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Full text of "G. K. Chesterton"

24                            G.  K.   CHESTERTON
physical exercise. He could not indeed manage what to
lesser mortals are the normal achievements of daily life—
such as dressing or shaving himself—others had to do these
things for him. He was similarly incompetent in the
simplest business affairs. He could not manage his income
or his income-tax. Such things he left entirely to his wife,
the devoted companion of all his adult life, and his secretary.
He could not even be trusted to effect the simplest purchase
in a shop and bring back the right change. He could not
make a journey. There is a well-known anecdote of one
of the few occasions on which he went on a lecture-tour by
himself. A few days after his departure his wife received an
agonized telegram : * Am in Liverpool. Where should I
be ? ' I remember-once standing with him on the landing
on the first floor of an hotel. There was the lift, or there
were the stairs, by either of which we could descend to the
ground floor. I said to him, * Shall we take the lift or shall
we go down by the stairs ? ' He answered at once, * My
wife will come and she will decide *. It never for an instant
occurred to him that he could decide even so small a prac-
tical matter as that for himself.
When the war of 1914 came, Chesterton's physical con-
dition was, as has been said, such that there could have been
no question of his joining the army, but even apart from
physical disability he would certainly have made a soldier
of a monumental incompetence. I doubt if he ever used a
spade in his life and certainly could not have used it to effect.
Yet his writings are filled with praise of the soldier and the
peasant, whom he greatly preferred to most of the literary
men who shared his way of life. Himself born a Londoner,
and living his life in the small town of Beaconsfield, which
was rapidly becoming a suburb of London, he gave his life
to denouncing urbanization and to a glorification of rural
life. There was nothing insincere in this. He never pre-
tended to be other than he was. But he was an intensely
humble man, and equally never pretended that the accidents