Chesterton's writing has been seen by some analysts as combining two earlier strands in English literature. Dickens' approach is one of these. Chesterton's style and thinking were all his own, however, and his conclusions were often opposed to those of Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. In his book Heretics , Chesterton has this to say of Wilde: It is the carpe diem religion; but the carpe diem religion is not the religion of happy people, but of very unhappy people.
Great joy does not gather the rosebuds while it may; its eyes are fixed on the immortal rose which Dante saw. But Oscar Wilde was wrong; we can pay for sunsets.
We can pay for them by not being Oscar Wilde. Chesterton and Shaw were famous friends and enjoyed their arguments and discussions. Although rarely in agreement, they both maintained good will toward and respect for each other.
However, in his writing, Chesterton expressed himself very plainly on where they differed and why. In Heretics he writes of Shaw:. After belabouring a great many people for a great many years for being unprogressive, Mr.
Shaw has discovered, with characteristic sense, that it is very doubtful whether any existing human being with two legs can be progressive at all. Having come to doubt whether humanity can be combined with progress, most people, easily pleased, would have elected to abandon progress and remain with humanity. Shaw, not being easily pleased, decides to throw over humanity with all its limitations and go in for progress for its own sake.
If man, as we know him, is incapable of the philosophy of progress, Mr. Shaw asks, not for a new kind of philosophy, but for a new kind of man. It is rather as if a nurse had tried a rather bitter food for some years on a baby, and on discovering that it was not suitable, should not throw away the food and ask for a new food, but throw the baby out of window, and ask for a new baby.
Shaw represented the new school of thought, modernism , which was rising at the time. Chesterton's views, on the other hand, became increasingly more focused towards the Church. In Orthodoxy he writes: Bernard Shaw comes up to me and says, 'Will something', that is tantamount to saying, 'I do not mind what you will', and that is tantamount to saying, 'I have no will in the matter. This style of argumentation is what Chesterton refers to as using 'Uncommon Sense' — that is, that the thinkers and popular philosophers of the day, though very clever, were saying things that were nonsensical.
This is illustrated again in Orthodoxy: Wells says as he did somewhere , 'All chairs are quite different', he utters not merely a misstatement, but a contradiction in terms. If all chairs were quite different, you could not call them 'all chairs'.
The wild worship of lawlessness and the materialist worship of law end in the same void. Nietzsche scales staggering mountains, but he turns up ultimately in Tibet. He sits down beside Tolstoy in the land of nothing and Nirvana.
They are both helpless — one because he must not grasp anything, and the other because he must not let go of anything. The Tolstoyan's will is frozen by a Buddhist instinct that all special actions are evil. But the Nietzscheite's will is quite equally frozen by his view that all special actions are good; for if all special actions are good, none of them are special.
They stand at the crossroads, and one hates all the roads and the other likes all the roads. The result is — well, some things are not hard to calculate. They stand at the cross-roads. Chesterton, as a political thinker, cast aspersions on both progressivism and conservatism , saying, "The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives.
The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.
Another contemporary and friend from schooldays was Edmund Bentley , inventor of the clerihew. Chesterton himself wrote clerihews and illustrated his friend's first published collection of poetry, Biography for Beginners , which popularised the clerihew form. Chesterton faced accusations of anti-Semitism during his lifetime, as well as posthumously. The Marconi scandal of —13 brought issues of anti-Semitism into the political mainstream, on the basis that senior ministers in the Liberal government had secretly profited from advanced knowledge of deals regarding wireless telegraphy.
Some of the key players were Jewish. The most virulent attacks in the Marconi affair were launched by Hilaire Belloc and the brothers Cecil and G. Chesterton, whose hostility to Jews was linked to their opposition to liberalism, their backward-looking Catholicism, and their nostalgia for a medieval Catholic Europe that they imagined was ordered, harmonious, and homogeneous.
The Jew baiting at the time of the Boer War and the Marconi scandal was linked to a broader protest, mounted in the main by the Radical wing of the Liberal Party, against the growing visibility of successful businessmen in national life and their challenge to what were seen as traditional English values. Historian Frances Donaldson says, "If Belloc's feeling against the Jews was instinctive and under some control, Chesterton's was open and vicious, and he shared with Belloc the peculiarity that the Jews were never far from his thoughts.
In a work of , titled A Short History of England , Chesterton considers the royal decree of by which Edward I expelled Jews from England , a policy that remained in place until Chesterton writes that popular perception of Jewish moneylenders could well have led Edward I's subjects to regard him as a "tender father of his people" for "breaking the rule by which the rulers had hitherto fostered their bankers' wealth". He felt that Jews, "a sensitive and highly civilized people" who "were the capitalists of the age, the men with wealth banked ready for use", might legitimately complain that "Christian kings and nobles, and even Christian popes and bishops, used for Christian purposes such as the Crusades and the cathedrals the money that could only be accumulated in such mountains by a usury they inconsistently denounced as unchristian; and then, when worse times came, gave up the Jew to the fury of the poor".
In The New Jerusalem , Chesterton made it clear that he believed that there was a "Jewish Problem" in Europe, in the sense that he believed that Jewish culture though not Jewish ethnicity separated itself from the nationalities of Europe. The point is that we should know where we are; and he would know where he is, which is in a foreign land. Later he grew out of the notion of Palestine as a Jewish homeland, and suggested somewhere in Africa instead.
Chesterton, like Belloc, openly expressed his abhorrence of Hitler 's rule almost as soon as it started. When Hitlerism came, he was one of the first to speak out with all the directness and frankness of a great and unabashed spirit. Blessing to his memory! The historian Simon Mayers points out that Chesterton wrote in works such as The Crank , The Heresy of Race , and The Barbarian as Bore against the concept of racial superiority and critiqued pseudo-scientific race theories, saying they were akin to a new religion.
His own bones are the sacred relics; his own blood is the blood of St. Mayers records that despite "his hostility towards Nazi antisemitism … [it is unfortunate that he made] claims that 'Hitlerism' was a form of Judaism, and that the Jews were partly responsible for race theory. Mayers also shows that Chesterton didn't just portray Jews as culturally and religiously distinct, but racially as well.
Chesterton wrote The Feud of the Foreigner in , saying that the Jew "is a foreigner far more remote from us than is a Bavarian from a Frenchman; he is divided by the same type of division as that between us and a Chinaman or a Hindoo. He not only is not, but never was, of the same race. In The Everlasting Man , while writing about human sacrifice, Chesterton suggested that medieval stories about Jews killing children might have resulted from a distortion of genuine cases of devil-worship.
Hugh figures held to have been ritual victims of Jews. The American Chesterton Society has devoted a whole issue of its magazine, Gilbert , to defending Chesterton against charges of antisemitism. Some backing the ideas of eugenics called for the government to sterilise people deemed "mentally defective"; this view did not gain popularity but the idea of segregating them from the rest of society and thereby preventing them from reproducing did gain traction.
These ideas disgusted Chesterton who wrote, "It is not only openly said, it is eagerly urged that the aim of the measure is to prevent any person whom these propagandists do not happen to think intelligent from having any wife or children.
That is the situation; and that is the point … we are already under the Eugenist State; and nothing remains to us but rebellion. He derided such ideas as founded on nonsense, "as if one had a right to dragoon and enslave one's fellow citizens as a kind of chemical experiment". Chesterton also mocked the idea that poverty was a result of bad breeding: It is senseless to talk about breeding them; for they are not a breed. They are, in cold fact, what Dickens describes: Chesterton is often associated with his close friend, the poet and essayist Hilaire Belloc.
Though they were very different men, they shared many beliefs;  Chesterton eventually joined Belloc in the Catholic faith, and both voiced criticisms of capitalism and socialism. Chesterton's fence is the principle that reforms should not be made until the reasoning behind the existing state of affairs is understood compare to the Precautionary principle. The quotation is from Chesterton's book, The Thing: In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox.
There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, 'I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Blaise Pascal Nicolas Malebranche. John Henry Newman G. Though his most common tone was mildly satirical, his essays were seldom sustained satires.
While he showed that pure reason has severe limitations and imposes certain penalties, it was clear thinking that enabled him to recognize the importance of nonsense.
He makes us aware of certain devices only to capture us with others that operate simultaneously. For instance, he appears to end a thought in his characteristically epigrammatic way, but a few sentences later he startles us with a brilliant paradox or thrust of wit that he planted, parenthetically, in the epigram.
His paradoxes are often inverted truisms. Each essay is a necklace of such paradoxes, used to choke or adorn the reader, depending on his doctrinal affinities. If his paradoxes are sometimes shallow, one must remember that deep ones are not so easy to dredge up that one can fill hundreds of essays, line by line, with them.
O'Connor conveyed to Chesterton the variety of iniquity and perversity confided to him in the confessional. The contrast between the priest's humble demeanor, his knowledge of earthly evil, and his willingness to explore his own soul for the roots of sin within himself, all had a profound influence on Chesterton, and it was those qualities with which he endowed his Father Brown character.
When Father Brown is asked by an apprehended criminal whether he is, in fact, the devil himself he responds accordingly: In addition to being an artist, he was committed to influencing the philosophies of his contemporaries.
All of his works contain some element of paradox, parable, or allegory to illustrate essential spiritual truths. The unique aspect of the Father Brown stories which separates them from uniform, detective genre tales is the character's reliance on determining the motive for a crime, and thereby that of the perpetrator. The stories involve a delving into the criminal psyche in order to understand why the crime has been committed, and in the process to gain a greater understanding of the human condition itself.
The style of Chesterton's Father Brown stories frustrates some critics, who find them lacking in the informative details which normally provide clues to the reader for solving the crime along with the protagonist. But others perceive Chesterton's tales as artistic renderings of a mystical school within the scope of the detective story. For his body of work, Chesterton is held to be among the eminent British men of letters of the early twentieth century. Although he did not take his Father Brown stories terribly seriously, they are often seen as innovations in detective fiction.
In his other writings, Chesterton is frequently considered eccentric, mixing Christian—especially Catholic—theology with that of detective stories, novels, plays, essays, autobiographies, biographies, satiric fantasy, historical works, epics, poetry, and literary criticism.
Chesterton himself did not attach great importance to the Father Brown stories. Ordered in batches by magazine editors and publishers, they were written hurriedly for the primary purpose of helping to finance his distributist paper, G. And though they have proved to be the most popular of Chesterton's writings, critical attention to them has been casual. This is partly because they are, of course, detective stories; and the detective story is commonly dismissed, without argument, as a very low form of art.
That it is also a very difficult and demanding form, in which many clever writers have failed, is not regarded as relevant. Nor is there much respect for the innovators in this genre, or much comment on their remarkable rarity. If there were, Chesterton's reputation would stand very high; for his detective stories, while they may not be the best ever written, are without doubt the most ingenious. But to show ingenuity and originality in the detective story is for the superior critic merely to have a knack for a particular sort of commercial fiction.
It is not the sort of thing he takes seriously. And Chesterton himself, it seems, would have agreed with him. My contention will be that these stories, together with Chesterton's novel The Man who was Thursday, are the best of his writings, and I will try to give reasons why they should be taken seriously. But I must admit at the start that there are two sometimes overlapping classes of reader whom I cannot hope to convert.
The first consists of those who loathe detective stories; the second, of those who are so prejudiced against the Roman Catholic Church that they cannot read stories in which a priest is presented sympathetically. All I can say to these readers is that the Father Brown stories are much more than detective stories, and if they can overcome their repugnance to the genre they will find a good deal that might interest them in another context; and secondly, that the element of strictly Roman Catholic propaganda in the stories is small.
Furthermore, Father Brown is neither a realistic nor even an idealized portrait of a priest. At the moment, I merely ask readers to forget their anticlericalism. But no doubt the main problem that a sympathetic critic must confront is that Chesterton's work generally is out of favor. To some extent this is merely for period reasons. He is far away enough from us for his work to have become dated, but not far enough for it to have become historical.
Like some other writers of his time, he is in a sort of critical limbo. But there are also special reasons for his unpopularity. He campaigned for causes which, except in old-fashioned Roman Catholic circles, attract little sympathy. His distributism is dismissed as impracticable. Above all, Chesterton's association of Christianity with romanticism is disliked.
The general taste of this age is counter-romantic; and many of those who, like Chesterton, are seriously concerned with religion share this taste. The most influential of religious thinkers in our times is probably Kierkegaard, and he is also one of the most counter-romantic.
It is true that Kierkegaard, unlike many moderns, felt the attraction of romanticism. In The Concept of Irony, for example, he speaks of the breath of fresh air which romanticism brings to the spiritless, matter-of-fact monotony of bourgeois existence.
But to him it is an insidious temptation. Romanticism brings neither a true vision of reality, nor a firm footing in the temporal world. It is the enemy of the moral life. Nothing could be further from Chesterton's view.
It is true that he thought romanticism could go wrong and be perverted. And even at its best it is not enough to bring the soul to God. Here Chesterton would have agreed with Kierkegaard. But unlike Kierkegaard he wanted to baptize it, not dismiss it to hell.
Counter-romanticism is the deep reason why Chesterton's work is rejected. But there are other reasons, some of which are more purely literary. Most of Chesterton's work is on the borderline between literature and journalism; much of it, indeed, is frankly, nothing but journalism.
True, the same could be said of Swift or Samuel Johnson, who are in high repute with critics. But they have passed into history; whereas Chesterton, like Wells, still has the flavor of old newspapers. And, like most writers who have to write copiously and under pressure, Chesterton often became the slave of his own mannerisms. Even his warmest admirer will admit that he frequently repeats himself and that his wit degenerates into stock verbal formulas.
The spice of his style conceals poor meat. This is especially true of his work written after the Great War. The War itself, and the serious illness which Chesterton suffered during the War, took away much of his real gaiety and spontaneity. The sparkle had gone. Chesterton was essentially a prewar writer; and the War, which killed or wounded so many in the flesh, killed and wounded many others in the spirit.
Chesterton was one of them. For many modern readers, then, Chesterton is a dead writer. His name recalls only noisy showmanship, out-of-date class attitudes, Edwardian jolliness, foaming tankards. He is at best a period piece. A defender of Chesterton might retort that at one time Dickens was dismissed as a vulgar purveyor of melodrama and sentiment: However, Dickens was a creative writer; and it is not altogether clear that Chesterton was.
His forte was really the essay, and the essay is not nowadays highly regarded. His affinities with Lamb, Hazlitt, and Stevenson are today black marks against him.
His generally cheerful temper, his love of Romance, his old-fashioned and chivalrous attitude to women and sex, are antipathetic. And even though writers whom he admired, and who influenced him, like Browning and Dickens, are coming back into favor, they are not seen as Chesterton saw them.
G. K. Chesterton Home Page. Provides information and resources about Gilbert Keith Chesterton. Includes some pictures and etext copies of many of his books, essays .
G. K. Chesterton – (Full name Gilbert Keith Chesterton) English novelist, short story writer, playwright, critic, essayist, journalist, autobiographer, biographer, and poet. For additional coverage of Chesterton's short fiction, see SSC, Vol. 1. Chesterton holds an enduring place in English literature.
The journal is published by the G.K. Chesterton Institute for Faith and Culture based in Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey, US Dale Ahlquist founded the American Chesterton Society in to explore and promote his writings. This new reading plan will take you through key categories, including an introduction to Chesterton, apologetics, fiction, essays, literary criticism & biographies, social Criticism, poetry, and other topics.
G.K. Chesterton was a master essayist. But reading his essays is not just an exercise in studying a literary form at its finest, it is an encounter with timeless truths that jump off the page as fresh and powerful as the day they were written/5(57). The Essays of G. K. Chesterton Homework Help Questions. Provide a literary analysis of the essay by G. K. Chesterton, "The Riddle of the Ivy." In this essay, the speaker says that he is going to.