Tolkien the Catholic| National Catholic Register: COMMENTARY: Literary giant’s deep faith, often overshadowed by his commercial success, imbued his work.
Friday, September 22, 2023
Friday, September 01, 2023
Monday, August 28, 2023
Owen Barfield (1898-1997) was one of the Inklings, and was one of the people who influenced C.S. Lewis. Indeed, Lewis once described Barfield, whom he considered a friend, as "the best and wisest of my unofficial teachers."
Here are a few quotations from Barfield:
“The obvious is the hardest thing of all to point out to anyone who has genuinely lost sight of it.”
“When the velocity of progress increases beyond a certain point, it becomes indistinguishable from crisis.”
“True understanding is unattainable without both love and detachment,”
“Understanding what another human being says to us is always a matter of translation.”
“There is no surer or more illuminating way of reading a man's character, and perhaps a little of his past history, than by observing the contexts in which he prefers to use certain words.”
“Before the scientific revolution, [man] did not feel himself isolated by his skin from the world outside to quite the same extent that we do. He was integrated, or mortised into it, each different part of him being united to a different part of it by some invisible thread. In his relation to his environment, the man of the middle ages was rather less like an island, rather more like an embryo.”
“It was a question of steering Christian dogma between the Scylla of pantheism and the Charybdis of materialism and its logical conclusion, scepticism.”
Wednesday, July 26, 2023
THE 42ND ANNUAL CHESTERTON CONFERENCE: Chesterton and Saint Francis gets underway tomorrow in Minneapolis.
--- Before Chesterton
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
sat in her parlor frowning.
Robert had bought her something labeled "Serra da Estrela cheese,"
that clearly wasn't Portuguese.
The replacement Apostle Matthias
was chosen by lot, not by bias.
Alas, except for his selection.
he's eluded all other historical detection.
felt an insatiable desire for a chocolate eclair.
But since the bakeries would not open until well after dawn
he obsessed instead about Jean Valjean.
was plagued by vices that proved pesky .
To pay his bills he took a successful gamble
creating characters who were prone to verbally ramble.
We can probably assume Saint Blaise
is in Heaven these days.
Martyrdom likely led him to eternal glory
and not just some fish story.
--- During Chesterton
walked off the end of a dock,
but being in the middle of a debate,
he failed to recognize his fate.
Lord Peter Wimsey
was never deterred by evidence flimsy,
but his confidence suffered years of strain
when faced with the mystery of Harriet Vane.
When reading Robert Frost
I often find myself getting lost
in thoughts of walls and trees and snow and roads,
but never once of toads.
--- After Chesterton
developed a bad case of writer's block
despite his use of a bran muffin
as the MacGuffin.
As an actor, Tom Baker
was more of a character than a heart-breaker.
But I think his Doctor is worthy of a clerihew,
even though at mention of his name some folks just say, “Who?"
In the kitchen, Julia Child
was amusing but never wild.
To fill that void
we had to rely on Dan Aykroyd.
picked up a banjo.
As she played a tune on it,
she sang, "That #$@&*! is full of %@!#*"
The Brits now have their third Chuck,
and so I wish them lots of luck.
He finally achieved one of his two main goals,
the other, of course, being Mrs. Parker Bowles.
peered into the fog and mist.
He is certain that somewhere out there
is an undiscovered Chesterton text awaiting his care.
Tuesday, July 25, 2023
Joseph Pearce continues to offer looks at Chesterton, Lewis, and others.
In The Imaginative Conservative he published an article called "Faith & Fantasy: Chesterton, Tolkien, Lewis, Rowling & Other Tellers of Tall Tales"
Check out the rest!
Saturday, July 01, 2023
Our Sunday Visitor has an article by Russell Shaw about the conversion of C. S. Lewis, "C.S. Lewis and his long journey toward Christianity"
Thursday, June 15, 2023
Wednesday, June 07, 2023
Amid all its pop culture pieces, Parade Magazine paid attention to C. S. Lewis!
In the article "From Narnia to Wormwood to the Four Loves—Here Are the Best 125 C.S. Lewis Quotes," Kelsey Pelzer offers up some familiar - and unfamiliar - words of wit and wisdom from Lewis.
Clive Staples Lewis was a popular British writer who authored over 30 books during his lifetime. A former atheist, C.S. Lewis became a Christian after many debates and conversations with his Oxford colleague and friend, J.R.R. Tolkien (author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy). C.S. Lewis' religious conversion greatly influenced his writing, as one can see in some of his best-known works like The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Four Loves, and more.
We have the best C.S. Lewis quotes on friendship, love, faith, pain, and one of his greatest passions: books. Whether you're familiar with his fantasy stories and/or theological writings, or have never heard of them, plenty of these famous C.S. Lewis quotes are bound to strike you as profound and insightful."
"Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” (Chesterton would agree!)
"I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.”
"You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.”
"The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.”
"Adventures are never fun while you're having them.”
"Do not dare not to dare.”
"Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.”
"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
"The great thing to remember is that though our feelings come and go God's love for us does not.”
Monday, May 29, 2023
Saturday, May 13, 2023
One of my favorite periodicals is the St. Austin Review (StAR)..
I just got the May/June 2023 issue, and it is dedicated to C. S. Lewis.
The issue includes numerous articles and review related to Lewis, beginning with the editorial by Joseph Pearce: "The Mere Genius of C. S. Lewis."
Other articles include:A Literary Communion of Saints: C. S. Lewis and the Power of Literature
The Great Divorce: A Novel Answer to an Immodest Proposal
Ablution versus Abolition in C. S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength
If You Haven't Read Narnia Yet
C. S. Lewis' Genius for Apologetics
And a number of other Lewis-related articles and reviews. I have not read them all yet, but I am looking forward to it.
If you have not discovered StAR yet, and you enjoy intelligent examinations of literature and culture from a Catholic/Christian perspective, I urge you to consider subscribing.
My own contact with Lewis began about the time I first encountered G. K. Chesterton.
As I've noted previously, in the mid 1970's when my faith was wavering I happend to come across some works that righted my spiritual ship: The Confessions of St. Augustine, The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton, and St. Francis of Assisi by G. K. Chesterton.
Around the same time, though, I also came across the Chronicles of Narnia by Lewis. I read those all in a one week period!
I continued to read Chesterton after than first encounter - but I read even more of Lewis. The science fiction trilogy, Till We have Faces, The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, The Abolition of Man, Surprised by Joy, The Four Loves, A Grief Observed, and severl collections of stories and essay.
I read all those works in a ten-year span. You might say I binged on Lewis!
It is only in the last 20 years that I have been reading enough Chesterton to catch up with the Lewis tally.
Both writers well worth reading.
Saturday, April 29, 2023
In a previous post, I mentioned Joseph Pearce's Literature: What Every Catholic Should Know.
Specifically, I noted what books by Chesterton and his friends made Pearce's list of 100 works of literature every Catholic should aspire to read.
It's a pretty comprehensive list. I've read in whole 55 of them. I've read most of The Canterbury Tales, but not all of them, so I did not count that. I've read some of the poems of many of the poets listed, but not all of their poems, so I don't count them. With the Tales and the poets I can say I've read in part six more works he listed.
I have encountered other lists of great works of literature or Catholic works of literature that Catholics should read. Brandon Vogt, for example, has a comprehensive list.
In considering Pearce's list, I have few arguments. It's a good list. Some of the books are hard to find - even in our local library. My personal taste does not run to Jane Austen, so I doubt I'll put a lot of effort into reading more of her books (Mind you, I've taught Pride and Prejudice and even directed a play version of it!). I don't know why he included Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor - a play I rank among his poorer efforts.
The list does seem very Eurocentric, with a heavy British emphasis, but Pearce is from England, so I'll give him a pass on that.
In the the chapters of the book he does touch on some other writers, but does not add any of their works to the list of 100. There are other writers he never mentions at all..
Among the works I'd add to such a list:The Sonnets of Shakespeare (yes, a number of his plays are listed, but not his poetry)
Victor Hugo - Les Miserables
C. S. Lewis - The Screwtape Letter
Shusaku Endo - Silence
J. F. Powers - Morte d'Urban, Wheat That Springeth Green
Michael O'Brien - Father Elijah: An Apocalypse, Strangers and Sojourners
Yes, some of my added suggestions are not "classics," but they are well worth reading
Thursday, April 27, 2023
As a fan of mystery stories in general, one of my long-term reading goals was to read all of G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries.
Having now read The Scandal of Father Brown, I have met that goal.
All told, he wrote 53 Father Brown tales. They were collected in the Ignatius Press G. K. Chesterton: Collected Works.
I don't agree with him. I have certainly read far worse mystery stories. And some of the Father Brown tales are wonderful mysteries. Even the "worst" of them are enjoyable.
I do acknowledge, however, that some of the tales read as if he wrote them out of financial necessity or or in a hurry. I remember one tale, for example, where a character was referred to as another person's daughter a couple of times, then, later, as that person's granddaughter. Chesterton also uses some stereotypes when referring to certain ethnic groups, or used the "n" word when referring to Blacks. Yes, I understand that the stereotypes and words he used were not offensive in his time, but they certainly made me uncomfortable as a modern reader. When revealed, some of the crimes seemed implausible.
Sunday, April 16, 2023
Monday, April 03, 2023
Saturday, April 01, 2023
Back in 2019, Joseph Pearce published Literature: What Every Catholic Should Know.
He discusses a number of authors in the book, then, in Chapter 25, lists "100 Works of Literature Every Catholic Should Know."
It's a pretty comprehensive chronological list, ranging from The Iliad to Lancelot by Walker Percy. It does not, however, include theological works, hence works like The Everlasting Man did not make the list.
Still, it includes many works by some of our friends.
Hilaire Belloc:The Path to Rome
The Four Men
G. K Chesterton:
The Napoleon of Notting Hill
The Man Who Was Thursday
The Ball and the Cross
The Ballad of the White Horse
J. R. R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings
C. S. Lewis:
Out of the Silent Planet
That Hideous Strength
Till We Have Faces
The Chronicles of Narnia
Hmm. No Screwtape Letters?
Still, it's a good reading list.
Friday, March 17, 2023
A fellow over on Twitter posed a question: When did you realize C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton were right about pretty much everything?
The Ballad of the White Horse
Lepanto: With Explanatory Notes and Commentary
The Secret of Father Brown
"The Donnington Affair"
“The Vampire of the Village”
St. Thomas Aquinas
Thursday, March 16, 2023
Over the years I've been fortunate to have a number of my clerihews published in Gilbert . The current tally is 50 individual poems. Due to some mix-up, four of those were published a second time.
The last one published was a Robert Burns one in the May/June 2022 issue.
Although I did not attend the Conference last year, I did submit several clerihews for the Clerihew Contest. Alas, they did not make the winners' list, nor have they appeared since in any issue. So unless one of those that I submitted last July make it into print in the future, the tally will likely remain at 50.
Not a bad total.
Oh, I'm still writing clerihews, and will continue to post them here, but I've stopped submitting to the magazine for now.
Here's the published list in alphabetical order:Achilles - Gilbert Nov/Dec 2017
After that day in Moriah, young Isaac - Gilbert Nov/Dec 2017
Albert Einstein - Gilbert Magazine, September 2009
Alexa - Gilbert May/June 2020
Anne Rice - Gilbert Magazine, March/April 2011
As a director, Ed Wood - Gilbert May/June 2020
A somber Marquis de Sade - Gilbert May/June 2017
At Nicaea, St. Nicholas - Gilbert! May/June 2019
Ayn Rand - Gilbert May/June 2020
Charles Bukowski - Gilbert January/February 2017
Condoleeza Rice - Gilbert Magazine, June/July 2007
Dr. Mary Gatter - Gilbert May/June 2017
e (cummings) e - Gilbert Magazine, March/April 2011
Elizabeth Warren - Gilbert May/June 2020
Evangelista Torricelli - Gilbert January/February 2019
Fidel Castro - Gilbert Magazine, April/May 2007
Fred Rogers - Gilbert November/December 2018
Geoffrey Chaucer - Gilbert May/June 2020
G. K. Chesterton - Gilbert Nov/Dec 2017
Herman Melville - Gilbert Magazine, April/May 2007
I don’t know if Rudyard Kipling - Gilbert Magazine, April/May 2007
In his early life Thomas Merton - Gilbert Magazine, March/April 2011
In those woods, Robert Frost- Gilbert Magazine, April/May 2009
Irascible St. Jerome - Gilbert Nov/Dec 2017
Jackson Pollock - Gilbert! May/June 2019
Jean Paul Sartre - Gilbert Magazine, April/May 2007
Lot's wife - Gilbert Magazine, March/April 2011
Methuselah - Gilbert! July/August 2018
Napoleon Bonaparte - Gilbert Nov/Dec 2017
One of the aims of ISIS - Gilbert May/June 2017
One of the aims of ISIS - Gilbert May/June 2020
Paolo Uccello - Gilbert November/December 2018
President James Polk - Gilbert Magazine, May/June 2011
Prolific Stephen King - Gilbert Magazine, March/April 2011
Robert Burns – Gilbert May/June 2022
Rudyard Kipling - Gilbert April/May 2007
Saintly King Henry - Gilbert November/December 2018
Steven Wright - Gilbert May/June 2017
Steven Wright - Gilbert! May/June 2019
St. Dominic - Gilbert November/December 2018
St. Francis of Assisi - Gilbert Magazine, April/May 2007
St. Thomas Aquinas - Gilbert November/December 2018
There was a side of J. R. R. Tolkien - Gilbert Nov/Dec 2017
Titus Oates - Gilbert! May/June 2019
Tron - Gilbert November/December 2018
TV’s Dr. House - Gilbert Magazine, April/May 2007
Vladimir Kosma Zworykin - Gilbert Magazine, March/April 2011
Vladimir Putin - Gilbert (March/April) 2017
When Alexander Pope - Gilbert May/June 2017
When Alexander Pope - Gilbert! May/June 2019
When he was young St. Polycarp - Gilbert May/June 2017
When he was young St. Polycarp - Gilbert! May/June 2019
When talking with Socrates - Gilbert Magazine, January/February 2007
When Siddhartha Gautama - Gilbert Magazine, July/August 2009
Yvonne De Carlo - Gilbert! March/April 2021
Friday, February 10, 2023
Thursday, February 02, 2023
In recent years we have been treated to biographical movies about J. R. R. Tolkien (Tolkien) and C. S. Lewis (Shadowlands, The Most Reluctant Convert). But as far as I know, we have had no biographical film about G. K. Chesterton, despite his friendship with Tolkien and his influence on Lewis.
Now Chesterton has appeared in segments of the in the EWTN series G. K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense. And, of course, his character Father Brown has been the subject of at least two movies (Father Brown. Detective and The Detective) and two television series (the first in 1974 and a current one that began in 2013 and is still being produced). I've even heard of movies based on Magic and The Man Who Was Thursday, though I have seen neither.
But no biographical movies.
There's potential, certainly. His discovery of faith and his later conversion to Catholicism, his encounter with the diabolist, his courtship of Frances, the debates with Shaw, the Marconi scandal, and so on.
But no biopics.
I can think of a few possible reasons.
His books are not as popular or as widely known as those of Tolkien or Lewis. His audience tends to be more limited, and for a long time his reputation had waned or was obscured.
His writing style, while popular in his day, is sometimes a challenge for modern readers, hence he is less read than Tolkien and Lewis. Father Brown is his most popular character, but the two Father Brown television shows were shown in the U.S. on PBS, which tends to draw a small audience. .
Chesterton died in the 1930's while Lewis lived until the 1960's and Tolkien to the 1970's, so he is a more distant figure.
There have been accusations of anti-Semitism, which, while supporters have argued persuasively against them, still linger. Certainly those accusations have interfered with his cause for canonization. One suspects the possibility of controversy has made movie makers hesitant.
And, to be honest, he was not photogenic, especially later in life when he was very heavy and dressed in eccentric ways. Even as a young man before he gained weight he was not exactly a looker. (I say this as one who always described himself as having a face made for radio!)
Saturday, January 28, 2023
Thursday, January 26, 2023
I bought my copy of Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis February 25, 1980.
I know this because the receipt is still in the book. I bought it those four decades ago at the now defunct Village Green Book Store here in Rochester, N.Y.
I was on a C. S. Lewis binge back in those days. I would only later really discover the greatness of Chesterton.
Currently, I'm trying to increase my spiritual reading, so I thought it was a good time to reread this book, which is based on radio addresses Lewis gave.
And as I was reading, it hit me that they seem really familiar. I have used many of the same explanations and arguments myself over the last 40 years.
The more I read, the more I began to wonder if this book was the source of some of my own thinking, or if what he wrote clarified ideas that were forming in my mind at the time that I read the book. His method of creating common situations, anecdotes, or "parables" to help explain more complex theological points - such as his description of a writer creating a novel to help explain how God is outside of time - is a technique I have used in my own teaching and theological discussions. Did I learn that from him? Or did he simply reinforce a tendency already in me?
I was not aware of it at the time, but I now know that his own conversion came about in part from reading G.K. Chesterton, so I began wondering if some of Lewis's ideas came from Chesterton or were clarified by reading him. Perhaps I'm just another link in a chain.
I suspect I will be rereading more Lewis when I am finished with these books.