Saturday, July 30, 2005

More Clerihew

Edmund Clerihew Bentley was a lifelong friend of G.K. Chesterton, and they shared a love for mystery novels and poetry. GKC dedicated his 1908 novel The Man Who Was Thursday to Bentley. Bentley dedicated his 1911 mystery novel Trent's Last Case to Chesterton. GKC illustrated Bentley's 1905 book of "Clerihew" poems, Biography For Beginners.

Here is a Clerihew from E.C. Bentley. I chose this one to honor Cervantes and the 400th anniversary of the 1605 publication of the first part of Don Quixote.
The people of Spain think Cervantes
Equal to half-a-dozen Dantes;
An opinion resented most bitterly
By the people of Italy.

The clerihew about Cervantes/Dante was from the pen of G.K. Chesterton.

On page 43 of the facsilile edition of "the notebook" (The First Clerihews) it is associated with the gavel, and that was Chesterton's icon in the notebook.

~ John Peterson

Thank you, John.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Fun on Friday: a Clerihew

Click HERE for a backgrounder on the Clerihew.

G.K. Chesterton called it a "severe and stately form of Free Verse" in his Autobiography.

Here is my imitation of Edward Clerihew Bentley's verse. Drop your own Clerihew creation in the comments, if you like!

the imitation:
Gilbert Keith Chesterton,
The laughing man saw lots of fun.
Cigar, swordstick, cape, crumpled hat,
Six foot four, and enormously fat!

the inspiration:
This man who composed such profound and perfect lines as "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried," stood 6'4" and weighed about 300 pounds, usually had a cigar in his mouth, and walked around wearing a cape and a crumpled hat, tiny glasses pinched to the end of his nose, swordstick in hand, laughter blowing through his moustache.

[Dale Ahlquist. "Who is this guy ... ?"]

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Fitzgerald a GKC Friend?

A collection of the letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald shows a number of references to Chesterton as the writer struggled in 1917 with his unsuccessful first draft of This Side of Paradise. He wrote Edmund Wilson that the novel "shows traces of Chesterton," and that he put "Barrie and Chesterton above anyone except Wells." Fitzgerald complained to biographer Shane Leslie of "gloomy, half-twilight realism," asking "Where are the novels of five years ago?" Fitzgerald included Chesterton's Manalive on his approved novel list, and also confided to Leslie that he was planning to quote some Chesterton gibberish on his new novel's title page ("Highty-ighty, tiddly-ighty, tiddley-ighty, ow!" from The Club of Queer Trades). [A Life in Letters, Edited by Mat-thew Bruccoli, Scribner's 1994, pp. 12-20]

Thursday on Thursday, no.4

"It is things going right, that is poetical. Our digestions, for instance, going sacredly and silently right, that is the foundation of all poetry. Yes, the most poetical thing, more poetical than the flowers, more poetical than the stars — the most poetical thing in the world is not being sick."
- Gabriel Syme, in GKC's The Man Who Was Thursday

Thursday Around the Radio

The Mercury Theatre on the Air has the Orson Welles production of GKC's The Man Who Was Thursday (September 5, 1938) available for free download. Many other shows are also available; e.g., H.G.Wells' The War of the Worlds and Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers. Burn a CD of that MP3 and have a family night gathered around the radio - just like they used to do on The Waltons. Illiteracy is no excuse. (cheers to Matthew Lickona @ GodsBody for the link to The Mercury Theatre on the Air)

For iPodders who would like the full audio book: Fumare: law, culture and catholicism... up in smoke posts that is offering "buy one, get one free" on some of their titles, and notes that The Man Who Was Thursday is among the special offer titles.

For Luddites who prefer non-digital technology: Audio tapes of the Welles production of Thursday can be purchased through The American Chesterton Society.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Happy Birthday

To Hilaire Belloc. He would have been 135 today.

The Gospel According to America

Zachry Kincaid, director of The Matthew's House Project, reviews David Dark’s The Gospel According to America: A Meditation on a God-blessed, Christ-haunted Idea. (link to

Dark sites G.K. Chesterton who wrote a series of newspaper articles some eighty years ago about his visit to America. Chesterton says that America is a country with the soul of a church. Based in the equality of all human beings principle, Dark relates this church soul to the Apostle Paul’s sameness in Christ. But, Chesterton reminds us that America is either entirely heroic or completely insane. Today’s version of gospel is closer to insane. The abuse of freedom has driven the Gospel out of serious public thought, reduced to Ten Commandments lawn signs and ichthus-marked SUVs. We should pause, Dark says, “as we consider how easily many Americans speak of their faith as a private, personal matter; a relationship somehow contained within the heart; an odd, airy thing called ‘spirituality.’” Ought Christians to rather act in step with the early followers who “are not of this world’s way of doing things, but their hope is still scandalously this-worldly. And the intensity of their passion for a socially disruptive, enduring freedom won’t be diminished, divided, or conquered by the prerogatives of any government.”
LINK to the review

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Twelve Favorites

My favorite excerpts from GKC's Twelve Types. One from each chapter:

Charlotte Bronte: The faculty of being shy is the first and the most delicate of the powers of enjoyment. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of pleasure.

William Morris: He has the supreme credit of showing that the fairy tales contain the deepest truth of the earth, the real record of men's feeling for things.

Byron: The man who is popular must be optimistic about something even if he is only optimistic about pessimism.

Alexander Pope: [I]t is immeasurably easier to pretend to have imagination than to pretend to have wit.

St. Francis of Assisi: [L]aughter is as divine as tears.

Rostand: We should all like to speak poetry at the moment when we truly live, and if we do not speak it, it is because we have an impediment in our speech.

Charles II: Despotism is the easiest of all governments, at any rate for the governed.

Robert Louis Stevenson: Stevenson had the first essential qualification of a great man: that of being misunderstood by his opponents.

Thomas Carlyle: He denied the theory of progress which assumed that we must be better off than the people of the twelfth century.

Leo Tolstoy: The command of Christ is impossible, but it is not insane; it is rather sanity preached to a planet of lunatics. If the whole world was suddenly stricken with a sense of humour it would find itself mechanically fulfilling the Sermon on the Mount.

Savonarola: He was making war against no trivial human sins, but against godless and thankless quiescence, against getting used to happiness, the mystic sin by which all creation fell.

Walter Scott: It is said that Scott is neglected by modern readers; if so, the matter could be more appropriately described by saying that modern readers are neglected by Providence.


I fear that C&F may have lost readers due to my post yesterday. Council on Drinking referenced a news article quoting George Bernard Shaw's teetotalism. But the post gave no rebuttal from his friend GKC. So this morning, remaining readers, I beg your forgiveness and provide a few quotations from GKC about GBS:

from the introduction to Heretics:
I am not concerned with Mr. Bernard Shaw as one of the most brilliant and one of the most honest men alive; I am concerned with him as a Heretic — that is to say, a man whose philosophy is quite solid, quite coherent, and quite wrong.

from Heretics, Ch.4, "Mr. Bernard Shaw":
Mr. Shaw cannot understand that the thing which is valuable and lovable in our eyes is man — the old beer-drinking, creed-making, fighting, failing, sensual, respectable man.

from Do We Agree?, a debate between Chesterton and Shaw:
We show man's irrepressible desire to own property and because some landlords have been cruel, it is no use talking of abolishing, denying, and destroying property, saying no one shall have any property at all. It is characteristic of his school, of his age. The morality he represents is above all the morality of negations. Just as it says you must not drink wine at all as the only solution to a few people drinking too much: just as it would say you must not touch meat or smoke tobacco at all. Let us always remember, therefore, that when Mr. Shaw says he can persuade all men to give up the sentiment of private property, it is in exactly the same hopeful spirit that he says he will get all of you to give up meat, tobacco, beer, and a vast number of other things. He will not do anything of the sort and I suspect he himself suspects by this time that he will not do it.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Council on Drinking

Should we have a drink or two before work? Should we have the taxpayers cover our tab? These are questions being asked in Sydney, Australia. LINK

Alcohol, George Bernard Shaw wrote, enables parliament to do things at 11 at night that no sane person would do at 11 in the morning. But sobriety, it seems, is back in vogue in Sydney, where two councillors are planning heresy by introducing prohibition to council meetings.

Islam and the First Amendment

This excerpt is from the article "Islam and the First Amendment" by Thomas E. Brewton; published July 22 at Intellectual Conservative.

Within the Judeo-Christian tradition in the United States many different, relatively self-contained, religious and cultural communities have existed. But none of these ever denied the supremacy of the Constitution in political affairs, as do the Muslims.

Today, however, we are being pushed by liberal-socialists’ “tolerance” for hedonism toward a lawless abyss that, with the power of modern weaponry, will make the turmoil of Muslim militancy in the Middle Ages seem like the Garden of Eden.

The thrust of both liberal-socialism and Islam is to institute a form of feudal collectivism in which citizens become a modern version of serfs, whose every economic and social action is subject to unlimited regulation by government. Citizens, since the New Deal socialism of the 1930s, have gradually surrendered the Constitution’s protections of individual property and other rights against arbitrary government, in return for the nanny state in which government decides what people are entitled to receive. In short, the Servile State anticipated by Hilaire Belloc.

As has happened with so many provisions of the Constitution since 1937, those in political ascendance, either liberals or Muslims, will interpret the First Amendment to mean whatever is convenient for their desires, or simply abolish the Constitution.

Friday, July 22, 2005

New in Blogland

  • Thursday is a new blog subtitled "for all those chasing after Sunday on this sometimes absurd adventure." The author has begun with an original poem "An Ode on Cheese." The mysterious silence has been broken. And now Dr. Thursday has come forth with his own rhymes on the subject of cheese. He wrote it nearly 11 years ago; we finally get to share a bite of his delectable cheese verse. Thank you!

  • Splash About! is a new blog subtitled "my paper to splash about in ... a kind of scrap book to keep me quiet." The author has begun with some commentary on What's Wrong With the World's first chapter as he reads Chesterton's book.

  • A Prodigy of Imbecility is a blogger's yet another attempt to begin again. He begins with a quotation from GKC: "There is beauty, not only in wisdom, but in this dazed and dramatic ignorance."

  • Blogimus Maximus is reading and commenting on Hilaire Belloc's Survivals and New Arrivals. Maximus writes that "Reading Belloc does not tell you much about the matter of history, that is true enough - but as regards the form of history, he is suberb. I would say, in general, that he is of little use as an instructor, but he helps one to organize what one has already learned, and to see it in a new light."

  • Maureen Martin of, as mentioned here earlier, posted a satirical composition about Chestertonians. Some friends of GK thought it was in bad taste but I liked it ... a lot. It is a matter of opinion. I hope Maureen will someday spoof Hilaire Belloc: you know, about a guy who decides to hike across countries to Rome leaving his wife and young children at home. And if I say nice things about Maureen Martin perhaps she'll link to us - because that is what bloggers do.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Nonsense Verse

Everyman has issued a collection of nonsense verse. From a review of same:

No one does just nonsense: That would be inhuman. It works best as a hobby, a sideline. Lear was a painter, Carroll a clergyman and mathematician. Mervyn Peake, with all the mental tonnage of his Gormenghast novels installed and pressurized in his head, seems to have fired out brilliant squibs of nonsense for relief: “Of fallow-land and pasture / And skies both pink and grey, / I made my statement last year / And have no more to say.” Chesterton found the production of nonsense verse to be–literally–laughably easy: “To publish a book of my nonsense verses,” he wrote to his fiancĂ©, “seems to me exactly like summoning the whole of the people of Kensington to watch me smoke a cigarette.” And Stevens said of “The Emperor Of Ice Cream”: “I dislike niggling, and like letting myself go. This poem is an instance of letting myself go.”

Link to Book.

Link to Review.

Delight of Truth

Ignatius Insight has a feature article this month by Fr Schall: Chesterton and the Delight of Truth. LINK
This essay might be about the "splendor" of truth rather than about its "delight," but John Paul II famously claimed the "splendor" for himself – Veritatis Splendor. Chesterton simply rejoices in truth, but not just for the sake of his own rejoicing, but because there is something to rejoice about. "I had heard that I was in the wrong place, and my soul sang for joy" – this is Chesterton’s startling reaction to his discovery that man is not made only for this earth but through it for eternal life.

Thursday on Thursday, no.3

"What is there poetical about being in revolt? You might as well say that it is poetical to be sea-sick. Being sick is a revolt. Both being sick and being rebellious may be the wholesome thing on certain desperate occasions; but I'm hanged if I can see why they are poetical. Revolt in the abstract is — revolting. It's mere vomiting."
- Gabriel Syme, in GKC's The Man Who Was Thursday

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Fr. Brown @ Hogwarts

From the article "Dumbledore's death in the style of GK Chesterton" published HERE by the Guardian:

"But how did you know, Father Brown?" cried Mr Shacklebolt.

The little priest blinked. "Oh, well, you know," he said shyly, "there was the medal. Why on earth would this Voldemort go out of his way to melt Professor Dumbledore's Order of Merlin? What was it to him? Merely a bauble. But to Fudge, don't you see, it was a symbol of his hatred of Dumbledore. He hated him," said Father Brown earnestly, "for the unforgivable sin of being right."

Democracy of the Dead

We didn't know about this GKC Blog: Democracy of the Dead. It's worth a look.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Using Science to Promote Morality

Chesterton wrote in 1905 about addressing the problems of impurity and terrorism. 100 years later his writing is more pertinent than ever.

A young man may keep himself from vice by continually thinking of disease. He may keep himself from it also by continually thinking of the Virgin Mary. There may be question about which method is the more reasonable, or even about which is the more efficient. But surely there can be no question about which is the more wholesome.


It is quite certain the realists ... do in one sense promote morality ­­­­­­­­— they promote it in the sense in which the hangman promotes it, in the sense in which the devil promotes it. But they only affect that small minority which will accept any virtue as long as we do not ask them for the virtue of courage. Most healthy people dismiss these moral dangers as they dismiss the possibility of bombs or microbes. Modern realists are indeed Terrorists, like the dynamiters; and they fail just as much in their effort to create a thrill. Both realists and dynamiters are well-meaning people engaged in the task, so obviously ultimately hopeless, of using science to promote morality.

[G.K. Chesterton. Heretics, Ch.2]

Monday, July 18, 2005

Patron Saint of the Jolly

A serious advent wreath making instructor and former singer writes about a rather disturbing appearance of the Ghost of G.K. Chesterton. During the apparition G.K. "joked that while his friends Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton led lives that convinced people to help the poor and commune with God, that he, Flannery O'Connor and Walker Percy were quickly becoming the patron saints of people 'who just read all the time.'" I would add that he has also become the patron saint of those who like to smoke cigars and drink beer. Read the humorous post by Maureen Martin HERE.

The Difference Between Belloc and GKC

In his Hilaire Belloc: A Memoir, J. B. Morton quotes Chesterton on the difference between Belloc and himself. He said, "I like gargoyles and every kind of grotesque thing, whereas Belloc likes diagrams and military maps." And Chesterton maintained (to Morton) that Belloc and he differed in every respect—except for their complete agreement about religion and politics. [New York: Sheed and Ward, 1955, p. 78]

Friday, July 15, 2005

Get Enough Rest

During the earliest years of his marriage to Elodie, Hilaire Belloc would sometimes travel from his home in Littlemore to the north of England to give lectures. This kept him away from home for several nights at a time; often a member of the audience would offer him dinner and a bed for the night. G.G. Waterhouse in a letter to Robert Speaight recalled the unexpected joys of hosting Belloc for an evening:
On our return from the lecture hall he was greeted by my father, a very well-read man but too busy to attend lectures and I was firmly despatched to bed. The next morning my father complained that this very postitive young man had not only kept him up talking until two o'clock but when informed that breakfast in the household was at seven-thirty had blandly announced that he always took eight hours sleep and that he would come down when he woke. [Robert Speaight. The Life of Hilaire Belloc. p.109]

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Thursday on Thursday, no.2

"I tell you that every time a train comes in I feel that it has broken past batteries of besiegers, and that man has won a battle against chaos. You say contemptuously that when one has left Sloane Square one must come to Victoria. I say that one might do a thousand things instead, and that whenever I really come there I have the sense of hairbreadth escape. And when I hear the guard shout out the word 'Victoria,' it is not an unmeaning word. It is to me the cry of a herald announcing conquest. It is to me indeed 'Victoria'; it is the victory of Adam."
- Gabriel Syme, in GKC's The Man Who Was Thursday

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

How Dull I Am

Joel Stein, while telling the world that Potter is for kids, tells the world how dull Joel Stein is. Maybe he only reads what can be found at the Adult Bookstore. Maybe if he had read more fairy tales he could tell the difference between right and wrong. GKC wrote that "Imagination will teach them [children] how to live a quiet and humdrum life... On the other hand, dull people always want excitement. Thee-quarters of the real luxury or prodigality or profligacy ... is due to the dullness of people who cannot imagine anything they do not experience. They are so miserably and dismally stupid that they actually have to do things." [G.K.Chesterton, The True Victorian Hypocrisy]

Joel Stein writes:
I know reading is hard. I try to avoid it whenever possible. But if I'm going to sit down and read a book, I'm going to get something out of it other than the ability to have a conversation with my second wife, who isn't even born yet. I'm sorry you were born too late [sic] for J.K. Rowling, but you had your C.S. Lewis and E.B. White and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Isn't it a clue that you should be ashamed of reading these books past puberty when the adults who write them are hiding their first names?


A culture that simplifies its entertainment down to fairy tales is doomed to simplify the world down to good and evil.

The full article can be found syndicated HERE at the Dallas Morning News.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Portrait with a Wart or Two

Look HERE for a caricature of the jolly Hilaire Belloc by David Levine. It appeared in the New York Review of Books on Nov 5, 1970. (And for $150 it can appear in your home.)

Fr Ian Boyd wrote in the Tablet about Belloc's frown:
His face, as Ronald Knox noticed, was in repose always sad. Like the central character in his friend Max Beerbohm's parable The Happy Hypocrite, Belloc always wore a mask; when the mask is removed, "Lo! The face was even as the mask had been." The appearance had become the reality.

The death in 1914 of his beloved American wife Elodie was a blow from which Belloc never entirely recovered. Bitter family disputes and almost continuous anxieties about money were additional crosses. He may not have been interested in reading John of the Cross on interior purification, but he lived the mystery which he claimed to know nothing about.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Diets and Crime

James V. Schall, writing in a 1996 issue of the Midwest Chesterton News:

Chapter Seventeen of The Thing (1926, CW, Vol. III, pp. 236-39) is entitled "The Feasts and the Ascetic." It deals with the fact that there is nothing at all contradictory in having a place for both feasts and asceticism in our lives and a philosophic faith that can explain why. Those who dance can also be those who fast; and indeed it would be unnatural were it otherwise. Chesterton's way of putting it is, as always, apt: "a man who overeats himself on Christmas Eve ... has no appetite on Christmas Day." Indeed, as I read all the advertisements about dieting and slimming, it sometimes appears that the modern non-Christian world has replaced the fastings that used to be proposed to be seasonal, say Advent or Lent, with fasting that is permanent, and increasingly, if I read the signs of the times, obligatory and to be enforced by civil law. What used to be a personal excess is quickly becoming a civil crime. I am thinking of smoking, but hamburgers will be next. And what used to be crimes and horrors -- I think of abortions and mercy-killings -- are now proposed as civil rights.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

GK's Friend, HG, Having Fun Again

First in the U.S. by Orson Welles, now Siberia:

War Of The Worlds has been blamed for a mass panic in Siberia after locals mistook a tornado for an alien invasion.

People in the Khabarovsk region of Siberia jumped into their cars and fled their homes in panic when the freak wind arrived out of nowhere, flattening trees and destroying property.

But officials from local emergency services said the destruction had been caused by a freak tornado that ripped through the area.

They blamed the fear of an alien invasion on the recent showing of the Tom Cruise epic.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Martin Green, in his book on Mohandas Gandhi, writes of Chesterton's influence on the fledgling Indian separatist movement:

"Gandhi read G. K. Chesterton's essay in the Illustrated London News on September 18, advising young Indians to hold by their traditional culture rather than introducing the new ideas associated with Herbert Spencer. Gandhi was so delighted with this that he told Indian Opinion to reprint it. Gandhi also liked a letter by Chesterton to the Daily News of October 22; Chesterton preached a version of Ruskin's and Morris's enthusiasm for the culture of the Middle Ages."

Thus Green has partially corroborated the assertion by P. N. Furbank that Chesterton was the inspiration for Hind Swaraj, Gandhi's first explanation of his program to achieve Indian independence. [Gandhi, New York: Continuum, 1993, pp. 192-93]

Monday, July 04, 2005

Administrative Note

We're working to make sure this blog is refreshed with new content every day, Monday through Friday. We expect to have a plan in place before the end of July. In the meantime, we can virtually guarantee at least four new posts every week.

Thanks and a Little Belloc

Many thanks to Joe Tremblay for keeping the blog site going while I was on vacation.

A few of my favorite Belloc quotes from The Path to Rome that I keyed-in during vacation. I was holed-up in our rented cabin for quite a few hours while my baby (Tess, three months) slept, so I had plenty of time for reading, writing, and straight typing:

“I will tell you this much; it is the moment (not the year or the month, mind you, nor even the hour, but the very second) when a man is grown up, when he sees things as they are (that is, backwards), and feels solidly himself. Do I make myself clear? No matter, it is the Shock of Maturity, and that must suffice for you.”

“It is quite clear that the body must be recognized and the soul kept in its place, since a little refreshing food and drink can do so much to make a man.”

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

While reading Tacitus, Belloc says he found “this excellent truth, that barbarians build their houses separate, but civilized men together.”