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G.  K.   CHESTERTON                            19
It is all excellent, if most powerful, fooling. But in his
serious narrative poems, such as The Ballad of the White
Horse and Lepanto, to which we have already referred,
there was no fooling. They were deeply sincere works.
But they were essentially works to be recited, read aloud—
not to say, shouted. I well remember how as under-
graduates at Oxford a quarter of a century ago we used to
shout out his poem of The Secret People about the English,
who * never have spoken yet', or the drinking songs from
his Wine, Water and Song. It may well be pleaded that, if
his verse was verse to be recited, so, too, was most of the
great rhetorical verse of the Elizabethans. But it is cer-
tainly true that he did not make nor attempt to make the
Wordsworthian appeal to the ' inward eye which is the
bliss of solitude'.
During the years of the 1914 war Chesterton had a very
serious illness and physically he was throughout the rest of
his life never quite the same man again. Yet that did not
mean that his remaining twenty years were artistically un-
important. Very far from it. It is true that with his
brother's death at the end of the war Gilbert Chesterton felt
it as an obligation of honour to take on the editorship of the
distributist paper and the problems of editorship occupied a
great deal of his energy throughout the rest of his life. It
is true, also, that—particularly after his reception into the
Catholic Church in 1922—demands for lectures kept him
continually on the move. Yet nevertheless those last twenty
years of his life produced not only a number of detective
stories and volumes of verse and essays. They also pro-
duced some of his most important biographies—St Francis
of Assist, Cobbett, Robert Louis Stevenson, and, above all,
the last and the greatest of such studies, St. Thomas Aquinas.
Chesterton was, of course, no professional philosopher
and no professional scholar. He always used to speak of
himself with characteristic and exaggerated understatement
as a casual and dilettante reader. It is true that he carried
his dislike for pedantry to an extreme and was unpardonably