Friday, December 30, 2005

On Cornhusker Cuisine

Hilaire Belloc recalled, while walking through France, the cooking he ate in Omaha, Nebraska. He thought it likely the worst he had taken (The Path to Rome, p. 161 & 163).

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Almost a Friend of Bill?

A portrait of Cheslea Clinton, done in colored pencil and portraying the teenager as a heavenly angel, can be seen hanging in Hillary Clinton's study. The artist, Sue Shanahan of Mokena Illinois, inscribed the drawing with "Angels fly because they take themselves lightly," a familiar Chesterton quotation. Chicago Tribune, September 11, 1994, Tempo p. 1.

Monday, December 26, 2005

A Waugh Christmas

Evelyn Waugh liked to send out satirical Christmas cards, and the apex (or nadir] of this practice was reached during the Christmas season of 1929. Waugh's card that year consisted of extracts reprinted from unfavorable reviews of his first novel, Decline and Fall. The harshest passage of all was taken from a review by Chesterton. [Christopher Sykes, Evelyn Waugh, Boston, 1975, p. 98]

In Advance of the Times

I WAS reflecting in the course of the recent feast of Christmas (which, like other feasts, is preceded by a fast) that the combination is still a puzzle to many. The Modernist, or man who boasts of being modern, is generally rather like a man who overeats himself so much on Christmas Eve that he has no appetite on Christmas Day. It is called being In Advance of the Times; and is incumbent upon all who are progressive, prophetic, futuristic and generally looking towards what Mr. Belloc calls the Great Rosy Dawn: a dawn which generally looks a good deal rosier the night before than it does the morning after.
-- G.K. Chesterton, The Thing, "The Feasts and the Ascetic"

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Christmas Carol

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap, 
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)
The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)
The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)
The Christ-child stood at Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown.
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.
-- G.K. Chesterton, from The Wild Knight, 1900

Friday, December 23, 2005

Santa Claus

I do not think that I myself was ever very much worried about Santa Claus, or that alleged dreadful whisper of the little boy that Father Christmas "is only your father." Perhaps the word "only" would strike all children as the mot juste.
-- G.K. Chesterton, Autobiography

Thursday, December 22, 2005

GKC on Christmas

"What life and death may be to a turkey is not my business; but the soul of Scrooge and the body of Cratchit are my business."

"If a man called Christmas Day a mere hypocritical excuse for drunkeness and gluttony, that would be false, but it would have a fact hidden in it somewhere. But when Bernard Shaw says that Christmas Day is only a conspiracy kept up by Poulterers and wine merchants from strictly business motives, then he says something which is not so much false as startling and arrestingly foolish. He might as well say that the two sexes were invented by jewellers who wanted to sell wedding rings."

"Any one thinking of the Holy Child as born in December would mean by it exactly what we mean by it; that Christ is not merely a summer sun of the prosperous but a winter fire for the unfortunate."

"The more we are proud that the Bethlehem story is plain enough to be understood by the shepherds, and almost by the sheep, the more do we let ourselves go, in dark and gorgeous imaginative frescoes or pageants about the mystery and majesty of the Three Magian Kings."

"The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why."

Courtesy of the American Chesterton Society.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Hilaire is Here

The long awaited first issue of King's Land: A Home for Bellocian Thought arrived in my mailbox yesterday. King's Land is the journal of the fledgling American Belloc Society. The columns are presently: As I Please, The Path to Rome, On..., Bringing Belloc to Bear, Liturgy and Sanity, and (of course) Schall on Belloc.

It was enjoyable to read this 17 page pamphlet of short essays. Most were quite good, especially Christopher Ruckdeschel's On... "Economic Personism," which gave an introduction to the heart of Distributism. James Vogel's essay for The Path to Rome: "The Genius of Belloc" was a good introduction to the man. One essay, Liturgy and Sanity: "Whither Church Music?," did not fit well with the others, as it made no effort to directly tie itself to Belloc (other than putting one's dissatisfaction into words). But overall it was good to read and I look forward to the next issue.

To subscribe to King's Land contact the American Belloc Society at

You can read the reprinted essay by Fr Schall, "Permanence," online at his Georgetown webpage.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Veteran Author with Perspective and Experience

Dappled Things, "a new literary magazine dedicated to providing a space for young writers to engage the literary world from a Catholic perspective," is now online. The first issue has an article with introductory editorial words making exception for a "more veteran" author because "we have much to gain" from his perspective and experience. That ol' vet is Dale Ahlquist, and he channels perspective and experience to us through his article "G.K. Chesterton and the Use of Imagination."

Thank you, Dale.

... far too long to recognize the truth ...

Ian Vásquez, director at the Cato Institute, recently published an article about economic freedom in democracy. He cites our beloved Belloc:
Economic freedom allows for independent sources of wealth to counterbalance political power and to nourish a pluralistic society. When the state owns or exerts undue control over banking, credit, telecommunications, or newsprint, for example, it controls not only economic activity, but expression as well. It has taken the world far too long to recognize the truth in the statement of early 20th-century writer Hilaire Belloc that "the control of the production of wealth is the control of human life itself."
(eJournal USA: Issues of Democracy. Dec 2005. link)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Bottum: "it's just too much"

Joseph Bottum at First Things, December 17:
Something in the Christmas season rightly tempts us to such sentimental gilding, just as something in the Christmas season tempts us—awk!—to the chaotic chiasmus of this kind of fake-Chestertonian prose, every sentence an aphorism eased along by alliteration’s artful aid, until the words clot up in a giant Christmas pudding that subsides with a half-baked sigh as it cools upon the table. “I’m sick of Chesterton,” F. Scott Fitzgerald has Amory Blaine complain in This Side of Paradise. From January to November, the style of G.K. Chesterton may go down easy. But around Christmas, while the streets jingle with Salvation Army bells and the elevators jangle with Muzaked carols, it’s just too much. Just too much.

Friday, December 16, 2005

It Is Official!

I'm a bit late noticing it but a little over a week ago, on December 8th, a blog was immaculately conceived: a blog of pure Chesterton, The Blog of the American Chesterton Society. Thanks to Nancy C. Brown, Our Lady of Flying Stars, for starting this venture. And, of course, thanks to Dale Ahlquist, our Servant and President, for blessing the blog.

Mind in Motion

Christian History & Biography has an article that chronicles the conversion of C.S. Lewis. Several "friends of Chesterton" are players in this process. I'll quote some bits and highlight it People-style with big boldface names:
... recurring moments of joy and the sustained impact of George MacDonald's Phantastes, which Lewis said "baptized" his imagination, convinced him that there was in reality something to be sought and found.

... Lewis's Oxford friend Owen Barfield convinced him that if physical reality is all there is, thought itself (being a mere byproduct of matter) would lack validity and significance. To maintain his [W.T.] Kirkpatrick-inspired quest for a rational account of reality, Lewis saw that he must believe, as he later expressed in Miracles, that "reason is something more than cerebral bio-chemistry."

... in the mid-1920s, through the impact of friends and of G.K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man (1926), he found himself thinking that "Christianity was very sensible apart from its Christianity."

... Certainty about the Incarnation came two ... after a late-night talk with J.R.R. Tolkien gave him the idea that the pagan dying-and-rising-god myths were "good dreams" given by God to prepare the ground for myth to become fact in Jesus of Nazareth.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Gilbert is Here

The new issue of Gilbert Magazine is out. I just got my copies today. I suspect they should be hitting mailboxes within the next day or two.

It looks like a good one: Dale Ahlquist writes about the Catholic convert Alec Guinness, John Peterson spins two excellent stories, Mike Foster pulls Evelyn Waugh off the shelf, and more.

Consider subscribing to the magazine. It's in its ninth year, which by itself is quite an accomplishment for such a niche publication.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Christmas Garland

A Christmas Garland by Max Beerbohm, first printed in 1912, is available at (link). Readers of this blog might enjoy some of his parody, such as:





thanks to Diogenes at CWN for finding this

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

G.K. Chesterton: QOTD web page

I've made a little web page to give a "quote of the day" from G.K. Chesterton. It grabs text from the University of Notre Dame's web pages for Chesterton Day by Day (link), parses out the current day's quotation, and then presents it to you.

Chesterton Day by Day: Today's Quote


Monday, December 12, 2005

Greybeards at Play, online

GKC's Greybeards at Play has been online for a long time, but I only just noticed it this weekend. You can find it at the University of Notre Dame as well as in Martin Ward's collection.

Come snow! where fly, by some strange law,
hard snowballs -- without noise --
through streets untenanted, except
by good unconscious boys.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Belloc the Out-of-Touch Crank?

Blogimus Maximus wrote a post earlier this week about "intelligent design" and "evolution." In it he refers to Hilaire Belloc's A Companion to Mr. Wells's 'Outline of History'.
The first thing [Belloc] attacks in Wells's [Outline of History] is the beginning, which treats of the origin of life. Belloc describes Natural Selection, the theory to which Wells held, as "dead."

The "well-educated" modern reader will smile at this out-of-touch crank...but I wonder what this reader would think if he ever got to the appendix, where Belloc quotes several eminent scientific contemporaries, saying quite clearly that Natural Selection was an inadequate explanation for evolution. Belloc may have been wrong, but it was not a matter of "him and William Jennings Bryan" vs. "Science". There seemed to be a great deal of "science" on his end of things; just what on earth was happening back then, anyway? We can be sure that if there ever was some academic reaction against Darwinism during which it became unfashionable, the Darwinian propagandists have smoothed over this little bump in Progress. Or did it never happen? Was every one of those professors Belloc quoted simply a crank? I have my doubts.

LINK to the full post at Blogimus Maximus.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Thursday on Thursday, no.20

"He's rationalistic, and, what's worse, he's rich. When duty and religion are really destroyed, it will be by the rich."
- Gabriel Syme, in GKC's The Man Who Was Thursday

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Attention Folks in Northern Illinois

"The Marion E. Wade Center of Wheaton College, Illinois, houses a major research collection of the books and papers of seven British authors: Owen Barfield, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Dorothy L. Sayers, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. These writers are well known for their impact on contemporary literature and Christian thought. Together they produced over four hundred books including novels, drama, poetry, fantasy, children's books, and Christian treatises. Overall, the Wade Center has more than 11,000 volumes including first editions and critical works. Other holdings on the seven authors include letters, manuscripts, audio and video tapes, artwork, dissertations, periodicals, photographs, and related materials. Any of these resources may be studied in the quiet surroundings of the Kilby Reading Room."


Eco, GKC, Telegraph, Wash. Times

"Human beings are religious animals. It is psychologically very hard to go through life without the justification, and the hope, provided by religion. You can see this in the positivist scientists of the 19th century.

"They insisted that they were describing the universe in rigorously materialistic terms -- yet at night they attended seances and tried to summon up the spirits of the dead. ...

"The ideologies such as communism that promised to supplant religion have failed in spectacular and very public fashion. ...

"G.K. Chesterton is often credited with observing: 'When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn't believe in nothing. He believes in anything.' Whoever said it -- he was right. We are supposed to live in a sceptical age. In fact, we live in an age of outrageous credulity.

"The 'death of God,' or at least the dying of the Christian God, has been accompanied by the birth of a plethora of new idols. They have multiplied like bacteria on the corpse of the Christian Church -- from strange pagan cults and sects to the silly, sub-Christian superstitions of 'The Da Vinci Code.'?"

Umberto Eco, writing on "God isn't big enough for some people," Nov. 27 in the London Telegraph.

From the Washington Times.

The Blog of Important Things

The December 7th entry in Chesterton Day by Day (1912) is from "The Club of Queer Trades":
We had talked for about half an hour about politics and God; for men always talk about the most important things to total strangers. It is because in the total stranger we perceive man himself; the image of God is not disguised by resemblances to an uncle or doubts of the wisdom of a moustache.
This sounds a bit like blogging, does it not?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Sands of Jars on GKC

Aaron Sands, bassist for Jars of Clay, wrote this morning: "When I read [G.K. Chesterton's] essays, stories, letters, and poetry, I feel like I'm looking at the world through the eyes of a child. And I begin to trust without knowing, love without understanding, and believe without seeing just a little bit more."

Fire & Knowledge

Readers of the Chesterton & Friends blog may also enjoy taking a look at Fire & Knowledge. Blogfather Joshua Sowin lists his favorite authors as "John Piper, Iain Murray, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Dickens, David McCullough, Neil Postman, and many others." Recently he has posted tidbits from G.K. Chesterton and comments about C.S. Lewis. The contents are primarily quotation but there is good food for thought in Sowin's selections.

Friday, December 02, 2005

John, son of Malcom, requiescant in pace

John Muggeridge, son of Malcom Muggeridge, died last Friday (Nov 25) in Toronto. David Warren published a heartfelt eulogy in the Ottawa Citizen. Warren writes of Malcom's conversion to the Catholic church:
Malcolm Muggeridge's Christian conversion and late-life reception into the Catholic Church -- his "media discovery" of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and related events -- were iconic for a generation of believing Christians, of all denominations, throughout the English-speaking world and beyond. Yet how many know who led that notorious stray sheep into the Catholic fold? It was his son, John, and John's wife, Anne -- whose own husband had been her most remarkable convert.

And he writes of the importance of personal holiness:
I could assemble a chorus-line of people to affirm that John was the kindest, sweetest, most decent human being ever. I heard several argue that he was a saint -- long before we were ever grieving. But the John I knew, and well, was no saint by natural disposition. He so much loved the world, and everything that was beautifully small; but he was equipped with no more than the standard human conscience. What made him "unnatural," as it were, was the recklessness with which he acknowledged Christ.

Recently, in these columns, I've been touching on the old political puzzle of "church and state." But while meditating on the life of John Muggeridge, as I have been doing inevitably since watching him die, a key to this relation has come home to me. It is that, in church and state alike, there must be an overarching appreciation of the importance of personal holiness. Without this, we have a dog's life, and there is nothing for church nor state to cherish.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Paul Johnson a Friend?

In his much discussed memoirs, Paul Johnson mentioned among notable messengers of the modern age, the reckless like Rimbaud and the thoughtful like Emerson, the sinners like Byron and the saints like Chesterton. The reader must judge whether Johnson is siding with Catholic proponents of Chesterton's canonization or merely restating the obvious finding that Chesterton was a good man. The Quest for God, 1996, p. 80

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Pearced by a Swordstick

This is from a recent article about author Joseph Pearce. He will be speaking at a CSL conference in Lakeland, Florida this weekend. His talks for the conference are titled "Race with the Devil: My Journey from Racism to Faith," "Narnia & Middle Earth: When Two Worlds Collude," and "The Tolkien Code: Unlocking The Lord of the Rings."

[Joseph] Pearce was twice imprisoned in his native England for editing extreme right-wing magazines, according to a biography on the Web site of his publisher, Ignatius Press.

"I was involved in the Protestant paramilitaries in Northern Ireland. As a young man, I was very bigoted toward nonwhites," Pearce said.

He began reading the works of G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), an English journalist and Catholic apologist. Initially attracted by Chesterton's political and economic views, he was later persuaded by Chesterton's defense of the Catholic faith. He converted while in prison.
(Lakeland Ledger, 11/26/05)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

GKC and the Puritans

G.K. Chesterton infuriated some Americans back in 1930 when he said, while visiting New York on Thanksgiving Day, that the English should institute their own special Thanksgiving Day—to celebrate that the Pilgrim Fathers had left. No wonder he felt that way. Consider The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church’s description of Puritanism: “They demanded express scriptural warrant for all the details of public worship. They attacked church ornaments, vestments, surplices, organs, the sign of the cross.” Eric Voegelin considered the Puritans one of the earliest strains of modern gnosticism and described (borrowing from Richard Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity) in great detail their use of social boycotts and political defamation in their campaign of intolerance toward other Christian denominations and the study of classic philosophy and scholastic theology. Voegelin said their attack against the Western tradition was so effective that Western society has never completely recovered from the their blow.
But I'm still happy they came.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


I recently found the LibriVox website. LibriVox is a volunteer project that subtitles itself as "acoustical liberation of books in the public domain." Basically the idea is that individuals read old books out loud while a PC or mp3 player (e.g., iPod) records them. The mp3 files are then made available online for the world to download: either listen to them on your PC, burn them to an audio or mp3 CD, or copy them to an mp3 player.

P. Smith in the City [P.G. Wodehouse, 1910] is available at LibriVox.
Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (October 15, 1881 – February 14, 1975) was an English comic writer who enjoyed enormous popular success for more than seventy years. Described by Sean O'Casey as "English literature's performing flea", Wodehouse was an acknowledged master of English prose admired both by contemporaries like Hilaire Belloc, Evelyn Waugh and Rudyard Kipling and by modern writers like Salman Rushdie, Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. [P.G. Wodehouse at Wikipedia]

Lewis on Fairy Tales & True Myth

Fairy Tales
I saw how (fairy) stories could steal past a certain inhibition which had paralysed much of my own religion in childhood.

Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or about the sufferings of Christ?

I thought the chief reason was that one was told one ought to. An obligation to feel can freeze things. And reverence itself did harm.

The whole subject was associated with lowered voices; almost as if it were something medical.

But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency?
- C.S. Lewis, in an essay called "Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What's to Be Said"

True Myth
Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God's myth where the others are men's myths: i.e. the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the mind of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing himself through what we call "real things."
- The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves

Thanks to the Denver Post for rounding up these quotations.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Chesterton's Alphabet

Many thanks to Nick Milne; he has transcribed Chesterton's "An Alphabet" from Collected Nonsense and Light Verse.
A is an Agnostic dissecting a frog,
B was a Buddhist who had been a dog,
C was a Christian, a Christist I mean,
D was the Dog that the Buddhist had been,

You can read all of GKC's "An Alphabet" at Nick's blog, A Gentle Fuss.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Belloc on Men & Monkeys

The Marmozet

The species Man and Marmozet
    Are intimately linked;
The Marmozet survives as yet,
    But Men are all extinct.

[Hilaire Belloc. The Bad Child's Book of Beasts. 1896]

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Pity

The water tower on the top of Campden Hill, the structure that figured so decisively in the battles of The Napoleon of Notting Hill, was razed in 1970. The London Encyclopedia, Bethesda: Adler, 1986, 762.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Complement the Papal Writings in 2007

We [Wineskin Media] are pleased to announce our 2007 Social Justice Engagement Calendar, soon to be available from IHS Press [link to IHS press].


With this weekly calendar, you’ll sample major papal writings:
  • Rerum Novarum, Leo XIII
  • Singulari Quadam, Pius X
  • Quadragesimo Anno, Pius XI
  • Mater et Magistra, John XXIII
  • Pacem in Terris, John XXIII
  • Populorum Progressio, Paul VI
  • Octogesima Adveniens, Paul VI
  • Laborem Exercens, John Paul II
  • On the Ecological Crisis, John Paul II
  • Centesimus Annus, John Paul II

You’ll also hear from Vatican II, with Gaudium et Spes, as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church.


As a bonus, this year’s calendar also includes selections from the works of G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. These engaging Catholic laymen, while certainly not doctrinal authorites, consciously modeled their economic theories on Catholic social principles. They complement the papal writings as they clarify and explore the underlying economic issues. And they’re funny.

And as some of us most heartily and vigorously refuse to be led to Socialism, we have long adopted the harder alternative called trying to think things out.
-- G. K. Chesterton, The Outline of Sanity

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

GKC: Not a Self-Help Guru

It is perfectly obvious that in any decent occupation (such as bricklaying or writing books) there are only two ways (in any special sense) of succeeding. One is by doing very good work, the other is by cheating. Both are much too simple to require any literary explanation. If you are in for the high jump, either jump higher than any one else, or manage somehow to pretend that you have done so. If you want to succeed at whist, either be a good whist-player, or play with marked cards. You may want a book about jumping; you may want a book about whist; you may want a book about cheating at whist. But you cannot want a book about Success. Especially you cannot want a book about Success such as those which you can now find scattered by the hundred about the book-market. You may want to jump or to play cards; but you do not want to read wandering statements to the effect that jumping is jumping, or that games are won by winners. If these writers, for instance, said anything about success in jumping it would be something like this: "The jumper must have a clear aim before him. He must desire definitely to jump higher than the other men who are in for the same competition. He must let no feeble feelings of mercy (sneaked from the sickening Little Englanders and Pro-Boers) prevent him from trying to do his best. He must remember that a competition in jumping is distinctly competitive, and that, as Darwin has gloriously demonstrated, THE WEAKEST GO TO THE WALL." That is the kind of thing the book would say, and very useful it would be, no doubt, if read out in a low and tense voice to a young man just about to take the high jump. Or suppose that in the course of his intellectual rambles the philosopher of Success dropped upon our other case, that of playing cards, his bracing advice would run—"In playing cards it is very necessary to avoid the mistake (commonly made by maudlin humanitarians and Free Traders) of permitting your opponent to win the game. You must have grit and snap and go in to win. The days of idealism and superstition are over. We live in a time of science and hard common sense, and it has now been definitely proved that in any game where two are playing IF ONE DOES NOT WIN THE OTHER WILL." It is all very stirring, of course; but I confess that if I were playing cards I would rather have some decent little book which told me the rules of the game. Beyond the rules of the game it is all a question either of talent or dishonesty; and I will undertake to provide either one or the other—which, it is not for me to say.
-- G.K. Chesterton, "The Fallacy of Success" in All Things Considered, 1915

Monday, November 14, 2005

Lewis and Narnia

Pretty good feature piece at NYT about LWW and Lewis, though I have two quibbles:

[T]here are some Hollywood observers who seem to believe that there is a good reason Lewis is among the last of the classic children’s authors to be adapted for the movies, and that in taking on Narnia, Disney has backed itself into a corner. If the studio plays down the Christian aspect of the story, it risks criticism from the religious right, the argument goes; if it is too upfront about the religious references, on the other hand, that could be toxic at the box office.

I assume that the writer is referring to “playing down the Christian aspect” in the marketing. Such a worry is misplaced. There’s no need to mention the Christian aspect of the story in the mass marketing. Every Christian worth his salt has heard that it’s a Christian-based film. If there is a need to get the word out among Christians, it’s being accomplished just fine through the “sub-strata” marketing of the film: disbursing ten-minute excerpts to local churches.

If the writer is referring to the content of the film itself, the concern is ludicrous. Just adapt the book the best you can for the screen. The religious message is there and the allegory isn’t particularly deep or complex, but the Christianity is not overt. I read the books during my middle school years, and I had no idea there was a Christian message in them (perhaps I’m daft, but even when Aslan was killed and resurrected, it didn’t dawn on me). Make the film for the sake of the story and let any religious messages work themselves out.

Did they actually sleep together, this earnest, scholarly young man, conventional in almost every other way, and a woman 26 years his senior? Walter Hooper, the editor of Lewis’s “Collected Letters,” thinks it “not improbable.” A.N. Wilson, the best and most persuasive of Lewis’s biographers, argues that there’s no reason at all to think they didn’t, leaving us with the baffling and disquieting psychological picture of C.S. Lewis, the great scholar and writer and Christian apologist-to-be, pedaling off on his bicycle, his academic gown flapping in the wind, to have a nooner with Mum.

The writer here is talking about Lewis’ odd relationship with the mother of his friend, Edward Moore. They agreed to take care of each other’s mother if the other died, and Moore did. Lewis lived up to his promise with incredible loyalty, and his friends and biographers have puzzled about it for the past fifty years.
I don’t know if Lewis had an affair with the woman, but I’m assuming the NYT writer came up with the most damning evidence possible, and the best he has is this quote: “there’s no reason at all to think they didn’t.” And that from a biographer who isn’t particularly fond of Christianity. With that piece of evidence the writer wants to imagine Lewis riding off for a nooner? That writer has an over-active imagination, as have many others.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Garry Wills recommends...

Garry Wills was recently interviewed by Sam Hodges of the Dallas Morning News:
DMN: You draw on St. Augustine, G.K. Chesterton and John Henry Newman. For the layperson who might want to get started with those writers, do you have a reading plan?

Wills: For Augustine, probably the best thing is to read a good biography, and Peter Brown's [Augustine of Hippo] is the best. ... For Chesterton, Orthodoxy is a wonderful starting point. For Newman, any collection of his sermons.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


-- by Zach Brissett of In Toon With the World, Small Pax, and Southern Appeal

Atheist vs. Syme

"The Raving Atheist" takes on The Man Who Was Thursday.

Thursday on Thursday, no.19

"You are a very fine fellow. You can believe in a sanity which is not merely your sanity."
- Gabriel Syme, in GKC's The Man Who Was Thursday

Illustrious St. Paul's

Many Chestertonians will recall that Milton had once been a pupil at Chesterton's school, St. Paul's, but perhaps fewer are aware that Samuel Pepys and Edmund Halley also were educated there. The London Encyclopedia, Bethesda: Adler, 1986, p. 762.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Nick Milne, Chestertonian Blogger

Nick Milne, Welcome to blogland! Nick is the college recipient of this year's Gilbert & Frances Scholarship. His essay "On Intellectual Honesty" was published in the most recent issue of Gilbert Magazine, and it also appears on his new blog A Gentle Fuss.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Google Print: Belloc on Beer

I concur with Eric that Google Print is "pretty neat." Here are the results of a search for 'beer' in Hilaire Belloc's The Path to Rome (link):


Pages 1 - 10 of 10 in book for beer. (0.04 seconds)

Page 34
Those great men — Marlowe and Jonson, Shakespeare, and Spenser before him — drank beer at rising, and tamed it with a little bread. ...

Page 75
Or she would put her head in and say — “I can recommend our excellent beer. It is really preferable to this local wine.” And my neighbour, a tourist, ...

Page 98
said I. “Beer,” said she. “Anything else?” said I. “No,” said she. “Why, then, give me some of that excellent beer.” I drank this with delight, ...

Page 121
For my part, I sat silent, crippled with fatigue, trying to forget my wounded feet, drinking stoup after stoup of beer and watching the ...

Page 122
... which are so many yards and so many yards, . . .“ &c., and so forth . . exactly like a mill. I meanwhile sat on still silent, still drinking beer ...

Page 130
... we separated; I had no time to preach my full doctrine, but gave him instead a deep and misty glass of cool beer, and pledged him brotherhood, freedom, ...

Page 154
Let him (said I) drink red wine and white, good beer and mead — if he could get it — liqueurs made by monks, and, in a word, all those feeding, ...

Page 187
THE GOOD SAVAGES 187 there ordering beer for myself and for a number of peasants (who but for this would have me their butt, and even as it was found ...

Page 276
[Sorry, this page's content is restricted]

Page 317
... will return to the simpler life, and there will be dogs, and beer, and catches upon ...

For Friday: Guinness & Friendship

Chesterton wrote the column "Our Notebook" for The Illustrated London News from 1905 to 1936. Here is an advertisement from a 1930 edition:

N.B. - the source for these images is the Illustrated London News Home Page.

Chesterton the Prophet

G.K. Chesterton presented a lecture to the Lyceum Club in 1923. The Chesterton Review recently republished some notes taken during the lecture, and I posted an excerpt from them last month (The Need of a Philosophy). These were Chesterton's concluding remarks:
"It is necessary therefore for each of us to arrange an order in our thinking and if you decide to accept these beliefs you must be able to explain why you believe them and how, and within what limitations. Without some such consecutive philosophy, society will become a monster without a brain."

Thursday, November 03, 2005

I Would've Bought It

In 1922, during his lecture-tour stay in Chicago, Chesterton met with Sinclair Lewis and John Drinkwater to converse over illegal whiskey. They decided to collaborate on a murder mystery, a three-act play to be entitled, Mary Queen of Scotch, with each of them contributing one act. Not surprisingly, the three authors forgot about the project as quickly and easily as they had dreamed it up.

Mark Schorer, Sinclair Lewis, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961, p. 304.

Thursday on Thursday, no.18

"Millionaires I can understand, they are nearly all mad."
- Gabriel Syme, in GKC's The Man Who Was Thursday

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Gigantic Secret

Sam Schneider wrote in his blog (A Fish Hook Through the Nose):
I got home today and needed a good laugh, so I sat down in my bed with two red pillows propped behind me and finished G.K. Chesterton's great work [Orthodoxy]. I never thought that a book on philosophy could make me laugh out loud, but from now on that will be my central deciding factor in all such books. At this point, I would like to write a long quote from the last two pages of the book, a passage that sent chills along my body, carried by a deep, inexpressible joy. However, as I myself usually skim such quotes in other blogs, let me leave it a great and fathomed secret, one that you will only know if you yourself open up this same book and read it. My only recommendation is the penciled words I encountered at the end of my copy, "Wow. I will be forever changed."

I am sure the last paragraph of Orthodoxy has changed the lives of many people.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Deep Thoughts by G.K. ?

A blogger discovered Chesterton and described him as a cross between C.S. Lewis and SNL's Jack Handey. This is the danger of quote collections, I suppose. But I'm sure G.K. is laughing heartily!

Here are a few Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey:

"One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. "Oh no," I said, "Disneyland burned down." He cried and cried, but I think that deep down he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late."

"I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it."

"It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man."

more Deep Thoughts can be found here

Friday, October 28, 2005

GKC in Gheon

I bought an old copy of Henri Gheon's Secrets of the Saints, a four-in-one volume that contains The Secret of the Cure D'Ars, The Secret of the Little Flower, The Secret of Saint Margaret Mary, and The Secret of Saint John Bosco. For $11.00, including P&H, I was pretty pleased at the prospect of it arriving.

And when it did, I discovered that there was an added bonus: An essay by Chesterton, "The Challenge of the Cure d'Ars," which was written as an epilogue to the first English edition of The Secret of the Cure d'Ars. The publishers of my newly-acquired 1954 edition said it's "too good to be omitted in this collection." I read it, and I agree. The first line alone may have been worth the entire $11.00:

"The Catholic Church is much too universal to be called international; for she is older than all the nations."

For Friday: Guinness & Golf

Chesterton wrote the column "Our Notebook" for The Illustrated London News from 1905 to 1936. Here is an advertisement from a 1930 edition:

Playing Marbles

Chip Scanlon wrote yesterday at Poynter Online:
The story [Mark Maremont. "The CEO's Private Golf Shuttle". WSJ. 1 Oct 2005] showed in exacting detail how members of the business elite take advantage of corporate planes meant to save time and ensure the security of CEOs. This way, they get free transportation to golf courses where they can indulge their passion for a pastime G.K. Chesterton defined as "an expensive way of playing marbles."

Dear Reader: Do you know the source of this GKC quotation?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Thursday on Thursday, no.17

"I regret to inform you that your remarks convey no impression to my mind. Perhaps if you were to remove the remains of your original forehead and some portion of what was once your chin, your meaning would become clearer. Mental lucidity fulfils itself in many ways."
- Gabriel Syme, in GKC's The Man Who Was Thursday

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Belloc as Historian

I missed this article by Michael Hennessy about "Belloc as a Catholic Historian" at Seattle Catholic in early September. But yesterday's reprint in Spero News alerted me to it.
If Belloc most wanted to be remembered for his serious verse — although he thought its quality too slight to merit the devoted attention of posterity (a judgement from which I, for one, demur) — he is perhaps best known today as the author of the humorous "Cautionary Verses for Children", and for his historical works. Although he was a historian by training, having read what even then was dubiously referred to as Modern History at Balliol College, Oxford (in between bouts of orating, throwing port, belittling unbelievers, singing, presiding over the Union and walking here and there at tremendous pace with a bottle of wine in one pocket and chunks of bread and cheese in the other), he often felt more duty than pleasure in writing his numerous histories.

Friday, October 21, 2005

For Friday: Guinness for Strength

Chesterton wrote the column "Our Notebook" for The Illustrated London News from 1905 to 1936. Here is an advertisement from a 1930 edition:

(speaking of heroic virtue ...)


Thursday, October 20, 2005

No Opportunity for Heroic Virtue?

Paul Burnell, writing in a BBC News article about the putative miracle and possible canonization of Cardinal Newman, asks why there are few English Catholic saints:
Catholic writer Dr William Oddie said it is difficult to pinpoint the reason.

"In a lot of ways England is a bit of a backwater in the Catholic Church - we're really pretty small beer.

"It could be there has been less opportunity to live a heroic life in the modern era."

The former Editor of The Catholic Herald added: "Maybe the English haven't been holy enough."

However Dr Oddie is quick to nominate another English candidate for sainthood - the writer GK Chesterton.

"He was a man of immense holiness - he would also be the first journalist to be canonised."

Less opportunity to live a heroic life in the modern era? Perhaps Dr. Oddie is a hermit and has no contact with the modern world. How else to explain his ignorance of the opportunity provided by the world today? We still have family, work, and culture (and I think England does as well) -- all of which are attacked by the modern world. Yes, that is where virtue comes in to play.

Thursday on Thursday, no.16

"I am more than a devil; I am a man. I can do the one thing which Satan himself cannot do -- I can die."
- Gabriel Syme, in GKC's The Man Who Was Thursday

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Family Friendly Violence

Steve Tilley of the Edmonton Sun writes:
Traveller's Tales' latest title will try to walk the fine line between intense action and teen-friendly fun, with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe mixing puzzle-solving and exploration with copious amounts of monster slaying. The game hits stores Nov. 15, just ahead of the Disney flick's Dec. 9 release.

As a bit* of a lark, the developers temporarily added computer code that instructed the game to show blood splatters with every impact of sword or arrow on monster flesh, and the screen was soon awash in red as the game's quartet of kid heroes had it out with waves of critters.

But that's not what Narnia is about, said Burton [director of game development studio Traveller's Tales]. "I don't think it glorifies violence," he said. "It's not like you're getting into a car with a prostitute, sleeping with her and killing her to get the money back." [a reference to Grand Theft Auto]

Perhaps if Hollywood makes a new Thursday movie we'll get a spin-off video game of bomb-throwing anarchists.

* Yes, a bit, it may be just a single bit in the computer program. What's the difference? Mr. Burton correctly sees the difference is enormous. One little bit is not as good as another; it is the fine line between the right and wrong solution.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Pride Before Ignorance

Craig A. Boyd, Professor of Philosophy and Director of Faith Integration at Azusa Pacific University, invokes GKC in a recent blog post:

G. K. Chesterton, one of the past century’s most brilliant and witty thinkers, believed that arrogance was really a sign of insanity. The arrogant person lives in a world of her own creation, makes herself God and fails to see the world from a perspective other than her own, self-assumed superiority. Chesterton addresses the “madman” by saying, “So you are the Creator and Redeemer of the world: but what a small world it must be! What a little heaven you must inhabit, with angels no bigger than butterflies! How sad it must be to be God; and an inadequate God! Is there really no life fuller and no love more marvelous than yours; and is it really in your small and painful pity that all flesh must put its faith? How much happier you would be, how much more of you there would be, if the hammer of a higher God could smash your cosmos, scattering the stars like spangles, and leave you in the open, free like other men to look up as well as down!”


Friday, October 14, 2005

For Friday: Guinness & Lobster

Chesterton wrote the column "Our Notebook" for The Illustrated London News from 1905 to 1936. Here is an advertisement from a 1930 edition:


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Another GKC Confession

Yet another blogger tells us how he came to love GKC's writings and shows that there are a lot more GKC friends out there than we mention on the front page of this blog. Link.

I read some excellent books, such as "Handbook of Christian Apologetics" by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli. I also read some easier reads like "Mere Christianity" by C. S. Lewis and "Why Do Catholics Do That?" by Kevin Orlin Johnson. While reading these, as well as many other tracts, articles, booklets, etc., I noticed a common theme emerging. (BTW, might I recommend the articles in "This Rock" magazine, as well as the booklets "Confession of a Roman Catholic" and "The Catholic Church Has the Answer" by Paul Whitcomb - excellent, quick reads that help demolish most objections.) That common theme (aside from, of course, the fact that Catholics are not only Christian, but the first Christians) is that each authors all kept quoting this one apologist: Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

Thursday on Thursday, no.15

"Well, it seems that we have all the same kind of morality or immorality, so we had better face the fact that comes of it."
- Gabriel Syme, in GKC's The Man Who Was Thursday

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Mystical & Prophetic Dimension of a Culture

Jaime Antúnez Aldunate, editor of the Chile-based Catholic review Humanitas, was recently interviewed by Zenit. The first part of the interview was published Oct 11, 2005 (LINK). An excerpt:
Borrowing a word from that great British thinker of culture and history that was Christopher Dawson, one could say that when the mystical and prophetic dimension of a culture declines, its very religion also "becomes secular, is absorbed in the cultural tradition to such a point that it identifies with it, and finally it becomes only a way of social activity and perhaps even a slave or accomplice of the powers of this world." Much of this is also happening in the present day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Need of a Philosophy

G.K. Chesterton gave a lecture to the Lyceum Club in March 1923. Notes taken from this lecture were published in The Philosopher during the same year. Russell Sparkes provided the lecture report to The Chesterton Review; TCR republished it in the most recent issue (Vol XXXI, Nos.1&2, Spring/Summer 2005). Here is one quotation from GK's lecture:
"The utilitarians did assume that man had a special duty to man but the modern view is different -- modern duties must now be equally guided by our relations to animals. The rights of animals is the subject of much controversy, and discussion on the point is undetermined. Some people will eat fish and not meat. There was a man who would eat lobster sauce because it was at the cost of only one life, while he would not eat shrimp sauce because that was a holocaust. In any case it has been well put, that if animals have no rights man has duties to them."

Today you might meet a man who will eat a tomato. The tomato is given by a plant that continues to live after the fruit is plucked. But this man will not eat a carrot because harvesting the taproot is an act of violence destroying the plant. I do not agree with this man, but at least he is arranging an order to his thoughts and he can begin to explain them.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Anchoress on GKC

The popular blogger, The Anchoress, has re-produced thirty GKC gems on her blog. It's worth a look. Link.


A new philosophy generally means in practice the praise of some old vice.-Illustrated London News 1906

Pride is a weakness in the character; it dries up laughter, it dries up wonder, it dries up chivalry and energy.- Heretics

Friday, October 07, 2005

Oct 7: Lepanto & Our Lady of the Rosary

The Battle of Lepanto by Paolo Veronese (c.1528-1588)

Apart from the signal defeat of the Albigensian heretics at the battle of Muret in 1213 which legend has attributed to the recitation of the Rosary by St. Dominic, it is believed that Heaven has on many occasions rewarded the faith of those who had recourse to this devotion in times of special danger. More particularly, the naval victory of Lepanto gained by Don John of Austria over the Turkish fleet on the first Sunday of October in 1571 responded wonderfully to the processions made at Rome on that same day by the members of the Rosary confraternity.
[LINK. Catholic Encyclopedia. 1912]

Vivat Hispania!
Domino Gloria!
Don John of Austria
Has set his people free!
[LINK. Chesterton. Lepanto. 1915]

Thursday, October 06, 2005

No One Took Their Place?

The guy at Shackblog laments:

It seems telling that there are no voices of reason and intelligence standing out in all of the Christian publishing industry like Lewis or Chesterton did at one time. If there were somebody out there smart enough and reasonable enough to actually have something to say, he/she is constantly feeling pressure to "write more little books about Christianity", which, of course, will never make any impression on anybody outside of the Church's walls.

I think he's right, but it's more the fault of the reading audience than a lack of ability among the writers. The folks at Touchstone tread in this tradition, as do a number of blogs. Believe it or not, I intend my other blog, The Daily Eudemon, to do so, but it would be difficult to discern it from day-to-day. If I were to attempt (attempt!) to write like Lewis and Chesterton, I would lose readers faster than a stripper loses clothes.

Thursday on Thursday, no.14

"All the blue devils in blue hell contributed to my blue funk!"
- Gabriel Syme, in GKC's The Man Who Was Thursday

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Relics of Chesterton & Friends

The Marion E. Wade Center of Wheaton College, Illinois, houses a major research collection of the books and papers of seven British authors: Owen Barfield, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Dorothy L. Sayers, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams.
[The] Wade Center has a museum where such pieces as C.S. Lewis's family wardrobe and writing desk, Charles Williams's bookcases, J.R.R. Tolkien's desk, Pauline Baynes's original map of Narnia, and a tapestry from Dorothy L. Sayers's home can be viewed. Photographs, rare books and manuscripts, and other small items of memorabilia round off the displays. A current exhibit, entitled "The Craft of Detective Fiction", details the contributions made by G.K. Chesterton and Dorothy L. Sayers to the genre of detective fiction.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Look Backwards to Transform the Future

Spero News republished Fr. C. John McCloskey's review of Thomas E. Woods Jr.'s How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization (Regnery Publishing, Washington 2005).
Read together with Triumph (Three Rivers Press, New York, 2001), Harry Crocker's recent history of the Church, Woods' book will fascinate, delight and instruct in a manner worthy of the 20th-century Catholic historian and polemicist Hilaire Belloc, showing us how to look backwards to transform the future.

Fr. C. John's Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan contains books by Chesterton, Belloc, Tolkien, Lewis, Dawson, Muggeridge, Knox, and many others.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Chesterton the Blogger

The Anchoress discusses the blogger v. journalist debate:

What - in these changing times - defines a journalist? While a journalist can also be a blogger, is it out of the question for a blogger to be a journalist? Can some bloggers morph into that fabled classification of “journalist?”

G.K. Chesterton was a journalist who wrote prodigiously - he never stopped writing - novels, treatises, polemics, opinion columns, dialogues and debates and poems. No one today doubts that he was a journalist, yet I am quite certain that were he alive in this era, he’d be a blogger, and a BIG one in every way. Being fat and unphotogenic, he would very likely come up more from blogs than from any sort of mainstream venue. And yet he would still be (and would very likely completely identify as) a journalist.


Portillo on Joy

Authentic joy is based on this foundation: that we want to live for God and want to serve others because of God. Let us tell the Lord that we want nothing more than to serve him with joy. If we behave in this way we shall find that our inner peace, our joy, our good humour will attract many souls to God. Give witness to Christian joy. Show to those around you that this is our great secret. We are happy because we are children of God, because we deal with him, because we struggle to become better for him. And when we fail, we go right away to the Sacrament of joy where we recover our sense of fraternity with all men and women.
[Alvaro del Portillo, Homily, 12 Apr 1984; quoted by Francis Fernandez Carvajal in In Conversation With God, vol.5, p.155]

There is no direct reference to GKC in the quotation above; Bishop Portillo does use the same language as Chesterton to talk about joy. Many people were — and still are — lead to God due to the peace, joy, and good humour shown by Chesterton. Also you noticed (how can a reader of GKC not notice?) that Portillo referred to joy as "our great secret."

Friday, September 30, 2005

Burke on Chesterton on Joy

Cormac Burke, in Authority and Freedom in the Church (p. 143), writes this about GKC and the "gigantic secret":
As Chesterton suggests, it is joy not because we are in the right place, but because we are in the wrong place. We were lost, but Someone has found us and is leading us home. It is joy not because we are alright — we are not — but because Someone can put us right. Christian joy comes from facing up to the one really sad fact of life, which is sin; and countering it with a joyful fact that is even realer and stronger than sin: God's love and mercy.
[cited by Francis Fernandez Carvajal in In Conversation With God, vol. 5, p.145]

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Thursday on Thursday, no.13

"I knew I was a poet. I knew my intuition was as infallible as the Pope."
- Gabriel Syme, in GKC's The Man Who Was Thursday

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Just One Chesterton Book Away

This is from John Zmirak's review of The Exorcism of Emily Rose:
The film raises and addresses profound questions about the nature of evil and why God permits the suffering of the innocent—but doesn't pretend to answer them. And that's just what the filmmaker intended. Scott Derrickson, a graduate of the artsy Christian liberal arts university, Biola, calls himself an "orthodox Christian" and confesses that he's addicted to the novels of Walker Percy, and to reading and re-reading G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy. In fact, as Derrickson told me in an interview, Catholic screenwriting maven Barbara Nicolosi warns him, "You're just one Chesterton book away from crossing the Tiber," and becoming a Catholic. Whatever his background, Derrickson has crafted a compelling drama which sends you out of the theater feeling queasily fascinated, wondering if you need to seek some kind of protection, despite your faith or lack thereof.

(thanks to Democracy of the Dead for finding this one)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Damn Short Words

Earlier this month Ariel Vanderhorst of the Vocabulary Reclamation Project issued a challenge inspired by the following text of Orthodoxy:

Long words go rattling by us like long railway trains. We know they are carrying thousands who are too tired or too indolent to walk and think for themselves. It is a good exercise to try for once in a way to express any opinion one holds in words of one syllable. If you say "The social utility of the indeterminate sentence is recognized by all criminologists as a part of our sociological evolution towards a more humane and scientific view of punishment," you can go on talking like that for hours with hardly a movement of the gray matter inside your skull. But if you begin "I wish Jones to go to gaol and Brown to say when Jones shall come out," you will discover, with a thrill of horror, that you are obliged to think. The long words are not the hard words, it is the short words that are hard. There is much more metaphysical subtlety in the word "damn" than in the word "degeneration."

The challenge is to write a blog post entirely with one-syllable words. You can read the challenge HERE. In the comments Ariel added some guidelines: "... the post must be half a page, or at least several good paragraphs. If longer, you will be elevated to genius status. As well, the post's content must mirror the standards (high, of course) which your blog normally maintains. No 'see Spot run' stuff. The post should contain some propositional content; that is, we should be able to read it and agree. Now that the rules have been posted, you may break them at your leisure." His own stab with a swordstick can be found at his BitterSweetLife blog (LINK).

Any more takers? Make sure to drop a link to your post here in the comments. And let Ariel know as well.

Considering Culture

This past Saturday the Daily Times of Pakistan republished Chesterton's essay "French and English" (LINK).
If we are to be international we must be national. And it is largely because those who call themselves the friends of peace have not dwelt sufficiently on this distinction that they do not impress the bulk of any of the nations to which they belong. International peace means a peace between nations, not a peace after the destruction of nations, like the Buddhist peace after the destruction of personality. The golden age of the good European is like the heaven of the Christian: it is a place where people will love each other; not like the heaven of the Hindu, a place where they will be each other.

The essay was published in 1908 in the collection All Things Considered. The 9th edition (1915) of ATC can be found online HERE.

Friday, September 23, 2005

New Gresham Book on Lewis

[Douglas Gresham, stepson of C.S. Lewis,] wrote "Jack’s Life: The Life Story of C.S. Lewis," which traces the life and times of best-selling author C.S. Lewis. The book is slated for release in October from Broadman & Holman.
Gresham explained that the memoir is not a scholarly work filled with academic analysis, but a "simple recounting of the story of what I believe to be the extraordinary life of an extraordinary man."

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Thursday on Thursday, no.12

"Always be comic in a tragedy. What the deuce else can you do?"
- Gabriel Syme, in GKC's The Man Who Was Thursday

Free GKC

24 on-line books by G.K. Chesterton can be downloaded in pdf format at this site. 25 if you count two versions of Orthodoxy.

Thanks, Inn.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Blog Grist

Volume 8, Number 8 of Gilbert Magazine is hitting mailboxes this week. It is also the free sample issue available online (LINK). This issue contains a nice little article about blogging (see page 28). The author is someone we know who has "been busy drinking, procreating, drinking, reading, drinking, and writing. And oh yeah, blogging."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

God Always Vivisects

In the wake of Katrina and while preparing for Rita, John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute writes about suffering.
[There] remains much suffering that is not manmade. The question is why there is suffering of any kind. And why would a so-called "good" God allow suffering? Indeed, if there is a good God, according to theologian C. S. Lewis, then he is no less formidable than a cosmic monster. And the more we believe, as traditional Christians do, that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is little hope in avoiding the pains of life. "A cruel man might be bribed—might grow tired of his vile sport," writes C. S. Lewis in his book A Grief Observed, "might have a temporary fit of mercy, as alcoholics have fits of sobriety. But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless."

Monday, September 19, 2005

I think this blogger may have been around awhile, but I haven't seen him. He's Dad 29, and this is his by-line:

"Old. Nasty. Likes Chesterton."

Nasty and Chesterton aren't usually seen in the same phrase, but this blog might be worth watching. Link.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Marriage & Sanity

Justin Dyer, a graduate student at Oklahoma University, writes about our culture's current problem understanding the nature of marriage. Is marriage whatever our culture defines it to be? Or is marriage something not created by man but recognized by our laws? Is marriage when any two people come together in love? How about a mother and her son? Or three adolescent girls? Or a horse and his boy? Our culture will have to say "Whatever else that may be, it is not marriage."
The tale of our society’s search for a new meaning and a new articulation of marriage reminds me of a novel that G.K. Chesterton once envisioned writing.

The story was to be about an "English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas."

After experiencing all of the fascination and terror of discovering New South Wales, he realized, with a gush of happy tears, that he was actually back in Old South Wales.

The novel was to be a romantic allegory of Chesterton’s own philosophic voyage. "I did try to found a heresy of my own," he later remarked about his younger days. "And when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered it was orthodoxy."

And so as we set sail to found our own heresy regarding marriage, I hope that nature and reason will bid us to discover anew the wisdom behind the public orthodoxy that we have collectively inherited.

Separation of Faith and Culture

The G.K. Chesterton Institute for Faith and Culture is holding a conference in Argentina to address how problems in contemporary culture directly affect faith.

According to the Rev. Ian Boyd, director of the Chesterton Institute, this is the first conference the institute is holding in the Hispanic world. It will take place Sept. 21-24.


The conference theme, “Chesterton and the Evangelization of Culture,” addresses how the contemporary failure of culture has been the separation of faith and culture.

“Most people borrow their way of thinking and behaving from the culture that surrounds them,” Boyd said.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Thursday on Thursday, no.11

"Who would condescend to strike down the mere things that he does not fear? Who would debase himself to be merely brave, like any common prizefighter? Who would stoop to be fearless — like a tree? Fight the thing that you fear. You remember the old tale of the English clergyman who gave the last rites to the brigand of Sicily, and how on his death-bed the great robber said, 'I can give you no money, but I can give you advice for a lifetime: your thumb on the blade, and strike upwards.' So I say to you, strike upwards, if you strike at the stars."
- Gabriel Syme, in GKC's The Man Who Was Thursday

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Heart Full of Devils

Yesterday blogger Dominique Cimafranca of the Philippines wrote about how he discovered G.K. Chesterton through a Father Brown mystery in a Reader's Digest compilation.

Ultimately, the key lies in [Father Brown's] understanding of human nature.

Take the following exchange from "Hammer of God", for instance, when Father Brown confronts the criminal with his deed. Horrified at his discovery, the perpetrator attempts to commit suicide.
[He] threw one leg over the parapet, and Father Brown had him in a minute by the collar.

"Not by that door," he said quite gently; "that door leads to hell."

"How do you know all this?" he cried. "Are you a devil?"

"I am a man," answered Father Brown gravely; "and therefore have all devils in my heart...."

The last line sent shivers down my spine when I first read it. In just one line Chesterton had summarized so succinctly the source of human evil, that is, the human heart. That we are neither angels nor supermen. That we are driven by passion and desires. That even the best among us traverse life dancing a delicate dance between good and evil.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

In Toon With Belloc

Small Pax Guild member Zach Brissett hosts his own editorial cartoon blog at In Toon With the World. Today he posted a 'toon of Hilaire Belloc:

Schall On "Catholic Political Philosophy"

Fr. James V. Schall has a new book entitled "Roman Catholic Political Philosophy" published by Lexington Books. He was interviewed by Zenit; the interview was published this past Saturday. Here are some excerpts:

Q: Please explain the title "Roman Catholic Political Philosophy," since Catholicism is not a political movement.

Father Schall: The title is deliberately paradoxical, even provocative. It is, if you will, a countercultural thesis. Two different, known things are juxtaposed. They, I argue, have a relation that, if not spelled out, ends up confusing both political and revelational realities.

Since Catholicism is not a political movement, it frees political things to be political things. It does not encourage them, as so often happens in modernity, to be confused with religion or metaphysics, or become, in effect, substitutes for them.


Q: Which philosophers embody the principles of Roman Catholic political philosophy that you outline in your book?

Father Schall: One finds guidance from many sources, of course, not only Roman Catholic ones. I have learned much from Eric Voegelin and Leo Strauss. They served in many ways to open political philosophy to a more serious consideration of reality and what is at issue in understanding it.

Among Catholic writers, I am particularly in debt to my teachers, Professor Heinrich Rommen, Father Charles N.R. McCoy, Father Clifford Kossel, S.J., and Father Ernest Fortin, A.A. I have written a book on Jacques Maritain and consider Yves Simon of fundamental importance, as is Etienne Gilson. Christopher Dawson remains a favorite. I have learned much from David Walsh, John and Russell Hittinger, Monsignor Robert Sokolowski, and my colleagues George Carey and Joshua Mitchell.

What can one say of G.K. Chesterton, who is one of the great minds and most incisive as well as most delightful. I have loved Hilaire Belloc, Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar, E.F. Schumacher and a host of others.

Several of my books, "Another Sort of Learning" especially, have been guides to reading in these areas. I have long been an admirer of John Paul II and Benedict XVI as first-rate thinkers. And finally there is the abiding debt to Plato and Aristotle, to Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, to whom I return again and again. There is nothing quite like reading these latter four with students.

The entire interview can be found in two parts HERE and HERE.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Not a GKC Friend?

Chesterton had a profound influence on the prose style in which Thomas Merton wrote his 1948 best-seller, The Seven Story Mountain. According to Merton's biographer Michael Mott, Chesterton epitomized the kind of consciously literary, urbane, and "chatty" writing style that he, Merton, labored to avoid at all costs. [Seven Mountains, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1984, 229, p. 249]

Friday, September 09, 2005

John Robson on New Orleans

From the Ottawa Citizen:

"Finally, hailing the violence as a liberating response to poverty or racism is, as G. K. Chesterton said, a slander on the poor. And on blacks, a majority in pre-Katrina New Orleans, most of whom either evacuated in an orderly manner or coped in an heroic one, and neither sought nor seized an opportunity to behave badly."

George MacDonald

"... in a certain rather special sense I for one can really testify to a book that has made a difference to my whole existence, which helped me to see things in a certain way from the start; a vision of things which even so real a revolution as a change of religious allegiance has substantially only crowned and confirmed. Of all the stories I have read, including even all the novels of the same novelist, it remains the most real, the most realistic, in the exact sense of the phrase the most like life. It is called The Princess and the Goblin, and is by George MacDonald ..."

This is taken from G.K. Chesterton's introduction to George MacDonald and His Wife [Greville MacDonald. 1924]. It was reprinted in GKC as MC and is available online at the American Chesterton Society website (LINK).

MacDonald died September 18, 1905. So this month marks the 100th anniversary of his death. On the anniversary weekend there is a conference in Waco, TX at Baylor University:

George MacDonald and His Children

George MacDonald is seen as the founder of a literary genre: religious fantasy — which, as the 20th century has unexpectedly shown, has become a major and popular form. We welcome papers linking MacDonald and his circle (Charles Kingsley, Lewis Carroll) with his successors, including G. K. Chesterton, Rudyard Kipling, E. Nesbit, and the Oxford Inklings. Also of interest are papers connecting MacDonald with his German roots — Goethe, Schleiermacher, Novalis, and Hoffmann. In addition, we shall have a section on the development of children’s book illustration from Arthur Hughes through to H.R. Millar, which covers the great age of illustrated books before World War I.
For more details about the conference go HERE.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Thursday on Thursday, no.10

"Perhaps policeman is a relative term. In an evolutionary sense the ape fades so gradually into the policeman, that I myself can never detect the shade. The monkey is only the policeman that may be. Perhaps a maiden lady on Clapham Common is only the policeman that might have been."
- Gabriel Syme, in GKC's The Man Who Was Thursday

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Narnia: Still Shots & Changes

Paul Davidson wrote Sep 2 at
A whole pile of new still shots from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe have appeared online, this time at the German website Altium Silentium. The photos include new views of the Pevensie children at the professor's manor, in the snowy woods around Lantern Waste, and with the White Witch. The locations and ambience seem perfectly adapted from the novel by C.S. Lewis.

Not everything is the just like the original, however. In spite of the very good reports insiders are relaying, there's at least one modification that seems unnecessary and might annoy fans of the book – just as Peter Jackson's excessive changes to The Lord of the Rings irked many a Tolkien fan.
read the rest HERE

Monday, September 05, 2005

Who You Callin' "Incomparable"?

In June of 1921, Max Beerbohm wrote discouragingly to a prospective biographer that he, Max, was not [as Shaw had labeled him] "the incomparable Max," but rather (as the humorists had it) "the comparable Max." Beerbohm continued, "I am not incomparable. Compare me. Compare me as an essayist (for instance] with other essayists. Point out what an ignoramus I am beside Belloc, and how Chesterton's high spirits and abundance shame me." And so on. The biographer, Bohun Lynch, had mentioned he was planning a little book. "Oh, keep it little!" begged the incomparable Max. [S.N. Behrman, Portrait of Max, Random House, 1960, 21-22]

Friday, September 02, 2005

Tolerance of Folly and a Sense of Humour

N.S. Jagannathan of The New Indian Express wrote yesterday:
There are plenty of stories of eccentric British judges, whose asides and obiter dicta from the bench are celebrated in literature and legal anecdotage. One instance from many should suffice. In one of his stories, that incomparable wit, G K Chesterton, has a delightfully unconventional judge telling a young man in the dock. "I am sentencing you to six months imprisonment as the law requires, despite my God-given conviction that what you need is six weeks in the countryside."

Certainly, tolerance of folly and a sense of humour would not come amiss in judges who have to endure a good deal of nonsensical casuistry in the course of their duties.

As a father of young children I find "tolerance of folly and a sense of humour" necessary for sanity.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Thursday on Thursday, no.9

"I am a Sabbatarian. I have been specially sent here to see that you show a due observance of Sunday."
- Gabriel Syme, in GKC's The Man Who Was Thursday

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

GKC: South African Epicurean

This is from today's South African Wine News:
When British novelist GK Chesterton visited the Cape in the mid-nineteenth century, he commented it was a pity the Cape's poor cheeses were an inferior match for its fine wines. Boy, would he be surprised today. A cellar-door restaurant is de rigueur in a Cape winery portfolio - along with homegrown cheeses, olive oils, preserves, breads and branded winery caps, t-shirts and t-cloths.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


If you haven't found the Fumare: Law, Culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke blog yet, then click here now. Fumare now boasts a handful of contributors. Yesterday one contributor produced a post on Hilaire Belloc and the slowly forming American Belloc Society.

Wells on Wheels

From an article about sports on television:
The popularity of cycling races just keeps growing and growing. Small wonder, because not only is it engaging TV, it recalls a remark by HG Wells who said, "Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future."

The Age of Uncommon Nonsense

LifeSite has a special report triggered by the Man “Plague Species” exhibit in the London Zoo (see Eric's TDE post from Saturday). John Jalsevac begins his article quoting Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails: "See the animal in his cage that you built, are you sure what side you're on?... Are you sure what side of the glass you are?"

The root of his article begs us to read Chesterton:

But the unfortunate fact is that “evolution really is mistaken for explanation”, which G.K. Chesterton points in Everlasting Man, which is by far one of the best books on the question of Man, and which everybody ought to read immediately if they haven’t already. “It has the fatal quality of leaving on many minds the impression that they do understand it and everything else; just as many of them live under a sort of illusion that they have read Origin of Species.”

Much like the Big Bang theory, the theory of Darwinian evolution creates the dangerous aura of The Answer, when it isn’t anything of the sort. It’s exactly the same monstrous fallacy so many made of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, making the ludicrous leap from the relativity of space and time to the relativity of morality, all to the absolute horror of Einstein.

However, contrary to mainstream reporting, being a “close-minded creationist”is not seen by many honest thinkers and believers as the only credible option to Darwinism. That Man may, in some mysterious, miraculous fashion, have resulted from a physical evolution of primates over a period of many, many thousands or millions of years, that led him to the point of coming into the full possession of his sublime and spiritual humanity is by all accounts possible. Remote, but possible, and all the more miraculous for its remoteness.

It seems quite reasonable that no matter how slow a miracle may happen, it still remains a miracle. Says Chesterton: “The Greek witch may have turned sailors to swine with a stroke of the wand. But to see a naval gentleman of our acquaintance looking a little more like a pig every day, till he ended with four trotters and a curly tail, would not be any more soothing. It might be rather more creepy and uncanny.”


Chesterton was fond of pointing out that we currently live, not in the age of common sense, but the age of “uncommon nonsense”. The man of uncommon nonsense—only too often a scholar of great acclaim—puts men and women into a cage and believes that he has proved something sublime. While the man of common sense visiting the zoo in the hope of glimpsing an exotic animal blushes on seeing an exotic dancer instead and promptly goes home to soothe away the distressing feeling that the world has gone completely loony with a drink and a Sinatra record.

"A lot of people think humans are above other animals. When they see humans as animals, here, it kind of reminds us that we're not that special,” said another visitor to the zoo, who was evidently suffering from temporary amnesia that caused him to forget the pyramids, the Panama canal, and the complete poetical works of Pope.

Monday, August 29, 2005

GKC Still Debunking Tomfoolery

"So now we know. Women’s IQ is, on average, five points less than men’s. That is the conclusion of two researchers’ summaries of 57 academic studies on gender and intelligence in the British Journal of Psychology in November. . .

"All you need to know for pop psychology purposes is that Professor Richard Lynn and Dr Paul Irwing have found that there are three men to each woman with an IQ of more than 130 and 5.5 men for each woman with an IQ above 145. Oh, and the difference between the sexes really opens up only after the age of 14. . .

"As it happens, Lynn has not only established that men tend to be brighter than women, he has also controversially discovered that Europeans have a higher IQ than the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa. And — lest you were working up a liberal ecstasy of embarrassment about it — he also found that the oriental peoples of east Asia have higher average intelligence by five IQ points than Europeans. So there.

"Faced with scholarship of this nature, I tend to take refuge in G K Chesterton’s brilliant little novel, The Napoleon of Notting Hill, in which a deposed president of Nicaragua argues about the merits of civilisation with an advocate of the same, an English civil servant called Barker. The former president sternly inquires of Barker whether he knows the best way to lasso a wild horse. To which the civil servant replies with dignity that he never catches wild horses and suggests that he sets very little store by such barbarian dexterity.

"Precisely, says the Nicaraguan. 'If the bedouin Arab does not know how to read, some English missionary or schoolmaster must be sent to teach him to read, but nobody ever says, ‘This schoolmaster does not know how to ride on a camel; let us pay a bedouin to teach him’.'

"The point is rather simple. It’s that it is easy to establish standards of worth by which people are found wanting without actually asking whether we are measuring the most important attribute for the business of existence. And when we set up IQ tests as the standard by which women are found inferior to men, we may indeed question whether a high IQ is all it’s cracked up to be."


Friday, August 26, 2005

Noteworthy This Week in Blogland

Basement Man ("an average guy with a wife and daughter who lives and works in America") posted his impressions of GKC's What's Wrong with the World. Here is one snippet:
There are natural consequences to sex. Our attitude toward sex now is flippant. What if the consequence for whistling or lighting a cigarette were that an angel or genie were tied to our necks like supernatural balloons? Would we be so eager to perform these acts? Chesterton’s point is that sex has major consequences; it isn’t simply something we can do and forget — there are lasting impressions from the act.

The author at The Life and Opinions of Andrew Rilstone wrote a report of his summer holiday trip to the Tolkien Society's conference and convention (Aston University, Birmingham, England).
One occasionally ended up feeling sorry for the academics. It must be rare enough for them to be addressing students who have actually read the text under discussion; and unheard of to have an audience who have all read it dozens of times. One speaker made the mistake of implying that Frodo only goes to the Undying Lands in spirit, and had to deal with quotes from the Silmarillion in the question and answer session.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Thursday on Thursday, no.8

"Well, if I am not drunk, I am mad, but I trust I can behave like a gentleman in either condition."
- Gabriel Syme, in GKC's The Man Who Was Thursday

Dedication to GKC

It remains for the true master of Chestertoniana to list all the books that have been dedicated to GKC. At the head of this list, or near it, will be the great 1913 mystery novel, Trent's Last Case, by Chesterton's lifelong friend, Edmund Clerihew Bentley. (Yes, he's the originator of the clerihew verse form). The dedication reads, in part, "I dedicate this story to you because the only really noble motive I had in writing it was the hope that you would enjoy it."