Not a Stalwart Chestertonian


No, I'm not. I like some things, find many things rather poorly written, and find the poetry often all-but-unreadable (there are notable exceptions--sections of The White Horse and Lepanto). But as many are perfectly will to tell you there are some wonderful treasures. In the e-books I posted a link to the other day I found this delightful excerpt of an essay:

from "A Defense of Penny Dreadfuls" in The Defendant
G.K. Chesterton

One of the strangest examples of the degree to which ordinary life is undervalued is the example of popular literature, the vast mass of which we contentedly describe as vulgar. The boy's novelette may be ignorant in a literary sense, which is only like saying that a modern novel is ignorant in the chemical sense, or the economic sense, or the astronomical sense; but it is not vulgar intrinsically--it is the actual centre of a million flaming imaginations.

In former centuries the educated class ignored the ruck of vulgar literature. They ignored, and therefore did not, properly speaking, despise it. Simple ignorance and indifference does not inflate the character with pride. A man does not walk down the street giving a haughty twirl to his moustaches at the thought of his superiority to some variety of deep-sea fishes. The old scholars left the whole
under-world of popular compositions in a similar darkness.

To-day, however, we have reversed this principle. We do despise vulgar compositions, and we do not ignore them. We are in some danger of becoming petty in our study of pettiness; there is a terrible Circean law in the background that if the soul stoops too ostentatiously to examine anything it never gets up again.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on December 1, 2004 8:21 AM.

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