Monday, June 14, 2010

G. K. Chesterton

"In this video you will hear some of all four of the only known sound recordings in existence made by G.K. Chesterton, along with a couple of seconds (literally) from a news reel of him & his wife Francis."

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1936 of English author G. K. Chesterton. The Chesterton Society has a web site here. Short biographies can be found here, here and here. My first exposure to him was in reading the Father Brown mysteries. You can read them online at these links:

He was a noted Christian apologist, and his 1908 book Orthodoxy can be read online. His autobiography can be read here. Other works by and about him are available widely, including at The University of Adelaide, the Christian Classics Ethereal Library and at Project Gutenberg. Christianity Today celebrated the 1974 centennial of Chesterton's birth, and their article includes this:
Chesterton's immoderation was known to all men. He worked, ate, and drank too much. He grew fatter and fatter. His nostalgic hankering after the robust Catholicism of the Middle Ages included the feasts and the hogsheads of wine but stopped at the fasting.
Not surprisingly, Americans loved him.

He wrote on fairy tales, which endears him to me, and included a chapter on them in his book All Things Considered. In the Tremendous Trifles chapter Red Angel he says,
Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.

Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.

There are many books by and about this author available online, though our repressive copyright laws restrict access to any written after 1923. (That's 87 years, folks, and is an amount of time much more likely to squelch creativity than encourage it.)

Politically he was a Distributist and had this to say on the subject of progressives and conservatives: "The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected." (That quote, according to the Chesterton Society, comes from the Illustrated London News.) Distributism is opposed to both capitalism and socialism.

There is a Facebook page associated with the American Chesterton Society.

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