More on Chesterton Yes, it's


More on Chesterton

Yes, it's sort of a minor obsession of recent vintage. I still don't know about the writing, but reading Joseph Pearce's insightful and ultimately very kind biography, I discover that regardless of the prose, I have the feeling I would have liked the man very much. The following excerpts illustrate why:

from Wisdom and Innocence Chapter 8, "Uncle Chestnut" Joseph Pearce

[quoting an excerpt of a letter from Chesterton to Father O'Connor, July 3, 1909.]

One of the mysteries of Marriage (which must be a Sacrament and an extraordinary one too) is that a man evidently useless like me can yet become at certain instants indispensable. And the further oddity (which I invite you to explain on mystical grounds) is that he never feels so small as when he knows that he is necessary. ) (p. 112)

If Chesterton's chastisement of his pets was so light-hearted and mild, it is scarcely surprising that the children were never seriously scolded. There was, however a notable exception. On one occasion a small visitor to Beaconsfield spoke rudely to the maid and Chesterton told her to apologize. the child retorted: "What does it matter? She's only a servant." Gilbert responded in rare wrath and sent the girl up to her bedroom. It was, according to Frances, the only time Gilbert ever punished a child. (p. 118)

Yet if Chesterton was incapable of real malice, he was, on occasion, capable of anger. According to Clare Nicholl, "unkindness or uncharitable gossip were the things that made him angry, as well as speciousness or cheap 'cleverness'." Nor, she continued,

did personal affection for the sinner in question prevent him showing his anger--on the contrary, the closer the affection the more severe the rebuke. He very rarely found fault openly, but the offender would know by his silence and sudden lack of response that she had transgressed. One's thoughtless words would sound against the silence of G. K. C. like counterfeit coin against a touchstone. It was infallible as a test of integrity. Even unconscious lapses of taste were illumined by that silence. One would think, "Now why on earth would he object to that. . ." and thinking it over afterwards, one would realise that the rash remark had been prompted by exhibitionism, vanity or malice, though one had not realised it at the moment of speaking." (p. 121)

Such integrity and concern for all people is entirely laudable, and entirely engaging. I become convinced that I am reading a modern haigiography, even if the sanctity thus expressed is never elevated to the honors of the Altar. I am certain that every writer out there, who attempts his or her work with integrity, determination, and firmness of purpose, has as his or her patron in Heaven G. K. Chesterton. (Not to mention the actual patron of writers St. Francis de Sales, and given his tremendous lifetime output, St. Alphonsus di Liguori.)

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on November 15, 2002 8:02 AM.

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