Friday, April 28, 2006

An even deeper glimpse into the past

Well, it doesn't look like Eric is around today, so I guess I may as well throw up another gem from the hallowed pages of G.K.'s Weekly. What follows appeared in the very first issue, from the week ending Saturday, March 21, 1925.

[So many papers have printed with legitimate pride an extract from their issue of the previous century that we cannot consent to begin publication without equipping ourselves with so normal a feature of journalism; and our first issue seems the most appropriate moment for this slightly sentimental retrospect. After all, everybody seems to have a centenary these days without any particular difficulty. We are all centenarians now.]

March 21, 1825. -- Nearly ten years have passed since that glorious afternoon in summer, when Wellington and Blucher met and cemented an eternal peace between Prussia and England. Hopes of such a permanent peace, held out by the Holy Alliance, have not been contradicted by any great convulsion; and it seems probable that the conflict that ended at Waterloo may prove to be, in the witty phrase of an aged Russian diplomatist at the Council of Vienna, "the war that will end war." The anxious considerations that now weigh down a patriotic heart relate to the conditions of the country itself, so often forgotten in the glow of patriotism. That ingenious person, Mr. Bentham, delights to demonstrate that men only pursue their own interest in supporting an ordered society; in which case there would seem to be something highly and dangerously disinterested about the conduct of the landlords who set man-traps and tenants who burn hay-ricks. We have never joined in the universal invective against Mr. Cobbett, many of whose strictures seem to us to reflect credit in his head as well as in his heart; but we cannot but think him guilty of an exaggeration sometimes degenerating into enthusiasm (like that of the Methodists whom he loves to castigate) when he attributes so much of the evil to the prevalence of paper money. We allow for his rhetorical figures and highly coloured style; but there are conceits that appear incredible even when treated as tropes; and sometimes, in reading Mr. Cobbett, one would really imagine that a hundred years hence such a thing as a gold piece would never be seen in England; and that anyone dealing in some modest sum like ten shillings would solemnly present his neighbour with a piece of paper! The best students of political economy assure us that free competition, unhampered by any State interference, will soon find for every man the work for which he is most suited. But even the assurance of the whole population, in the year 1925, being in regular employment under merchants whose businesses will show a continually increasing security and prosperity, does not altogether reconcile us to the disappearance of the English yeoman and the systematic destruction of commons and rights of way. We are sorry to have nothing to oppose to predictions so solid and authoritative, except these sentimental regrets and these formless forebodings.
Oh, Gilbert. You do so love to have us on.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

An ancient treat, and hopefully the first of many

So, the library here has back issues of G.K.'s Weekly. Awesome.

Those issues have advertisements.

Like this one:

You can click to enlarge it, of course, but I'll transcribe the relevant text for you here:
HILAIRE BELLOC on his Fountain Pen: I am writing with a Waterman's Ideal Fountain Pen. The nib is of pure gold, as was the throne of Charlemagne, in the "Song of Roland." . . . Well, then, the pen is of pure gold, a pen that runs straight away like a willing horse, or a jolly little ship; indeed, it is a pen so excellent that it reminds me of my subject - the pleasure of taking up one's pen.
I am geeking out here.

There are so many more things I should like to put up, but I'm going to save them for later. Keep coming back, obviously, for more.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Future Friend?

A budding teenage writer cites ten examples she wants to follow in her writing. It's quite ambitious, especially number 2:

"1) For plots, I want to write stories that sound like something out of a Bob Dylan ballad circa Blood on the Tracks. Old-timey feeling, semi-tragic, and driven towards some inevitable, unknowable wisdom. I want them to have a sanctity in the highest moment and a despair in the lowest, with a bit of both and an extra taste of notalgia in the end.

"2) For theory and sunsets, I'd like G. K. Chesterton, rollicking haphazard paradoxes and ravenous orthodoxy, crimson slashed through with vermillion and drenched in liquid gold."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hollywood Friend

Saw this at Open Book:

Legendary Pictures is developing a live-action film version of Paradise Lost, John Milton’s epic poem, with Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) attached to direct, Variety reported. Vincent Newman (A Man Apart) will produce along with Legendary.

I mention it because the current issue of Gilbert Magazine has an interview with Derrickson. He’s a huge Chesterton fan, and he says many flattering things about the big guy. I don’t have the magazine in front of me right now, but he says GKC has the most astute mind of the 20th century.

Derrickson, though, also mentions that he doesn’t agree with Chesterton’s politics or religion. It’s gotta be tough to think someone is one of the greatest thinkers of all time, but then reject that thinker’s conclusions in two huge areas. But no matter. It’s good to see a Hollywood-type in the GKC camp.

Post Below

I posted a picture this morning, but the date stamp said it went up last night, with the result that it's a little bit buried. Go to the second post below to see it. Sorry for the confusion.

I'm sure there's a way to fix this dating problem, but if I knew how, I wouldn't be walking in the shoes of GKC, a man who couldn't have figured out date-stamp configurations if his wine depended on it.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Something brief, because I've been away for a bit

Thanks to Eric for his little cover today.

I don't have much to say, unfortunately, being as I am in the very endgame of the school year and mired in weird extra-curriculars like finding out about every edition of Farquhar's The Recruiting Officer that has ever been published and writing an opera about the assault on Dieppe in 1942. It's a heck of a time to be alive. The sandwiches are enormous.

So anyhow, I was browsing the ACS site's bibliography today, searching out information about the unfortunate (or so some critics were saying) Resurrection of Rome, and stumbled across a brief passage offered up as a sample of GK's work in As I Was Saying. I couldn't tell you what essay it's from, or what the essay was about, but I can tell you that a clearer summing-up of the dangers of things like The Da Vinci Code I have not seen:
"It is especially the educational film that threatens to darken and weaken the human intelligence. . . A false film might be refuted in a hundred books, without much affecting the million dupes who had never read the books but only seen the film." (Emphasis mine)

The modern perception of scholarship is like that of a horse that is blind, but wears blinkers anyway. For the average member of the chattering classes, for a claim to gain currency it is merely enough that the claim be made in the first place. Some chump in tweed suggests that Jesus married the Magdelene, and that's the end of it. He did, obviously, and nobody has ever said otherwise. You can author books and articles about why this is lame until you're blue in the wrist, but you may as well be writing sestinas about economic policy for all the attention you'll get.

Of course, this isn't always true. Sometimes critical responses receive notice from the public. And why shouldn't they? The public is too smart to be taken in by these fruitless attempts by panicking powermongers to retain their hold on a crumbling orthodoxy, and it does them no harm to laugh such attempts to scorn. They know what's really going on. They have the secret knowledge. They've bucked the mainstream, torn the woolen scales from their eyes, and are now their own men, dammit, and nobody can say otherwise.

That is the state of pop history. Orthodoxy is a conspiracy, and anyone who says otherwise is biased, and trying to Cover Up The Truth. So tiring. So very, very tiring.

I respect G.K. more and more as I grow in myself and come into contact with those who disagree with me, often violently. The amount of effort it takes to deal with them is considerable, and these are only unformed students at an undergraduate level. Gilbert had to deal with the noted voices of his age. Somehow, however, deal with them he did, and managed even to take the likes of H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw as good friends.

This is the sort of lesson that I need to learn. A lot of us do.

GKC in my Basement Study

An assortment of GK biographies and a few other neat GKC books, chosen mostly at random from my GKC collection. The wine bottles are there for the effect. I haven't drank them yet, but plan to shortly.

Not the greatest shot, I know, but I'm still working on this digital camera thing. The black blob, by the way, is Coren's biography of the great man.

The two books standing upright are somewhat valuable editions of The Poet and the Lunatic and The Coloured Lands.

(I posted this, incidentally, on 4/25/2006, but I can't get the doggone date stamp to change.)

Friend on Friend

Fr. James Schall deserves to be included in a list of "GKC" friends. In this recent essay about Spain, he invokes another friend, Hilaire Belloc, to make his point. Enjoyable read.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

St. George's Day

I guess St. George's Day is making a comeback. I provided some coverage, along with a GKC poem, over at the Eudemon.

Friday, April 21, 2006

GKC: Holy Humor

GK is Everywhere (to steal a phrase from Gilbert Magazine):

"Everyone who attended church on Holy Humor Sunday at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in Norwood, N.J., was given a button with a quote from G.K. Chesterton: "Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly." The cover of the church bulletin featured a print of "The Risen Christ by the Sea," a painting of a joyful, smiling, risen Jesus surprising his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias."


Thursday, April 20, 2006

White Horse Friend

It's not often you see the White Horse in the blogosphere, so I thought this post deserved a mention:

"I was reminded, unexpectedly, of Chesterton's The Ballad of the White Horse last night, and in order to convince all of you that that man could write, I will give you a sample of that work, which I believe to be among the greatest rallying speeches in English literature, right up there with the St. Crispin's Day soliloquy."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Throwing the Union a Bone

Viagra, Cialis and other erectile dysfunction drugs are costing General Motors Corp. a hefty sum. The company spends $17-million (U.S.) annually on such drugs, said GM spokeswoman Sharon Baldwin.

I wonder if Belloc would get a chuckle out of this: the corporate father providing penises to their workers. Chesterton wrote of Hudge and Grudge (big business and big government), but this kind of absurdity is more of a case of Hudge and Gudge and Won’t Budge: big business, big government, and big union.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Belloc Makes NYT

It's not every day that Hilaire Belloc makes it into a New York Times headline, but he did it this morning:

The Future of Journalism as Told by Hilaire Belloc in 1918.


"The Free Press" is still worth reading, for it describes, with some important adjustments, the evolving relationship between political bloggers and the mainstream media.

The free press that Belloc describes was a horde of small, highly opinionated, sometimes propagandistic papers that arose in reaction to "the official Press of Capitalism." What characterized the free press, Belloc wrote, was "disparate particularism."

As he says, "the Free Press gives you the truth; but only in disjointed sections, for it is disparate and it is particularist." (For "particularism," Belloc offers the synonym "crankiness.") To get at the truth by reading the organs of the free press, you have to "add it all up and cancel out one exaggerated statement against another." But his point is that you can get at the truth.

There are whole paragraphs in Belloc's essay where, if you substitute "blogs" for "the Free Press," you will be struck by the parallels. He notes that the journals of the free press seldom pay their way and that they often suffer from the impediment of "imperfect information," simply because it is not in the politicians' interests to speak to them. They tend to preach to the converted. And they are limited by the founder's vision. "It is difficult," Belloc writes, "to see how any of the papers I have named would long survive a loss of their present editorship."

Belloc's point is not to expose the limitations of bloggers — excuse me, the Free Press. It is to show how, imperfect as they are, they can contribute enormously to our ability to learn what's going on. Anyone who spends much time reading political blogs will hear a familiar note — in far greater prose — among Belloc's certainties. He writes, in short, as a blogger of his own time.

Renaissance Man

Chesterton's contemporary, the English poet Alfred Noyes, reminisced in his autobiography about his 1902 weekends at R.C. Lehmann's home. There he remembered meeting G.K. Chesterton, who was standing in the library quoting William Morris. Later, at lunch, Chesterton "suddenly produced from his pocket and arranged on the table before him a number of little brass figures, Mr. Pickwick, Mr. Micawber, Sam Weller, and other characters from Dickens, giving one an almost uncanny sense that Gulliver held them alive in his hands." [Two Worlds for Memory, New York: Lippincott, 1953, pp. 27-28]

Thing about GKC is, he seemed to have a talent for a lot of "little" things: conversation, drawing, tomfoolery, playing with children, whatever. He's kind of the anti-Da Vinci. Whereas Da Vinci was a proud man who excelled in many major arts to support his lavish lifestyle, GKC was a humble man who excelled in many minor ones. I suspect he could've excelled in major ones, if he cared to try, but instead, he just worked at his writing so he could support his wife and simple lifestyle.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Chesterton Conference

It's that time of year again!

The 25th Annual G.K. Chesterton Conference is gearing up for its June 15th start date. The three-day event will play host to lectures, seminars, feasting and and the making of extravagant toasts, and is this year centered around Charles Dickens, coming as it does during the 100th anniversary of the publication of Chesterton's Charles Dickens.

The Conference runs from June 15th to June 17th at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.,, and attendance is free! Of course, you will have to register and pay for your lodging and food, unless you feel like making your own plans about that. But who would want to miss a grand banquet with other Chestertonians?

Of note on the agenda this year are the following...

  • "Chesterton and Marshall McLuhan," with John Peterson, founder of Gilbert Magazine
  • "Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin: The Two Who Never Met," with Stanley Jaki, acclaimed author
  • "Chesterton and C.S. Lewis," with Joseph Pearce, a most excellent gentleman and biographer of Chesterton, Belloc and Tolkien
  • "Chesterton and The Da Vinci Code," with Carl Olson, famed editor of IgnatiusInsight, the online magazine of the Ignatius Press
  • As a special treat, there is to be a performance of Chesterton's play, The Surprise
All in all, it looks very promising.

Further information (all relevant information, in fact) can be found here. Be sure to get moving on this soon, for June cometh right quick.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Easter, 1916

Chesterton mentioned his interest in W.B. Yeats at several points in his Autobiography, and there exists a photograph of the two together with some other writers at someone's country house (though I'm afraid I can't find this picture).

What follows is Yeats' "Easter, 1916," a dreadfully beautiful poem that is awash in varied meaning. See what you can get out of it:
I HAVE met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone's in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse -
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
It gets me every time, particularly the refrain ("A terrible beauty is born"). I have a little poster that says that tacked up above my door. Simply wonderful.

Have a most excellent Triduum!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

GKC Friend at The New Yorker

Caitlin Flanagan writes for The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker. She also writes as if she's read a lot of Chesterton on the issue of working mothers. But then again, she's probably just writing common sense, which is a Chestertonian way of writing. From a post at The Daily Eudemon today:

Fine stylist Caitlin Flanagan has waded further into the feminist wars with a book on working mothers. The LA Times has a pretty a good piece about it. Excerpt:

"These are the women who seem to be a natural audience for the 44-year old Flanagan, who lives in Hancock Park with her husband and two young sons. She socializes in liberal circles, and she writes about working mothers’ struggles: to keep households humming, to cope with ego-gratifying yet demanding careers, and to live with the nagging specter of the Perfect Mother. But because Flanagan writes cloaked as a (mostly) happy housewife, she’s raised the ire of her peers. In their view, the only thing more maddening than a happy housewife is a happy housewife who writes for the New Yorker."

I appreciate the LA Times’ honesty in this piece. It admits: liberal feminists hate Caitlin because she thinks mothers should stay home. They don’t just hate the idea. They hate her because of her opinion.

Why the hatred? I loathe pop psychology, but could the hatred come from guilt? Caitlin doesn’t pull many punches, and the overall gist of her message is so simple it cuts: you can’t have it all. Based on the LA Times piece, all she is saying is, “Something is lost. You can’t do it all. You can’t have it all.” That shouldn’t be incendiary. It should just be common sense. The full-time (not just eight hours a day) job of motherhood can’t be fully accomplished part-time.

Many sane working mothers acknowledge it and have chosen the trade off. That’s their choice. It’s only the ideologues that fly into rages when confronted with the common-sense notion that a person can’t work 36+ hours a day.

Aside: The best passage from the story:
A profile in this month’s Elle is a case in point of the impasse between Flanagan and her critics. In writer Laurie Abraham’s telling of their interview, Abraham arrived at Flanagan’s house flustered; back home, her daughter’s pet gerbil had just died. Flanagan at first sympathized. Then after their chat turned heated over the question of what’s lost when a mother works, she reminded Abraham: “The gerbil’s dead and you’re here.” “You could hear me gasp on the tape,” Abraham said in an interview.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

GKC and Wells

Michael Coren relates a priceless anecdote about Chesterton in his biography of H. G. Wells:

"Wells was disarmed by Chesterton's good nature, disturbed by his inability to pigeon-hole the man. On a summers day in 1907, for example, Wells and Chesterton went to Oxford to attend a lecture. Walking together after the address Wells began to harangue his friend about the "bloody hand of Christianity." The diatribe lasted for over 35 minutes, without Chesterton making the slightest objection. At the end of it he turned to Wells, smiled and said, 'Yes, you do have a point.'"

Coren's book is rewarding both for the real low-down on Wells and for the insertion of Chesterton from time to time in the story. [The Invisible Man, New York: Athenaeum, 1993, p. 80]

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I'm Back

Thanks, Nick, for holding down the Chestertonian fort while I was gone. I'm back from my southern swing: Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. I didn't glean a lot of Chestertonian insight, but I did gain GKC-like pounds around the stomach.

GKC and Blair

This blogger mentions Tony Blair and GKC in the same post. Both are famous Catholic converts. Or at least Blair appears to be heading that way.

"Anyways, Mr. Blair would join a long list of British luminaries to convert to Catholicism which includes G.K. Chesterton, Sir Alec Guinness, Graham Leonard (former Anglican Bishop of London), John Henry Newman, and J.R.R. Tolkein just to name a few."

Friday, April 07, 2006

Grasping at straws, here


What follows is one of my favourite installments from one of my favourite comic strips. The comic is the Perry Bible Fellowship, and the installment is called "Suicide Train." Observe:

Now why, you may ask, am I posting this here?

I'm posting it for a couple of reasons, though the one I'm most ready to give is that it is, in a way, a Chestertonian story. The gloomy pessimist resolves to go out in one final act of disdain for a world too mundane to be worthy of his notice, only to be shocked by the mystery and magic that really does lurk behind every corner. His frustration is apt, too, for so bitter is he that he does not want to be proven wrong. He is characterised by spite rather than hope. He loudly demands, "where's all this wonder, then?" but not because he actually wants someone to show it to him, or even thinks anybody could.

So, there's that.

On a more basic level, however, I'm posting it because it's good for a laugh and I'm running low on ideas. I don't have Eric's mysterious web of connections that allows him to glean Chestertonian trivia from every inch of the world, and I certainly don't whatever it is that Joe has that enables him to do stuff so regular. I'm only one man.

Welcome to my Friday.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Milton, GKC and Cheese

In 1912 Robert Frost rented a five-room house in Beaconsfield, noting its location "within a mile or two of where Milton finished Paradise Lost and a mile or two of where Grey lies buried and within as many rods as furlongs of the house where Chesterton tries truth to see if it won't prove as true upside down, as it does right side up." [Lawrence Thompson, Robert Frost, New York, 1966, p. 394]
One of the excellent things about England's smallness is that you're always somewhere no matter where you are. Chesterton describes in his Autobiography, for example, how he once lived next door to Henry James.

But our connection for today is Milton, and we can have a little poem from The Coloured Lands for old times' sake. It's illustrated (minutely), but I do not have access to a scanner at the moment. I shall try to put it up later. Perhaps tomorrow, if Joe and Eric are still away.


Stilton and Milton
or Literature in the 17th and 20th Centuries
By G.K. Chesterton

Pardon, dear Lady, if this Christmas time,
The Convalescent Bard in halting rhyme
Thanks you for that great thought that still entwines
The Wicked Grocer with more wicked lines;
These straggling Crayon lines -- who cares for these,
Who knows the difference between Chalk and Cheese?

Not wholly sound the saw, accounted sure,
That weak things perish and strong things endure:
Milton, six volumes on my groaning shelves,
May groan till Judgement Day and please themselves
As, harsh with leaden type and leathery pride,
Puritan Bards must groan on Christmas tide:

My table groans with Stilton -- for a while:
Paradise Found not Lost, in Milton's style
Green as his Eden; as his Michael strong:
But O, my friend, it will not groan there long.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Chesterton, Father Brown, and Film

The first Father Brown motion picture, a 67 minute feature starring Walter Connolly as the priest, Paul Lukas as Flambeau, and Robert Loraine as Valentin, was released by Paramount in 1935 with the title Father Brown, Detective. Chesterton saw the film himself and said he liked it.

Several inadvertent flaws in the film's presentation of clergymen suggested to Chesterton the basic idea for a new Father Brown story, "The Vampire of the Village."

[The Motion Picture Guide: 1927-1983, vol. E-G, Chicago: Cinebooks, 1986, 823; Maisie Ward, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, New York 1943, 597]

And of course, as readers of Chesterton's Autobiography will know, Chesterton himself was no stranger to film. He appeared in a short feature directed by J.M. Barrie (of Peter Pan fame), and co-starring George Bernard Shaw:
I was destined to see some of [George Bernard Shaw's] skylarking on one occasion at least; and to be privileged to play the fool with him far from the political platform, if not so very far from the theatrical stage. It began by Bernard Shaw coming down to my house in Beaconsfield, in the heartiest spirits and proposing that we should appear together, disguised as Cowboys, in a film of some sort projected by Sir James Barrie. I will not describe the purpose or character of the performance; because nobody ever discovered it; presumably with the exception of Sir James Barrie. But throughout the proceedings, even Barrie had rather the appearance of concealing his secret from himself. All I could gather was that two other well-known persons, Lord Howard de Walden and Mr. William Archer, the grave Scottish critic and translator of Ibsen, had also consented to be Cowboys. "Well," I said, after a somewhat blank pause of reflection, "God forbid that anyone should say I did not see a joke, if William Archer could see it." Then after a pause I asked, "But what is the joke?" Shaw replied with hilarious vagueness that nobody knew what the joke was. That was the joke.

I found that the mysterious proceeding practically divided itself into two parts. Both were pleasantly conspiratorial in the manner of Mr. Oppenheim or Mr. Edgar Wallace. One consisted of an appointment in a sort of abandoned brickfield somewhere in the wilds of Essex; in which spot, it was alleged, our cowpunching costumes were already concealed. The other consisted of an invitation to supper at the Savoy, to "talk things over" with Barrie and Granville Barker. I kept both these melodramatic assignations; and though neither of them threw any light upon what we were supposed to be doing, they were both very amusing in their way and rather different from what might have been expected. We went down to the waste land in Essex and found our Wild West equipment. But considerable indignation was felt against William Archer; who, with true Scottish foresight, arrived there first and put on the best pair of trousers. They were indeed a magnificent pair of fur trousers; while the other three riders of the prairie had to be content with canvas trousers. A running commentary upon this piece of individualism continued throughout the afternoon; while we were being rolled in barrels, roped over faked precipices and eventually turned loose in a field to lasso wild ponies, which were so tame that they ran after us instead of our running after them, and nosed in our pockets for pieces of sugar. Whatever may be the strain on credulity, it is also a fact that we all got onto the same motor-bicycle; the wheels of which were spun round under us to produce the illusion of hurtling like a thunderbolt down the mountain-pass. When the rest finally vanished over the cliffs clinging to the rope, they left me behind as a necessary weight to secure it; and Granville Barker kept on calling out to me to Register Self-Sacrifice and Register Resignation, which I did with such wild and sweeping gestures as occurred to me; not, I am proud to say, without general applause. And all this time Barrie, with his little figure behind his large pipe, was standing about in an impenetrable manner; and nothing could extract from him the faintest indication of why we were being put through these ordeals. Never had the silencing effects of the Arcadia Mixture appeared to me more powerful or more unscrupulous. It was as if the smoke that rose from that pipe was a vapour not only of magic, but of black magic.

But the other half of the mystery was, if possible, more mysterious. It was all the more mysterious because it was public, not to say crowded. I went to the Savoy supper under the impression that Barrie and Barker would explain to a small party some small part of the scheme. Instead of that I found the stage of the Savoy Theatre thronged with nearly everybody in London, as the Society papers say when they mean everybody in Society. From the Prime Minister, Mr. Asquith to the yellowest and most cryptic Oriental attache, they were all there, dining at little tables and talking about everything but the matter in hand. At least they were all there except Sir James Barrie; who on this occasion made himself almost completely invisible. Towards the end of the meal. Sir Edward Elgar casually remarked to my wife, "I suppose you know you're being filmed all this time."

From what I know of the lady, it is unlikely that she was brandishing a champagne-bottle or otherwise attracting social attention; but some of them were throwing bread about and showing marked relaxation from the cares of State. Then the Original Four, whom destiny had selected for a wild western life, were approached with private instructions, which worked out in public as follows. The stage was cleared and the company adjourned to the auditorium, where Bernard Shaw harangued them in a furious speech, with savage gesticulations denouncing Barker and Barrie and finally drawing an enormous sword. The other three of us rose at this signal, also brandishing swords, and stormed the stage, going out through the back scenery. And there We (whoever We were) disappear for ever from the record and reasonable understanding of mankind; for never from that day to this has the faintest light been thrown on the reasons of our remarkable behaviour. I have since heard in a remote and roundabout way certain vague suggestions, to the effect that there was some symbolical notion of our vanishing from real life and being captured or caught up into the film world of romance; being engaged through all the rest of the play in struggling to fight our way back to reality. Whether this was the idea I have never known for certain; I only know that I received immediately afterwards a friendly and apologetic note from Sir James Barrie, saying that the whole scheme was going to be dropped.

I do not know; but I have often wondered. And I have sometimes fancied that there was another sense, darker than my own fancy, in which the secret put in Barrie's pipe had ended in smoke. There had really been a sort of unearthly unreality in all the levity of those last hours; like something high and shrill that might crack; and it did crack. I have sometimes wondered whether it was felt that this fantasy of fashionable London would appear incongruous with something that happened some days later. For what happened then was that a certain Ultimatum went out from the Austrian Government against Serbia. I rang up Maurice Baring at a further stage of that rapidly developing business; and I can remember the tones of his voice when he said, "We've got to fight. They've all got to fight. I don't see how anybody can help it."

If the Cowboys were indeed struggling to find the road back to Reality, they found it all right.
Whether this film is the same one as Rosy Rapture, in which he and Shaw appeared, under the direction of one Percy Nash (the film having merely been written by J.M. Barrie), I could not say. However, the 1914 release date seems to make it quite likely.

Monday, April 03, 2006

New Chestertonian Blog

Sorry for the lull lately, everyone. Eric is on holiday, Joe is swamped with work, and I'm in the middle of the End Of School Year period wherein everything comes due at once and stuff has to be applied for and jobs and on and on and on. So, there's that.

Anyway, I'm happy to announce that Rod Bennett has a new blog, which he has delightfully called Tremendous Trifles! He says that he is a covert to Catholicism by way of C.S. Lewis, and then G.K. Chesterton, and plans to offer commentary on all of the varied things that would concern people likely to read this blog, or Eric's, or mine.

Mark Shea has already recommended him, and what he has up so far is quite promising. Give a look, why don't you?