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