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