Saturday, October 20, 2007

"You should see him catch buns in his mouf"

an article by Gilbert Adair, all about our favorite big man, in today's Guardian

There was never just one GK Chesterton. There was Chesterton the Catholic proselytiser, the hearty balladeer of Merrie England, the harrumphing castigator of teetotallers and vegetarians, the blustery anti-Communist, anti-plutocrat and, also, alas, anti-Semite [alas, Adair is misinformed on the anti-Semite bit, and just regurgitates what he read or heard from some anti-Chestertonian]. There was Chesterton the charmer of children - one little boy, asked after a visit to the great man's home if GKC had been awfully clever, replied, "I don't know about clever, but you should see him catch buns in his mouf." ....

The article somewhat focuses on The Club of Queer Trades and even mentions Kafka and Borges.


Lucille said...

I wouldn't say he's "misinformed". I do think Chesterton was anti-semitic, at least in a vague way, and that's my impression from reading him, not filtered through a third party source.

Dad29 said...


You may wish to visit this post, in which the estimable Gerald slanders GKC by quoting Teachout (scroll WAY down...)

Joe said...

Lucille: I fail to see anti-Semitism in Chesterton's writing. Maybe I have just missed the "endless tirades against Jews" which Orwell speaks of, or maybe I am desensitized.

Certainly GKC was not politically correct; he sometimes spoke of Jews (in his fiction) in a more comical was, like the way we spoke of Poles a couple of decades ago. And he talked about Jews; maybe to acknowledge them as existing is considered anti-Semitic? But today when I hear of anti-Semitism I think of the programs of Hitler. And there is no way to argue that Chesterton was prone to Nazi style anti-Semitism.

Obviously there is a wide spectrum of what may be considered anti-Semitic. Kind of like, as we have seen from recent discussion, there is a wide spectrum of what the term "gay" means as regards homosexuality.

Maybe you could post a reference to the vaguely anti-Semitic passages in order to clarify?

Dad29: Thanks for the link to Gerald@CC. I'm surprised he posted that without some defense of Chesterton. Maybe he just accepts it because Teachout wrote it, which, I think, is the status quo on the accusation of anti-Semitism.

Another note: The G.K. Chesterton Institute makes some statement on this with minimal defense of GKC.

Joe said...

Dale Alquist provides us with this: "Chesterton argued that the Irish were a distinct people from the English and deserved their autonomy, to be able to rule their own country in their own way, to protect their traditions and their religion. For that he has always been recognized as a defender of human rights and freedom in general and a champion of the Irish in particular. However, when he made the exact same arguments on behalf of the Jews, he was called anti-Semitic. Another paradox."

Equiti Albo Crucis said...

"I'm surprised he posted that without some defense of Chesterton."

Gerald does not like Chesterton, Belloc, et al. He does not like their economics theories, he lumps them with anti-semites based on quotes taken out of context. Anyone interested in a critical assessment of Belloc's so called "anti-semitism" should read the following essay, belloc.pdf
It places in context the things he said, when he said them and so forth. It appears well documented so if someone still wants to insist he was an anti-semite it would be good if they could provide a similar analysis of his writings and put forth an argument rather than throwing out a few quotes or worse making a broad generalization w/o substantiating their claim. Belloc was a writer and fed and clothed his family on his earnings as a writer. Do we condemn him because his articles or essays appeared in journals that may contain more problematic essays than hi?. If Time magazine wants to pay me to write for them should I decline on the basis that much of what they print concerning Catholics is anti-Catholic? Further as dad29 said, let us see some of this proof that Chesterton was an anti-semite. Again not a few selective quotes or guilt by association simply because he wrote in such and such a magazine or newsletter.

Joe said...

MinnesotaMan: Thanks for commenting and for pointing out the article In Defence of Hilaire Belloc. It certainly does not whitewash him, but provides good information.

Joe said...

"Gerald does not like Chesterton, Belloc, et al. He does not like their economics theories, he lumps them with anti-semites based on quotes taken out of context."

Searching his site for "Chesterton" and "Belloc" and "distributism" I found nothing but good statements about C&B (except for the Teachout quote). Gerald's not too hot on distributism, but I don't think he has seriously looked at it; certainly there have been many impractical things proposed, and I think that is where he laughs.

I found nothing about anti-Semitism (related to C&B).

And I only looked at his posts ... I have no idea what he might have said in the comments.