G. K. CHESTERTON
GILBERT KEITH CHESTERTON was born in Campden
Hill in London on 29 May 1874. He was the son
of a prosperous London auctioneer, whose name is
still to be seen on auctioneer's bills on the London hoard-
ings. His family were Liberal in politics and Unitarian in
religion. Chesterton was sent to school at St. Paul's School.
His career there was not outstanding in the conventional
academic sense. He lacked the capacity to direct his attention
to subjects that did not interest him. Physically he was a
large and clumsy boy and in athletics he won no distinction
whatsoever. But he, with a group of his friends, of whom
the closest to Chesterton and the most distinguished in
after-life was Mr. E. C. Bentley, the creator of the form of
light verse known as * the clerihew V founded the Junior
Debating Club. Chesterton's schoolboy life found its fullest
expression in the life of that debating society, over which he
presided, and in the friendship of his fellow-members.
After leaving school he did not go to the University, but
went instead to the Slade School of Art. He had consider-
able powers as a caricaturist and draughtsman, as his later
illustrations to Mr. E. C. Bentley's verses and to Mr. Hilake
Belloc's satirical novels were to show, but it was soon
evident that his talents were primarily literary rather than
artistic. He drifted out of art into a publisher's office and
soon began, at first through casual contributions, to make a
name for himself in free-lance journalism.
In 1899 tta Conservative Government of the day, under
the influence of its vigorous Colonial Secretary, Joseph
Chamberlain, had gone to war with the two small Dutch
South African Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange
Free State. Opinion in the Liberal Party was divided on
1 A form of comic biography in a quatrain verse. The lines rhyme
and have a certain rhythmical form but do not scan. An example is :
What I like about Clive .
Is that he's no longer alive.
There's a great deal to be said
For being dead.