, often engaging in friendly public disputes with such men as George Bernard Shaw,[16]H. G. Wells, Bertrand Russell and Clarence Darrow.[17][18] According to his autobiography, he and Shaw played cowboys in a silent film that was never released.[19]

Visual wit[edit]

Chesterton was a large man, standing 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m) and weighing around 20 stone 6 pounds (130 kg; 286 lb). His girth gave rise to a famous anecdote. During the First World War a lady in London asked why he was not "out at the Front"; he replied, "If you go round to the side, you will see that I am."[20] On another occasion he remarked to his friend George Bernard Shaw, "To look at you, anyone would think a famine had struck England." Shaw retorted, "To look at you, anyone would think you have caused it."[21]P. G. Wodehouse once described a very loud crash as "a sound like G. K. Chesterton falling onto a sheet of tin".[22]

Chesterton usually wore a cape and a crumpled hat, with a swordstick in hand, and a cigar hanging out of his mouth. He had a tendency to forget where he was supposed to be going and miss the train that was supposed to take him there. It is reported that on several occasions he sent a telegram to his wife Frances from some distant (and incorrect) location, writing such things as "Am in Market Harborough. Where ought I to be?" to which she would reply, "Home". (Chesterton himself tells the story, omitting, however, his wife's alleged reply, in ch. XVI of his autobiography.)

Radio[edit]

In 1931, the BBC invited Chesterton to give a series of radio talks. He accepted, tentatively at first. However, from 1932 until his death, Chesterton delivered over 40 talks per year. He was allowed (and encouraged) to improvise on the scripts. This allowed his talks to maintain an intimate character, as did the decision to allow his wife and secretary to sit with him during his broadcasts.

The talks were very popular. A BBC official remarked, after Chesterton's death, that "in another year or so, he would have become the dominating voice from Broadcasting House."[25]

Death and veneration[edit]

Chesterton died of congestive heart failure on the morning of 14 June 1936, at his home in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. His last known words were a greeting spoken to his wife. The homily at Chesterton's Requiem Mass in Westminster Cathedral, London, was delivered by Ronald Knox on 27 June 1936. Knox said, "All of this generation has grown up under Chesterton's influence so completely that we do not even know when we are thinking Chesterton."[26] He is buried in Beaconsfield in the Catholic Cemetery. Chesterton's estate was probated at £28,389, approximately equivalent in 2012 terms to £1.3 million.[27]

Near the end of Chesterton's life, Pope Pius XI invested him as Knight Commander with Star of the Papal Order of St. Gregory the Great (KC*SG).[25] The Chesterton Society has proposed that he be beatified.[28] He is remembered liturgically on 13 June by the Episcopal Church, with a provisional feast day as adopted at the 2009 General Convention.[29]

Writing[edit]

Chesterton wrote around 80 books, several hundred poems, some 200 short stories, 4000 essays, and several plays. He was a literary and social critic, historian, playwright, novelist, Catholic theologian[30][31] and apologist, debater, and mystery writer. He was a columnist for the Daily News, The Illustrated London News, and his own paper, G. K.'s Weekly; he also wrote articles for the Encyclopædia Britannica, including the entry on Charles Dickens and part of the entry on Humour in the 14th edition (1929). His best-known character is the priest-detective Father Brown,[5] who appeared only in short stories, while The Man Who Was Thursday is arguably his best-known novel. He was a convinced Christian long before he was received into the Catholic Church, and Christian themes and symbolism appear in much of his writing. In the United States, his writings on distributism were popularised through The American Review, published by Seward Collins in New York.

Of his nonfiction, Charles Dickens: A Critical Study (1906) has received some of the broadest-based praise. According to Ian Ker (The Catholic Revival in English Literature, 1845–1961, 2003), "In Chesterton's eyes Dickens belongs to Merry, not Puritan, England"; Ker treats Chesterton's thought in Chapter 4 of that book as largely growing out of his true appreciation of Dickens, a somewhat shop-soiled property in the view of other literary opinions of the time.

Chesterton's writings consistently displayed wit and a sense of humour. He employed paradox, while making serious comments on the world, government, politics, economics, philosophy, theology and many other topics.[32][33]

Views and contemporaries[edit]

Chesterton's writing has been seen by some analysts as combining two earlier strands in English literature. Dickens' approach is one of these. Another is represented by Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw, whom Chesterton knew well: satirists and social commentators following in the tradition of Samuel Butler, vigorously wielding paradox as a weapon against complacent acceptance of the conventional view of things.

Chesterton's style and thinking were all his own, however, and his conclusions were often opposed to those of Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. In his book Heretics, Chesterton has this to say of Wilde: "The same lesson [of the pessimistic pleasure-seeker] was taught by the very powerful and very desolate philosophy of Oscar Wilde. It is the carpe diem religion; but the carpe diem religion is not the religion of happy people, but of very unhappy people. Great joy does not gather the rosebuds while it may; its eyes are fixed on the immortal rose which Dante saw." More briefly, and with a closer approximation of Wilde's own style, he writes in Orthodoxy concerning the necessity of making symbolic sacrifices for the gift of creation: "Oscar Wilde said that sunsets were not valued because we could not pay for sunsets. But Oscar Wilde was wrong; we can pay for sunsets. We can pay for them by not being Oscar Wilde."

Chesterton and Shaw were famous friends and enjoyed their arguments and discussions. Although rarely in agreement, they both maintained good will toward and respect for each other. However, in his writing, Chesterton expressed himself very plainly on where they differed and why. In Heretics he writes of Shaw:

After belabouring a great many people for a great many years for being unprogressive, Mr. Shaw has discovered, with characteristic sense, that it is very doubtful whether any existing human being with two legs can be progressive at all. Having come to doubt whether humanity can be combined with progress, most people, easily pleased, would have elected to abandon progress and remain with humanity. Mr. Shaw, not being easily pleased, decides to throw over humanity with all its limitations and go in for progress for its own sake. If man, as we know him, is incapable of the philosophy of progress, Mr. Shaw asks, not for a new kind of philosophy, but for a new kind of man. It is rather as if a nurse had tried a rather bitter food for some years on a baby, and on discovering that it was not suitable, should not throw away the food and ask for a new food, but throw the baby out of window, and ask for a new baby.

Shaw represented the new school of thought, modernism, which was rising at the time. Chesterton's views, on the other hand, became increasingly more focused towards the Church. In Orthodoxy he writes: "The worship of will is the negation of will … If Mr. Bernard Shaw comes up to me and says, 'Will something', that is tantamount to saying, 'I do not mind what you will', and that is tantamount to saying, 'I have no will in the matter.' You cannot admire will in general, because the essence of will is that it is particular."

This style of argumentation is what Chesterton refers to as using 'Uncommon Sense' – that is, that the thinkers and popular philosophers of the day, though very clever, were saying things that were nonsensical. This is illustrated again in Orthodoxy: "Thus when Mr. H. G. Wells says (as he did somewhere), 'All chairs are quite different', he utters not merely a misstatement, but a contradiction in terms. If all chairs were quite different, you could not call them 'all chairs'." Or, again from Orthodoxy:

The wild worship of lawlessness and the materialist worship of law end in the same void. Nietzsche scales staggering mountains, but he turns up ultimately in Tibet. He sits down beside Tolstoy in the land of nothing and Nirvana. They are both helpless – one because he must not grasp anything, and the other because he must not let go of anything. The Tolstoyan's will is frozen by a Buddhist instinct that all special actions are evil. But the Nietzscheite's will is quite equally frozen by his view that all special actions are good; for if all special actions are good, none of them are special. They stand at the crossroads, and one hates all the roads and the other likes all the roads. The result is – well, some things are not hard to calculate. They stand at the cross-roads.[38]

Chesterton, as a political thinker, cast aspersions on both progressivism and conservatism, saying, "The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected."[39]

Another contemporary and friend from schooldays was Edmund Bentley, inventor of the clerihew. Chesterton himself wrote clerihews and illustrated his friend's first published collection of poetry, Biography for Beginners (1905), which popularised the clerihew form. Chesterton was also godfather to Bentley's son, Nicolas, and opened his novel The Man Who Was Thursday with a poem written to Bentley.

Charges of anti-Semitism[edit]

Chesterton faced accusations of anti-Semitism during his lifetime, as well as posthumously.[40] An early supporter of Captain Dreyfus, by 1906 he had turned into an anti-dreyfusard.[41] From the early 20th century, his fictional work included caricatures of Jews, stereotyping them as greedy, cowardly, disloyal and communists.[42]

The Marconi scandal of 1912–13 brought issues of anti-Semitism into the political mainstream, on the basis that senior ministers in the Liberal government had secretly profited from advanced knowledge of deals regarding wireless telegraphy. Some of the key players were Jewish.[43] Historian Todd Edelman identifies Catholic writers as central critics:

The most virulent attacks in the Marconi affair were launched by Hilaire Belloc and the brothers Cecil and G. K. Chesterton, whose hostility to Jews was linked to their opposition to liberalism, their backward-looking Catholicism, and the nostalgia for a medieval Catholic Europe that they imagined was ordered, harmonious, and homogeneous.

The Jew baiting at the time of The Boer War and the Marconi scandal was linked to a broader protest, mounted in the main by the Radical wing of the Liberal Party, against the growing visibility of successful businessmen in national life and the challenges to what were seen as traditional English values.[44]

Historian Frances Donaldson says, "If Belloc's feeling against the Jews was instinctive and under some control, Chesterton's was open and vicious, and he shared with Belloc the peculiarity that the Jews were never far from his thoughts."[43][45]

In a work of 1917, titled A Short History of England, Chesterton considers the royal decree of 1290 by which Edward I expelled Jews from England, a policy that remained in place until 1655. Chesterton writes that popular perception of Jewish moneylenders could well have led Edward I's subjects to regard him as a "tender father of his people" for "breaking the rule by which the rulers had hitherto fostered their bankers' wealth". He felt that Jews, "a sensitive and highly civilized people" who "were the capitalists of the age, the men with wealth banked ready for use", might legitimately complain that "Christian kings and nobles, and even Christian popes and bishops, used for Christian purposes (such as the Crusades and the cathedrals) the money that could only be accumulated in such mountains by a usury they inconsistently denounced as unchristian; and then, when worse times came, gave up the Jew to the fury of the poor".[46][47]

In The New Jerusalem, Chesterton made it clear that he believed that there was a "Jewish Problem" in Europe, in the sense that he believed that Jewish culture (though not Jewish ethnicity) separated itself from the nationalities of Europe.[not in citation given] He argued that he was quite in favour of a Jew becoming Prime Minister or Lord Chancellor, under the condition, though, that "every Jew must be dressed like an Arab […] The point applies to any Jew, and to our own recovery of healthier relations with him. The point is that we should know where we are; and he would know where he is, which is in a foreign land." He suggested the formation of a Jewish homeland as a solution, and was later invited to Palestine by Jewish Zionists who saw him as an ally in their cause. Later he grew out of the notion of Palestine as a Jewish homeland, and suggested somewhere in Africa instead.

Chesterton, like Belloc, openly expressed his abhorrence of Hitler's rule almost as soon as it started.[49]

In The Truth about the Tribes Chesterton blasted German race theories, writing: "the essence of Nazi Nationalism is to preserve the purity of a race in a continent where all races are impure."[50]

The historian Simon Mayers points out that Chesterton wrote in works such as The Crank, The Heresy of Race, and The Barbarian as Bore against the concept of racial superiority and critiqued pseudo-scientific race theories, saying they were akin to a new religion.[42] In The Truth About the Tribes Chesterton wrote, "the curse of race religion is that it makes each separate man the sacred image which he worships. His own bones are the sacred relics; his own blood is the blood of St. Januarius."[42]

Mayers records that despite "his hostility towards Nazi antisemitism … [it's unfortunate that he made] claims that 'Hitlerism' was a form of Judaism, and that the Jews were partly responsible for race theory."[42] In The Judaism of Hitler Chesterton wrote "Hitlerism is almost entirely of Jewish origin."[42] In A Queer Choice Chesterton maintained that the only possible source of "the Hitlerites" idea of "a Chosen Race" was "from the Jews."[42] In The Crank Chesterton went on to say: "If there is one outstanding quality in Hitlerism it is its Hebraism" and "the new Nordic Man has all the worst faults of the worst Jews: jealousy, greed, the mania of conspiracy, and above all, the belief in a Chosen Race."[42]

Mayers also shows that Chesterton didn't just portray Jews as culturally and religiously distinct, but racially as well. Chesterton wrote The Feud of the Foreigner in 1920, saying that the Jew "is a foreigner far more remote from us than is a Bavarian from a Frenchman; he is divided by the same type of division as that between us and a Chinaman or a Hindoo. He not only is not, but never was, of the same race."[42]

In The Everlasting Man, while writing about human sacrifice, Chesterton suggested that medieval stories about Jews killing children might have resulted from a distortion of genuine cases of devil-worship. Chesterton wrote: "the Hebrew prophets were perpetually protesting against the Hebrew race relapsing into an idolatry that involved such a war upon children; and it is probable enough that this abominable apostasy from the God of Israel has occasionally appeared in Israel since, in the form of what is called ritual murder; not of course by any representative of the religion of Judaism, but by individual and irresponsible diabolists who did happen to be Jews."[42][51] Chesterton goes on in the paragraph to speak of "the enormous [devotional] popularity of the Child Martyr of the Middle Ages" and of little St. Hugh (figures held to have been ritual victims of Jews).[51]

The American Chesterton Society has devoted a whole issue of its magazine, Gilbert, to defending Chesterton against charges of antisemitism.[52]

Opposition to Eugenics[edit]

In Eugenics and Other Evils Chesterton attacked eugenics as Britain was moving towards passage of the Mental Deficiency Act 1913. Some backing the ideas of eugenics called for the government to sterilise people deemed "mentally defective"; this view did not gain popularity but the idea of segregating them from the rest of society and thereby preventing them from reproducing did gain traction. These ideas disgusted Chesterton who wrote, "It is not only openly said, it is eagerly urged that the aim of the measure is to prevent any person whom these propagandists do not happen to think intelligent from having any wife or children."[53] He blasted the proposed wording for such measures as being so vague as to apply to anyone, including "Every tramp who is sulk, every labourer who is shy, every rustic who is eccentric, can quite easily be brought under such conditions as were designed for homicidal maniacs. That is the situation; and that is the point … we are already under the Eugenist State; and nothing remains to us but rebellion."[53]

He derided such ideas as founded on nonsense, "as if one had a right to dragoon and enslave one's fellow citizens as a kind of chemical experiment".[53]

Chesterton also mocked the idea that poverty was a result of bad breeding: "[it is a] strange new disposition to regard the poor as a race; as if they were a colony of Japs or Chinese coolies … The poor are not a race or even a type. It is senseless to talk about breeding them; for they are not a breed. They are, in cold fact, what Dickens describes: 'a dustbin of individual accidents,' of damaged dignity, and often of damaged gentility."[53]

"Chesterbelloc"[edit]

See also G. K.'s Weekly.

Chesterton is often associated with his close friend, the poet and essayist Hilaire Belloc.[54][55] George Bernard Shaw coined the name "Chesterbelloc"[56] for their partnership,[57] and this stuck. Though they were very different men, they shared many beliefs;[58] Chesterton eventually joined Belloc in the Catholic faith, and both voiced criticisms of capitalism and socialism.[59] They instead espoused a third way: distributism.[60]G. K.'s Weekly, which occupied much of Chesterton's energy in the last 15 years of his life, was the successor to Belloc's New Witness, taken over from Cecil Chesterton, Gilbert's brother, who died in World War I.

Legacy[edit]

Literary[edit]

  • Chesterton's The Everlasting Man contributed to C. S. Lewis's conversion to Christianity. In a letter to Sheldon Vanauken (14 December 1950)[61][page needed] Lewis calls the book "the best popular apologetic I know",[62] and to Rhonda Bodle he wrote (31 December 1947)[63] "the [very] best popular defence of the full Christian position I know is G. K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man". The book was also cited in a list of 10 books that "most shaped his vocational attitude and philosophy of life".[64]
  • Chesterton was a very early and outspoken critic of eugenics. Eugenics and Other Evils represents one of the first book length oppositions to the Eugenics movement that began to gain momentum in England during the early 1900s.[65]
  • Chesterton's 1906 biography of Charles Dickens was largely responsible for creating a popular revival for Dickens's work as well as a serious reconsideration of Dickens by scholars.
  • Chesterton's novel The Man Who Was Thursday inspired the Irish Republican leader Michael Collins with the idea: "If you didn't seem to be hiding nobody hunted you out."[67] Collins's favourite work of Chesterton was The Napoleon of Notting Hill, and he was "almost fanatically attached to it", according to his friend Sir William Darling who cemented their friendship in their mutual appreciation of Chesterton's work.[68]
  • Etienne Gilson praised Chesterton's Aquinas volume as follows: "I consider it as being, without possible comparison, the best book ever written on Saint Thomas … the few readers who have spent twenty or thirty years in studying St. Thomas Aquinas, and who, perhaps, have themselves published two or three volumes on the subject, cannot fail to perceive that the so-called 'wit' of Chesterton has put their scholarship to shame."[69]
  • Chesterton's column in the Illustrated London News on 18 September 1909 had a profound effect on Mahatma Gandhi.[70]P. N. Furbank asserts that Gandhi was "thunderstruck" when he read it,[71] while Martin Green notes that "Gandhi was so delighted with this that he told Indian Opinion to reprint it."[72]
  • Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, author of seventy books, identified Chesterton as the stylist who had the greatest impact on his own writing, stating in his autobiography Treasure in Clay, "the greatest influence in writing was G. K. Chesterton who never used a useless word, who saw the value of a paradox, and avoided what was trite."[73] Chesterton wrote the introduction for Sheen's book God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy; A Critical Study in the Light of the Philosophy of Saint Thomas.[74]
  • Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan was heavily influenced by Chesterton; McLuhan said the book What's Wrong with the World changed his life in terms of ideas and religion.[75]
  • Neil Gaiman has stated that he grew up reading Chesterton in his school's library, and that The Napoleon of Notting Hill was an important influence on his own book Neverwhere, which used a quote from it as an epigraph. Gaiman also based the character Gilbert, from the comic book The Sandman, on Chesterton,[76] and the novel he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett is dedicated to him.
  • Argentine author and essayist Jorge Luis Borges cited Chesterton as a major influence on his own fiction. In an interview with Richard Burgin during the late 1960s, Borges said, "Chesterton knew how to make the most of a detective story."[77]

Chesterton's fence[edit]

Chesterton's fence is the principle that reforms should not be made until the reasoning behind the existing state of affairs is understood. The quotation is from Chesterton's 1929 book, The Thing: Why I am a Catholic, in the chapter, "The Drift from Domesticity": "In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, 'I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away.' To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: 'If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.'"[78]

Other[edit]

In 1974, Father Ian Boyd, C.S.B, founded The Chesterton Review, a scholarly journal devoted to Chesterton and his circle. The journal is published by the G.K. Chesterton Institute for Faith and Culture based in Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey, US

  • Dale Ahlquist founded the American Chesterton Society in 1996 to explore and promote his writings.[79]
  • In 2008, a Catholic high school, Chesterton Academy, opened in the Minneapolis area.
  • In 2012, a crater on the planet Mercury was named Chesterton after the author.[80]
  • In the Fall of 2014, a Catholic high school, G.K. Chesterton Academy of Chicago, opened in Highland Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.[81]
  • A fictionalised GK Chesterton is the central character in the Young Chesterton Chronicles, a series of young adult adventure novels written by John McNichol, and published by Sophia Institute Press and Bezalel Books.
  • A fictionalised GK Chesterton is the central character in the G K Chesterton Mystery series, a series of detective novels written by Australian Kel Richards, and published by Riveroak Publishing.[82]
  • Chesterton wrote the hymn O God of Earth and Altar which was printed in The Commonwealth and then included in the English Hymnal in 1906.[83] Several lines of the hymn are sung in the beginning of the song Revelations by the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden on their 1983 album Piece of Mind.[84] Lead singer Bruce Dickinson in an interview stated "I have a fondness for hymns. I love some of the ritual, the beautiful words, Jerusalem and there was another one, with words by G.K. Chesterton O God of Earth and Altar – very fire and brimstone: 'Bow down and hear our cry'. I used that for an Iron Maiden song, Revelations. In my strange and clumsy way I was trying to say look it's all the same stuff."[85]

Major works[edit]

Main article: G. K. Chesterton bibliography

  • Chesterton, Gilbert Keith (1904), Ward, M, ed., The Napoleon of Notting Hill, UK: DMU .
  • ——— (1905), Heretics, Project Gutenberg, ISBN 978-0-7661-7476-4 .
  • ——— (1906), Charles Dickens: A Critical Study .
  • ——— (1908a), The Man Who Was Thursday .
  • ——— (1908b), Orthodoxy .
  • ——— (6 July 2008) [1911a], The Innocence of Father Brown, Project Gutenberg's .
  • ——— (1911b), Ward, M, ed., The Ballad of the White Horse, UK: DMU .
  • ——— (1912), Manalive .
  • ———, Father Brown (short stories)  (detective fiction).
  • ——— (1920), Ward, M, ed., The New Jerusalem, UK: DMU .
  • ——— (1922), Eugenics and Other Evils .
  • ——— (1923), Saint Francis of Assisi .
  • ——— (1925), The Everlasting Man .
  • ——— (1933), Saint Thomas Aquinas .
  • ——— (1936), The Autobiography .
  • ——— (1950), Ward, M, ed., The Common Man, UK: DMU .

Articles[edit]

  • "Literary Pictures of the Year," Part II, The Bookman, July/August 1900.
  • "Literary Portraits of G. F. Watts,"The Bookman, January 1901.
  • "England’s Novelists in the National Portrait Gallery,"The Bookman, January 1902.
  • "Books to Read,"The Pall Mall Magazine, Vol. XXVI, January/April 1902.
  • "The Conspiracy of Journalism,"The Pall Mall Magazine, Vol. XXVI, January/April 1902.
  • "The Ways of the World: The New English Academy,"The Pall Mall Magazine, Vol. XXVI, January/April 1902.
  • "Five Painters and a Critic,"The Bookman, April 1902.
  • "Thomas Carlyle,"The Bookman, May 1902.
  • "Alexandre Dumas," Part II, The Bookman, June 1902.
  • "Matthew Arnold," Part II, The Bookman, September/October 1902.
  • "The Just-So Stories,"The Bookman, December 1902.
  • "Tennyson,"The Bookman, December 1902.
  • "Tackeray,"The Bookman, April 1903.
  • "The Yellow Van,"The Bookman, December 1903.
  • "Christianity and Rationalism." In: George Haw, ed., Religious Doubts of Democracy, Macmillan & Co., 1904.
  • "Why I Believe in Christianity." In: George Haw, ed., Religious Doubts of Democracy, Macmillan & Co., 1904.
  • "Miracles and Modern Civilisation." In: George Haw, ed., Religious Doubts of Democracy, Macmillan & Co., 1904.
  • "The Ethernal Heroism of the Slums." In: George Haw, ed., Religious Doubts of Democracy, Macmillan & Co., 1904.
  • "The Atmosphere of Matthew Arnold,"The Bookman, April 1904.
  • "Mr. Wells and the Giants,"The Bookman, December 1904.
  • "The Poetic Quality in Liberalism,"The Living Age, Vol. XXVI, January/March 1905.
  • "The Saint,"The Bookman, July 1906.
  • "Why I am Not a Socialist,"The New Age, Vol. II, No. 10, 4 January 1908.
  • "On Wells and a Glass of Beer,"The New Age, Vol. II, No. 13, 25 January 1908.
  • "The Last of the Rationalists,"The New Age, Vol. II, No. 18, 29 February 1908.
  • "Milton and his Age,"The Oxford and Cambridge Review, 1909.
  • "Objections to Socialism,"The Forum, Vol. XLI, 1909.
  • "The Modern Surrender of Women,"The Dublin Review, Vol. CXLV, No. 290-291, July/October 1909.
  • "What is Toleration?,"The Dublin Review, Vol. CXLVII, No. 294-295, July/October 1910.
  • "An Agnostic Defeat,"The Dublin Review, Vol. CL, No. 300-301, January/April 1912.
  • "What is a Conservative?,"The Dublin Review, Vol. CL, No. 300-301, January/April 1912.
  • "The Chance of the Peasant,"Everyman, Vol. I, No. 1, 18 October 1912.
  • "The Collapse of Socialism,"Everyman, Vol. I, No. 6, 22 November 1912.
  • "The Absence of Mr. Glass,"McClure's Magazine, November 1912.
  • "A Salute to the Last Socialist,"Everyman, Vol. I, No. 10, 20 December 1912.
  • "The Strange Crime of John Boulnois,"McClure's Magazine, February 1913.
  • "The Paradise of Thieves,"McClure's Magazine, March 1913.
  • "The Man in the Passage,"McClure's Magazine, April 1913.
  • "The Purple Wig,"McClure's Magazine, July 1913.
  • "The Head of Caesar,"McClure's Magazine, August 1913.
  • "Slavery and the American Store,"The Century Magazine, November 1913.
  • "Magic,"The Dublin Review, Vol. CLIV, No. 308-309, January/April 1914.
  • "Wilfrid Ward,"The Dublin Review, Vol. CLIX, No. 314-315, July/October 1916.
  • "The English Blunder about Russia." In: Winifred Stephens, ed., The Soul of Russia, Macmillan & Co., 1916.
  • "Human Nature and the Historian,"The Catholic World, Vol. CIV, No. 624, March 1917.
  • "The Plan for a New War,"The North American Review, Vol. 206, No. 745, Dec. 1917.
  • "Stopford Brooke,"The Hibbert Journal, Vol. XVI, 1917/1918.
  • "Germany and Alsace-Lorraine: How to Help Annexation,"The North American Review, Vol. 207, No. 748, Mar. 1918.
  • "The Real Secret Diplomacy,"The North American Review, Vol. 207, No. 749, Apr. 1918.
  • "A Note on the New Martyrdom,"The Lotus Magazine, Vol. 10, No. 2, Feb. 1919.
  • "On Newspaper Proprietors,"The Living Age, March 1919.
  • "The Heretic and the Home Visitor,"The Living Age, May 1919.
  • "Mr. Shaw and the Danger of Living,"The Living Age, July 1919.
  • "The True Case Against Bolshevism,"The Living Age, September 1919.
  • "Anti-Catholic History." In: Catholic and Anti-Catholic History, The America Press, 1920.
  • "The New Renascence, I: The Same Old Game,"Vanity Fair, January 1920.
  • "The New Renascence, II: The Machine of Tomfoolery,"Vanity Fair, Vol. 13, No. 5, February 1920.
  • "The New Renascence, III: Public Laws and Public Liquors,"Vanity Fair, March 1920.
  • "The Romance of Rhyme,"The Living Age, March 1920.
  • "The Fastidious Futurist,"The Living Age, March 1920.
  • "The New Renascence, IV: Beauty and the Bricklayer,"Vanity Fair, April 1920.
  • "The New Renascence, V: The Library Broken Loose,"Vanity Fair, Vol. 14, No. 3, May 1920.
  • "The New Renascence, VI: Nothing and the New Religions,"Vanity Fair, June 1920.
  • "The New Renascence, VII: The Soul of Skylarking,"Vanity Fair, Vol. XIV, No. 5, July 1920.
  • "The Sleepwalker and the State,"Vanity Fair, Vol. XIV, No. 6, August 1920.
  • "The Doctor and the Doctrinaire,"Vanity Fair, Vol. 15, No. 1, September 1920.
  • "The New Renascence, XI: The Wreck of the Modern Machine,"Vanity Fair, Vol. XV, No. 2, October 1920.
  • "Old King Cole: A Parody,"The Living Age, January 1921.
  • "The Next Renascence, XII: The Mad Hatter and the Sane Householder,"Vanity Fair, Vol. XV, January 1921.
  • "The Republican in the Ruins,"The Living Age, August 1921.
  • "Charles Dickens,"The Living Age, February 1922.
  • "The Myth of Arthur,"The Living Age, September 1922.
  • "Where All Roads Lead,"The Catholic World, Vol. CXVI, No. 692, November 1922.
  • "Are the Artists Going Mad?,"The Century Magazine, December 1922.
  • "The Patriot of the Planet,"The Century Magazine, March 1923.
  • "The Game of Psychoanalysis,"The Century Magazine, May 1923.
  • "A Defense of Detective Stories." In: Essays of Today, George G. Harrap & Co., 1923.
  • "The World State,"The Living Age, June 1925.
  • "Why I Am a Catholic,"The Forum, January 1926.
  • "The International Irritant,"The Forum, June 1928.
  • "The Skeptic as a Critic,"The Forum, February 1929.
  • "Is Humanism a Religion?,"The Bookman, May 1929.
  • "The West’s Defense,"The Forum, June 1929.
  • "The Doom of the Darnaways,"The North American Review, Vol. 228, No. 4, Oct. 1929.
  • "The Inefficiency of Science,"The North American Review, Vol. 228, No. 5, Nov. 1929.
  • "Magic and Fantasy in Fiction,"The Bookman, March 1930.
  • "Keeping up with Mr. Shaw,"The Living Age, July 1930.
  • "The Spirit of the Age in Literature,"The Bookman, October 1930.
  • "Reflections on a Rotten Apple,"The Forum, October 1931.
  • "The Mission of Ireland," Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 21, No. 83, Sep. 1932.
  • "The End of the Moderns,"The Bookman, December 1932 Rep. in The American Conservative.
  • "The Day of the Lord,"The American Review, Vol. I, No. 1, April 1933.
  • "Sex and Property,"The American Review, January 1934.
  • "Seven Days,"The Living Age, April 1934.
  • "The Masterless Man,"The American Review, June 1934.
  • "A Mild Remonstance,"The American Review, September 1935.
  • "Persecuting the Common Man,"The American Mercury, January 1936.
  • "The Case Against Corruption,"The American Review, September 1936.
  • "Some Literary Celebrities,"The Saturday Review, September 1936.
G. K. Chesterton at the age of 17
Title page of the 1909 edition of Orthodoxy, first published in the previous year

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