G. K. Chesterton

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"Prince of Paradox."

"Apostle of Common Sense."

Chronology

29 May 1874
- Born in London.
- Baptized in Church of England, but had a Unitarian upbringing.
1887-1892 12-18
- Colet Court School
- Won a prize for a poem on St. Francis Xavier in 1892
1892-1895 18-21 Slade School of Art
1896 22 Fell in love at first sight when he met Frances Blogg.
1900 26 First articles on art criticism.
1901 Married Frances Blogg.
High Church Anglican period.
1904 30 The Napoleon of Notting Hill.
1905 31 Heretics.
1906 32 Charles Dickens: A Critical Study.
1908 34 The Man Who Was Thursday.
1908 34 Orthodoxy.
1909 Moved from Battersea, London, to Beaconsfield.
1911 37 The Innocence of Father Brown.
1911 37 The Ballad of the White Horse.
1912 38 Manalive.
1912 39 Father Brown.
1916 Became editor of The New Witness (his brother's paper).
1920 46 The New Jerusalem.
1922 48 Eugenics and Other Evils.
30 July 1922 48 Received into the Catholic Church
1923 49 Saint Francis of Assisi.
1925 51 The Everlasting Man.
1925 51 G.K.'s Weekly.
1926 Dorothy Collins became GKC's secretary; later adopted by them (?).
1926 Frances became Catholic.
1933 59 Saint Thomas Aquinas.
1936 62 The Autobiography.
G. K.'s Weekly.
14 June 1936 62

Grace

You say grace before meals. All right.
But I say grace before the play and the opera,
and grace before the concert and pantomime,
and grace before I open a book,
and grace before sketching, painting, swimming,
fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing;
and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

Bibliography

The Works of G. K. Chesterton

Chesterton, G.K. (2009-05-13). The Works of G. K. Chesterton (36 Books with active table of contents) (Kindle Locations 29-51). DD Books. Kindle Edition.

Father Brown

  • The Innocence of Father Brown
  • The Wisdom of Father Brown

Novels

  • The Ball and the Cross
  • The Barbarism of Berlin
  • The Club of Queer Trades
  • The Flying Inn
  • Magic
  • Manalive
  • The Man Who Was Thursday
  • The Napoleon of Notting Hill
  • The Trees of Pride

Non-Fiction

  • Alarms and Discursions
  • Appreciations and Criticism
  • All Things Considered
  • The Appetite of Tyranny
  • The Crimes of England
  • Eugenics and Other Evils
  • Heretics
  • Irish Impressions
  • A Miscellany of Men
  • The New Jerusalem
  • Orthodoxy
  • A Short History of England
  • The Superstition of Divorce
  • Tremendous Trifles
  • Twelve Types
  • Utopia of Usurers
  • Varied Types
  • The Victorian Age in Literature
  • What I Saw in America
  • What's Wrong With the World
  • The New Jerusalem, 1920

Biographies

  • Lord Kitchener
  • Robert Browning
  • Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Shaw

Other works

  • The Catholic Church and Conversion

Quotations

  • Should we, any of us, be here at all if women were not brave? Are we not all trophies of that war and triumph? Does not every man stand on the earth like a graven statue as the monument of the valor of a woman?[1]
  • “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”
  • A holiday is a holy day, a word that will always answer the ignorant slander which [says] that religion was opposed to human cheerfulness, and will always assert that when a day is holy, it should also be happy; a restoring thing that, by a blast of magic, turns man into himself (The Universe According to G. K. Chesterton, 54-55).
  • Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.
  • Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.
  • Faith is always at a disadvantage; it is a perpetually defeated thing which survives all of its conquerors
  • If there were no God, there would be no atheists (Where All Roads Lead, 1922).
  • Sex is an instinct that produces an institution; and it is positive and not negative, noble and not base, creative and not destructive, because it produces this institution. That institution is the family; a small state or commonwealth which has hundreds of aspects, when it is once started, that are not sexual at all. It includes worship, justice, festivity, decoration, instruction, comradeship, repose. Sex is the gate of that house; and romantic and imaginative people naturally like looking through a gateway. But the house is very much larger than the gate. There are indeed a certain number of people who like to hang about the gate and never get any further.
  • The difficulty of explaining why I am a Catholic is that there are 10,000 reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true (O'Brien, 231).
  • The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.
  • The thing I hate about an argument is that it always interrupts a discussion.
  • This triangle of truisms, of father, mother and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.
  • We do not want, as the newspapers say, a Church that will move with the world. We want a Church that will move the world . . . It is by that test that history will really judge, of any Church, whether it is the real Church or no (Ffinch, 277).
  • If there be one thing more than another which is true of genuine democracy, it is that genuine democracy is opposed to the rule of the mob. For genuine democracy is based fundamentally on the existence of the citizen, and the best definition of a mob is a body of a thousand men in which there is no citizen.
  • He realized the obvious and simple truth, so often neglected, that if the individual is nothing, then the race is nothing – for the plain mathematical reason that a hundred times nought is nought.
  • A strange fanaticism fills our time: the fanatical hatred of morality, especially of Christian morality.
  • Religion is a battle; and to have your thinking unfinished is to be fighting unprepared. If there is an enemy in the field, he will not wait until we find truth, he will already be leading us into error.[2]

Prayer to imitate GKC's virtues

"James Kiefer's Christian Biographies."
Almighty God, who gave to your servant Gilbert the gift of a ready tongue and pen, and endued him with zeal to use them in your service: Mercifully grant to each of us, that we may well and truly answer anyone who asks of us a reason for the hope that is in us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

Anti-Semitic?

"Was G. K. Chesterton Anti-Semitic?"
For those of us who love Chesterton, we are always distressed to see him falsely accused of something vile. But we have gotten a little tired of the charge of anti-Semitism. He has been absolved of that charge too many times for us to count – from the tribute by Rabbi Stephen Wise to the official statements of the Weiner Library (the archives of anti-Semitism and holocaust history in London). The charge is usually made thoughtlessly or ignorantly. But in some cases it is made knowingly and deceitfully. It is a calumny against the man who said “The world owes God to the Jews,” and “I will die defending the last Jew in Europe,” who was sought out by Jewish leaders in his support for Zionism, a man who hated racism and racial theories and who fought for human dignity and always affirmed the brotherhood of all men.
Free double issue of Gilbert Magazine: "Chesterton and the Jews" (12:2&3 (2008).
Chesterton in his lifetime was as loved by Jews as he was loved by everyone else who knew him. (4)
Chesterton’s ideas about the Jews were consistent from beginning to end. We may not agree with his perspective on Zionism, we may not like his mentioning the history of usury among the Jews, we may not like his use of the term, “The Jewish Problem,” but we cannot ignore the fact that whatever his precepts, he was right in his predictions. He warned that if Europe continued to ignore or deny that there was a “Jewish Problem,” there would be a horrible outbreak of violence against the Jews. Again, we may not feel comfortable about his observations of Jewish behavior, we may not appreciate his assessment of Jewish weaknesses, we may not think his jokes about Jews are funny, but it is calumny to describe his attitude as hate. It is dishonest even to call his words hostile. (7)
I never did say that Jews were tyrants and traitors. I said that a particular kind of Jew tended to be a tyrant and another particular kind of Jew tended to be a traitor. I say it again. Patent facts of this kind are permitted in the criticism of every other nation on the planet: it is not counted illiberal to say that a certain kind of Frenchman tends to be sensual or a certain kind of Prussian tends to be supercilious. It is as plain as a pikestaff that the Parisian tradition of life and letters has a marked element of sensuality; it is as plain as a pikestaff that the Prussian theory of the aristocracy and the army has an element of rather crude conceit. It is also as plain as a pikestaff that those who are creditors will always have a temptation to be tyrants, and that those who are cosmopolitans will always have a temptation to be spies. This has nothing to do with alleging that the majority of any people fall into its typical temptations. In this respect I should imagine that Jews varied in their moral proportions as much as the rest of mankind. (8)
But I cannot see why the tyrants should not be called tyrants and the traitors traitors; why Rehoboam should not cause a rebellion or Judas become an object of dislike, merely because they happen to be members of a race persecuted for other reasons and on other occasions. Those are my views on Jews. They are more reasonable than those of the people that wreck their shops; and much more reasonable than those of the people who justify them on all occasions. (8)
I am not going to persecute any Jews. But I am going to go on talking about them. I shall talk about them as freely as I should about Germany or Japan; saying what, in my opinion, are their dangers, defects, or neglected merits. I shall say that a group of financial Jews urged on the African war, because they did: I heard them doing it. But I shall also say that I heard many of the equally unmistakable artistic and Bohemian Jews denounce the war fiercely. One is not supposed to insult America by discussing Trusts or France by discussing dueling; why should the Jews be the only people who refuse to be talked about intelligently? (10)
Chesterton was, in fact, a Zionist, and said as much, frequently. I’m not sure that any Jew of my acquaintance is aware of this fact, but fact it is. (16)
The shocking idea that got Chesterton into all sorts of trouble was his insistence that Jews were in fact Jewish. His view was that they were a distinct people, a distinction that is commonly recognized by both Jew and non-Jew who use the terms “Jew and Gentile.” But while they were a distinct people, they did not have their homeland. They were a nation without a country. The “Wandering Jew” was not merely an image of literature but a fact of history. Their settlement throughout Europe was unsettled. Though they often developed a loyalty to their adopted homeland, it was different from the natural loyalty of a native. Complete assimilation was problematic for one of two reasons: Jews would either have to give up their distinctiveness, which would be unfair to Jews, or the nation assimilating the Jews would have to give up its own distinctiveness, which would be unfair and uncomfortable and probably cause resentment in that country. Chesterton said, “Jews must be free to be Jews.” In order for that to happen, he argued, they must have their own homeland, and Palestine was the logical place. (20)
He was particularly mindful of rich Jews, especially those who had acquired their wealth through usury, which was a tool for the oppression and exploitation of the poor, including poor Jews. And in contrast to the devout Jew, he pointed out the complicated situation created by Jews who did not practice their faith or take their own religion seriously. They were restrained neither by religious precepts nor by patriotism to the nation in which they lived. The lack of restraint culminated in two apparently opposite evils: the gross accumulation of wealth and power by certain Jewish houses on the one hand and, on the other, the promotion of communism by Jewish intellectuals, who were as certain about economics as they were skeptical about religion. (20)
Since the personal accounts of Chesterton unanimously attest to the fact that Chesterton was friendly and charitable with everyone, we should be careful how we react when one of his phrases or descriptions jumps off the page at us. Should a passage smack of anti-Semitism, or appear in any other respect out of character, perhaps there might be an explanation for it. Chesterton’s character, so well demonstrated throughout his life and writings as generous, humble, loving and lovable, should take precedence and deserves to be the defining criteria to how we interpret him. In other words, we should be ready to grant Chesterton the benefit of the doubt and search for another explanation for what we find, rather than the knee-jerk “anti-Semitic” explanation. (21)
GKC predicted the Holocaust
They debate the benefits and practicality of Zionism, with Chesterton stating his belief that for “Jews who are anxious to see the Jewish question solved,” Zionism seemed the right course.
“Otherwise…?” asks the interviewer, perceiving that something has been left unsaid.
“Well,” says Chesterton, “history will go on repeating itself for the Jew. As has been his past, so his future. My point is this: That the Jews, being landless, unnaturally, alternate between too much power and too little, that the Jew millionaire is too safe and the Jew peddler too harassed. It is not likely that millionaires among you will be otherwise than the very few. Therefore, for the many, I am afraid the future will be as the past has been—murder, outrage, persecution, insult, moral and physical torture, wandering unrest, oscillations of comfortless abasing and uncertain toleration with grinding, enervating, cramping, disabilities: in short, the Jew—at least for the most part—always burnt.
Chesterton did not live to see it, but his analysis would prove to be horribly and explicitly accurate just three short decades after this interview. (25)
In 1936, in a jarringly entitled essay, “The Judaism of Hitler,” Chesterton argued that Hitler’s ideas of a superior race were derived from German Protestantism, which was obsessed with Old Testament ideas about a Chosen People rather than New Testament ideas about a Universal Church. Protestants tried to make themselves the Chosen People, and though Protestantism continued to splinter and degenerate into a multitude of sects and strange nineteenth-century philosophies that could hardly be recognized as Christian, the idea of “a chosen people” remained. It was present in Nietzsche’s theory of the Superman. Hitler took the concept of the Chosen People and applied it to a nebulous grouping called the Aryan Race. Chesterton found it grimly ironic that Germans would try to eliminate the Jews, to whom they were so culturally indebted. (26)
When the outright persecution of Jews began in Germany, it was G.K. Chesterton who was among the first to speak out against it. “Thousands of Jews have recently been rabbled or ruined or driven from their homes. They’ve beaten, bullied poor Jews in concentration camps. Heartily I do indeed despise these Hitlerites.” The rest of the world, for the most part, was silent—especially the prigs who called G.K. Chesterton an anti-Semite. (26)
We forbade to the Jews all natural callings except commerce, and today commerce is what might be expected from being eternally recruited with all the most intellectual sons of a most intellectual people. (26)
G. K. Chesterton was one of the truly good people who has graced this earth. He was good, and he did war with all the enemies of human dignity and freedom. If he occasionally did battle with Jews, it was not because they were Jews, but because he felt they were on the wrong side of some particular argument. It is a paradox that when he treated Jews like anybody else, in making jokes, in holding them to the same standards, he was labeled anti-Semitic, but if he treated them as a unique people, even as a unique nation, he was also labeled anti-Semitic. (27)

Prayer for the Beatification of GKC

God our Father,

You filled the life of your servant Gilbert Keith Chesterton
with a sense of wonder and joy,
and gave him a faith which was the foundation of his ceaseless work;
a hope which sprang from his enduring gratitude for the gift of human life;
and a charity towards all men, particularly his opponents.

May his innocence and his laughter,
his constancy in fighting for the Christian faith in a world losing belief,
his lifelong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary
and his love for all men,
especially for the poor,
bring cheerfulness to those in despair,
conviction and warmth to lukewarm believers
and the knowledge of God to those without faith.

We beg you to grant the favors we ask
through his intercession
so that his holiness may be recognized by all
and the Church may proclaim him Blessed.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Report results of prayers to GKC

Fr. John Udris

chesterton@oscott.org

info@chesterton.org

Dad and GKC

Dad inscription 1990 Christmas GKC.jpg

References

  1. "The Prudery of the Feminists," Gilbert 18:4 (2015), 6.
  2. Columbia, October, 1926; Gilbert, 18:2-3, p. 7.

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