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Full text of "G. K. Chesterton"

G.  K.   CHESTERTON                              7
was also in reaction against its pessimism. He imagines an
unborn child dreaming what a wonderful adventure it would
be to find his way into a world covered with green hair and
warmed by a gigantic ball of fire and his splendour of de-
light, when, stepping through the door of birth, he found
himself indeed in such a magic world.
Healthy and attractive as it was as a reaction against pre-
vailing pessimism, there was perhaps something a trifle
superficial in the too exuberant optimism of the young
Chesterton of this period. There was force in the mockery
of the Irish critic, Professor Kettle, who complained that it
was really absurd in face of all the squalors and tragedies of
life—the suicide and the slums—to exclaim merely * How
jolly it all is ! * Though he had not yet reached the full
maturity of his thought, Chesterton was prepared to
meet this challenge. In 1903 John Morley, who was then
editing the * English Men of Letters' Series, commissioned
Chesterton to write the volume on Robert Browning. The
manuscript, when it was delivered, proved to be very
different from the objective accurate record which the
editor had expected. Chesterton, with a prodigious
memory but a constitutional contempt for accuracy that he
carried often to unpardonable lengths, quoted Browning
copiously, but he quoted him always from memory and
often with verbal inaccuracy. Instead of describing
Browning's works, he preferred to discuss his views—and
sometimes, to tell the truth, Browning was little more than
a peg on which to hang the discussion of his own views.
To the challenge of superficial optimism, he replied that
Browning had taught us how to find good in what was
apparently unmixed evil. Browning, he said, 'walked
into the foulest of thieves' kitchens and accused men
publicly of virtue'.
From his earliest boyhood, from the days of the Junior
Debating Club, Chesterton had always loved an argument,
and his articles in the Daily News and elsewhere, which,
were by this time one of the major excitements of English