(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "G. K. Chesterton : a critical study"

· · CHESTERTON 
Å. T C ' STUDY-BY 
ULIUS · WEST 


J 
... 

 - 
, . 
, . 



 



I (' 


::J 



.0-x. 
 In<;
 :14 æ'c
cr( 


l..t. ,,,. .1).. 
1/ ......, 





G. K. CHESTERTON 



U...VIFORj"l WITH THIS VOLUME: 
"V. B. YEATS 
By FORREST REID 


J. 1\1. SYNGE 
By P. P. HOWE 
HENRY JAMES 
By FORD MADOX HVEFFER 


HENRIK IBSEN 
By R. ELLIS ROBERTS 


THOMAS HARDY 
By L.A.SCELLES ABERCRm\IBIE 


BERNARD SHA ,r 
By P. P. HOWE 
"r ALTER PATER 
By EDWARD THOMAS 


WALT 'VHITl\1 AN 
By BASIL DE SELINCOUR'l 


SAMUEL BUTLER 
By GILBERT CANNAN 


A. C. S'VINBURNE 
By EDWARD THOl'rJAS 


GEORGE GISSING 
By FRANK SWINNERTON 


R. L. STEVENSON 
By FRANK SWINNERTON 


RUDY ARD KIPLING 
By CYRIL FALLS 


"rILLIAM MORRIS 
By JOHN DRINKWATER 


ROBERT BRIDGES 
By F. E. BRETT YOUNG 


:FYODOR DOSTOIEVSKY 
By J. MIDDLETON M VRRY 


MAURICE MAETERLINCK 
By UNA TAYLOR 



--
 
I 


i 
I 
I 
I 
ì I 
! 



 


t.... 


__---J 


sf" 


/7 "-// . :í' . 
c Sf . /L . t/zCJ
 ;/p" . 
/,,
h 4- 1
&', Ii{-'t<"'
 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


A CRITICAL STUDY 


BY 


JULIUS WEST 


LONDON 
MARt'rIN SECKER 
NUMBER FI
E JOHN STREET 
ADELPHI 

lCMXV 



I HAVE to express my gratitude to Messrs. Bums and Oates, 
Messrs. Methuen and Co., and Mr. Martin Seeker for their 
kind permission to quote from works by Mr. G. K. Chesterton 
published by them. I have also to express my qualified 
thanks to Mr. John Lane for his conditional permission to 
quote from books by the same author published by him. 
My thanks are further due, for a similar reason, to Mr. 
Chesterton himself. 


- roo 2 c 



TO 


J. C. SQUIRE 



CONTENTS 
CHAPTER PAGE 
I. INTRODUCTORY 11 
II. THE ROMANCER 23 
III. THE MAKER OF MAGIC 59 
IV. THE CRITIC OF LARGE THINGS 76 
V. THE HUMORIST AND THE POET 91 
VI. THE RELIGION OF A DEBATER 109 
VII. THE POLITICIAN 'YHO COULD NOT 
TELL THE TIME 136 
VIII. A DECADENT OF SORTS 163 
BIBLIOGRAPHY 185 



I 


INTRODUCTORY 


THE habit, to which we are so much addicted, 
of \vriting books about other people who have 
written books, will probably be a source of 
intense discomfort to its practitioners in the 
t\venty-first century. Like the rest of their 
kind, they will pin their ambition to the pos- 
sibility of indulging in epigram at the expense 
of their contemporaries. In order to lead up 
to the achievement of this desire they will 
have to work in the nineteenth century and 
the twentieth. Between the two they will 
find an obstacle of some terror. The eighteen 
nineties will lie in their path, blocking the 
way like an unhealthy moat, ,vhich some 
myopes might almost mistake for an aquarium. 
All manner of queer fish may be discerned in 
these unclear waters. 
To drop the metaphor, our historians will 
find themselves confronted by a startling 
change. The great Victorians write no longer, 
but are succeeded by eccentrics. There is 
11 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


Kipling, undoubtedly the most gifted of them 
all, but not everybody's darling for all that. 
There is that prolific trio of best-sellers, 
Mrs. Humphry 'Yard, Miss Marie Corelli, and 
Mr. Hall Caine. There is Oscar Wilde, who 
has a vast reputation on the Continent, but 
never succeeded in convincing the British that 
he was much more than a compromise between 
a joke and a smell. There is the whole Yellow 
Book team, who ncver succeeded in convincing 
anybody. The economic basis of authorship 
had becn shaken by the abolition of the three- 
volume novel. The intellectual basis had been 
lulled to sleep by that hotchpotch of convcn- 
tion and largeness that we call the Victorian 
Era. Literature began to be an effort to ex- 
press the inexpressible, resulting in outraged 
grammar and many dots. . . . 
English literature at the end of the last 
century stood in sore need of some of the 
elementary virtues. If obviousness and sim- 
plicity are liable to be overdone, they are not 
so deadly in their after-effects as the bizarre 
and the extravagant. The literary movement 
of the eighteen nineties was like a strong 
stimulant given to a patient dying of old age. 
Its results were energetic, but the energy was 
convulsive. \tVe should laugh if we saw a man 
apparently dancing in mid-air-until we noticed 
12 



INTRODUCTORY 


the rope about his neck. It is impossible to 
account for the success of the Yellow Book 
school and its congeners save on the assump- 
tion that the rope was, generally speaking, 
invisible. 
In this Year of Grace, 1915, \ve are still too 
close to the eighteen nineties, still too liable 
to be influenced by their ways, to be able to 
speak for posterity and to pronounce the final 
judgment upon those evil years. It is possible 
that the critics of the twenty-first century, as 
they turn over the musty pages of the Yellow 
Book, will ejaculate with feeling: "Good God, 
what a dull time these people must have had! " 
On the whole it is probable that this will be 
their verdict. They will detect the dullness 
behind the mechanical brilliancy of Oscar 
\Vilde, and recognize the strange hues of the 
whole Æsthetic l\'lovement as the garments of 
men who could not, or \vould not see. There 
is really no rational alternative before our 
critics of the next century; if the men of the 
eighteen nineties, and the queer things they 
gave us, \vere not the products of an intense 
boredom, if, in strict point of fact, 'Vilde, 
Beardsley, Davidson, Hankin, Dowson, and 
Lionel Johnson were men who rollicked in the 
warm sunshine of the late Victorian period, 
then the suicide, drunkenness and vice with 
13 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


which they were afflicted is surely the strangest 
phenomenon in the history of human nature. 
To many people, those years actually were 
dull. 


The years from 1885 to 1898 were like the hours of 
afternoon in a rich house with large rooms; the 
hours before teatime. They believed in nothing 
except good manners; and the essence of good - 
manners is to conceal a yawn. A yawn may be 
defined as a silent yell. 
So says Chesterton, yawning prodigiously. 
One may even go farther, and declare that 
in those dark days a yawn was the true sign 
of intelligence. It is no mere coincidence that 
the two cleverest literary debutants of that 
last decade, Mr. Max Beerbohm and the sub- 
ject of this essay, both stepped on the stage 
making a pretty exhibition of boredom. "Then 
the first of these published, in 1896, being 
then twenty-four years old, his 'Vorks of Max 
Beerbohm he murmured in the preface, "I 
shall write no more. Already I begin to feel 
myself a trifle outmoded. . . . Younger men, 
with months of activity before them. . . have 
pressed forward. . . Cedo junioribus." 
So too, when Chesterton produced his first 
book, four years later, he called it Greybeards 
at Play: Literature and Art for Old Gentle'l1
en, 
and the dedication contained this verse : 
14 



INTRODUCTORY 


Now we are old and wise and grey, 
And shaky at the knees ; 
Now is the true time to delight 
In picture books like these. 
The joke would have been pointless in any 
other age. In 1900, directed against the 
crapulous exoticism of contemporary litera- 
ture, it was an antidote, childhood was being 
used as a medicine against an assumed attack 
of second childhood. The attack began \vith 
nonsense rhymes and pictures. It was a com- 
plete success from the very first. There is this 
important difference between the ,vriter of 
nonsense verses and their illustrator; the 
former must let himself go as much as he can, 
the latter must hold himself in. In Greybeards 
at Play, Chesterton took the bit between his 
teeth, and bolted faster than Ed,vard Lear had 
ever done. The antitheses of such verses as 
the following are irresistible: 
For me, as Mr. Wordsworth says, 
The duties shine like stars; 
I formed my uncle's character, 
Decreasing his cigars. 


Or 


The Shopmen, when their souls were still, 
Declined to open shops- 
And cooks recorded frames of mind, 
In sad and subtle chops. 
The drawings which accompanied these gems, 
it may be added, were such as the verses 
15 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


deserved. They exhibit a joyous inconsistency, 
the disproportion which is the essence of 
parody combined with the accuracy which is 
the sine qua non of sa.tire. 
About a month after Chesterton had pro- 
duced his statement of his extreme senility 
(the actual \vords of the affidavit are 
I am, I think I have remarked, [he had not], 
Terrifically old.) 
he published another little book, The Wild 
Knight and Other Poems, as evidence of his 
youth. For some years past he had occasion- 
ally written more or less topical verses which 
appeared in The Outlook and the defunct 
Speaker. Greybeards at Play was, after all, 
merely an elaborate sneer at the boredom of 
a decade; the second book was a more definite 
attack upon some points of its creeds and an 
assertion of the principles which mattered 
most. 
There is one sin: to call a green leaf grey, 
Whereat the sun in heaven shuddereth. 
There is one blasphemy: for death to pray, 
For God alone knoweth the praise of death. 
Or again (The World's Lover) 
I stood and spoke a blasphemy- 
" Behold the summer leaves are green." 
It was a defence of reality, crying for ven- 
geance upon the realists. The word realism 
16 



INTRODUCTORY 


had come to be the trade-mark of Zola and 
his followers, especially of l\lr. George Moore, 
who made a sacrifice of nine obvious, clean 
and unsinkable aspects of life so as to concen- 
trate upon the submersible tenth. Chesterton 
came out with his defence of the common man, 
of the streets 
'Vhere shift in strange democracy 
The million masks of God, 
the grass, and all the little things of life, 
" things" in general, for our subject, alone 
among modern poets, is not afraid to use the 
word. If on one occasion he can merely 
. . . feel vaguely thankful to the vast 
Stupidity of things, 
on another he will speak of 
The whole divine democracy of things, 
a line which is a challenge to the unbeliever, 
a statement of a political creed which is the 
outgro"vth of a religious faith. 
The same year Chesterton formally stepped 
into the ranks of journalism and joined the 
staff of The Daily News. He had scribbled 
poems since he had been a boy at St. Paul's 
School. In the years follo,ving he had watched 
other people working at the Slade, while he 
had gone on scribbling. Then he had begun 
to do little odd jobs of art criticism and 
B 17 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


revie\ving for The Bookman and put in occa- 
sional appearances in the statelier columns of 
The Speaker. Then came the Boer 'Yar, ,vhich 
made G. K. Chesterton lose his temper but 
find his soul. In 1900 The Daily News passed 
into new hands-the hands of G.K.C.'s friends. 
And until 1913, when the causes he had come 
to uphold were just diametrically opposed to 
the causes the victorious Liberal Party had 
adopted, every Saturday morning's issue of 
that paper contained an article by him, while 
often enough there appeared signed reviews 
and poems. The situation was absurd enough. 
The Daily News was the organ of Noncon- 
formists, and G.K.C. preached orthodoxy to 
them. It advocated temperance, and G.K.C. 
advocated beer. At first this was sufficiently 
amusing, and nobody minded much. But 
before Chesterton severed his connection with 
the paper, its readers had come to expect a 
weekly article that almost invariably con- 
tained an attack upon one of their pet beliefs, 
and often enough had to be corrected by a 
. leader on the same page. But the Chesterton 
of 1900 was a spokesman of the Liberalism of 
his day, independent, nQt the intractable 
monster .who scoffed, a few years later, at all 
the parties in the State. 
At this point one is reminded of'Vatts-Dun- 
18 



INTRODUCTORY 


ton's definition of the two kinds of humour in 
The Renascence of \IV onder: "\Vhile in the 
case of relative humour that which amuses the 
humorist is the incongruity of some departure 
from the laws of convention, in the case of 
absolute humour it is the incongruity of some 
departure from the normal as fixed by nature 
herself. H \Ve have our doubts as to the 
general application of this definition: but it 
applies so well to Chesterton that it might 
almost have come off his study walls. 'Vhat 
made a series of more than six hundred articles 
by him acceptable to The Daily News was just 
the skilful handling of "the laws of conven- 
tion, Hand "the normal as fixed by nature 
herself. H On the theory enunciated by 'Vatts- 
Dunton, everything except the perfect average 
is absolutely funny, and the perfect average, 
of course, is generally an incommensurable 
quantity. Chesterton carefully made it his 
business to present the eccentricity-I use the 
word in its literal sense-of most things, and 
the humour followed in accordance with the 
above definition. The method \vas simple. 
Chesterton invented some grotesque situation, 
some hypothesis which was glaringly absurd. 
He then placed it in an abrupt juxtaposition 
\vith the normal, instead of working from the 
normal to the actual, in the usual manner. 
19 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


Just as the reader was beginning to protest 
against the reversal of his accustomed values, 
G.R.C. would strip the grotesque of a few 
inessentials, and, lo! a parable. A fe,v strokes 
of irony and wit, an epigram or two infallibly 
placed \vhere it would distract attention from 
a weak point in the argument, and the thing 
\vas complete. By such means Chesterton 
developed the use of a veritable Excalibur of 
controversy, a tool of great might in political 
journalism. These methods, pursued a few 
years longer, taught him a craftsmanship he 
could employ for purely romantic ends. How 
he employed it, and the opinions which he 
sought to uphold by its means will be the 
subjects of the following chapters. Chesterton 
sallied forth like a Crusader against the politi- 
cal and literary Turks who had unjustly come 
into possession of a part of the heritage of a 
Christian people. 'Ye must not forget that 
the leading characteristic of a Crusader is his 
po\ver of invigorating, which he applies im- 
partially to virtues and to vices. There is a 
great difference between a Crusader and a 
Christian, which is not commonly realized. 
The latter attempts to show his love for his 
enemy by abolishing his unchristianness, the 
former by abolishing him altogether. Although 
the two methods are apt to give curiously 
20 



INTRODUCTORY 


similar results, the distinction between a 
Crusader and a Christian is radical and will be 
considered in greater detail in the course of 
this study. This study does not profess to be 
biographical, and only the essential facts of 
Chesterton's life need be given here. These 
are, that he ,vas born in London in 1873, is the 
son of a 'Vest London estate agent who is also 
an artist and a children's poet in a small but 
charming way, is married and has children. 
Perhaps it is more necessary to record the fact 
that he is greatly read by the youth of his 
day, that he comes in for much amused toler- 
ance, that, generally speaking, he is not recog- 
nized as a great or courageous thinker, even 
by those people who understand his vicws 
well enough to dissent from them entirely, and 
that he is regarded less as a stylist, than as the 
owner of a trick of style. These are the false 
beliefs that I seek to combat. The last may 
be disposed of summarily. 'Vhen an author's 
style is completely sincere, and completely 
part of him, it has this characteristic; it is 
almost impossible to imitate. Nobody has 
ever successfully parodied Shakespeare, for 
example; there are not even any good paro- 
dies of l\fr. Shaw. And Chesterton remains 
unparodied; even Mr. Max Beerbohm's effort 
in A Christmas Garland rings false. His style 
21 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


is individual. He has not" played the sedulous 
ape. " 
But, on the other hand, it is not proposed 
to acquit Chesterton of all the charges brought 
against him. The average human being is 
partly a prig and partly a saint; and some- 
times men are so glad to get rid of a prig that 
they are ready to call him a saint-Simon 
Stylites, for example. And it is not suggested 
that the author of the remark, "There are 
only three things that women do not under- 
stand. They are Liberty, Equality, Frater- 
nity," is not a prig, for a demonstration that 
he is a complete gentleman ,vould obviously 
leave other matters of importance incon- 
veniently cro,vded out. \Ve are confronted 
with a figure of some significance in these 
times. He represents what has been called 
in other spheres than his "the anti-intellec- 
tualist reaction." 'Ve must answer the ques- 
tions; to what extent does he represent mere 
unqualified reaction? \Vhat are his qualifi- 
cations as a craftsman? \Vhat, after all, has 
he done ? 
And \ve begin ,vith his romances. 


22 



II 


TI-IE ROMANCER 


IN spite of Chesterton's liberal production of 
books, it is not altogether simple to classify 
them into "periods," in the manner bcloved 
of the critic, nor even to sort them out accord- 
ing to subjects. G.K.C. can (and generally 
does) inscribe an Essay on the Nature of 
Religion into his novels, together with other 
confusing ingredients to such an extent that 
most readers ,vould consider it pure pedantry 
on the part of anybody to insist that a Ches- 
tertonian romance need differ appreciably from 
a Chestertonian essay, poem, or criticism. That 
a book by G.K.C. should describe itself as a 
novel means little more than that its original 
purchasing price was four shillings and six- 
pence. It might also contain passages of love, 
hate, and other human emotions, but then again, 
it might not. But one thing it \vould contain, 
and that is war. G.K.C. would be pugnacious, 
even when there \vas nothing to fight. His 
characters would wage their wars, even when 
23 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


the bone of contention mattered as little as 
the handle of an old toothbrush. That, we 
should say, is the first factor in the formula 
of the Chestertonian romance-and all the rest 
are the inventor's secret. Imprimis, a body 
of men and an idea, and the rest must follow, 
if only the idea be big enough for a man to 
fight about, or if need be, even to make him- 
self ridiculous about. 
In The Napoleon of Notting Hill we have this 
view of romance stated in a manner entirely 
typical of its author. King Auberon and the 
Provost of N otting Hill, Adam \Vayne, are 
speaking. The latter says: 
" I know of a magic wand, but it is a wand that 
only one or two nlay rightly use, and only seldom. 
It is a fairy wand of great fear, stronger than those 
who use it-often frightful, often wicked to use. But 
whatever is touched with it is never again wholly 
common; whatever is touched with it takes a magic 
from outside the world. If I touch, with this fairy 
wand, the railways and the roads of Notting Hill, 
men will love them, and be afraid of them for ever." 
" What the devil are you talking about ? " asked 
the King. 
"It has made mean landscapes magnificent, and 
hovels outlast cathedrals," went on the madman. 
"Why should it not make lamp-posts fairer than 
Greek lamps, and an omnibus-ride like a painted 
ship? The touch of it is the finger of a strange 
perfection. " 


24 



TIlE ROMANCER 


"What is your wand?" cried the King, im- 
patiently. 
"There it is," said Wayne; and pointed to the 
floor, where his sword lay flat and shining. 
If all the dragons of old romance were loo
ed 
upon the fiction of our day, the result, one 
would imagine, would be something like that 
of a Chestertonian novel. But the dragons 
are dead and converted into poor fossil ich- 
thyosauruses, incapable of biting the timidest 
damsel or the most corpulent knight that ever 
came out of the Stock Exchange. That is the 
tragedy of G.K.C.'s ideas, but it is also his 
opportunity. "Man is a creature who lives 
not upon bread alone, but principally by 
catch-words," says Stevenson. "Give me my 
dragons," says G.K.C. in effect, "and I will 
give you your catch-\vords. You may have 
them in anyone of a hundred different ways. 
I will drop them on you when you least expect 
them, and their disguises will outrange all 
those known to Scotland Yard and to Drury 
Lane combined. You may have catastrophes 
and comets and camels, if you \viII, but you 
will certainly have your catch-\vords." 
The first of Chesterton's novels, in order of 
their publication, is The Napoleon of N otting 
Hill (1904). This is extravagance itself; 
fiction in the sense only that the events never 
25 



G. !{. CIIESTERTON 


happened and never could have happened. 
The scene is placed in London, the time, about 
A.D. 1984. "This 'ere progress, it keeps on 
goin' on," somebody remarks in one of the 
novels of Mr. H. G. 'VeIls. But it never goes 
on as the prophets said it would, and conse- 
quently England in those days does not greatly 
differ from the England of to-day. There have 
been changes, of course. Kings are now chosen 
in alphabetical rotation, and the choice falls 
upon a civil servant, Auberon Quin by name. 
Now Quin has a sense of humour, of absolute 
humour, as the 'Vatts-Dunton definition already 
cited would have it called. lIe has two bosom 
friends who are also civil servants and whose 
humour is of the official variety, and whose 
outlook upon life is that of a Times leader. 
Quin's first official act is the publication of a 
proclamation ordering every London borough 
to build itself city walls, with gates to be closed 
at sunset, and to become possessed of Provosts 
in mediæval attire, with guards of halberdiers. 
From his throne he attends to some of the 
picturesque details of the scheme, and enjoys 
the joke in silence. But after a few years of 
this a young man named Adam \Vayne be- 
comes Provost of N otting IEll, and to him his 
borough, and more especially the little street 
in which he has spent his life, are things of 
26 



THE ROM
NCER 


immQnse importance. Rather than allo\v that 
street to make way for a new thoroughfare, 
"Vayne rallies his halberdiers to the defence 
of their borough. The Provosts of North 
Kensington and South Kensington, of 'Vest 
Kensington and Bayswater, rally their guards 
too, and attack Notting Hill, purposing to 
clear Wayne out of the way and to break do,vn 
the offending street. 'Vayne is surrounded at 
night but converts defeat into victory by 
seizing the offices of a Gas Company and turn- 
ing off the street lights. The next day he is 
besieged in his o\vn street. By a sudden sortie 
he and his army escape to Campden Hill. 
Here a great battle rages for many hours, \vhile 
onc of the opposing Provosts gathers a large 
army for a final attack. At last 'Vayne and 
the remnants of his men are hopelessly out- 
numbered, but once more he turns defeat into 
victory. He threatens, unless the opposing 
forces instantly surrender, to open the great 
reservoir and flood the \vhole of N otting Hill. 
The allied generals surrender, and the Empire 
of Notting Hill comes into being. Twenty 
years later the spirit of Adam Wayne has gone 
beyond his own city walls. London is a wild 
romance, a mass of cities filled with citizens 
of great pride. But the Empire, \vhich has 
been the Nazareth of the new idea, has \vaxed 
27 



G. K. C H EST E R TON 


fat and kicked. In righteous anger the other 
boroughs attack it, and win, because their 
cause is just. King Auberon, a recruit in 
'Vayne's army, falls .with his leader in the 
great battle of Kensington Gardens. But they 
recover in the morning. 
"It was all a joke," says the IGng in apology. 
"No," says \Vayne; "we are two lobes of the SaIne 
brain . . . you, the humorist . . . I, the fanatic. 
. . . You have a halberd and I have a sword, let us 
start our wanderings over the world. For we are its 
two essentials." 


So ends the story. 
Consider the prep os terous elements of the 
book. A London with blue horse-'buses. 
Bloodthirsty battles chiefly fought with hal- 
berds. A King who acts as a war correspon- 
dent and parodies G. 'v. Stevens. It is pre- 
posterous because it is romantic and we are 
not used to romance. But to Chaucer let us 
say it would have appeared preposterous 
because he could not have realized the initial 
premises. Before such a book the average 
reader is helpless. His scale of values is 
knocked out of working order by the very first 
page, almost by the very first sentence. 
(" The human race, to which so many of my 
readers belong, has been playing at children's 
games from the beginning, and will probably 
28 



THE ROMANCER 


do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the 
few people who gro,v up.") The absence of a 
love affair \vill deprive him of the only" human 
interest " he can be really sure of. The Ches- 
tertonian idiom, above all, will soon lead him 
to expect nothing, because he can never get 
any idea of ,vhat he is to receive, and will 
bring him to a proper submissiveness. The 
later stages are simple. The reader ,vill wonder 
,vhy it never before occurred to him that area- 
railings are very like spears, and that a distant 
tramcar may at night distinctly resemble a 
dragon. He may travel far, once his imagina- 
tion has been started on these lines. 'Vhen 
romantic possibilities have once shed a glo\v 
on the offices of the Gas Light and Coke Com- 
pany and on the erections of the 
Ietropolitan 
'Vater Board, the rest of life may ,veIl seem 
filled with wonder and wild desires. 
Chesterton may be held to have invented a 
new species of detective story-the sort that 
has no crime, no criminal, and a detective 
whose processes are transcendental. The Club 
of Queer Trades is the first batch of such stories. 
The JJlan who was Thursday is another specimen 
of some length. 
Iore recently, Chesterton has 
repeated the type in some of the Father Brown 
stories. In The Club of Queer Trades, the trans- 
cendental detective is Basil Grant, to describe 
29 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


whom with accuracy is difficult, because of 
his author's inconsistencies. Basil Grant, for 
instance, is "a man who scarcely stirred out 
of his attic," yet it would appear elsewhere 
that he walked abroad often enough. The 
essentials of this unprecedented detective are, 
however, sufficiently tangible. He had been a 
I{.C. and a judge. He had left the Bench 
because it annoyed him, and because he held 
the very human but not legitimate belief that 
some criminals ,vould be better off .with a trip 
to the seaside than \vith a sentence of imprison- 
ment. After his retirement from public life 
he stuck to his old trade as the judge of a 
Voluntary Criminal Court. "l\Iy criminals 
were tried for the faults which really make 
social life impossible. They were tried before 
me for selfishness, or for an impossible vanity, 
or for scandal-mongering, or for stinginess to 
guests or dependents." It is regrettable that 
Chesterton does not grant us a glimpse of this 
fascinating tribunal at ,vork. Ho,vever, it is 
Grant's job, on the strength of which he becomes 
the president and founder of the C.Q.T.-Club 
of Queer Trades. Among the members of this 
Club are a gentleman who runs an Adventure 
and Romance Agency for supplying thrills to 
the bourgeois, two Professional Detainers, and 
an Agent for Arboreal Villas, who lets off a 
30 



THE ROl\IANCER 


variety of birds' nest. The way in which these 
people go about their curious tasks invariably 
suggests a crime to Rupert Grant, Basil's 
amateur detective brother, whereupon Basil 
has to intervene to put matters right. The 
author does not appear to have been struck 
by the inconsistency of setting Basil to work 
to ferret out the doings of his fellow club- 
members. The book is, in fact, full of joyous 
inconsistencies. The Agent for Arboreal Villas 
is clearly unqualified for the membership of 
the Club. Professor Chadd has no business 
there either. He is elected on the strength of 
having invented a language expressed by 
dancing, but it appears that he is really an 
employee in the Asiatic 1\155. Department 
of the British Museum. Things are extremely 
absurd in The Eccentric Seclusion of the Old 
Lady. At the instigation of Rupert, who has 
heard sighs of pain coming out of a South 
Kensington basement, Basil, Rupert, and the 
man who tells the story, break into the house 
and violently assault those ,vhom they meet. 


Basil sprang up with dancing eyes, and with three 
blows like battering-rams knocked the footman into 
a cocked hat. Then he sprang on top of Burrows, 
with one antimacassar in his hand and another in his 
teeth, and bound him hand and foot almost before he 
knew clearly that his head had struck the floor. Then 
Basil sprang at Greenwood. . . etc. etc. 
31 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


There is a good deal more like this. Having 
taken the citadel and captured the defenders 
(as Cæsar might say), Basil and company reach 
the sighing lady of the basement. - But she 
refuses to be released. 'Yhereupon Basil 
explains his o\vn queer trade, and that the 
lady is voluntarily undergoing a sentence for 
backbiting. No explanation is vouchsafed of 
the strange behaviour of Basil Grant in attack- 
ing men \vho, as he knew, were doing nothing 
they should not. Presumably it was due to 
a Chestertonian theory that there should be 
at least one good physical fight in each book. 
It will be seen that The Club of Queer Trades 
tends to curl up somewhat (quite literally, in 
the sense that the end comes almost \vhere the 
beginning ought to be) when it receives heavy 
and serious treahnent. I should therefore 
explain that this serious treatment has been 
given under protest, and that its primary 
intention has been to deal with those well- 
meaning critics \vho believe that Chesterton 
can write fiction, in the ordinary sense of the 
word. His o\vn excellent definition of ficti- 
tious narrative (in The Victorian Age in Litera- 
ture) is that essentially" the story is told . . . 
for the sake of some study of the difference 
between human beings." This alone is enough 
to exculpate him of the charge of writing 
32 



THE ROl\iANCER 


novels. The Chestertonian short story is also 
in its \vay unique. If we applied the methods 
of the Higher Criticism to the story just 
described, we might base all manner of odd 
theories upon the defeat (inter alios) of 
Burro,vs, a big and burly youth, by Basil 
Grant, aged sixty at the very least, and armed 
.with antimacassars. But there is no necessity. 
If Chesterton invents a fantastic.. .world, full of 
fantastic people \vho speak Chestertonese, 
then he is quite entitled to waive any trifling 
conventions \vhich hinder the liberty of his 
subjects. As already pointed out, such is his 
humour. The only disadvantage, as some- 
body once complained of the Arabian Nights, 
is that one is apt to lose one's interest in a 
hero \vho is liable at any moment to turn into 
a camel. None of Chesterton's heroes do, as a 
matter of fact, become camels, but I .would 
nevertheless strongly advise any young woman 
about to marry one of them to take out an 
insurance policy against unforeseen trans- 
formations. 
Although it appears that a few reviewers 
went to the length of reading the whole of 
The lJ;lan who was Thursday (1908), it is obvious 
by their subsequent guesswork that they did 
not notice the second part of the title, which 
is, very simply, A Nightmare. The story takes 
c 33 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


its name from the Supreme Council of Anar- 
chists, ,vhich has seven members, named after 
the days of the week. Sunday is the Chairman. 
The others, one after the other, turn out to be 
detectives. Syn1e, the nearest approach to the 
what might be called the hero, is a poet ,vhom 
mysterious hands thrust into an Anarchists' 
meeting, at which he is elected to fill the 
vacancy caused by the death of last Thursday. 
A little earlier other mysterious hands had 
taken him into a dark room in Scotland Yard 
where the voice of an unseen man had told him 
that henceforth he was a member of the anti- 
anarchist corps, a ne\v body \vhich was to 
deal with the new anarchists-not the com- 
paratively harmless people \vho thre,v bombs, 
but the intellectual anarchist. "'V e say that 
the most dangerous criminal no\v is the en- 
tirely lawless modern philosopher," somebody 
explains to him. The be,vildered Syme walks 
straight into further bewilderments, as, one 
after the other, the week-days of the committee 
are revealed. But who is Sunday? Chesterton 
makes no reply. It was he who in a darkened 
room of Scotland Yard had enrolled the 
detectives. He is the Nightmare of the story. 
The first few chapters are perfectly straight- 
forward, and lifelike to the extent of describing 
personal details in a somewhat exceptional 
34 



THE ROMANCER 


manner for Chesterton. But, gradually, wilder 
and wilder things begin to happen-until, at 
last, Syme wakes up. 
The trouble about The Alan who was Thurs- 
day is not its incomprehensibility, but its 
author's gradual decline of interest in the 
book as it lengthened out. It begins excel- 
lently. There is real humour and a good deal 
of it in the earlier stages of Syme. And there 
are passages like this one on the "lawless 
modern philosopher" : 


Compared to him, burglars and bigamists are 
essentially moral men; my heart goes out to them. 
. . . Thieves respect property. They merely wish 
the property to become their property that they may 
more perfectly respect it. But philosophers dislike 
property as property; they wish to destroy the very 
idea of personal possession. Bigamists respect 
marriage, or they would not go through the highly 
ceremonial and even ritualistic formality of bigamy. 
But philosophers despise marriage as marriage. 


But his amiable flow of paradox soon runs out. 
The end of the book is just a wild whirl, a 
nightmare with a touch of the cinematograph. 
People chase onc another, in one instance they 
quite literally chase themselves. And the end- 
ing has all the effect of a damaged film that 
cannot be stopped, on the large blank spaces 
of which some idiot has been drawing absurd 
35 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


pictures which appear on the screen, to the 
confusion of the story. One remembers the 
immense and dominating figure of Sunday, 
only because the description of him reads very 
n1uch like a description of Chesterton himself. 
But if the person. is recognizable, the person- 
ality remains deliberately incomprehensible. 
lIe is just an outline in space, who rode do\vn 
Albany Street on an elephant abducted from 
the Zoological Gardens, and who spoke sadly 
to his guests \vhen they had run their last race 
against him. 
Until recent years the \vord mysticism ,vas 
sufficiently true to its derivation to imply 
mystery, the relation of God to man. But 
since the cheaper sort of journalist seized hold 
of the unhappy ,vord, its demoralization has 
been complete. It no\v indicates, generally 
speaking, an intellectual defect which ex- 
presses itself in a literary quality one can only 
call \voolliness. There is a genuine mysticism, 
expressed in Blake's lines: 


To see the world in a grain of sand 
And a Heaven in a wild flower, 
IIoid Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour. 


And there is a spurious mysticism, meaning- 
less rubbish of which Rossetti's Sister Helen 
36 



THE RO
IANCER 


is a specimen. 'Vhat could be more idiotic 
than the verse : 


" He has made a sign and called Halloo ! 
Sister Helen, 
And he says that he would speak with you." 
"Oh tell him I fear the frozen dew, 
Little brother." 
(0 lJlother, JUary ]}lothcr, 
TVhy laughs she thus between II ell and Heaven?) 


The trouble about the latter variety is its 
extreme simplicity. Anybody \vith the gift of 
being able to make lines scan and rhyme can 
produce similar effects in a similar \vay. Hence 
the enormous temptation exercised by this 
form of mysticism gonc wrong. There is a 
naughty little story of a little girl, relating to 
her mother the mishaps of the family coal 
merchant, as seen from the dining-room ,,
in- 
clow. He slipped on a piece of orange-peel, 
the child had explained. "And what happened 
then?" "'Vhy, mummy, he sat do,vn on the 
pavement and talked about God." Chesterton 
(and he is not alone in this respect) behaves 
exactly like this coal-heaver. 'Vhen he is at 
a loss, he talks about God. In each case one 
is given to suspect that the invocation is due 
to a temporarily over\vorked imagination. 
This leads us to The Ball and the Cross (1906). 
In The J1 an who was Thursday, \vhen the 
37 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


author had tired of his story, he brought in 
the universe at large. But its successor is 
dominated by God, and discussions on him by 
beings celestial, terrestrial, and merely infernal. 
And yet The Ball and the Cross is in many 
respects Chesterton's greatest novel. The first 
few chapters are things of joy. There is much 
said in them about religion, but it is all sincere 
and bracing. The first chapter consists, in 
the main, of a dialogue on religion, between 
Professor Lucifer, the inventor and the driver 
of an eccentric airship, and Father l\lichael, a 
theologian acquired by the Professor in 'Vestern 
Bulgaria. As the airship dives into the ball 
and the cross of Saint Paul's Cathedral, its 
passengers naturally find themselves taking a 
deep interest in the cross, considered as symbol 
and anchor. Lucifer plumps for the ball, the 
symbol of all that is rational and united. The 
cross 
" is the conflict of two hostile lines, of irreconcilable 
direction. . . . The very shape of it is a contradiction 
in terms." :l\Iichael replies, "But we like contra- 
dictions in ternlS. l\lan is a contradiction in terms ; 
he is a beast whose superiority to other beasts consists 
in having fallen." 
Defeated on points, Lucifer leaves the Father 
clinging literally to the cross and flies away. 
Michael meets 3, policeman on the upper gallery 
38 



THE ROMANCER 


and is conducted do"\vn\vards. The scene 
changes to Ludgate Circus, but Michael is no 
longer in the centre of it. A Scot named Turn- 
bull keeps a shop here, apparently in the 
endeavour to counterbalance the influence of 
St. Paul's across the way. He is an atheist, 
selling atheist literature, editing an atheist 
paper. Another Scot arrives, young Evan 
l\IacIan, straight from the Highlands. Unlike 
the habitual Londoner, l\lacIan takes the little 
shop seriously. In its window he sees a copy 
of The Atheist, the leading article of which 
contains an insult to the Virgin Mary. l\lacIan 
thereupon puts his stick through the "\vindow. 
Turnbull comes out, there is a scuffle, and 
both are arrested and taken before a Dicken- 
sian magistrate. The sketch of l\lr. Cumber- 
land Vane is very pleasing: it is clear that the 
author knew ,vhat he was copying. Lord 
IVlelbourne is alleged to have said, "N 0 one 
has more respect for the Christian religion 
than I have; but really, when it comes to in- 
truding it into private life. .." l\Ir. Vane 
felt much the same \vay when he heard 

lacIan's simple explanation: "He is my 
enemy. lIe is the encmy of God." He said, 
"It is most undesirable that things of that 
sort should be spoken about-a-in public, 
and in an ordinary Court of Justice. Religion 
39 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


is-a-too personal a matter to be mentioned 
in such a place." However, MacIan is fined. 
After which he and Turnbull, as men of honour, 
buy themselves swords and proceed to fight 
the matter out. 'Vith interruptions due to 
argument and the police, the fight lasts several 
weeks. Turnbull and l\'IacIan fight in the back 
garden of the man from whom they bought 
the swords, 1 until the police intervene. They 
escape the police and gain the Northern 
Heights of London, and fight once more, with 
a madness renewed and stimulated by the 
peace-making efforts of a stray and silly 
Tolstoyan. Then the police come again, and 
are once more outdistanced. This time mortal 
combat is postponed on account of the san- 
guinolence of a casual lunatic who worshipped 
blood to such a nauseating extent that the 
duellists deferred operations in order to chase 
him into a pond. Then follo\vs an intermin- 
able dialogue, paradoxical, thoroughly Shavian, 
while the only two men in England to \vhom 
God literally is a matter of life and death find 
that they begin to regard the slaughter of one 
by the other as an unpleasant duty. Again 


1 Chesterton jeers at this man's" Scottish" ancestry because his 
surname was Gordon and he was obviously a Jew. The author is 
probably unaware that there are large numbers of Jews bearing- 
that name in Russia. If he had made his Jew call himself 
Macpherson, the case would have been different. 
40 



THE ROl\IANCER 


they fight and are separated. They are motored 
by a lady to the Hampshire coast, and there 
they fight on the sands until the rising tide 
cuts them off. An empty boat turns up to 
rescue them from drowning; in it they reach 
one of the Channel Islands. Again they fight, 
and again the police come. They escape from 
them, but remain on the island in disguise, 
and make themselves an opportunity to pick 
a quarrel and so fight a duel upon a matter 
in keeping \vith local prejudice. But Turn- 
bull has fallen in love. His irritatingly 
calm and beautiful devotee argues 'with him 
on religion until he is driven to cast off his 
disguise. Thcn the police are on his tracks 
again. A lunatic lends Turnbull and Mac Ian 
his yacht and so the chase continues. But by 
this time Chesterton is getting just a trifle 
bored. He realizes that no matter how many 
adventures his heroes get into, or ho\v many 
paradoxes they fling down each other's throats, 
the end of the story, the final inevitable end 
\vhich alone makes a series of rapid adventures 
\vorth ,vhile, is not even on the horizon. An 
element of that spurious mysticism already 
described invades the book. It begins to be 
clear that Chesterton is trying to drag in a 
moral someho\v, if need be, by the hair of its 
head. The two yachters spend two ,veeks of 
41 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


geographical perplexity and come to a desert 
island. They land, but think it wiser, on the 
whole, to postpone fighting until they have 
finished the champagne and cigars with which 
their vessel is liberally stored. This takes a 
week. Just as they are about to begin the 
definitive duel they discover that they are not 
upon a desert island at all, they are near 
Margate. And thc police are there, too. So 
once more they are chased. They land in a 
large garden in front of an old gentleman \vho 
assures them that he is God. He turns out to 
be a lunatic, and the place an asylum. There 
follows a characteristic piece of that abuse of 
science for which Chesterton has never at- 
tempted to suggest a substitute. lVIaclan and 
Turnbull find themselves prisoners, unable to 
get out. Then they dream dreams. Each sees 
himself in an aeroplane flying over Fleet Street 
and Ludgate Hill, where a battle is raging. 
But the \voolly element is very pronounced by 
this time, and \ve can make neither head nor 
tail of these dreams and the conversations 
which accompany them. The duellists are 
imprisoned for a month in horrible cells. They 
find their ,yay into the garden, and are told 
that all England is no\v in the hands of the 
alienists, by a ne\v Act of Parliament: this 
has been the only possible manner of putting 
42 



THE ROMANCER 


a stop to the revolution started by l\facIan 
and Turnbull. These two find all the persons 
they had met with during their odyssey, 
packed away in the asylum, which is a won- 
derful place worked by petroleum machinery. 
But the matter-of-fact grocer from the Channel 
Island, regarding the whole affair as an in- 
fringement of the Rights of Man, sets the 
petroleum alight. l\lichael, the celestial being 
who had appeared in the first chapter and 
disappeared at the end of it, is dragged out 
of a cell in an imbecile condition. Lucifer 
comes down in his airship to collect the doctors, 
\vhose bodies he drops out, a little later on. 
The buildings vanish in the flames, the keepers 
bolt, the inmates talk about their souls. 
l\lacIan is reunited to the lady of the Channel 
Island, and the story ends. 
'Vhen a stone has been tossed into a pond, 
the ripples gradually and symmetrically grow 
smaller. A Chesterton novel is like an adven- 
turous voyage of discovery, which begins on 
smooth water and is made with the object of 
finding the causes of the ripples. As ripple 
succeeds ripple-or chapter follows chapter- 
so we have to keep a tighter hold on such 
tangible things as are within our reach. Finally 
we reach the centre of the excitement and are 
either sucked into a whirlpool, or hit on the 
43 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


head with a stone. 'Vhen we recover conscious- 
ness we feebly remember \ve have had a thrill- 
ing journey and that we had started out with 
a misapprehension of the quality of Chester- 
tonian fiction. A man \vhose memory is 
normal should be able to give an accurate 
synopsis of a novel six months after he has 
read it. But I should be greatly surprised if 
any reader of The Ball and the Cross could tell 
exactly what it was all about, \vithin a month 
or two of reading it. The discontinuity of it 
makes one difficulty; the substitution of 
paradox for incident makes 3nother . Yet it 
is difficult to avoid the conviction that this 
novel will survive its day and the generation 
that begot it. If it was Chesterton's endeavour 
(as one is bound to suspect) to show that the 
triumph of atheism \vould lead to the triumph 
of a callous and inhuman body of scientists, 
then he has failed miserably. But if he was 
attempting to prove that the uncertainties of 
religion were trivial things \vhen compared 
\vith the uncertainties of atheism, then the 
verdict must be reversed. The dialogues on 
religion contained in The Ball and the Cross 
are alone enough and more than enough to 
place it among the few books on religion which 
could be safely placed in the hands of an 
atheist or an agnostic \vith an intelligence. 
44 



THE ROMANCER 


If \ve consider lJlanalive (1912) no\v we shall 
be depart.ing from st.rict chronological order, 
as it was preceded by The Innocence of Father 
Brown. It \viIl, ho\vever, be more sat.isfactory 
t.o take the t,vo Father Brown books together. 
In the first of these and lJl analive, a change 
can be distinctly felt. It is not a simple 
weakening of the po,ver of employing instru- 
ments, such as befcll Ibsen \vhen, after writing 
The Lady from the Sea, he could no longer keep 
his symbols and his characters apart. It is a 
more subtle change, a combination of several 
small changes, \vhich cannot be studied fairly 
in relation only to one side of Chesterton's 
,york. In the last chapter an attempt will be 
made to analyze these, for the present I can 
only indicate some of the faIlings-off noticeable 
in JJlanalive, and leave it at that. Chesterton's 
previous romances were not constructed, the 
reader may have gathered, ,vith that minute 
attention to detail which makes some modern 
novels read like the report of a newly promoted 
detective. But a man may do such things and 
yet be considered spotless. Shakespeare, after 
all, ,vent astray on several points of history 
and geography. The authors of the Old 
Testamcnt talked about "the hare that cheweth 
the cud." And, if any reader should fail to 
see the application of these instances to 
45 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


modern fiction, I can only recommend him to 
read Vanity Fair and find out how many 
children had the Rev. Bute Crawley, and \vhat 
were their names. No, the trouble with 
JJlanali'L'c is not in its casual, happy-go-lucky 
construction. It is rather in a certain lack of 
ease, a tcndency to exaggerate effects, a con- 
tinual stirring up of inconsiderable points. 
But let us come to the story. 
There is a boarding-house situated on one 
of the summits of the Northern Heights. A 
great \vind happens, and a large man, quite 
literally, blows in. His name is Innocent 
Smith and he is naturally considered insane. 
But he is really almost excessively sanc. His 
presence makcs life at the house a sort of 
holiday for the inmates, male and female. 
Smith is about to run for a special licence in 
order to marry onc of the .women in the house, 
and the other boarders have just paired off 
when a telegram posted by one of the ladics 
in a misapprehension brings two lunacy experts 
around in a cab. Smith adds to the excite- 
ment of the momcnt by putting a couple of 
bullets through a doctor's hat. 
Now Smith is \vhat somebody calls "an 
allegorical practical joker." But Chesterton 
gives a better description of him than 
that. 


46 



THE ROMANCER 


He's comic just because he's so startlingly common- 
place. Don't you know what it is to be in all one 
family circle, with aunts and uncles, when a school- 
boy comes home for the holidays? That bag there 
on the cab is only a schoolboy's hanlper. This tree 
here in the garden is only the sort of tree that any 
schoolboy would have climbed. Yes, that's the sort 
of thing that has haunted us all about him, the thing 
we could never fit a word to. \tVhethcr he is myoid 
schoolfellow or no, at least he is all myoid school- 
fellows. lIe is the endless bun-eating, ball-throwing 
animal that. we have all been. 


Innocent has an idea about every few 
minutes, but so far as the book is concerned 
\ve need mention only one of them. That one 
is-local autonomy for Beacon House. This 
may be recommended as a game to be played 
en famille. Establish a lligh Court, call in a 
legal lnember, and get a constitution. The 
rest will be very hilarious. The legal member 
of the Beacon I10use ménage is an Irish ex- 
barrister, one l\lichael Moon, who plans as 
follows : 
The High Court of Beacon, he declared, was a 
splendid example of our free and sensible constitu- 
tion. It had been founded by King John in defiance 
of :Magna Carta, and now held absolute power over 
windmills, wine and spirit licences, ladies travelling 
in Turkey, revision of sentences for dog-stealing and 
parricide, as well as anything whatever that hap. 
pened in the town of Market Bosworth. The whole 
47 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


hundred and nine seneschals of the High Court of 
Beacon nlet about once in every four centuries; but 
in the intervals (as l\Ir. l\loon eXplained) the whole 
powers of the institution were vested in l\1rs. Duke 
[the landlady]. Tossed about among the rest of the 
cOlnpany, however, the High Court did not retain its 
historical and legal seriousness, but was used some- 
what unscrupulously in a riot of domestic detail. If 
somebody spilt the \V Ol'cester Sauce on the table- 
cloth, he was quite sure it was a rite without which 
the sittings and findings of the Court would be 
invalid; and if somebody wanted a windGw to 
remain shut, he would suddenly relnember that none 
but the third son of the lord of the lnanor of Penge 
had the right to open it. They even went the length 
of making arrests and conducting crin1Ïnal inquiries. 


Before this tribunal Innocent Smith is 
brought. One alienist is an American, who is 
quite prepared to acknowledge its jurisdiction, 
being by reason of his nationality not easily 
daunted by mere constitutional queerness. 
The other doctor, being the prosecutor and a 
boarder, has no choice in the matter. The 
doctors, it should be added, have brought with 
them a mass of documentary evidence, incrimi- 
nating Smith. 
How the defence has time to collect this 
evidence is not explained, but this is just one 
of the all-important details \vhich do not 
matter in the Chestertonian plane. Smith is 
48 



THE ROMANCER 


tried for attempted murder. The prosecution 
fails because the evidence shows Smith to be 
a first-class shot, who has on occasion fired life 
into people by frightening them. Then he is 
tried for burglary on the basis of a clergyman's 
letter fron1 which it is gathered that Smith 
tried one night to induce him and another 
cleric to enter a house burglariously in the 
dark. This charge breaks do\vn because a 
letter is produced from the other clergyman 
who did actually accompany Smith over house- 
tops and down through trap-doors-into his own 
house! Smith, it is explained, is in the habit 
of keeping himself a .wake to the romance and 
wonder of everyday existence by such courses. 
From the second letter, however, it appears 
that there is a Mrs. Smith, so the next charge 
is one of desertion and attempted bigamy. A 
series of documents is produced, from persons 
in France, Russia, China, and California re- 
counting conversations with Smith, a man 
with a garden-rake, who left his house so that 
he might find it, and at the end leapt over the 
hcdge into the garden where Mrs. Smith was 
having tea. In the words of the servant "he 
looked round at the garden and said, very loud 
and strong: 'Oh, what a lovely place you've 
got,' just as if he'd never seen it before.
' After 
\vhich the court proceeds to try Smith on 
D 49 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


a polygamy charge. Documentary evidence 
shows that Smith has at one time or another 
married a l\1iss Green, a Miss Brown, a Miss 
Black, just as he is now about to marry a l\liss 
Gray, 1\loon points out that these are all the 
same lady. Innocent Smith has merely broken 
the conventions, he has religiously kept the 
comn1andments. He has burgled his own 
house, and married his O"wn wife. He has been 
perfectly innocent, and therefore he has been 
perfectly merry. Innocent is acquitted, and 
the book ends. 
In the course of IJlanalive, somebody says, 
" Going right round the world is the shortest 
way to where you are already." These are the 
words of an overworked epigrammatist, and 
upon them hangs the whole story. If IJlanalive 
is amusing, it is because Chesterton has a style 
which could make even a debilitated paradox 
of great length seem amusing. The book has 
a few gorgeous passages. Among the docu- 
ments read at the trial of Innocent Smith, for 
exalnple, is a statement made by a Trans- 
Siberian station-master, .which is a perfectly 
exquisite burlesque at the expense of the 
Russian intelligenzia. The whole series of 
documents, in fact, are delightful bits of self- 
expression on the part of a very varied team 
of selves. 'Yllile Chesterton is able to turn out 
50 



THE ROl\1:ANCER 


such things we must be content to take the 
page, and not the story, as his unit of work. 
lJ,lanalive, by the \vay, is the first of the 
author's stories in \vhich ,vomen are repre- 
sented as talking to one another. Chesterton 
seems extraordinarily shy with his feminine 
characters. He is a little afraid of ,voman. 
" The average ,voman is a despot, the average 
man is a serf."1 l\Irs. Innocent Smith's vie\v 
of men is in keeping with this peculiar notion. 
" At certain curious times they're just fit to 
take care of us, and they're never fit to take 
care of themselves." Smith is the Chester- 
tonian Parsifal, just as Prince l\luishkin is 
Dostoievsky's. 
The transcendental type of detective, first 
sketched out in The Club of Queer Trades, is 
developed more fully in the t\VO Father Brown 
books. In the little Roman priest \vho has 
such a wonderful instinct for placing the 
diseased spots in people's souls, \ve have 
Chesterton's completest and most human crea- 
tion. Yet, \vith all their cleverness, and in 
spite of the fact that from internal evidence it 
is almost blatantly obvious that the author 
enjoyed \vriting these stories, they bear marks 
'which put the books on a lo\ver plane than 
either The Napoleon of Nolting Hill or The Ball 


1 All TltillgS Considered, p. 106. 
51 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


and the Cross. In the latter book Chesterton 
spoke of "the mere healthy and heathen horror 
of the unclean; the mere inhuman hatred of 
the inhuman state of madness." His o\vn 
critical work had been a long protest against 
the introduction of artificial horrors, a plea for 
sanity and the exercise of sanity. But in The 
Innocence of Father Brown these principles, 
almost the fundamental ones of literary decency, 
were put on the shelf. Chesterton's criminals 
are lunatics, perhaps it is his belief that crime 
and insanity are inseparable. But even if this 
last supposition is correct, its approval would 
not necessarily license the introduction of some 
of the characters. There is Israel Gow, who 
suffers from a peculiar mania which drives him 
to collect gold from places seemly and un- 
seemly, even to the point of digging up a 
corpse in order to extract the gold filling from 
its teeth. There is the insane French Chief of 
Police, \vho commits a murder and attempts 
to disguise the body, and the nature of the 
crime, by substituting the head of a guillotined 
criminal for that of the victim. In another 
story we have the picture of a cheerful teeto- 
taller who suffers from drink and suicidal 
mania. There is also a doctor \vho kills a mad 
poet, and a mad priest who drops a hammer 
from the top of his church-tower upon his 
52 



THE ROl\IANCER 


brother. Another story is about the loathsome 
treachery of an English general. It is, of course, 
difficult to write about crime without touching 
on features \vhich revolt the squeamish reader, 
but it can be done, and it has been done, as in 
the Sherlock Holmes stories. There are sub- 
jects about which one instinctively feels it is 
not good to know too much. Sex, for example, 
is one of them. Strindberg, \Veininger, l\lau- 
passant, Jules de Goncourt, knew too much 
about sex, and they all ,vent mad, although it 
is usual to disguise the fact in the less familiar 
terms of medical science. 
ladness itself is 
another such subject. There are writers ,vho 
dwell on madness because they cannot help 
themselves-Strindberg, Edgar Allan Poe, 
Gogol, and many others-but they scarcely 
produce the same nauseating sensation as the 
sudden introduction of the note of insanity 
into a hitherto normal setting. The harnessing 
of the horror into ,vhich the discovery of in- 
sanity reacts is a favourite device of the feeble 
craftsman, but it is illegitimate. It is abso- 
lutely opposed to those elementary canons of 
good taste which decree that we may not jest 
at the expense of certain things, either because 
they are too sacred or not sacred enough. The 
opposite of a decadent author is not neces- 
sarily a writer \vho attacks decadents. l\tIany 
53 



G. 1(. C HE S T E R TON 


decadents have attacked themselves, by com- 
mitting suicide, for example. The opposite of 
a decadent author is one to whom decadent 
ideas and imagery are alien, \vhich is a very 
different thing. For example, the whole story 
The JV rong Shape is filled \vith decadent ideas ; 
one is sure that Baudelaire would have en- 
tirely approved of it. It includes a decadent 
poet, living in wildly Oriental surroundings, 
attended by a Hindoo servant. Even the air 
of the place is decadent; Father Bro-wn on 
entering the house learns instinctively from it 
that a crime is to be committed. 
Considered purely as detective stories, these 
cannot be granted a very good mark. There 
is scarcely a story that has not a serious flaw 
in it. A man-Flambeau, of .whom more later 
-gains admittance to a small and select dinner 
party and almost succeeds in stealing the silver, 
by the device of turning up and pretending to 
be a guest when among the waiters, and a 
waiter when among the guests. But it is not 
explained what he did during the first two 
courses of that dinner, when he obviously had 
to be either a waiter or a guest, and could not 
keep up both parts, as when the guests were 
arriving. Another man, a "Priest of Apollo," 
is worshipping the sun on the top of a " sky- 
scraping" block of offices in 'Vestminster, while 
54 



THE ROl\lANCER 


a ,voman falls do,vn a lift-shaft and is killed. 
Father Bro\vn immediately concludes that the 
priest is guilty of the murder because, had he 
been unprepared, he would have started and 
looked round at the scream and the crash of 
the victim falling. But a man absorbed in 
prayer on, let us say, a tenth floor, is, in point 
of fact, quite unlikely to hear a crash in the 
basement, or a screaln even nearer to him. 
But the most astonishing thing about The Eye 
of Apollo is the staging. In order to provide 
the essentials, l\Ir. Chesterton has to place " the 
heiress of a crest and half a county, as well as 
great wealth," who is blind, in a typist's 
office! The collocation is somewhat too singu- 
lar. One might go right through the Father 
Brown stories in this lnanner. But, if the 
reader \vishes to draw the maxÏ1nuln of enjoy- 
ll1ent out of them, he will do nothing of the 
sort. He ,vill believe, as fervently as Alfred 
de Vigny, that L'Idée C' est Tout, and lay down 
all petty regard for detail at the feet of Father 
Brown. This little Roman cleric has listened 
to so many confessions (he calls himself" a man 
who does next to nothing but hear men's real 
sins," but this seems to be excessive, even for 
a Roman Catholic) that he is really well 
acquainted with the human soul. He is also 
extremely observant. And his greatest friend 
55 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


is Flambeau, whom he once brings to judg- 
ment, twice hinders in crime, and thence- 
forward accompanies on detective expeditions. 
The lnnocence of Father Brown had a sequel, 
The Wisdom of Father Brown, distinctly less 
effective, as sequels always are, than the pre- 
decessor. But the underlying ideas are the 
same. In the first place there is a deep detes- 
tation of "Science" (whatever that is) and 
the maintenance of the theory incarnate in 
Father Brown, that he who can read the human 
soul knows all things. The detestation of 
science (of which, one gathers, Chesterton 
knows nothing) is carried to the same absurd 
length as in The Ball and the Cross. In the 
very first story, Father Bro\vn calls on a 
criminologist ostensibly in order to consult 
him, actually in order to sho,v the unfortunate 
man, who had retired from business fourteen 
years ago, what an extraordinary fool he was. 
The Father Brown of these stories-moon- 
faced little man-is a peculiar creation. No 
other author would have taken the trouble to 
excogitate him, and then treat him so badly. 
As a detective he never gets a fair chance. He 
is always on the spot \vhen a murder is due to 
be committed, generally speaking he is there 
before time. \i\Then an absconding banker 
commits suicide under peculiar circumstances 
56 



THE ROIHANCER 


in Italian mountains, when a French publicist 
advertises himself by fighting duels \vith him- 
self (very nearly), when a murder is committed 
in the dressing-room corridor of a theatre, 
when a miser and blackmailer kills himself, 
when a lunatic admiral attempts murder and 
then commits suicide, when amid much in- 
coherence a Voodoo murder takes place, when 
somebody tries to kill a colonel by playing on 
his superstitions (and by other methods), and 
\vhen a gentleman commits suicide from envy, 
Father Bro,vn is always there. One might 
almost interpret the Father Brown stories by 
suggesting that their author had written them 
in order to illustrate the sudden impetus given 
to murder and suicide by the appearance of 
a Roman priest. 
Here we may suspcnd our revic,vs of Ches- 
tcrtonian romance. There remains yet The 
J!-'Zying Inn, \vhich shall be duly considered 
along with the other débris of its author. In 
summing up, it may be said of Chesterton that 
at his best he invented new possibilities of 
romance and a new and hearty laugh. It may 
be said of the decadents of thc eighteen 
nineties, that if their motto \vasn't " Let's all 
go bad," it should have been. So one may 
say of Chesterton that if he has not selected 
" Let's all go mad" as a text, he should have 
57 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


done. l\ladness, in the Chestertonian, what- 
ever it is in the pathological sense, is a defiance 
of convention, a loosening of visible bonds in 
order to show the strength of the invisible 
ones; perhaps, as savages are said to regard 
lunatics with great respect, holding them to be 
nearer the Deity than most, so Chesterton 
believes of his o\vn madmen. Innocent Smith, 
of course, the simple fool, the blithering idiot, 
is a truly wise man. 


58 



III 


THE l\IAKER OF l\IAGIC 


CHESTERTON'S only play, 1I1agic, was \vritten 
at the suggestion of Mr. Kenelm Foss and 
produced by him in November, 1913, at the 
Little Theatre, where it enjoyed a run of more 
than one hundred performances. This charm- 
ing thing does not make one \vish that Ches- 
terton \vas an habitual play\vright, for one feels 
that lJ-l agic was a sort of tank into which its 
author's dramatic talents had been draining 
for many years-although, in actual fact, 
Chesterton allowed ne\vspaper interviewers to 
learn that the play had been written in a very 
short space of time. His religious ideas were 
expressed in 1Jlagic with great neatness. l\Iost 
perhaps of all his ,yorks this is a quotable 
production. 
Patricia Carleon, a niece of the Duke, her 
guardian, is in the habit of wandering about 
his grounds seeing fairies. On the night when 
her brother Morris is expected to return from 
America she is having a solitary moonlight 
59 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


stroll \vhen she sees a Stranger, "a cloaked 
figure with a pointed hood," which last almost 
covers his face. She naturally asks him what 
he is doing there. He replies, mapping out the 
ground \vith his staff: 
I have a hat, but not to wear; 
I have a sword, but not to slay; 
And ever in my bag I bear 
A pack of cards, but not to play. 
This, he tells her, is the language of fairies. He 
tells her that fairies are not small things, but 
quite the reverse. After a fe\v sentences have 
been spoken the prologue comes to an end, 
and the curtain rises upon the scene of the 
play, the drawing-room of the Duke. I-Iere is 
seated the Rev. Cyril Smith, a young clergy- 
man, "an honest man and not an ass." To 
him enters the Duke's Secretary, to tell him 
the Duke is engaged at the moment, but ,vill 
be down shortly. He is followed by Dr. Grim- 
thorpe, an elderly agnostic, the red lamp of 
whose house can be seen through the open 
French windows. Smith is erecting a model 
public- house in the village, and has come to 
ask the Duke for a contribution to\vards the 
cost. Grimthorpe is getting up a league for 
opposing the erection of the ne,v public-house, 
and has also come to the Duke for help. They 
discover the nature of each other's errand. 
60 



THE MAKER OF MAGIC 


Smith's case is, "How can the Church have a 
right to make men fast if she does not allow 
them to feast? "; Grimthorpe's, that alcohol 
is not a food. The Duke's Secretary enters 
and gives Smith a cheque for 
50, then he 
gives the Doctor another-also for 
50. This 
is the first glimpse we have of the Duke's 
eccentricity, an excessive impartiality based 
on the theory that everybody" does a great 
deal of good in his own way," and on sheer 
absence of mind-an absence which sometimes 
is absolutely literal. The Doctor explains in 
confidence to the Clergyman that there is some- 
thing wrong about the family of Patricia and 
l\lorris, \vho are of Irish origin. . . ." They sa\v 
fairies and things of that sort." 
Sl\UTH. And I suppose, to the medical mind, seeing 
fairies means much the same as seeing snakes? 
DOCTOR. [JVith a sour smile.] Well, they saw 
them in Ireland. I suppose it's quite correct to see 
fairies in Ireland. It's like gambling at Monte Carlo. 
It's quite respectable. But I do draw the line at their 
seeing fairies in England. I do object to their bring- 
ing their ghosts and goblins and witches into the poor 
Duke's own back garden and within a yard of my 
own red lamp. It shows a lack of tact. 


Patricia, moreover, wanders about the park 
and thc \voods in the evenings. " Damp 
evenings for choice. She calls it the Celtic 
61 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


twilight. I've no use for the Celtic twilight 
myself. It has a tendency to get on the chest." 
The Duke, annoyed by this love of fairies, has 
blundered, in his usual \vay, on an absurd com- 
promise between the real and the ideal. A 
conjuror is to come that very night. 'Vhen 
explanations have gone so far, the Duke at 
last makes his entry. The stage directions tell 
us that "in the present state of the peerage 
it is necessary to explain that the Duke, 
though an ass, is a gentleman." His thoughts 
are the most casual on earth. He is ahvays 
being reminded of something or somebody 
\vhich has nothing to do \vith the case. As for 
instance, "I saw the place you're putting up 
. . . Mr. Smith. Very good work. Very good 
work, indeed. Art for the people, eh? I par- 
ticularly liked that ,vood work over the ,vest 
door-I'm glad to see you're using the new 
sort of graining. . . why, it all reminds one 
of the French Revolution." After one or two 
dissociations of this sort, the expected l\iorris 
Carleon enters through the French window; 
he is rather young and excitable, and America 
has overlaid the original Irishman. l\lorris 
immediately asks for Patricia and is told that 
she is wandering in the garden. The Duke 
lets out that she sees fairies; l\lorris raves a 
bit about his sister being allowed out alone 
62 



THE MAKER OF l\IAGIC 


with anything in the nature of a man, \vhen 
Patricia herself enters. She is in a slightly 
exalted state; she has just seen her fairy, him 
of the pointed hood. l\lorris, of course, is 
furious, not to say suspicious. 
DOCTOR. [Putting his hand on l\IORRIS'S shoulder.] 
Come, you must allow a little more for poetry. \Ve 
can't all feed on nothing but petrol. 
DUKE. Quite right, quite right. And being Irish, 
don't you know, Celtic, as old Buffle used tó say, 
charming songs, you know, about the Irish girl who 
has a plaid shawl-and a Banshee. [Sighs pro- 
foundly.] Poor old Gladstone! [Silence.] 
SMITH. [Speaking to DOCTOR.] I thought you 
yourself considered the family superstition bad for 
the health ? 
DOCTOR. I consider a family superstition is better 
for the health than a family quarrel. 
A figure is scen to stand in front of the red 
lamp, blotting it out for a moment. Patricia 
calls to it, and the cloaked Stranger \vith the 
pointed hood enters. l\lorris at once calls him 
a fraud. 
S:\UTH. [Quickly.] Pardon me, I do not fancy 
that we know that . . . 
l\IORRIS. I didn't know you parsons stuck up for 
any fables but your own. 
Sl\IITH. I stick up for the thing every man has a 
right to. Perhaps the only thing every man has a 
right to. 


63 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


l\IORRIS. And what is that? 
SMITH. The benefit of the doubt. 


Morris returns to the attack. The Stranger 
throws off his hood and reveals himself to the 
Duke. He is the Conjuror, ready for the even- 
ing's performance. All laugh at this dénoue- 
ment, except Patricia, between ,vhom and the 
Conjuror this bit of dialogue ensues: 
STRANGER. [Very sadly.] I am very sorry I am 
not a wizard. 
PATRICIA. I wish you were a thief instead. 
STRANGER. Have I committed a worse crime than 
thieving ? 
P ATRICIA. You have committed the cruellest 
crime, I think, that there is. 
STRANGER. And what is the cruellest crime? 
PATRICIA. Stealing a child's toy. 
STRANGER. And what have I stolen? 
PATRICIA. A fairy tale. 


And the curtain falls upon the First Act. 
An hour later the room is being prepared 
for the performance. The Conjuror is setting 
out his tricks, and the Duke is entangling him 
and the Secretary in his peculiar conversation. 
'The following is characteristic : 
THE SECRETARY. . . . The only other thing at all 
urgent is the 
Iilitant Vegetarians. 
DUKE. Ah! The Militant Vegetarians ! You've 
64 



THE 1\1AKER OF MAGIC 


heard of them, I'm sure. Won't obey the law [to the 
CONJUROR] so long as the Government serves out meat. 
CONJUROR. Let them be comforted. There are a 
good many people who don't get much meat. 
DUKE. Well, well, I'm bound to say they're very 
enthusiastic. Advanced, too-oh, certainly advanced. 
Like Joan of Arc. 
[Short silence, in which the CONJUROR stares at him.] 
CON JUROR. JVas Joan of Arc a Vegetarian ? 
DUKE. Oh, well, it's a very high ideal, after all. 
The Sacredness of Life, you know-the Sacredness of 
Life. [Shakes his head.] But they carry it too far. 
They killed a policeman down in Kent. 
This conversation goes on for some time, 
while nothing in particular happens, except 
that the audience feels very happy. The Duke 
asks the Conjuror several questions, receiving 
thoroughly Chestertonian ans\vers. [" Are you 
interested in modern progress?" " Yes. \Ve 
are interested in all tricks done by illusion."] 
At last the Conjuror is left alone. Patricia 
enters. He attempts to excuse himself for the 
theft of the fairy tale. He has had a trouble- 
some life, and has never enjoyed" a holiday 
in Fairyland." So, when he, with his hood up, 
because of the slight rain, was surprised by 
Patricia, as he was rehearsing his patter, and 
taken for a fairy, he played up to her. Patricia 
is inclined to forgive him, but the conversation 
is interrupted by the entrance of l\lorris, in a 
E 65 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


mood to be offensive. He examines the ap- 
paratus, proclaims the ,yay it is \vorked, and 
after a \vhile breaks out into a frenzy of free 
thought, asking the universe in general and 
the Conjuror in particular for "that old 
apparatus that turned rods into snakes." The 
Clergyman and the Doctor entcr, and the con- 
versation turns on religion, and then goes back 
to the tricks. l\lorris is still extremely quarrel- 
some, and for the second time has to be quieted 
do\vn. The Conjuror is dignified, but cutting. 
The whole scene has been, so far, a discussion 
on Do l\liracles Happen? Smith makes out 
a case in the affirmative, arguing from the 
false to the true. Suppose, as Morris claims, 
the "modern conjuring tricks are simply the 
old miracles \vhen they have once been found 
out. . . . 'Vhen \ve speak of things being 
sham, \ve generally mean that they are imita- 
tions of things that are genuine." l\lorris gets 
more and mOl'e excited, and continues to in- 
sult the Conjuror. At last he shouts. . . " You'll 
no more raise your Saints and Prophets from 
the dead than you'll raise the Duke's great- 
grandfather to dance on that wall." At \vhich 
the Reynolds portrait in question sways slightly 
from side to side. l\iorris turns furiously to the 
Conjuror, accusing him of trickery. A chair 
falls over, for no apparent cause, still further 
66 



THE MAKER OF l\IAGIC 


exciting the youth. At last he blurts out a 
challenge. The Doctor's red lalnp is the lalnp 
of science. No power on earth could change 
its colour. And the red light turns blue, for 
a minute. Morris, absolutely puzzled, comes 
literally to his wits' end, and rushes out, 
follo\ved shortly after\vards by his sister and 
the Doctor. The youth is put to bcd, and left 
in the care of Patricia, \vhile the Doctor and 
the Clergyman return to thcir argumcnt. Smith 
makes out a strong casc for belief, for simple 
faith, a case \vhich sounds strangely, coming 
from the lips of a clergyman of the Church 
of England. 


DOCTOR. Weren't there as many who believed 
passionately in Apollo ? 
S
IITH. And what harm came of believing in 
Apollo? And what a nlass of harm may have come 
of not believing in A polIo? Does it never strike you 
that doubt can be a madness, as well be faith? That 
asking questions may be a disease, as well as pro- 
claiming doctrines ? You talk of religious mania! 
Is there no such thing as irreligious mania? Is there 
no such thing in the house at this moment ? 
DOCTOR. Then you think no one should question 
at all ? 
SMITH. (JVith passion, pointing to the next room.] 
I think that is what comes of questioning! \Vhy can't 
you leave the universe alone and let it mean what it 
ltkes ? \Vhy shouldn't the thunùer be Jupiter? 
67 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


More men have made themselves silly by wondering 
what the devil it was if it wasn't Jupiter. 
DOCTOR. [Looking at him.] Do you believe in your 
own religion ? 
S
nTH. [Returning the look equally steadily.] Sup- 
pose I don't: I should still be a fool to question it. 
The child who doubts about Santa Claus has in- 
son1nia. The child who believes has a good night's 
rest. 
DOCTOR. You are a Pragmatist. 
SMITH. That is what the lawyers call vulgar abuse. 
But I do appeal to practice. Here is a family over 
which you tell me a mental calamity hovers. Here is 
the boy who questions everything and a girl who 
can believe anything. Upon whom has the curse 
fallen ? 


At this point the curtain was made to fall 
on the Second Act. The Third and last Act 
takes place in the same room a few hours later. 
The Conjuror has packed his bag, and is going. 
The Doctor has been sitting up \vith the 
patient. l\Iorris is in a more or less delirious 
state, and is continually asking ho-w the trick 
was done. The Doctor belicves that the ex- 
planation would satisfy thc patient and would 
probably help him to turn thc corner. But thc 
Conjuror will not provide an explanation. He 
has many reasons, the most practical of which 
is that he would not bc believed. The Duke 
comes in and tries to make a business matter 
68 



THE l\IAKER OF l\IAGIC 


of the secret, even to the extent of paying 
.t2000 for it. Suddenly the Conjuror changes 
his mind. He will tell them how the trick was 
done, it was all very simple. "It is the sim- 
plest thing in the world. That is why you \vill 
not laugh. . . . I did it by magic." The 
Doctor and the Duke are dumbfounded. Smith 
intervenes; he cannot accept the explanation. 
The Conjuror lets himself go, now he is voicing 
Chesterton's views. The clergyman who merely 
believes in belief, as Smith does, will not do. 
He n1ust believe in a fact, .which is far more 
difficult. 


CONJUROR. I say thesc things are supernatural. 
I say this is done by a spirit. The doctor does not 
believe me. He is an agnostic; and he knows every- 
thing. The Duke does not believe me; he cannot 
believe anything so plain as a miracle. But what the 
devil are you for, if you don't believe in a miracle? 
\Vhat does your coat mean if it doesn't mean that 
there is such a thing as the supernatural? What 
does your cursed collar mean if it doesn't meaft that 
there is such a thing as a spirit? [Exasperated.] \Vhy 
the devil do you dress up like that if you don't 
believe in it? [With violence.] Or perhaps you don't 
believe in devils ? 
S!\HTH. I believe . . . [After a pause.] I wish I 
could believe. 
CONJUROR. Y cs. I wish I could disbelieve. 


Here Patricia enters. She 'wants to speak 
69 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


to the Conjuror, with whom she is left alone. 
A little love scene takes place: rather the 
result of- two slightly sentimental and rather 
tired persons of diffe:rent sexes being left alone 
than anything else. But they return to 
realities, with an effort. Patricia, too, wants 
to kno\v ho\v the trick was done, in order to 
tell her brother. He tells her, but she is of 
the ,vorld ,vhich cannot believe in devils, even 
although it may manage to accept fairies as 
an inevitable adjunct to landscape scenery by 
moonlight. In order to convince her the Con- 
juror tells her ho\v he fell, how after dabbJing 
in spiritualism he found he had lost control 
over himself. But he had resisted the temp- 
tation to make the devils his servants, until 
the impudence of l\Iorris had made him lose 
his temper. Then he goes out into the garden 
to see if he can find some explanation to give 
l\iorris. The Duke, Smith, the Doctor, and 
the Secretary drift into the room, which is now 
tenanted by something impalpable but hor- 
rible. The Conjuror returns and clears the air 
with an exorcism. He has invented an ex- 
planation, \vhich he goes out to give to Morris. 
Patricia announces that her brother immedi- 
ately took a turn for the better. The Conjuror 
refuses to repeat the explanation he gave 
l\lorris, because if he did, "Half an hour after 
70 



THE l\IAI{ER OF l\IAGIC 


I have left this house you \vill all be saying 
huw it was done." He turns to go. 
PATRICIA. Our fairy tale has come to an end in the 
only way a fairy tale can come to an end. The only 
way a fairy tale can leave off being a fairy tale. 
CONJUROR. I don't understand you. 
PATRICIA. It has come true. 
And the curtain falls for the last time. 
No doubt lJlagic owed a great deal of its 
success to the admirable production of l\Ir. 
Kenelm Foss and the excellence of the cast. 
l\liss Grace Croft \vas surely the true Patricia. 
Of the Duke of 1\11'. Fred Lewis it is difficult 
to speak in terms other than superlative. 
Those of my readers \vho have suffered the 
misfortune of not having seen him, may gain 
some idea of his execution of the part from the 
illustrations to 1\11'. Belloc's novels. The Duke 
was an extraordinarily good likeness of the 
Duke of Battersea, as portrayed by Chesterton, 
with rather more than a touch of 1\11'. Asquith 
superadded. 1\11'. Fred Le\vis, it may be stated, 
gagged freely, introducing topical lines until 
the play became a revue in little-but \vithout 
injustice to the original. Several of those \vho 
saw 1J] agic came for a third, a fourth, even a 
tenth time. 
The Editor of The Dublin Review had the 
happy idea of asking Chesterton to revie\v 
71 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


Jf;lagic. The result is too long to quote in full, 
but it makes two important points which may 
be extracted. 
I will glide mercifully over the more glaring errors, 
which the critics havc overlooked-as that no Irish- 
man could become so complete a cad merely by going 
to America-that no young lady would walk about in 
the rain so soon before it was necessary to dress for 
dinner-that no young man, however American, 
could run round a Duke's grounds in the time between 
one bad epigran1 and another-that Dukes never 
allow the middle classes to encroach on their gardens 
so as to permit a doctor's lamp to be seen there-that 
no sister, however eccentric, could conduct a slightly 
frivolous love-scene with a brother going mad in the 
next room-that the Secretary disappears half-way 
through the play without explaining himself; and 
the conjuror disappears at the end, with almost equal 
dignity. . . . 
By the exercise of that knowledge of all human 
hearts which descends on any man (however un- 
worthy) the moment he is a dramatic critic, I per- 
ceive that the author of Magic originally wrote it as 
a short story. It is a bad play, because it was a good 
short story. In a short story of mystery, as in a 
Sherlock Holmes story, the author and the hero (or 
villain) keep the reader out of the secret. . . . But the 
drama is built on that grander secrecy which was 
called the Greek irony. In the drama, the audience 
must know the truth when the actors do not know it. 
That is where the drama is truly democratic: not 
because the audience shouts, but because it knows- 
and is silent. Now I do quite seriously think it is a 
72 



THE l\IAKER OF l\IAGIC 


weakness in a play like IJlagic that the audience is not 
in the central secret from the start. l\Ir. G. S. Street 
put the point with his usual unerring simplicity by 
saying that he could not help feeling disappointed 
with the Conjuror because he had hoped he would 
turn into the Devil. 


A few additions may easily be made to the 
first batch of criticisms. Patricia's \velcome 
to her brother is not what a long-lost brother 
might expect. There is really no satisfactory 
reason for the Doctor's continued presence. 
Patricia and l\Iorris can only be half Irish by 
blood, unless it is possible to become Irish by 
residence. \Vhy should the Conjuror rehearse 
his patter out in the wet? Surely the Duke's 
house would contain a spare room? \Vhere 
did the Conjuror go, at the end of the Third 
Act, in the small hours of the morning? And 
so on. 
But these are little things that do not matter 
in an allegory. For in IJI agic " things are not 
\vhat they seem." The Duke is a modern man. 
He is also the world, the flesh, and the devil. 
He has no opinions, no positive religion, no 
brain. He believes in his o\vn tolerance, which 
is merely his fatuousness. He follows the line 
of least resistance, and makes a virtue of it. 
He sits on the fence, but he \vill never come 
off. The Clergyman is the church of to-day, 
73 



G. !{. CHESTERTON 


preaching the supernatural, but unwilling to 
recognize its existence at close quarters. As 
somebody says somewhere in The TV isdom of 
Father Brown, " If a miracle happened in your 
office, you'd have to hush it up, no\v so many 
bishops are atheists." The Doctor is a less 
typical figure. He is the inconsistencies of 
science, kindly but \vith little joy of life, and 
extremely Chestertonian, \vhich is to say un- 
scientific. Morris is the younger generation, 
obsessed \vith business and getting on, and 
intellectually incapable of facing a religious 
fact. Patricia is the Chestertonian good woman, 
too essentially domestic to be ever fundamen- 
tally disturbed. The Conjuror, if not the Devil, 
is at any rate that inexplicable element in all 
life which most people do not see. 
Nevertheless there is a fla\v in JJlagic \vhich 
really is serious. If I \vcre to see, let us say, 
a sheet of newspaper flying down the road 
against the \vind, and a fricnd of mine, ,vho 
happened to be a gifted liar, told me that he 
was directing the pa per by D1eans of spirits, 
I should still be justified in believing that 
another explanation could be possible. I 
should say, " My dear friend, your explanation 
is romantic; I believe in spirits but I do not 
believe in you. I prefer to think that there 
is an air-current going the wrong way." That 
74 



THE MAKER OF 
IAGIC 


is the matter \vith the Conjuror's explanation. 
'Yhy should the Clergyman or the Doctor- 
professional sceptics, both of them, which is 
to say seekers after truth-take the word of 
a professional deceiver as necessarily true? 
There are t\VO \vorks which the critic of 
Chesterton must take into special considera- 
tion. They are JJI agic and Orthodoxy; and it 
may be said that the former is a dramatized 
version of the latter. The two together are 
a great \vork, striking at the very roots of 
disbelief. In a sense Chesterton pays the 
atheist a very high compliment. He does what 
the athei
t is generally too lazy to do for him- 
self; he takes his substitute for religion and 
systematizes it into something like a philosophy. 
Then he examines it as a whole. And he finds 
that atheism is dogma in its extremist form, 
that it embodies a multitude of superstitions, 
and that it is actually continually adding to 
their number. Such are the reasons of the 
greatness of ßlagic. The play, one feels, must 
remain unique, for the prolegomenon cannot 
be rewritten \vhile the philosophy is unchanged. 
And Chesterton has deliberately chosen the 
word orthodox to apply to himself, and he has 
not limited its meaning. 


75 



IV 


THE 
CRITIC OF LAR.GE THINGS 


THE heroes of Chesterton's romances have an 
adipose diathesis, as a reviewer has been heard 
to remark. In plain English they tend to,vards 
largeness. Flambeau, Sunday, and Innocent 
Smith are big men. Chesterton, as we have 
seen, pays little attention to his women char- 
acters, but whenever it comes to pass that he 
must introduce a heroine, he colours her as 
emphatically as the nature of things will 
admit. 'Vhich is to say that the Chestertonian 
heroine always has red hair. 
These things are symptomatic of their author. 
lIe loves robustness. If he cannot produce it, 
he can at any rate affect it, or attack its enemies. 
This \vorship of the robust is the fundamental 
fact of all Chesterton's ,vork. For example, as 
a critic of letters he confines himself almost 
exclusively to the big men. \Yhen l\ir. Bernard 
Shaw a few years ago con1mitted \vhat Ches- 
terton imagined was an attack upon Shake- 
76 



CRITIC OF LARGE THINGS 


speare, he almost instinctively rushed to the 
defence in the columns of The Daily News. 
\Yhen Chesterton wrote a little book on The 
V ictorian Age in Literature he showed no 
interest in the smaller pcople. The book, it 
may be urged in his excuse, ,vas a little one, 
but we feel that even if it \vas not, Chesterton 
would have done much the same thing. Among 
the writers he omitted to mention, even by 
name, are Sir Edwin Arnold, Harrison Ains- 
worth, 'Valter Bagehot, R.. Blackmore, A. H. 
Clough, E. A. Freeman, S. R. Gardiner, George 
Gissing, J. R.. Grcen, T. H. Green, Henry 
Hallam, Jean lngelow, Bcnjamin Jo\vett, ,Yo 
E. H. Lecky, Thomas Love Peacock, \V. 1\1. 
Praed, and Mrs. Humphry 'Vard. The criti- 
cisnl. \vhich feeds upon rescarch afid comparison, 
\vhich considers a new date or the emendation 
of a mispunctuated line of verse, worthy of 
effort, kno\vs not Chesterton. He is the student 
of the big men. He has \vritten books about 
Dickens, Bro\vning, and Shaw, of whom only 
one common quality can be noted, \vhich is 
that they are each the subjects of at least 
twenty other books. To write about the things 
,vhich have already yielded such a huge crop 
of criticism savours at first of a lack of imagin- 
ation. The truth is quite other\vise. Any- 
body, so to speak, can producc a book about 
77 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


Alexander Pope because the ore is at the dis- 
posal of every miner. But that larger mine 
called Dickens has been diligently \vorked by 
two generations of authors, and it would appear 
that a new one must either plagiarize or labour 
extremely in order to come upon fresh seams. 
But Chesterton's taste for bigness has COlne to 
his service in criticism. It has given him a 
power of seeing the large, obvious things which 
the critic of small things mis
es. He has the 
" thinking in millions " trick of the statistician 
transposed to literary ends. 
Or as a poet. The robustness is omni- 
present, and takes several forn1s. A grandilo- 
quence that sways uneasily bet\veen rodomon- 
tade and mere verbiage, a rotundity of diction, 
a choice of subjects \vhich can only be described 
as sanguinolent, the use of the bludgeon where 
others \vould prefer a rapier. 
Or as a simple user of \vords. Chesterton 
has a preference for the big \vords: a\vful, 
enormous, tremendous, and so on. A \vord 
which occurs very often indeed is mystic: it 
suggests that the noun it qualifies is laden with 
undisclosable attributes, and that romance is 
hidden here. 
Now all these things add up, as it \vere, to 
a tendency to say a thing as emphatically as 
possible. Emphasis of statement from a 
78 



CRITIC OF LARGE THINGS 


humorist giftcd with the use of words results 
sometimes in epigram, sOll1etimes in fun, in all 
things except the dull things (except when the 
dullness is due to an unhappy succession of 
scintillations which have misfired). For these 
reasons Chesterton is regarded as entirely 
frivolous-by persons \vithout a sense of 
humour. He is, in point of fact, extremely 
serious, on those frequent occasions when he 
is making out a case. As he himself points out, 
to be serious is not the opposite of to be funny. 
The opposite of to be funny is not to be funny. 
A man may be perfectly serious in a funny way. 
N ow it has befallen Chesterton on more than 
one occasion to have to cross s\vords \vith one 
of the few truc atheists, 1\11' . Joseph l\-lacCabe, 
the author of a huge nUlnber of books, mostly 
attacking Christianity, and as devoid of humour 
as an egg-shell is of hair. The differences and 
the resemblances between Chesterton and l\Ir. 
MacCabe might well be the occasion of a 
parable. Chesterton has \vritten some of the 
liveliest books about Christianity, Mr.1\IacCabe 
has written some of the dullest. Chesterton 
has \vritten the most amusing book about 
1\11'. Bernard Shaw; 1\11'. l\lacCabe has written 
the dullest. Chesterton and 1\11'. 1\IacCabe have 
a habit of sparring at one another, but up to 
the prescnt I have not noticed either make any 
79 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


palpable hits. It is all rather like the Party 
System, as 1\lr. Hilaire Belloc depicts it. The 
two antagonists do not understand each other 
in the least. But, to a certain degree, 1\11'. 
l\lacCabe's confusion is the fault of Chesterton 
and not of his own lack of humour. 'Vhen 
Chesterton says, "I also mean every word I 
say," he is saying something he does not mean. 
He is sometimes funny, but not serious, like 
1\lr. George Robey. lIe is sometimes irritating, 
but not serious, like a circus clo,vn. And he 
sometimes appears to be critical, but is not 
serious, like the young lady from 'Val worth 
in front of a Bond Street shop-window, regret- 
ting that she could not possibly buy the 
crockery and glass displayed because the 
monogram isn't on right. Chesterton's readers 
have perhaps spoiled him. He has pleaded, 
so to speak, for the inalienable and mystic 
right of every man to be a blithel'ing idiot in 
all seriousness. So seriously, in fact, that when 
he exercised this inalienable and mystic right, 
the only man not in the secret was G. K. 
Chesterton. 
There are few tasks so ungrateful as the 
criticism of a critic's criticislTIs, unless it be 
the job of criticizing the criticisms of a critic's 
critics. The first is part of the task of him 
who \vould write a book in which all Chester- 
80 



CRITIC OF LARGE THINGS 


ton's works are duly and fitly considered; and 
the second \viII not be wholly escaped by him. 
Concerned as \ve. are, ho\vever, \vith the ideas 
of one ,vho ,vas far more interested in putting 
the world to rights than \vith guiding men and 
women around literary edifices, there is no 
need for us to give any very detailed study to 
Chesterton's critical work. Bacon said" dis- 
tilled books are like common distilled waters, 
flashy things." A second distillation, perhaps 
even a third, suggests a Euclidean flatness. 
The sheer management of a point of view, 
however, is ahvays instructive. \Ve have seen 
an author use his exceptional powers of criti- 
cism upon society in general, and ideas at 
large. How is he able to deal with ideas and 
inventions stated in a more definite and par- 
ticular manner? The latter task is the more 
difficult of the t,vo. 'Ve all know perfectly 
well, to take an analogous illustration, ho\v 
to deal with the Prussian militarist class, the 
" Junker caste," and so on. But \ve differ 
hopelessly on the treatment to be meted out 
to the National Service League. 
The outstanding feature of Chesterton's 
critical ,york is that it has no outstanding 
features ,vhich differentiate it from his other 
writings. He is always the journalist, \vriting 
for the day only. This leads him to treat all 
F 81 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


his subjects with special reference to his own 
day. Sometimes, as in the essay on Byron in 
Twelve Types, his own day is so much under 
discussion that poor Byron is left out in the 
cold to \varm himself before a feebly flickering 
epigram. In writing of Dickens, Chesterton 
says that he "can be criticized as a contem- 
porary of Bernard Sha 'VOl' Anatole France or 
C. F. G. 1\iasterman . . . his name comes to 
the tongue \vhen \ve are talking of Christian 
Socialists or Mr. Roosevelt or County Council 
Steamboats or Guilds of Play." And Chester- 
ton does criticize Dickens as the contemporary 
of all these phenomena. In point of fact, 
to G.R.C. everybody is either a contemporary 
or a Victorian, and" I also \vas born a Vic- 
torian." Little Dorrit sets him talking about 
Gissing, Hard Times suggests Herbert Spencer, 
American Notes leads to the mention of Maxilll 
Gorky, and elsewhere 1\lr. George 1\ioore and 
1\ir. \Yilliam Le Queux are brought in. If 
Chesterton happened to be \vriting about 
Dickens at a tÍlne \vhen there ,vas a certain 
amount of feeling about on the subject of rich 
Jews on the Rand, then the rich J e,vs on the 
Rand \vould appear in print forth\vith, 'whether 
or not Dickens had ever depicted a rich Jew 
or the Rand, or the t\VO in conjunction. 

hcst('rton's first critical \vork of itnportancc 
82 



CRITIC OF LARGE THINGS 


was Robert Browning in the "English Men of 
Letters Series." It might be imagined that 
the austere editorship of Lord Morley might 
have a dejournalizing effect upon the style 
of the author. Far otherwise. The t's are 
crossed and the i's are dotted, so to speak, 
more carefully in Robert Browning than in 
works less fastidiously edited, but that is all. 
The book contains references to Gladstone 
and Home Rule, Parnell, Pigott, and Rud- 
yard Kipling, Cyrano de Bergerac, 'V. E. 
Henley, and the Tivoli. But of Browning's 
literary ancestors and predecessors there is 
little mention. 
It is conventional to shed tears of ink over 
the journalistic touch, on the ground that it 
must inevitably shorten the life of whatever 
book bears its marks. If there is anything in 
this condemnation, then Chesterton is doomed 
to forgetfulness, and his critical works will be 
the first to slip into oblivion, such being the 
nature of critical works in general. But if 
this condemnation holds true, it includes also 
l\lacaulay, R. L. Stevenson, l\Iatthe\v Arnold, 
and how many others! The journalistic touch, 
when it is good, means the preservation of a 
work. And Chesterton has that most essential 
part of a critic's mental equipment-what we 
call in an ina.dequately descriptive manner, 
83 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


insight. He was no mean critic, whatever the 
tricks he played, who could pen these judg- 
ments : 


The dominant passion of the artistic Celt, such as 
Mr. W. B. Yeats or Sir Edward Burne-Jones, lies in 
the word "escape"; escape into a land where 
oranges grow on plum trees and men can sow what 
they like and reap what they enjoy. (G. F. JVatts.) 
The supreme and most practical value of poetry 
is this, that in poetry, as in music, a note is struck 
which expresses beyond the power of rational state- 
ment a condition of mind, and all actions arise from 
a condition of mind. (Robert Browning.) 
This essential comedy of Johnson's character is one 
which has never, oddly enough, been put upon the 
stage. There was in his nature one of the unconscious 
and even agreeable contradictions loved by the true 
comedian. . . . I mean a strenuous and sincere 
belief in convention, combined with a huge natural 
inaptitude for observing it. (Samuel Johnson.) 
Rossetti could, for once in a way, write poetry 
about a real woman and call her" Jenny." One has a 
disturbed suspicion that Morris would have called her 
"Jehanne." (The Victorian Age in Literature.) 


These are a few samples collected at random, 
but they alone are almost sufficient to enthrone 
Chesterton among the critics. He has a won- 
derful intuitive gift of feeling for the right 
metaphor, for the material object that best 
symbolizes an impression. But one thing he 
84 



CRITIC OF LARGE THINGS 


lacks. Put him among authors whose view 
of the universe is opposed to his own, and 
Chesterton instantly adopts an insecticide atti- 
tude. The wit of \Vilde moves him not, but 
his morals stir him profoundly; Mr. Thomas 
Hardy is "a sort of village atheist brooding 
and blaspheming over the village idiot." Only 
occasionally has he a good \vord to say for the 
technique of an author whose vie\vs he dis- 
likes. His critical work very largely consists 
of an attempt to describe his subjects' views 
of the universe, and bring them into relation 
\vith his own. His two books on Charles 
Dickens are little more than such an attempt. 
'Vhen, a few years ago, l\lr. Edwin Pugh, \vho 
had also been studying the "aspects" of 
Dickens, came to the conclusion that the 
novelist was a Socialist, Chesterton \vaxed 
exceeding wrath and gave the offending book 
a severe wigging in The Daily News. 
He loves a good fighter, ho\vever, and to 
such he is ahvays just. There are few philoso- 
phies so radically opposed to the whole spirit 
of Chesterton's beliefs as that of John Stuart 
l\lill. On religion, economic doctrine, and 
woman suffrage, l\Iill held views that are 
offensive to G.K.C. But l\IilI is nevertheless 
invariably treated by him with a respect which 
approximates to reverence. The principal 
85 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


case in point, however, is l\{r. Bernard Shaw, 
who holds all l\lill's beliefs, and waves them 
about even more defiantly. G.K.C.'s admira- 
tion in this case led him to write a whole book 
about G.B.S. in addition to innumerable 
articles and references. The book has the 
following characteristic introduction : 
Most people either say that they agree with 
Bernard Shaw or that they do not understand him. 
I am the only person who understands him, and I do 
not agree with him. 
Chesterton, of course, could not possibly 
agree ,vith such an avowed and utter Puritan 
as l\lr. Sha,v. The Puritan has to be a revolu- 
tionary, which means a man who pushes for- 
ward the hand of the clock. Chesterton, as 
near as may be, is a Catholic Tory, \vho is a 
man who pushes back the hand of the clock. 
Superficially, the two make the clock show the 
same hour, but actually, one puts it on to a.m., 
the other back to p.m. Bet\veen the two is all 
the difference that is between darkness and 
day. 
Chesterton's point of view is distinctly like 
Samuel Johnson's in more respects than one. 
Both critics made great play with dogmatic 
assertions based on the literature that was 
before their time, at the expense of the litera- 
ture that was to come after. In the book on 
86 



CRITIC OF LARGE THINGS 


Shaw, Chesterton strikes a blow at all inno- 
vators, although he aims only at the obvious 
failures. 
The truth is that all feeble spirits naturaHy live in 
the future, because it is featureless; it is a soft job; 
you can make it what you like. The next age is blank, 
and I can paint it freely with my favourite colour. 
It requires real courage to face the past, because the 
past is full of facts which cannot be got over; of 
men certainly wiser than we and of things donc which 
we cannot do. I know I cannot write a poem as good 
as Lycidas. But it is always easy to say that the 
particular sort of poetry I can write will be the poetry 
of the future. 
Sentiments such as these have nlade many 
young experimentalists feel that Chesterton is 
a traitor to his youth and generation. Nobody 
\vill ever have the detachment necessary to 
appreciate" futurist" poetry until it is very 
much a thing of the past, because the near past 
is so much with us, and it is part of us, \vhich 
the future is not. But fidclity to the good 
things of thc past does not exonerate us 
fronl the task of looking for the gcrms of 
the good things of the future. Thc young 
poet of to-day sits at the feet of Sir 
Henry Ne\vbolt, \vhose critical appreciation 
is undaunted by mere dread of ne\v things, 
while to the sanle youth and to his fricnds it 
has simply never occurred, often enough, to 
87 



G. K. CHE S TER TON 


think of Chesterton as a critic. It cannot be 
too strongly urged that an undue admiration 
of the distant past has sat like an incubus 
upon the chest of European literature, and 
Shakespeare's greatness is not in spite of his 
" small Latin and less Greek," which probably 
contributed to it indirectly. Had Shakespeare 
been a classical scholar, he would almost cer- 
tainly have modelled his plays on Seneca or 
Aeschylus, and the results \vould have been 
devastating. Addison's Cato, Johnson's Irene, 
and the dramas of Racine and Corneille are 
among the abysmal dullnesses mankind owes 
to its excessive estimation of the past. 1\:len 
have ahvays been too ready to forget that we 
inherit our ancestors' bad points as ,vcIl as 
their good ones. Ancestor-worship has de- 
prived the Chinese of the capacity to create, 
it has seriously affected Chesterton's power to 
criticize. Chesterton's o\vn generation has 
seen both the victory and the do\vnfall of 
form in the novels of 1\11'. Gals\vorthy and 
Mr. H. G. 'VeIls. It has \vitnessed fascinating 
experiments in stagecraft, some of \vhich have 
assuredly succeeded. It has listened to new 
poets and wandered in enchanted worlds \vhere 
no Victorians trod. A critic in sympathy \vith 
these efforts at reform \vould have written the 
last-quoted passage something like this: 
88 



CRITIC OF LARGE THINGS 


"The truth is that all feeble spirits natur- 
ally live in the past, because it has no boun- 
daries; it is a soft job; you can find in it 
what you like. The past ages are rank, and I 
can daub myself freely \vith \vhatever colours 
I extract. It requires no courage to face the 
past, because the past is full of facts ,vhich 
neutralize one another; of men certainly no 
\viser than we, and of things done \vhich we 
could not want to do. I know I cannot write 
a poem as good as Lycidas. But I also know 
that l\Iilton could not \vrite a poem as good as 
The Hound of Heaven or l\l'Andre\v's Hymn. 
And it is ahvays easy to say that the particular 
kind of poetry I can write has been the poetry 
of some period of the past." 
But Chesterton didn't; quite the reverse. 
So that one comes to the sorrowful conclu- 
sion that Chesterton is at his best, as a critic, 
when he is \vriting introductions, because then 
he has to leave the past alone. 'Vhen he is 
writing an introduction to one of the \vorks 
of a great Victorian (Dickens ahvays excepted) 
he makes his subject stand out like a solitary 
giant, not necessarily because he is one, but 
on account of the largeness of the contours, 
the rough shaping, and the deliberate con- 
trasts. lIe has \vritten prefaces \vithout num- 
ber, and the British l\luseum has not a complete 
89 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


set of the books introduced by him. The 
Fables of Æsop, the Book of Job, l\latthew 
Arnold's Critical Essays, a book of children's 
poems by IVrargaret Arndt, Bos\vell's Johnson, 
a novel by Gorky, selections from Thackeray, 
a life of l\Ir. 'ViII Crooks, and an anthology by 
young poets are but a few of the books he has 
explained. 
The last thing to be said on Chesterton as 
a critic is by \vay of illustration. For a series 
of books on artists, he \vrote t\VO, on 'Yïllian1 
Blakc and G. F. 'Vatts. The first is all about 
mysticism, and so is the second. They are 
for the layman, not for the artist. They could 
be read \vith interest and joy by the colour- 
blind. And, incidentally, they are extremely 
good criticisnl. Therein is the triumph of 
Chesterton. Giv
 hinl a subject ,vhich he can 
relate with his o\vn view of the universe, and 
space ,vherein to accomplish this feat, and he 
\vill succeed in presenting his readers with a 
vividly outlined portrait, tinted, of course, 
with his o,vn personality, but indisputably 
true to life, and ornanlented \vith fascinating 
little gargoyles. But put him among the 
bourgeoisie of literature and he \vill sulk like 
an angry child. 


90 



v 


THE 
IIUl\10RIST AND THE POET 


THERE are innumerable books-or let us say 
twenty-on l\Ir. Bernard Sha\v. They deal 
\vith him as a sociologist, a dramatist, or what 
not, but never as a humorist. There is a 
mass of books on Oscar 'Vilde, and they deal 
\vith everything concerned \vith him, except 
his humour. The great humorists-as such- 
go unsung to their graves. That is because 
there is nothing so obvious as a joke, and 
nothing so difficult to explain. It requires a 
psychologist, like 'Villian1 James, or a phil- 
osopher, like Bergson, to explain \vhat a joke 
is, and then most of us cannot understand the 
explanation. A joke-especially another man's 
joke-is a thing to be handled delicately and 
reverently, for once the bloom is off, the joke 
mysteriously shrivels and vanishes. Trans- 
lators are the s\vorn enemies of jokes; the 
exigencies of their deplorable trade cause them 
to maul the poor little things about \vhile they 
91 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


are putting them into new clothes, and the 
result is death, or at the least an appearance 
of vacuous senescence. But jokes are only the 
crystallization of humour; it exists also in 
less tangible forms, such as style and all that 
collection of effects vaguely lun1ped together 
and called "atn10sphere." Chesterton's pecu- 
liar" atmosphere" rises like a s\veet exhala- 
tion from the very ink he sheds. And it is 
frankly indefinable, as all genuine style is. The 
insincere stylists can be reduced to a formula, 
because they work from a formula; Pater n1ay 
be brought down to an arrangement of adjec- 
tives and commas, Doctor Johnson to a suc- 
cession of rhythms, carefully pruned of excres- 
cences, and so on, but the stylist who writes 
as God n1ade him defies such analysis. l\leredith 
and Sha\v and Chesterton will ren1ain mysteries 
even unto the latest research student of the 
Universities of J ena and Chicago. Patient 
students (something of the sort is already being 
done) ,viII count up the number of nouns and 
verbs and commas in The Napoleon of Notting 
Hill and will express the result in such a form 
as this- 


ff- nouns 3 / sin A 
Chesterton (G. 1\:.)= b 2 + V c.2Iogebn-- 
ver s 47 


But they will fail to touch the essential Ches- 
92 



HUMORIST AND POET 


terton, because one of the beauties of this 
form of analysis is that when the formula has 
been obtained, nobody is any the \viser as to 
the manner of its use. \Ve know that James 
Smith is composed of beef and beer and bread, 
because all evidence goes to sho\v that these are 
tht' only things he ever absorbs, but nobody 
has ever suggested that a synthesis of food- 
stuffs \vill ever give us James Smith. 
N ow the difficulty of dealing with the 
humour of Chesterton is that, in doing so, one 
is compelled to handle it, to its detriment. 
If in the chapter on his Romances any reader 
thought he detected the voice and the style of 
Chesterton, he is grievously mistaken. He 
only saw the scaffolding, which bears the same 
relation to the finished product as the skeleton 
bears to the human body. 
Consider these things: 


If you throw one bomb you are only a murderer; 
but if you keep on persistently throwing bombs, you 
are in awful danger of at last becoming a prig. 
If we all floated in the air like bubbles, free to drift 
anywhere at any instant, the practical result would be 
that no one would have the courage to begin a con- 
versation. 


If the public schools stuck up a notice it ought to 
be inscribed, "For the Fathers of Gentlemen only." 
In two generations they can do the trick. 
93 



G. K. CHESTERTO N 


Now these propositions are not merely 
snippets from a system of philosophy, pre- 
sented after the manner of the admirers of 
Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. These are quota- 
tions which display a quite exceptional power 
of surprising people. The anticlimaxes of the 
first two passages, the bold dip into the future 
at the expense of the past in the third are 
more than instances of mere verbal felicity. 
They indicate a writer capable of the humour 
which feeds upon daily life, and is therefore 
thoroughly democratic and healthy. For there 
are two sorts of humour; that which feeds upon 
its possessor, Oscar \Vilde is the supreme ex- 
ample of this type of humorist, and that which 
draws its inspiration from its surroundings, 
of \vhich the great exemplar is Dickens, and 
Chesterton is his follo\ver. The first exhausts 
itself sooner or later, because it feeds on its 
o\vn blood, the second i
- inexhaustible. This 
theory may be opposed" on the ground that 
humour is both internal and external in its 
origin. The supporters of this claim are 
invited to take a holiday in bed, or elsewhere 
away from the madding cro\vd, and then see 
how humorous they can be. 
Humour has an unfortunate tendency to 
stale. The joke of yesteryear already shows 
frays upon its sleeves. The \vit of the early 
94 



HUMORIST AND POET 


volumes of Punch is in the last stages of 
decrepitude. 'Vatch an actor struggling to 
conceal from his audience the fact that he is 
repeating one of Shakespeare's puns. 'Ve 
tolerate the humour of Congreve, not because 
it is thoroughly amusing, but because it has 
survived better than most. Humorous verse 
stands a slightly better chance of evoking 
smiles in its old age. There is always its un- 
alterable verbal neatness; tradition, too, lin- 
gers more lovingly around fair shapes, and a 
poem is a better instance of form than a para- 
graph. 1\Iankind may grow blasé, if it will, 
but as a poet of the comic, Chesterton will 
live long years. Take for example that last 
and worst of his novels The Flying Inn. Into 
this he has pitched with a fascinating reckless- 
ness a quantity of poems, garnered from The 
New 'Vitness and worthy of the immortality 
\vhich is granted the few really good comic 
poems. There is the poem of Noah, \vith that 
stimulating line with \vhich each stanza ends. 
The last one goes : 
But Noah he sinned, and we have sinned; on tipsy feet 
we trod, 
Till a great big black teetotaller was sent to us for a rod, 
And you can't get wine at a P.S.A., or Chapel, or Eistedd- 
fod; 
For the Curse of 'Vater has come again because of the 
wrath of God. 


95 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


And water is on the Bishop's board, and the Higher 
Thinker's shrine, 
But I don't care where the water goes if it doesn't get 
into the wine. 


There is a lunatic song against grocers, who 
are accused of nonconformity, and an equally 
lunatic song in several instalments on being 
a vegetarian : 


I am silent in the Club, 
I am silent in the pub, 
I am silent on a bally peak in Darien ; 
For I stuff away for life 
Shoving peas in with a knife, 
Because I am at heart a vegetarian. 


There is a joyous thing about a millionaire 
who lived the simplc life, and a new vcrsion of 
" St. George for Merry England." Tea, cocoa, 
and soda-water are the subjects of another 
poem. The verses about Roundabout are very 
happy: 


Some say that when Sir Lancelot 
'Vent forth to find the Grail, 
Grey Merlin wrinkled up the roads, 
For hope that he should fail ; 
All roads led back to Lyonnesse 
And Camelot in the Vale, 
I cannot yield assent to this 
Extravagant hypothesis, 
The plain shrewd Briton will dismiss 
Such rumours (Daily lJlail). 
96 



HUMORIST AND POET 


But in the streets of Roundabout 
Are no such factions found, 
Or theories to expound about 
Or roll upon the ground about, 
In the happy town of Roundabout, 
That makes the world go round. 


And there are lots more like this. 
Then there are the Ballades Urbane which 
appeared in the early volumes of The Eye- 
'Vitness. They have refrains \vith the true 
human note. Such as " But will you lend me 
two-and -six ? " 


EXVOI 
Prince, I will not be knighted! No! 
Put up your sword and stow your tricks! 
Offering the Garter is no go- 
BUT WILL YOU LEND ME T\VO-AND-SIX ? 


In prose Chesterton is seldom the mere jester; 
he \vill always have a moral or two, at the 
very least, at his fingers' ends, or to be quite 
exact, at the end of his article. He is never 
quite irresponsible. He seldom laughs at a 
man who is not a reformer. 
Or let us take another set of illustrations, 
this time in prose. (Once more I protest that 
I shall not take the reader through all the 
works of Chesterton.) I mean the articles 
"Our Note Book" which he contributed to 
The Illustrated London News. They are of a 
G 97 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


familiar type; a series of paragraphs on some 
topical subject, \vith little spaces between 
them in order to encourage the \veary reader. 
Chesterton \vrote this class of article supremely 
\vell. He would seize on something apparently 
trivial, and exalt it into a symptom. 'Vhen he 
had given the disease a name, he ,vent for the 
quack doctors who professed to remedy it. 
He goes to Letchworth, in which abode of 
middle-class faddery he finds a teetotal public- 
house, pretending to look like the real thing, 
and calling itself "The Skittles Inn." He 
immediately raises the question, Can \ve dis- 
sociate beer from skittles? Then he \videns 
out his thesis. 


Our life to-day is marked by perpetual attempts 
to revive old-fashioned things while omitting the 
human soul in them that made them more than 
fashions. 


And he concludes : 


I welcome a return to the rudeness of old times; 
when Luther attacked Henry VIII for being fat; 
and when Milton and his Dutch opponent devoted 
pages of their controversy to the discussion of which 
of them was the uglier. . . . The new controversial- 
ists . . . call a man a physical degenerate, instead of 
calling him an ugly fellow. They say that red hair 
is the mark of the Celtic stock, instead of calling him 
" Carrots." 


98 



HUMORIST AND POET 


Of this class of fun Chesterton is an easy 
master. It makes him a fearsome contro- 
versialist on the platform or in his favourite 
lists, the columns of a newspaper. But he 
uses his strength a little tyrannously. He is 
an adept at begging the question. The lost 
art called ignoratio elenchi has been privately 
rediscovered by him, to the surprise of many 
excellent and honest debaters, who have never 
succeeded in scoring the most obvious points 
in the face of Chesterton's power of emitting 
a string of epigrams and pretending it is a 
chain of argument. The case, in whatever 
form it is put, is always fresh and vigorous. 
Another epigrammatist, Oscar 'Vilde, in com- 
parison with him may be said to have used 
the midnight oil so liberally in the prepara- 
tion of his \vitticisms, 
hat one might almost 
detect the fishy odour. But as ,vith his prose 
so \vith his verses; Chesterton's productions 
are so fresh that they seem to spring from his 
vitality rather than his intellect. They are 
generally a trifle ragged and unpolished as if, 
like all their author's productions, they were 
strangers to revision. And vitality demands 
boisterous movement, more even than coher- 
ence. Sometimes the boisterousness is ap- 
parently unsupported by the sense of the 
words. 


99 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


So you have gained the golden crowns and grasped the 
golden weather, 
The kingdoms and the hemispheres that all men buy 
and sell, 
But I will lash the leaping drum and swing the flaring 
feather, 
For the light of seven heavens that are lost to me like 
hell. 
Here the stanza actually goes \vith such a 
swing that the reader will in all probability 
not notice that the lines have no particular 
meanIng. 
On the other hand, Chesterton's poetry has 
exuberant moments of sheer delight. In one 
of his essays he is lamenting the songlessness 
of modern life and suggests one or two chanties. 
Here they are : 
Chorus of Bank Clerks: 
Up, my lads, and lift the ledgers, sleep and ease are o'er. 
Hear the Stars of Morning shouting: "Two and Two 
are Four." 
Though the creeds and realms are reeling, though the 
sophists roar, 
Though we weep and pawn our watches, Two and Two 
are Four. 


Chorus of Bank Clerks when there is a run on 
the bank: 
There's a run upon the Bank- 
Stand away! 
For the Manager's a crank and the Secretary drank, and 
the Upper Tooting Bank 
Turns to bay ! 


100 


J) 



HUl\10RIST AND POET 


Stand close: there is a run 
On the Bank. 
Of our ship, our royal one, let the ringing legcnd run, 
that she fired with every gun 
Ere she sank. 


The Post Office Hymn would begin as folluws : 
O'er London our lctters are shaken like snow, 
Our wircs o'er the world like the thunderbolts go. 
The news that may marry a maiden in Sark, 
Or kill an old lady in Fins bury Park. 
Chorus (with a swing of joy and energy) : 
Or kill an old lady in Finsbury Park. 
The joke becomes simply immense when \ve 
picture the actual singing of the songs. 
But that is not the only class of humour of 
which Chesterton is capable. He can cut as 
\vell as hack. It is to be doubted \vhether any 
politician \vas ever addressed in lines more 
sarcastic than those of Antichrist, an ode to 
l\;lr. F. E. Smith. This gentleman, speaking 
on the \Velsh Disestablishment Bill, remarked 
that it "has shocked the conscience of every 
Christian community in Europe." It begins: 
Are they clinging to thcir crosses, 
F. E. Smith. 
'Vhere thc Breton boat-fleet tosses, 
Arc they, Smith? 
Do thcy, fasting, tramping, blceding, 
\Vait the news from this our city? 
Groaning" That's the Second Reading! " 
Hissing "There is still Committee ! " 
101 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


If the voice of Cecil falters, 
If McKenna's point has pith, 
Do they tremble for their altars? 
Do they, Smith ? 
Then in Russia, among the peasants, 
Where Establishment means nothing 
And they never heard of Wales, 
Do they read it all in Hansard 
'Vith a crib to read it with- 
" Welsh Tithes: Dr. Clifford answered." 
Really, Smith? 
The final verse is : 
It would greatly, I must own, 
Soothe me, Smith, 
If you left this theme alone. 
Holy Smith! 
For your legal cause or civil 
You fight well and get your fea ; 
For your God or dream or devil 
You will answer, not to me. 
Talk about the pews and steeples 
And the Cash that goes therewith! 
But the souls of Christian peoples . . . 
-Chuck it, Smith I 
The wilting sarcasm of this poem is a feature 
which puts it with a few others apart from the 
bulk of Chesterton's poems. Even as bellicosity 
and orthodoxy are two of the brightest threads 
which run through the whole texture of his 
work, so Poems of Pugnacity (as Ella "Vheeler 
Wilcox would say) and religious verses consti- 
tute the )argest part of the poetic works of 
102 



HUlVIORIST AND POET 


G.K.C. His first book of verses-after Grey- 
beards at Play- The Wild Knight contained a 
bloodthirsty poem about the Battle of Gibeon, 
written \vith strict adhesion to the spirit of the 
Old Testament. It might have been penned 
by a survivor, glutted \vith blood and duly 
grateful to the God of his race for the solar and 
lunar eccentricities \vhich made possible the 
extermination of the five kings of the Amorites. 
In 1911 came The Ballad of the White Horse, 
which is all about Alfred, according to the 
popular traditions embodied in the elementary 
history books, and, in particular, the Battle 
of Ethandune. How Chesterton revels in that 
Homeric slaughter! The words blood and 
bloody punctuate the largest poem of G.K.C. 
to the virtual obliteration in our memory of 
the fine imagery, the occasional tendernesses, 
and the blustering aggressiveness of some of 
the metaphors and similes. Not many men 
would have the nerve, let alone the skill, to 
write : 


And in the last eclipse the sea 
Shall stand up like a tower, 
Above all moons made dark and riven, 
Hold up its foaming head in heaven, 
And laugh, knowing its hour. 


But, at the same time, this poem contains very 
touching and beautiful lines. The Ballad of 
103 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


the White Horse is an epic of the struggle 
between Christian and Pagan. One of the 
essentials of an epic is that its men should be 
decent men, if they cannot be heroes. The 
Iliad would have been impossible if it had 
occurred to Homer to introduce the Govern- 
ment contractors to the belligerent powers. 
All the point would have gone out of Orlando 
Furioso if it had been the case that the madness 
of Orlando was the delirium tremens of an 
habitual drunkard. Chesterton recognizing 
this truth makes the pagans of the White 
Horse behave like gentlemen. There is a 
beautiful little song put into the mouth of one 
of them, which is in its 'way a perfect expres- 
sion of the inadequacy of false gods. 


There is always a thing forgotten 
"\'Vhen all the world goès well ; 
A thing forgotten, as long ago 
When the gods forgot the mistletoe, 
And soundless as an arrow of snow 
The arrow of anguish fell. 


The thing on the blind side of the heart, 
On the wrong side of the door, 
The green plant groweth, menacing 
Almighty lovers in the spring; 
There is always a forgotten thing, 
And love is not secure. 


The sorro\v behind these lines is more mov- 
104 



HUl\iORIST AND POET 


ing, because more sincere, than the lines of 
that over-quoted verse of Swinburne's : 
From too much love of living, 
From hope and fear set free, 
\Ve thank with brief thanksgiving 
Whatever gods there be- 
That no life lives for ever, 
That dead men rise up never, 
That even the weariest river 
'Vinds somewhere safe to sea. 


This is insincere, because a pagan (as Swin- 
burne was) could have committed suicide had 
he really felt these things. Swinburne, like 
most modern pagans, really hated priestcraft 
when he thought he was hating God. Ches- 
terton's note is truer. He kno\vs that the 
pagan has all the good things of life but one, 
and that only an exceptionally nice pagan 
knows he lacks that much. 
And so one might go on mining the White 
Horse, for it contains most things, as a good 
epic should. Two short stanzas, however, 
should be quoted, \vhatever else is omitted, 
for the sake of their essential Christianity, 
their claim that a man may make a fool of 
himself for Christ's sake, whatever the bishops 
have to say about it. 
The men of the East may spell the stars, 
And times and triumphs mark, 
But the men signed of the Cross of Christ 
Go gaily in the dark. 
105 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


The men of the East may search the scrolls 
For sure fates and fame, 
But the men that drink the blood of God 
Go singing to their shame. 


In his last volume of Poems (1915) Chester- 
ton presents us with a varied collection of 
works, written at any time during the last 
twelve or so years. The pugnacious element 
is present in Lepanto, through the staccato 
syllables of which we hear drum-taps and men 
cheering. There is a temptation to treat 
Lepanto, and indeed most of Chesterton's 
poems, with special reference to their tech- 
nique, but we must resist this temptation, with 
tears if need be, and with prayer, for to give 
way to it would be to commit a form of vivi- 
section. G.K.C. is not a text, praise be, and 
whether he lives or dies, long may he be spared 
the hands of an editor or interpreter who is 
also an irrepressible authority on anapaests 
and suchlike things. He is a poet, and a con- 
siderable poet, not because of his strict atten- 
tion to the rules of prosody, but because he 
cannot help himself, and the rules in question 
are for the persons who can, the poets by 
deliberate intention, the ,vriters who polish 
unceasingly. Chesterton has more impulse 
than finish, but he has natural gifts of rhythm 
and the effective use of words which more or 
106 



HUMORIST AND POET 


less (according to the reader's taste) 
ompen- 
sate for his refusal or his incapacity to take 
paIns. 
Finally there are the religious poems. From 
these we can best judge the reality of Chester- 
ton's poetic impulse, for here, knowing that 
affectation would be almost indecent, he has 
expressed what he had to express with a care 
denied to most of his other works. In one of 
his essays, G.K.C. exults in that matchless 
phrase of Vaughan, " high humility." He has 
both adopted and adapted this quality, and 
the results are wonderful. In The Wise lJ,len 
occurs this stanza : 


The Child that was ere worlds begun 
(. . . \Ve need bu
 walk a little way, 
'\Ye need but see a latch undone. . .) 
The Child that played with moon and sun 
Is playing with a little hay. 
The superb antithesis leaves one struggling 
against that involuntary little gasp which is 
a reader's first tribute to a fine thought. He 
could be a great hymn writer, if he would. 
One of his poems, in fact, has found its way 
into The English IIymnal, where it competes 
(if one may use the \vord of a sacred song) 
with Recessional for the favour of congrega- 
tions. If \ve take a glance at a few of the finest 
hymns, we shall find that they share certain 
107 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


obvious qualities: bold imagery, the vocabu- 
lary of conflict, an attitude of humility that 
is very nearly also one of great pride, and 
certain tricks of style. And when \ve look 
through Chesterton's poems generally, we shall 
find that these are exactly the qualities they 
possess. 


108 



VI 


TIlE 
RELIGION OF A DEBATER 


IN his book on 'Yilliam Blake, Chesterton says 
that he is " personally quite convinced that if 
every human being lived a thousand years, 
every human being would end up either in 
utter pessimistic scepticism or in the Catholic 
creed." In course of time, in fact, everybody 
\vould have to decide \vhether they preferred 
to be an intellectualist or a mystic. A debauch 
of intellectualism, lasting perhaps nine hun- 
dred and fifty years, is a truly terrible thing 
to contelnplate. Perhaps it is safest to assert 
that if our lives were considerably lengthened, 
therc \vould bc more mystics and more mad- 
men. 
To Chesterton modern thought is merely 
thc polite description of a noisy cro\vd of 
persons proclaiming that something or other 
is \vrong. 1\11'. Bernard Shaw denounces meat 
and has been understood to denouncc marriage. 
Ibscn is said to have anathematizcd almost 
109 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


everything (by those \vho have not read his 
works). Mr. 1\{acCabe and 1\11'. Blatchford 
think that, on the whole, there is no God, and 
Tolstoy told us that nearly everything \ve did, 
and quite all ,ve wanted to do, \vas opposed 
to the spirit of Christ's teaching. Auberon 
Herbert disapproved of law, and John David- 
son disapproved of life. Herbert Spencer 
objected to government, Passive Resisters to 
State education, and various educational re- 
formers to education of any description. There 
are people who \vould abolish our spelling, our 
clothing, our food and, most emphatically, 
our drink. 1\11'. H. G . 'Veils adds the finishing 
touch to this volume of denials, by blandly 
suggesting in an appendix to his l\iodern 
Utopia, headed" Scepticism of the Instrument," 
that our senses are so liable to err, that we can 
never be really sure of anything at all. This 
spirit of denial is extraordinarily infectious. 
A man begins to suspect what he calls the 
"supernatural." He joins an ethical society, 
and before he kno\vs where he is, he is a vege- 
tarian. The rebellious moderns have a curious 
tendency to flock together in self-defence, even 
when they have nothing in common. The 
mere aggregation of denials rather attracts 
the slovenly and the unattached. The lack 
of positive dogma expressed by such a coalition 
110 



RELIGION OF A DEBATER 


encourages the sceptic and the uneducated, 
who do not realize that the deliberate suppres- 
sion of dogma is itself a dogma of extreme 
arrogance. 'Ve trust too much to the label, 
no\vadays, and the brief descriptions \ve attach 
to ourselves have a gradually increasing con- 
notation. In politics for example, the con- 
servative creed, \vhich originally contained 
the single article that aristocracy, \vealth and 
government should be in the same fe\v hands, 
no\v also implies adhesion to the economic 
doctrine of protection, and the political doc- 
trine that unitary government is preferable to 
federal. The liberal creed, based principally 
upon opposition to the conservative, and to a 
lesser degree upon disrespect for the Estab- 
lished Church, has been enlarged concurrently 
with the latter. The average liberal or con- 
servative no\v feels himself in honour bound 
to assert or to deny political dogmas out of 
sheer loyalty to his party. This does not make 
for sanity. The only political creed in \vhich 
a man may reasonably expect to remain sane 
is Socialism, \vhich is catholic and not the 
least dependent upon other beliefs. Apart 
from the inconsiderable number of Socialists, 
the average politician follo\vs in the footsteps 
of those gentlemen already mentioned. He is 
not allowed to believe, so he contents himself 
III 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


with a denial of the other side's promises. As- 
sertion is infinitely more brain-\vearing than 
denial. 
Side by side with the increase in those who 
deny is a gro\vth in the numbers of those who 
come to regard apathy, suspended judgment, 
or a lack of interest in a religious matter as a 
state of positive belief. There are agnostics 
quite literally all over the place. Belief peters 
do\vn into acceptance, acceptance becomes a 
probability, a probability declines into a reason- 
able doubt, and a reasonable doubt drifts into 
" it is highly conjectural and indeed extremely 
unlikely," or something of that sort. Tolerance 
was once an instrument for ensuring that truth 
should not be suppressed; it is no\v an excuse 
for refusing to bother. There is, in fact, a 
gro\ving disrespect for truth. A great many 
men went to the stake years ago rather than 
admit the possibility that they were wrong; 
they protested, so far as human endurance 
allowed them to protest, that they were 
orthodox and that their persecutors, and not 
they, \vere the heretics. To-day a bunch of 
Cambridge men calls itself "The Heretics" 
and imagines it has found a clever title. At 
the same time there is an apparent decline in 
the po\ver to believe. The average politician 
(the principal type of twentieth-century prop a- 
112 



RELIGION OF A DEBATER 


gandist) hardly ever makes a speech which 
does not contain one at least of the following 
phrases: 
"I may be mistaken, but it seems to me 
that . . ." 
" 'Ve are all subject to correction, but as 
far as we know. . ." 
" In this necessarily iInperfect \vorld . . ." 
" So far as one is able to judge . . ." 
"Appearances are notoriously deceptive, 
but . . ." 
"Human experience is necessarily limited 
to . . . " 
" 'Ve can never be really sure . . ." 
" Pilate asked, '\Vhat is truth?' Ah, my 
brethren, what indeed ? " 
" The best minds of the country have failed 
to come to an agreement on this question; 
one can only surmise . . ." 
" Art is long and life is short. Art to-day 
is even longer than it used to be." 
No\v the politician, to do hiln justice, has 
retained the courage of his convictions to a 
greater extent than the orthodox believer in 
God. l\len are still prepared to make Home 
Rule the occasion of bloodshed, or to spend 
the midnight hours denouncing apparent politi- 
H 113 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


cal heresies. But whereas the politician, like 
the orthodox believer once pronounced apolo- 
getics, they no\y merely utter apologies. To- 
day, equipped as never before \vith the heavy 
artillery of argument in the shape of Higher 
Criticism, research, blue-books, statistics, cheap 
publications, free libraries, accessible informa- 
tion, public lectures, and goodness only kno\vs 
what else, the fighting forces of the spiritual 
and temporal decencies lie drowsing as in a 
club-room, placarded "Religion and politics 
must not be discussed here." 
All this, with the exception of the political 
references, is a summary of Chesterton's claim 
that a return to orthodoxy is desirable and 
necessary. It will be found at length in Heretics 
and in the first chapters of Orthodoxy, and 
sprinkled throughout all his \vritings of a later 
date than 1906 or so. lIe protests on more 
than one occasion against 1\11'. Sha\y's epigram, 
which seems to him to contain the essence of 
all that is \vrong to-day, "The golden rule 
is that there is no golden rule." Chesterton 
insists that there is a golden rule, that it is a 
very old one, and that it is kno\vn to a great 
many people, most of whom belong to the 
working classes. 
In his argument that, on the whole, the 
masses are (or were) right about religion, and 
114 



RELIGION OF A DEBATER 


that the intellectuals are ,vrong, Chesterton is 
undoubtedly at his most bellicose and his 
sincerest. His is the pugnacity that prefers to 
pull do\vn another's banner rather than to 
raise his own. His" defences" in The Defen- 
dant, and the six hundred odd cases made out 
by him in the columns of The Daily News are 
largely and obviously inspired by the wish, 
metaphorically speaking, to punch somebody's 
head. The fact that he is not a mere bully 
appears in the appeal to common decency 
which Chesterton \vould be incapable of omit- 
ting from an article. Neverthcless hc prefers 
attack to defence. In war, the offensive is 
infinitely more costly than the defensive. 
But in controversy this is reversed. The 
opener of a debate is in a much more difficult 
position than his opponent. The latter need 
only criticize the former's case; he is not 
compelled to disclose his own defences. Ches- 
terton used to have a grand time hoisting 
people on their o\vn petards, and letting forth 
strings of epigrams at the expense of those 
from whom he differed, and only incidentally 
revealing his own position. Then, as he tells 
us in the preface to Orthodoxy, \vhen he had 
published the saltatory series of indictments 
entitled Heretics, a number of his critics said, 
in effect, "Please, 1V[r. Chesterton, \vhat are 
115 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


we to believe ?" Mr. G. S. Street, in particu- 
lar, begged for enlightenment. G. K. C. joy- 
ously accepted the invitation, and .wrote Ortho- 
doxy, his most brilliant book. 
There are fe\v \vorks in the English language 
the brilliancy of ,vhich is so sustained. Ortlw- 
doæy is a rapid torrent of epigrammatically 
expressed arguments. Chesterton's method 
in writing it is that of the digger \vasp. This 
intelligent creature carries on the survival of 
the fittest controversy by paralyzing its oppo- 
nent first, and then proceeding to lay the 
eggs from which future fitness will proceed in 
the unresisting but still living body. Chester- 
ton begins by paralyzing his reader, by 
savagely attacking all the beliefs which the 
latter, if he be a modern and a sceptic, prob- 
ably regards as first principles. Tolerance is 
dismissed, as \ve have just seen, as a mere 
excuse for not caring. Reason, that a\vful 
French goddess, is sho,vn to be another 
apology. Nietzsche and various other authors 
to whom some of us have bent the knee are 
slaughtered without misery. Then Chesterton 
proceeds to the argument, the reader being by 
this time receptive enough to swallow a 
camel, on the sole condition that G.K.C. has 
previously slightly treacled the animal. 
Perhaps it \vould be more accurate to asserl& 
116 



RELIGION OF A DEBATER 


that at this point Chesterton pretends to 
begin his argument. As a matter of strict fact 
he only describes his adventures in Fairyland, 
which is all the earth. He tells us of his 
profound astonishment at the consistent re- 
currence of apples on apple trees, and at the 
general jolliness of the earth. He describes, 
very beautifully, some of the sensations of 
childhood making the all-embracing discovery 
that things are what they seem, and the even 
more joyful feeling of pretending that they are 
not, or that they \viII cease to be at any 
moment. A young kitten will watch a large 
cushion, which to it is a very considerable 
portion of the universe, flying at it without 
indicating any very appreciable surprise. A 
child, in the same way, would not be surprised 
if his house suddenly developed wings and 
flew away. Chesterton cultivated this attitude 
of ahvays expecting to be surprised by the 
most natural things in the \vorld, until it 
became an obsession, and a part of his journal- 
istic equipment. In a sense Chesterton is the 
everlasting boy, the Undergraduate "\Vho 
Would Not Grow Up. There must be few 
normally imaginative town-bred children to 
whom the pointed upright area-railings do not 
appear an unsearchable armoury of spears or 
as walls of protective flames, ten1porarily frozen 
117 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


black so that people should be able to enter 
and leave their house. Every child knows that 
the old Norse story of a sleeping Brunnhilde 
encircled by flames is true; to him or her, 
there is a Brunnhilde in every street, and the 
child knows that there it always has a chance 
of being the chosen Siegfried. But because 
this view of life is so much cosier than that of 
the gro\vn-ups, Chesterton clings to his child- 
hood's neat little universe and weeps patheti- 
cally when anybody mentions Herbert Spencer, 
and makes faces when he hears the \vord 
Newton. He insists on a fair dole of surprises. 
" Children are grateful \vhen Santa Claus puts 
in their stockings gifts of toys and sweets. 
Could I not be grateful to Santa Claus when 
he put in my stockings the gift of two miracu- 
lous legs ? " 
N O\v this fairyland business is frankly over- 
done. Chesterton conceives of God, having 
carried the Creation as far as this world, sitting 
do\vn to look at the new universe in a sort of 
ecstasy. "And God saw every thing that he 
had made, and, behold it was very good." He 
enj oyed His ne\v toy immensely, and as He 
sent the earth. spinning round the sun, His 
pleasure increased. So He said " Do it again " 
every time the sun had completed its course, 
and laughed prodigiously, and behaved like a 
118 



RELIGION OF A DEBATER 


happy child. And so He has gone on to this 
day saying" Do it again" to the sun and the 
moon and the stars, to the animal creation, 
and the trees, and every living thing. So 
Chesterton pictures God, giving His name to 
what others, including Christians, call natural 
law, or the la\vs of God, or the laws of gravita- 
tion, conservation of energy, and so on, but 
always laws. For ,vhich reason, one is com- 
pelled to assume that in his opinion God 
is no,v [1915] saying to Himself, "There's 
another bloody \var, do it again, sun," and 
gurgling ,vith delight. It is dangerous to 
wander in fairyland, as Chesterton has him- 
self demonstrated, "one might meet a fairy." 
It is not safe to try to look God in the face. 
A prophet in Israel sa\v the glory of Jehovah, 
and though He was but the God of a small 
nation, the prophet's face shone, and, so great 
\vas the vitality he absorbed from the great 
Source that he "\vas an hundred and twenty 
years old when he died: his eye \vas not dim, 
nor his natural force abated." That is the 
reverent Hebrew manner of conveying the 
glory of God. But Chesterton, cheerfully 
playing toss halfpenny among the fairies, sees 
an idiot child, and calls it God. 
Fortunately for the argun1ent, Chesterton 
has no more to say about his excursion in 
119 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


Fairyland after his return. He goes on to 
talk about the substitutes which people have 
invented for Christianity. The Inner Light 
theory has vitriol sprayed upon it. Marcus 
Aurelius, it is explained, acted according to 
the Inner Light. "He gets up early in the 
morning, just as our own aristocrats leading 
the Simple Life get up early in the morning; 
because such altruism is much easier than 
stopping the games in the amphitheatre or 
giving the English people back their land." 
The present writer does not profess any 
ability to handle philosophic problems philo- 
sophically; it seems to him, however, that 
if Chesterton had been writing a few years 
later, he \vould have attempted to extinguish 
the latest form of the Inner Light, that 
" intuition" which has been so much asso- 
ciated \vith 1\1. Bergson's teachings. 
The Inner Light is finally polished off as 
follows : 
Of all conceivable forms of enlightenment the worst 
is what these people call the Inner Light. Of all 
horrible religions the most horrible is the worship 
of the god within. Anyone who knows anybody 
knows how it would work; anybody who knows any 
one from the Higher Thought Centre knows how it 
does work. That J ones should worship the god 
within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones 
shall worship Jones. . . . Christianity came into the 
120 



RELIGION OF A DEBATER 


world firstly in order to assert with violence that a man 
has not only to look inwards, but to look outwards, 
to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a divine 
company and a divine captain. 
Continuing his spiritual autobiography, 
Chesterton describes his gradual emergence 
from the wonted agnosticism of sixteen through 
the mediumship of agnostic literature. Once 
again that remark of Bacon's sho\ved itself 
to be true, "A little philosophy inclineth 
man's mind to atheism, but depth in philo- 
sophy bringeth men's minds about to rcligion." 
A man may rcad I-Iuxley and Bradlaugh, \vho 
knc\v thcir minds, and call himsclf an agnostic. 
But whcn it comcs to reading thcir follo,vers, 
there's anothcr story to tcll. 'Yhat cspecially 
struck Chesterton was the \vholesale self- 
contradictoriness of the literature of agnos- 
ticism. One man would say that Christianity 
\vas so harmful that extermination was the 
least that could be desired for it, and another 
would insist that it had reached a harmless 
and doddering old age. A writer \vould assert 
that Christianity was a religion of wrath and 
blood, and \vould point to the Inquisition, and 
to the religious wars which have at one time 
or another swept over the civilized \vorld. 
But by the time the reader's blood \vas up, he 
,vould comc across some virile atheist's pro- 
121 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


clamation of the feeble, mattoid character of 
the religion in question, as illustrated by its 
quietist saints, the Quakers, the Tolstoyans, 
and non-resisters in general. 'Yhen he had 
cooled down, he would run into a denunciation 
of the asceticism of Christianity, the monastic 
system, hair-shirts, and so on. Then he \vould 
come across a sweeping condemnation of its 
sensual luxuriousness, its bejewelled chalices, 
its pompous rituals, the extravagance of its 
archbishops, and the like. Christianity" was 
abused for being too plain and for being too 
coloured." And then the sudden obvious truth 
burst upon Chesterton, 'Vhat if Christianity 
was the happy mean ? 
Perhaps, after all, it is Christianity that is sane 
and all its critics that are mad-in various ways. 
I tested this idea by asking myself whether there 
was about any of the accusers anything morbid that 
might explain the accusation. I was startled to find 
that this key fitted a lock. For instance, it was 
certainly odd that the modern world charged Christi- 
anity at once with bodily austerity and with artistic 
pomp. But then it was also odd, very odd, that the 
modern world itself combined extreme bodily luxury 
with an extreme absence of artistic pomp. The modern 
man thought 'Becket's robes too rich and his meals 
too poor. But then the modern man was really 
exceptional in history. No man before ever ate such 
elaborate dinners in such ugly clothes. The modern 
man found the church too simple exactly where 
122 



RELIGION OF A DEBATER 


modern life is too complex; he found the church too 
gorgeous exactly where modern life is too dingy. The 
man who disliked the plain fasts and feasts was mad 
on entrées. The man who disliked vestments wore 
a pair of preposterous trousers. And surely if there 
was any insanity involved in the matter at all it was 
in the trousers, not in the simply falling robe. If 
there was any insanity at all, it was in the extravagant 
entrées, not in the bread and wine. 
Nevertheless, Christianity was centrifugal 
rather than centripetal; it \vas not a mere 
average, but a centre of gravity; not a com- 
promise, but a conflict. Christ \vas not half- 
God and half-man, like Hercules, but" perfect 
God and perfect man." Man \vas not only 
the highest, but also the lowest. " The 
Church was positive on both points. One can 
hardly think too little of one's self. One can 
hardly think too much of one's soul." 
At this point agreement with l\lr. Chesterton 
becomes difficult. Christianity, he tells us, 
comes in \vith a flaming s\vord and performs 
neat acts of bisection. It separates the sinner 
from the sin, and tells us to love the former 
and hate the latter. He also tells us that no 
pagan would have thought of this. Leaving 
aside the question whether or not Plato was 
a Christian, it may be pointed out that whereas 
Chesterton condemns Tolstoyanism whenever 
he recognizes it, he here proclaims Tolstoy's 
123 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


doctrine. On the whole, ho'wever, the mild 
perverseness of the chapter on The Paradoxes 
of Christianity leaves its major implications 
safe. It does not matter greatly whether we 
prefer to regard Christianity as a centre of 
gravity, or a point of balance. \Ve need only 
pause to note Chesterton personifies this 
dualism. The Napoleon of N otting Hill is the 
arrangement of little bits of iron-the inhabi- 
tants of London, in this case-around the two 
poles of a fantastic magnet, of which one is 
Adam Wayne, the fanatic, and the other, 
Auberon Quin, the humorist. In The Ball and 
the Cross the diagranl is repeated. James 
Turnbull, the atheist, and Evan l\lacIan, the 
believer, are the two poles. \Ve speak in a 
loose sort of way of opposite poles when we 
wish to express separation. But, in point of 
fact, they symbolize connection far more 
exactly. They are absolutely interdependent. 
The whole essence of a North and a South Pole 
is that \ve, kno\ving \vhere one is, should be 
able to say where the other is. Nobody has 
ever suggested a universe in which the North 
Pole wandered about at large. This is the 
idea which Chesterton seems to have captured 
and introduced into his definition of Chris- 
tianity. 
Democracy, to Chesterton, is the theory 
124 



RELIGION OF A DEBATER 


that one man is as good as another; Chris- 
tianity, he finds, is the virtual sanctification 
by supernatural authority of democracy. He 
points out the incompatibility of political 
democracy, for example, .with the determinism 
to which 1\11'. Blatchford's logical atheism has 
brought him. If man is the creature of his 
heredity and his environment, as 1\11'. Blatch- 
ford asserts, and if a slum-bred heredity and 
a slum environment do not make for high 
intelligence, then obviously it is against the 
best interests of the State to aJIow the slum 
inhabitant to vote. On the other hand, it is 
entirely to the best interests of the State to 
entrust its affairs to the aristocracy, \vhose 
breeding and environment gives it an enor- 
mous amount of intelligence. Christianity, by 
proclaiming that every man's body is the 
temple of the Holy Ghost, insists both upon 
the necessity of abolishing the slums and of 
honouring the slum-dwellers as sharers with 
the rest of humanity in a common sonship. 
This is the casc for Socialism, it may be pointed 
out parenthetically, and Chesterton has let it 
slip past him. He insists that orthodoxy is 
the best conccivable guardian of liberty, for 
thc somewhat far- fctched reason that no 
believer in miracles would have such "a 
dccp and sincere faith in the incurable routine 
125 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


of the cosmos " as to cling to the theory that 
men should not have the liberty to work 
changes. If a man believed in the freedom of 
God, in fact, he ,would have to believe in the 
freedom of man. The obvious answer to 
which is that he generally doesn't. Christianity 
made for eternal vigilance, Chesterton main- 
tains, whereas Buddhism kept its eye on the 
Inner Light-which means, in fact, kept it 
shut. In proof, or at least in confirmation of 
this, he points to the statues of Christian 
saints and of the Buddha. The former keep 
their eyes open wide, the latter keep their 
eyes firmly closed. Vigilance, however, does 
not always make for liberty-the vigilance 
of the Inquisition, for example. Leaving out 
of account this and other monstrous excep- 
tions, we might say spiritual liberty, perhaps, 
but not political liberty, not, at any rate, since 
the days of Macchiavelli, and the divorce of 
Church and State. 


By insisting specially on the immanence of God 
we get introspection, self-isolation, quietism, social 
indifference-Tibet. By insisting specially on the 
transcendence of God we get wonder, curiosity, moral 
and political adventure, religious indignation-Chris- 
tendom. Insisting that God is inside man, man 
is always inside himself. By insisting that God 
transcends man, man has transcended himself. 


126 



RELIGION OF A DEBATER 


In concluding the book, Chesterton joyously 
refutes a fe"w anti -Christian arguments by 
means of his extraordinary knack of seeing 
the large and obvious, and therefore generally 
overlooked things. He believes in Christianity 
because he is a rationalist, and the evidence 
in its favour has convinced him. The argu- 
ments ,vith \vhich he deals are these. That 
men are much like beasts, and probably 
related to them. Ans\ver: yes, but men 
are also quite wonderfully unlike them in 
many important respects. That primeval 
religion arose in ignorance and fear. Ans\ver: 
,ve know nothing about prehistoric man, 
because he \vas prehistoric, therefore we can- 
not say "where he got his religion from. But 
"the whole human race has a tradition of the 
Fall." And so on: the argument that Christ 
"was a poor sheepish and ineffectual professor 
of a quiet life is answered by the flaming 
energy of His earthly mission; the suggestion 
that Christianity belongs to the Dark Ages 
is countered by the historical fact that it 
"was the one path across the Dark Ages 
that was not dark." It "was the path that 
led from Roman to modern civilization, and 
"we are here bccausc of it. And the book 
ends with a peroration that might be likened 
to a torrent, were it not for the fact that 
127 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


torrents are generally narrow and shallow. 
It is a most remarkable exhibition of energy, 
a case from which flippancies and irrelevancies 
have been removed, and \vhere the central 
conviction advances irresistibly. Elsewhere 
in the book Chesterton had been inconsequent, 
darting from point to point, lunging at an 
opponent one moment, formulating a theory 
in the next, and producing an effect ,vhich, if 
judged by sample, \vould be considered bizarre 
and undirected. The book contains a few 
perversities, of course. The author attempts 
to rebut the idea "that priests have blighted 
societies with bitterness and gloom," by point- 
ing out that in one or two priest-ridden 
countries wine and song and dance abound. 
Yes, but if people are jollier in France and 
Spain and Italy than in savage Africa, it is 
due not to the priests so much as to the 
climate which makes wine cheap and an 
open-air life possible. No amount of priests 
would be able to set the inhabitants of the 
Belgian Congo dancing around a maypole 
singing the while glad songs handed down by 
their fathers. No amount of priests would be 
able to make the festive Eskimo bask in the 
sun and sing in chorus \vhen there wasn't any 
sun and it was altogether too cold to open 
their mouths wide in the open air. In fact the 
128 



RELIGION OF A DEBATER 


priests are not the cause of the blight where 
it exists, just as they are not the cause of the 
jolliness, \vhen there is any. But Orthodoxy is 
Chesterton's sincerest book. It is perhaps the 
only one of the whole lot in thc course of ,vhich 
hc would not bc justified in repeating a ren1ark 
which begins one of the T1'emendous Trifles, 
" Every no\v and then I have introduced into 
my essays an element of truth." 
Twice upon a time there was a Samuel 
Butler who wrote exhilaratingly and died and 
left the paradoxical contents of his notebooks 
to be published by posterity. The first (i.e. of 
IIudibras, not of Erewhon) had many lively 
things to say on the question of orthodoxy, 
bcing the forerunncr of G.K.C. And I am 
greatly tempted to treat Samuel Butlcr as an 
ancestor to be dcscribed at length. Chesterton 
might well have said, " It is a dangerous thing 
to be too inquisitive, and search too narrowly 
into a true Religion, for 50,000 Bcthshemites 
werc dcstroyed only for looking into the Ark 
of the Covenant, and ten times as many have 
been ruincd for looking too curiously into that 
Booke in \vhich that Story is recorded" -in fact 
in Jlagic hc vcry ncarly did say the same thing. 
lIe would have liked (as who would not ?) to 
have been the author of the saying that 
" Rcpentant Teares are the waters upon which 
I 129 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


the Spirit of God moves," or that "There is 
no better Argument to prove that the Scriptures 
were written by Divine Inspiration, than that 
excellent saying of our Savior, If any man 
will go to La\v with thee for thy cloke, give 
him thy Coate also." He might well have 
written dozens of those puns and aphorisms of 
Butler which an unkind fate has omitted from 
the things we read, and even from the things 
we quote. But Butler provides an answer to 
Chesterton, for he was an intelligent anticipa- 
tor who foresaw exactly ,vhat would happen 
when orthodoxy, ,vhich is to say the injunc- 
tion to shout with the larger crowd, should be 
proclaimed as the easiest \vay out of religious 
difficulties. Before a reader has finally made 
up his mind on Orthodoxy (and it is highly 
desirable that he should do so), let him con- 
sider two little texts : 


"They that profess Religion and believe it 
consists in frequenting of Sermons, do, as if 
they should say They have a great desire to 
serve God, but would faine be perswaded to it. 
\Vhy should any man suppose that he pleases 
God by patiently hearing an Ignorant fellow 
render Religion ridiculous ? " 
" He [a Catholic] prefers his Church merely 
for the Antiquity of it, and cares not how 
130 



RELIGION OF A DEBATER 


sound or rotten it be, so it be but old. He takes 
a liking to it as some do to old Cheese, only for 
the blue Rottenness of it. If he had lived in 
the primitive Times he had never been a 
Christian,. for the Antiquity of the Pagan 
and Jewish Religion \vould have had the same 
Power over him against the Christian, as the 
old Roman has against the modern Reforma- 
tion.' , 


Here \ve leave Samuel Butler. The majority 
stands the largest chance of being right through 
the sheer operation of the la,v of averages. 
But somehow one does not easily imagine 
a mob passing through the gate that is narrow 
and the \vay that is narrow. One prefers to 
think of men going up in ones and t\VOS, perhaps 
even in loneliness, and rejoicing at the strange 
miracle of judgment that all their friends 
should bc assembled at the journey's end. 
But the final criticism of Chesterton's Ortho- 
doxy is that it is not orthodox. He claims 
that he is " concerned only to discuss . . . the 
central Christian theology (sufficicntly sum- 
marized in the Apostles' Creed)" and, "Whcn 
the ,vord 'orthodoxy' is used here it means 
the Apostles' Creed, as understood by every- 
body calling himself Christian until a very 
short time ago and the general historic con- 
181 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


duct of those who held such a creed." In other 
words he counts as orthodox Anglicans, Roman 
Catholics, Orthodox Russians, Nonconformists, 
Lutherans, Calvinists, and all manner of queer 
fish, possibly Joanna Southcott, 1\lrs. Annie 
Besant, and Mrs. l\lary Baker Eddy. He might 
even, by stretching a point or two (which is 
surely permissible by the rules of their game), 
rope in the Ne\v Theologians. No\v this may 
be evidence of extraordinary catholicity, but 
not of orthodoxy. Chesterton stands by and 
applauds the Homoousians scalping the Homoi- 
ousians, but he is apparently \villing to leave 
the Anglican and the Roman Catholic on the 
same plane of orthodoxy, which is absurd. 'Ve 
cannot all be right, even the Duke in IJlagic 
would not be mad enough to assert that. And 
the averagc Christian \vould absolutely refuse 
his adherence to a statement of orthodoxy that 
left the matter of supreme spiritual authority 
an open question. 
In the fiftecnth century practically every 
Englishman would have declared \vith some 
emphasis that it lay in the Pope of Rome. In 
the twentieth century practically every Eng- 
lishman .would declare with equal emphasis 
that it did not. This change of opinion \vas 
accompanied by considerable ill-feeling on 
both sides, and was, as it were, illuminated by 
132 



RELIGION OF A DEBATER 


burning martyrs. The men of both parties 
burned in both an active and a passive sense. 
Those charming Tudor sisters, Bloody l\lary 
(as the Anglicans call her) and Bloody Bess 
(as the Roman Catholics affectionately name 
her) left a large smudge upon accepted ideas 
of orthodoxy; charred human flesh was a 
principal constituent of it. The mark remains, 
the differences are far greater, but, to Chester- 
ton, both Anglican and Roman Catholic are 
" orthodox." Of such is the illimitable ortho- 
doxy of an ethical society, or of a body of 
Theosophists \vho "recognize thc essenti3:1 
unity of all creeds and religions "-the liars ! 
Chesterton tells us that l\'Iessrs. Shaw, Kipling, 
\Vells, Ibsen and others are heretics, because 
of their doctrines. But he gives us no idea 
\vhether the Pope of Rome, who sells indul- 
gences, is a heretic. And as the Pope is likely 
to outlive Messrs. Shaw, etc., by perhaps a 
thousand years, it is possible that Chesterton 
has been attacking the ephemeral heresies, 
\vhile leaving the major ones untouched. In 
effect, Chesterton tells us no more than that 
,ve should shout with the largest cro,vd. But 
the largest cro\vd prefers, just no\v, not to do 
anything so clamorous. 
The most curious feature about the present 
position of Christianity is the energy with 
133 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


which its opponents combine to keep it going. 
\\Thile 1\11'. Robert Blatchford continues to 
argue that man's will is not free, and Sir Oliver 
Lodge continues to maintain that it is, the 
Doctrine of the Resurrection is safe; it is not 
even attacked. But the net result of all those 
peculiar modern things called "movements" 
is a state of immobility like a nicely balanced 
tug-of-war. Perhaps a Rugby scrum would 
make a better comparison. 


The great and grave changes in our political 
civilization all belong to the early nineteenth century, 
not to the later. They belong to the black-and- 
white epoch, when men believed fixedly in Toryism, 
in Protestantism, in Calvinism, in Reform, and not 
infrequently in Revolution. And whatever each man 
believed in, he hammered at steadily, without 
scepticism: and there was a time when the Estab- 
lished Church might have fallen, and the House of 
Lords nearly fell. It was because Radicals were 
wise enough to be constant and consistent; it was 
because Radicals were wise enough to be conservative. 
. . . Let beliefs fade fast and frequently if you wish 
institutions to remain the same. The more the life of 
the mind is unhinged, the m
re the machinery of 
matter will be left to itself. The net result of all our 
political suggestions, Collectivism, Tolstoyanism, Neo- 
Feudalism, Comn1unism, Anarchy, Scientific Bureau- 
cracy-the plain fruit of them all is that :l\'Ionarchy and 
the House of Lords will remain. The net result of all 
the new religions will be that the Church of England 
134 



RELIGION OF A DEBATER 


will not (for heaven knows how long) be disestablished. 
It was Karl :l\Iarx, Nietzsche, Tolstoy, Cunninghame 
Graham, Bernard Shaw, and Auberon Herbert, who 
between them, with bowed, gigantic backs, bore up 
the throne of the Archbishop of Canterbury. 
It is on these grounds that we must believe 
that, even as the Church survives, and pre- 
vails, in order to get a hearing 'when the atheist 
and the Ne\v Theologian have finished shout- 
ing themselves hoarse at each other, so must 
political creeds be in conformity with the 
doctrines of the Church. Such is the founda- 
tion of democracy, according to Chesterton. 
'ViII anybody revise his political views on this 
basis? Probably not. Every Christian be- 
lieves that his political opinions are thoroughly 
Christian, and so entire is the disrepute into 
which atheism has fallen as a philosophy of 
life, that a great many atheists likewise protest 
the entire Christianity of their politics. 'Ve 
are all democrats to-day, in one sense or 
another; each of us more loosely than his 
neighbour. It is strange that by the criterion 
of almost every living man who springs to the 
mind as a representative democrat, Chesterton 
is the most undemocratic of us all. This, 
ho\vever, nceds a separate chapter of explana- 
tion. 


135 



VII 
THE POLITICIAN WHO 
COULD NOT TELL THE TIME 


SOMEWHERE at the back of all Chesterton's 
political and religious ideas lies an ideal 
country, a Utopia \vhich actually existed. 
Its name is the l\Iiddle Ages. If some unem- 
ployed Higher Critic chose to undertake the 
appalling task of reading steadily through all 
the \vorks of G.K.C., copying out those pas- 
sages in .which there was any reference to the 
Middle Ages, the result .would be a description 
of a land flowing with milk and honey. The 
inhabitants would be large, strong Christian 
men, and red-haired, womanly women. Their 
children \vould be unschooled, save by the 
Church. They would all live in houses of their 
own, on lands belonging to them. Their faith 
would be one. They would speak Latin as a 
sort of Esperanto, and drink enormous quan- 
tities of good beer. The Church-but I have 
found the passage relating to the Church : 
Religion, the Ï111mortaI maiden, has been a maid-of- 
all-work as well as a servant of mankind. She 
136 



THE POLITICIAN 


provided men at once with thc theoretic laws of an 
unalterable cosmos; and also with the practical rules 
of the rapid and thrilling game of morality. She 
taught logic to the student and taught fairy tales to 
the children; it was her business to confront the 
nameless gods whose fear is on all flesh, and also to 
see that the streets were spotted with silver and 
scarlet, that there was a day for wearing ribbons or an 
hour for ringing bells. 


The inhabitants of this happy realm \vould 
be instinctively democratic, and no \voman 
would demand a vote there. They would have 
that exalted notion of patriotism that works 
outwards from the village pump to the universe 
at large. They \vould understand all humanity 
because they understood themselves. They 
would understand themselves because they 
would have no newspapers to widen their 
interests and so make them shallo\ver. 
In lklagic, as we have seen, Chesterton's 
mouthpiece, the Conjuror, gave us to under- 
stand that it was better to believe in Apollo 
than merely to disbelieve in God. The Ches- 
tertonian IVliddle Ages are like Apollo; they 
did not exist, but they make an admirable 
myth. For Chesterton, in common \vith the 
rest of us, flourishes on myths like the green 
bay; we, however, happen not to know, in 
most cases, \vhen our myths have a foundation. 
137 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


l\lankind demands myths-and it has them. 
Some day a History of the 'V orld's l\Iyths will 
be compiled. It will sho\v humanity climbing 
perilous peaks in pursuit of somebody's mis- 
interpretations of somebody else's books, or 
fighting bloodily because somebody asserted 
or denied that a nation was the chosen one, 
or invading new continents, physical or meta- 
physical, because of legendary gold to be 
found therein, or in fact committing all its 
follies under the inspiration of myths-as in 
fact it has done. The l\liddle Ages are to 
Chesterton \vhat l{ing Alfred \vas to the 
Chartists and early Radicals. They believed 
that in his days England \vas actually governed 
on Chartist principles. So it happens that two 
Radical papers of the early part of last century 
actually called themselves The Alfred, and that 
IVlajor Cart\vright spent a considerable amount 
of energy in inducing the Greeks to substitute 
pikes for bayonets in their struggles against 
the Turks, on the grounds that the pike \vas 
used in Alfred's England. 
So there \ve have Chesterton believing de- 
voutly that that servile state, stricken with 
plague, and afflicted \vith death in all its forms, 
is the dreamland of the saints. His political 
principles, roughly speaking, are England was 
decent once-let us apply the same recipe to 
138 



THE POLITICIAN 


the England of to-day. His suggestions, there- 
fore, are rather negative than positive. He 
would dam the flood of modern legislative ten- 
dencies because it is taking England farther 
away from his l\liddle Ages. But he \vill not 
say" do this" about anything, because in the 
l\Iiddle Ages they made fe\v la,vs, not having, 
in point of fact, the po\ver to enforce those 
offences against moral and economic law which 
then took the place of legislation. 
It is impossible to say to ,vhat extent 
Chesterton has surrendered himself to this 
myth; ,vhether he has come to accept it 
because he liked it, or in order to please his 
friend, 1\11'. Hilaire Belloc, from ,vhom G.K.C. 
never differs politically. Once they stood side 
by side and debated against Mr. Sha,v and 
l\Ir. \Vells, arguing from Socialism to beer, and 
thence to religion. 
In January, 1908, Chesterton accepted the 
invitation of the Editor of The New Age to 
explain \vhy he did not call himself a Socialist, 
in spite of his claim to possess "not only a 
faith in democracy, but a great tenderness for 
revolution." The explanation is complicated, 
to say the least. In the first place Chesterton 
does not want people to share, they should 
give and take. In the second place, as a 
democrat (which nobody else is) he has a vast 
139 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


respect (,vhich nobody else has) for the \vork- 
ing classes. And 


one thing I should affirm as certain, the whole smell 
and sentiment and general ideal of Socialism they 
detest and disdain. No part of the community is so 
specially fixed in those forms and feelings which are 
opposite to the tone of most Socialists; the privacy 
of homes, the control of one's own children, the 
minding of one's own business. I look out of my 
back windows over the black stretch of Battersea, 
and I believe I could make up a sort of creed, a cata- 
logue of maxims, which I am certain are believed, 
and believed strongly, by the overwhelming mass of 
men and women as far as the eye can reach. For 
instance, that an Englishman's house is his castle, 
and that awful proprieties ought to regulate admis- 
sion to it; that marriage is a real bond, making 
jealousy and marital revenge at the least highly 
pardonable; that vegetarianism and all pitting of 
animal against human rights is a silly fad; that on 
the other hand to save lnoney to give yourself a fine 
funeral is not a silly fad, but a symbol of ancestral 
self-respect; that when giving treats to friends or 
children, one should give then1 what they like, 
emphatically not what is good for them; that there 
is nothing illogical in being furious because Tommy 
has been coldly caned by a schoohnistress and then 
throwing saucepans at him yourself. All these things 
they believe; they are the only people who do believe 
them; and they are absolutely and eternally right. 
They are the ancient sanities of humanity; the ten 
commandments of man. 


140 



THE POLITICIAN 


A week later, Mr. H. G. 'VeIls, who at that 
time had not yet broken a way from organized 
Socialism, but was actually a member of the 
Executive Committee of the Fabian Society, 
\vrote a repl y to the case against Socialism 
which had been stated by Chesterton, and, a 
week earlier, by Mr. Hilaire Belloc. He 
attempted to get Chesterton to look facts in 
the face. He pointed out that as things are 
" I do not see how Belloc and Chesterton can 
stand for anything but a strong State as 
against those \vild monsters of property, the 
strong, big, private o\vners." Suppose that 
Chcsterton isn't a Socialist, is he morc on the 
side of the Socialists or on that of the Free 
Trade Liberal capitalists and landlords? "It 
isn't an adequate reply to say [of Socialism] 
that nobody stood treat there, and that the 
simple, generous people like to beat thcir own 
wives and children on occasion in a loving and 
intimate manner, and that they won't endure 
the spirit of Sidney 'V ebb." 
A fortnight later, Chcsterton replied. But, 
though many have engaged with him in con- 
troversy, I doubt if anybody has ever pinncd 
him down to a fact or an argument. On this 
occasion, G.I{.C. politely refused even to refer 
to thc vital point of the case of l\lr. H. G. 
\ r ells. On the other hand he \vrote a very 
141 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


jolly article about beer and "tavern hospi- 
tality." The argument marked time for t\VO 
\veeks more, \vhen l\lr. Belloc once again 
entered the lists. The essence of his contri- 
bution is " I premise that man, in order to be 
normally happy, tolerably happy, must o\vn." 
Collectivism \vill not let him own. The trouble 
about the present state of society is that people 
do not own enough. The remedy proposed 
will be worse than the disease. Then l\lr. 
Bernard Shaw had a look in. 
In the course of his lengthy article he gave 
"the Chesterbelloc "-" a very amusing pan- 
tomime elephant "-several shre\vd digs in the 
ribs. It claimed, according to G.B.S., to be 
the Zeitgeist. "To \vhich \ve reply, bluntly, 
but conclusively, , Gammon! ,,, The rest was 
mostly amiable personalities. l\'Ir. Sha,v owned 
up to musical cravings, compared ,vith which 
the Chesterbclloc tcndency to consume alcohol 
,vas as nothing. He also jeered vcry plea
antly 
at Mr. Belloc's power to cause a stampede of 
Chesterton's political and religious ideas. "For 
Belloc's sake Chesterton says he believes liter- 
ally in the Bible story of the Resurrection. 
For Belloc's sake he says he is not a Socialist. 
On a recent occasion I tried to drive him to 
swallow the l\liracle of St. J anuarius for Belloc's 
sake; but at that he stuck. lIe pleaded his 
142 



THE POLITICIAN 


belief in the Resurrection story. He pointed 
out very justly that I believe in lots of things 
just as miraculous as the Miracle of St. Janu- 
arius; but when I remorselessly pressed the 
fact that he did not believe that the blood of 
St. J anuarius reliquefies miraculously every 
year, the Credo stuck in his throat like Amen 
in Macbeth's. He had got down at last to his 
irreducible minimum of dogmatic incredulity, 
and could not, even with the mouth of the 
bottomless pit ya wning before Belloc, utter 
the saving lie." 
By this time the discussion was definitely 
off Socialism. Chesterton produced another 
article, The Last of the Rationalists, in reply 
to Mr. Shaw, from which one gathered \vhat 
onc had been previously suspected that" you 
[namely Mr. Shaw, but in practice both the 
opposition controversialists] have confined 
yourselves to charming essays on our two 
charming personalities." And there they 
stopped. 
The year following this bout of pcrsonalities 
saw the publication of a remarkably brilliant 
book by Chesterton, George Bernard Shaw, in 
,vhich, one might have expected, the case 
against the political creed represented by 
G.B.S. might have been carried a trifle farther. 
Instead of \vhich it \vas not carried anything 
143 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


like so far. Chesterton jeered at 1\11'. Shaw's 
vegetarianism, denied his democracy, but de- 
cided that on the whole he \vas a good repub- 
lican, " in the literal and Latin sense; he cares 
n10re for thc Public Thing than for any private 
thing." He cnds the chaptcr cntitled "The 
Progressive " by saying the kindest things he 
ever said about any body of Socialists. 
I have in my time had my fling at the Fabian 
Society, at the pedantry of schemes, the arrogance 
of experts; nor do I regret it now. But when I 
remember that other world against which it reared 
its bourgeois banner of cleanliness and common sense, 
I will not end this chapter without doing it decent 
honour. Give me the drain pipes of the Fabians 
rather than the panpipes of the later poets; the 
drain pipes have a nicer smell. 


The rcader may have grasped by this time 
the fact that Chesterton's objections to Socialism 
were based rather on his dislike of \vhat the 
working man calls "mucking people about" 
than on any economic grounds. He made 
himself the sworn enemy of any Bill before 
Parliament which contained any proposals to 
appoint inspectors. He took the line that the 
sacredness of the home diminishes visibly with 
the entrance of the gas collector, and disappears 
down the kitchen sink with the arrival of the 
school attendance officer. In those of his 
144 



THE POLITICIAN 


writings which I have not seen I have no doubt 
there are pleadings for the retention of the 
cesspool, because it is the last moat left to the 
Englishman's house, which is his castle. It is 
difficult to believe in the complete sincerity 
of such an attitude. The inspector is the chief 
enemy of the bad landlord and employer, he 
is a fruit of democracy. In the early days of 
the factory system, when mercilessly long 
hours were worked by children and women, 
\vhen legislation had failed to ameliorate the 
conditions of employment, because the em- 
ployers were also the magistrates, and would 
not enforce laws against themselves, the great 
Reform Bill agitation, which so nearly caused 
a revolution in this country, came to an end, 
having in 1832 achieved a partial success. But 
the new House of Commons did not at once 
realize how partial it was, and at first it 
regarded the interests of working men 'with 
something of the intensity of the Liberal 
Government of 1906, which had not yet come 
to appreciate the new and portentous Labour 
Party at its true worth. So in 1833 inspectors 
were appointed for the first time. This very 
brief excursion into history is sufficient justi- 
fication for refusing to take seriously those 
who would have us believe that inspectors are 
necessarily the enemies of the human race. 
K 145 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


Chesterton's theory that middle-class Socialists 
are people who want to do things to the poor 
in the direction of regimenting them finds an 
easy refutation. 'Vhen, in 1910, the \vhole of 
England fell down before the eloquence of 
Mr. Lloyd George, and consented to the Insur- 
ance Bill, the one body of people who stood out 
and fought that Bill was that middle-class 
Socialist body, the Fabian Society. It is 
sometimes desirable, for purposes of contro- 
versy, to incarnate a theory or objection. 
Chesterton lumped together all his views on 
the alleged intentions of the Socialists to inter- 
fere in the natural and legitimate happinesses of 
the \vorking class, and called this curious com- 
posite Mr. Sidney "\tV ebb. So through many 
volumes Mr. Webb's name is continually 
bobbing up, like an irrepressible Aunt Sally, 
and having to be thwacked into a temporary 
disappearance. But this is only done for 
literary effect. To heave a brick at a man is 
both simpler and more amusing than to arraign 
a system or a creed. A reader enjoys the 
feeling that his author is a clever dog who is 
making it devilishly uncomfortable for his 
opponents. His appreciation would be con- 
siderably less if the opponent in question was 
a mere theory. In point of fact, Chesterton is 
probably a warm admirer of l\'Ir. and 1\lrs. 
146 



THE POLITICIAN 


Sidney 'Vebb. 'Vhen they founded (in 1909) 
their National Committee for the Prevention 
of Destitution, designed to educate the British 
public in the ideas of what has been called 
'Vebbism, especially those contained in the 
l\linority Report of the Poor Law Commission, 
one of the first to join \vas G. K. Chesterton. 
The word Socialism covers a multitude of 
Socialists, some of whom are not. The political 
faith of a man, therefore, must not be judged 
upon his attitude towards Socialism, if we 
have anything more definite to go upon. Ches- 
terton overflows, so to speak, with predilec- 
tions, such as beer (in a political sense, of 
course), opposition to the Jingo, on the one 
hand, and to middle-class faddery, such as 
vegetarianism, on the other, and so on. Any- 
body might indulge in most of his views, in 
fact, without incurring severe moral reproba- 
tion. But there is an exception which, un- 
fortunately, links Chesterton pretty firmly 
,vith the s\veater, and other undesirable lords 
of creation. He is an anti-suffragist. 
In a little essay Chesterton @nce wrote on 
Tolstoy, he argued that the thing that has 
driven men mad \vas logic, from the beginning 
of time, whereas the thing that has kept them 
sane \vas mysticism. Tolstoy, lacking mysti- 
cism, was at the mercy of his pitiless logic, 
147 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


which led him to condemn things which are 
entirely natural and human. This attitude, 
one feels (and it is only to be arrived at by 
feeling), is absolutely right. \Ve all start off 
with certain scarce expressible feelings that 
certain things are fundamentally decent and 
permissible, and that others are the reverse, 
just as we do not take our idea of blackness 
and whiteness from a text-book. If anybody 
proposed that all Scotsmen should be com- 
pelled to eat sago with every meal, the idea, 
although novel to most of us, ,vould be in- 
stantly dismissed, even, it is probable, by 
those with sago interests, because it would be 
contrary to our instinct of what is decent. 
In fact, we all believe in natural rights, or at 
any rate we claim the enjoyment of some. 
Now natural rights have no logical basis. The 
late Professor D. G. Ritchie very brilliantly 
examined the theory of natural rights, and by 
means of much subtle dissection and argument 
found that there were no natural rights; la\v 
was the only basis of privilege. It is quite 
easy to be convinced by the author's delightful 
dialectic, but the conviction is apt to vanish 
suddenly in the presence of a dog being ill- 
treated. 
Now on a basis of common decency-the 
basis of all democratic political thought-the 
148 



THE POúITICIAN 


case for woman suffrage is irresistible. It is 
not decent that the s,veated woman ,yorker 
should be denied "vhat, in the opinion of many 
competent judges, might be the instrument of 
her salvation. It is not decent that women 
should share a disqualification \vith lunatics, 
criminals, children, and no others of their own 
race. It is not decent that the sex \vhich knows 
most about babies should have no opportunity 
to influence directly legislation dealing \vith 
babies. It is not decent that a large, important 
and necessary section of humanity, ,vith highly 
gregarious instincts, should not be allowed to 
exercise the only gregarious function ,vhich 
concerns the \vhole nation at once. 
These propositions are fundamental; if a 
man or woman cannot accept them, then he is 
at heart an " anti," even if he has constructed 
for himself a quantity of reasons, religious, 
ethical, economic, political or what not, why 
\vomen should be allowed to vote. Every 
suffrage argument is, or can be, based on 
decencies, not on emotion or statistics. 
Chesterton bases his case on decencies, but 
they are not the decencies that matter. In 
What' s Wrong with the JV orld he insists on the 
indecency of allowing women to cease to be 
amateurs within the home, or of allo\ving them 
to earn a living in a factory or office, or of 
149 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


allowing them to share in the responsibility 
for taking the lives of condemned murderers, 
or of allowing them to exercise the coercion 
which is government, which is a sort of pyra- 
mid, with a gallows on top, the ultimate resort 
of coercive po\ver. And in these alleged in- 
decencies (the word is not altogether my own) 
lies Chesterton's whole case against allowing 
any \voman to vote. Into these propositions 
his ,vhole case, as expressed in What' s Wrong 
with the World, is faithfully condensed. 
"'Yell now, are these indecencies sincere or 
simulated? First, as regards the amateur. 
Chesterton's case is that the amateur is neces- 
sary, in order to counteract the influences of 
the specialist. Man is no\vadays the specialist. 
He is confined to making such things as the 
thousandth part of a motor-car or producing 
the ten-thousandth part of a daily newspaper. 
By being a specialist he is made narrow. 
",V oman, with the whole home on her hands, 
has a multiplicity of tasks. She is the amateur, 
and as such she is free. If she is put into 
politics or industry she becomes a specialist, 
and as such becomes a slave. This is a pretty 
piece of reasoning, but it is absolutely hollow. 
There are few women who do not gladly resign 
part at least of their sovereignty, if they have 
the chance, to a maid -servant (who may be, 
150 



THE POLITICIAN 


and, in fact, usually is an amateur, but is not 
free to try daring experiments) or to such 
blatant specialists as cooks and nursemaids. 
Nobody is the least bit shocked by the exist- 
ence of specialist women. Indeed, it is a 
solemn fact, that were it not for them Chester- 
ton would be unable to procure a single article 
of clothing. He \vould be driven to the fig- 
leaf, and would stand a good chance of not 
getting even so much, now that so many gar- 
dcners are \vomen. \Ve are terribly dependent 
upon the specialist woman. That is why the 
amateur within the home is beginning to 
wonder \vhether, on the whole, man is so very 
much dependent upon her. She comes to rely 
more and more upon the specialist women to 
help her feed, clothe, and nurse her husband. 
She has so much done for her that she comes 
to understand the remainder left to her far 
better. She becomes a specialist herself, and 
feels kindly towards other specialists. Then 
she demands a vote and meets Chesterton, 
\vho tells her to go and mind the baby and be 
as free as she likes with the domestic apparatus 
for making pastry, when her baby is in point 
of fact being brought up by other women at a 
1tlontessori school to be much more intelligent 
and much more of a specialist than she herself 
is ever likely to be, and when she knows that 
151 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


her dyspeptic husband has an absolute loath- 
ing for the amateurishness that expresses itself 
in dough. 
Then there is the alleged wrongness of per- 
mitting women to work in factories and offices. 
We are all probably prepared to admit that 
we have been shocked at the commercial em- 
ployment of women. But it has probably 
occurred to few of us that the shock was due 
simply to their commercial employment. It 
was due to their low wages and to the beastli- 
ness of their employers. lVhen they drew 
decent wages and their employers were decent 
men we were not the least bit hurt. But when 
an employer made use of the amateurishness 
of young girls to underpay them, and then 
make deductions from their wages on various 
trivial pretexts, and put them to work in over- 
crowded factories and offices, then we all felt 
acutely that an indecency was being com- 
mitted. The obvious democratic remedy is 
the duckpond, but in our great cities none 
remain. So one is sorrowfully brought round 
to the slower but surer expedient of attacking 
and destroying the amateurishness of women 
at the point where it is dangerous to them. 
Amateurishness has encircled women in the 
past like the seven rivers of Hades. Every 
now and again a daring excursion was made in 
152 



THE POLITICIAN 


order that the wisdom of those imprisoned 
within should be added to our store. A good 
deal of aboriginal amateurishness has been 
evaporating as the \voman doctor has been 
taking the place of the time-honoured amateur 
dispenser of brimstone and treacle, and even 
horrider things. And \vill Chesterton maintain 
that it were better for us all if certain \vomen 
had remained amateurs and had not studied 
and specialized so that, in time of need, they 
were enabled to tend the sick and wounded at 
home, in Flanders and in France, and wherever 
the powers of evil had been at work ? ' 
Lastly, is it decent that 'women should share 
the awful responsibility \vhich is attached to 
the ultimate control of the State, when the 
State is compelled to use the gallo\vs? If 
women vote, they are responsible for whatever 
blood is shed by the State. Yes, but, 1\'11'. 
Chesterton, aren't they just as responsible for 
it in any case? Don't \vomen help to pay the 
hangman's \vages \vith every ounce of tea or 
of sweets they buy? If capital punishment 
is obscene, then we can do ,vithout it, and a 
woman's vote will not make her a sharer in 
the evil. If capital punishment is morally 
stimulating to the nation at large, there is no 
reason why women should not be allowed to 
share in the stimulation. Now \vhat has 
153 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


become of Chesterton's decencies? It is 
indeed saddening that a man who never misses 
an opportunity to proclaim himself a demo- 
crat should take his stand on this matter 
beside Lord Curzon, and in opposition to the 
instinctively and essentially democratic views 
proclaimed by such men as Messrs. H. \tV. 
N evinson and Philip Snowden. 
In an article in The Illustrated London News 
on June 1st, 1912, Chesterton showed whose 
side he was on with unusual distinctness. The 
subject of the article was Earnestness; the 
moral, that it was a bad quality, the property 
of Socialists and Anti-Socialists, and Suffragists, 
and that apathy was best of all. It concluded: 
N either Socialists nor Suffragists will smash our 
politics, I fear. The worst they can do is to put a 
little more of the poison of earnestness into the 
strong, unconscious sanity of our race, and disturb 
that deep and just indifference on which all things 
rest; the quiet of the mother or the carelessness of 
the child. 
In remarkably similar words, the late Pro- 
curator of the Holy Synod of the Russian 
Church, C. P. Pobedonostsev, condemned de- 
mocracy in his book, The Reflexions of a 
Russian Statesman, and praised vis inertiæ for 
its preservative effects. But the Russian had 
more consistency; he did not merely condemn 
154 



THE POLITICIAN 


votes for women, but also votes for men; and 
not only votes, but education, the jury system, 
the freedom of the Press, religious freedom, 
and many other things. 
Putting aside the question of woman suf- 
frage, Chesterton's views on democracy may 
be further illustrated by reference to the pro- 
ceedings of the Joint Select Committee of the 
House of Lords and the House of Commons, 
1909, on Stage Plays (Censorship). He may 
speak for himself here. 
l\'Ir. G. K. Chesterton is called In, and 
examined. 
Question 6141( Chairman). I understand that you 
appear here to give evidence on behalf of the average 
man? 
G.K.C. Yes, that is so. I represent the audience, 
in fact. I am neither a dramatist nor a dramatic 
critic. I do not quite know why I am here, but if 
anybody wants to know my views on the subject they 
are these: I am for the censorship, but I am against 
the present Censor. I am very strongly for the 
censorship, and I am very strongly against the present 
Censor. The whole question I think turns on the 
old democratic objection to despotism. I am an old- 
fashioned person and I retain the old democratic 
objection to despotism. I would trust 12 ordinary 
men, but I cannot trust one ordinary man. 
6142. You prefer the jury to the judge?- Yes, 
exactly; that is the very point. It seems to me 
that if you have one ordinary man judging, it is not 
155 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


his ordinariness that appears, but it is his extra- 
ordinariness that appears. Take anybody you like- 
George III for instance. I suppose that George III 
was a pretty ordinary man in one sense. People 
called him Farmer George. He was very like a large 
number of other people, but when he was alone in 
his position things appeared in him that were not 
ordinary-that he was a German, and that he was 
mad, and various other facts. Therefore, my primary 
principle- 
6143. He gloried in the name of Briton ?-I know 
he did. That is what showed him to be so thoroughly 
German. 
LORD NEWTON. He spelt it ,vrongly. 
WITNESS. Therefore, speaking broadly, I would 
not take George Ill's opinion, but I would take the 
opinion of 12 George Ill's on any question. 


The taking of the " evidence " took several 
hours, . but it never yielded anything more 
than this: The local jury is a better judge of 
what is right and proper than a single Censor. 
Juries may differ in their judgments; but 
\v hy not? Is it not desirable that Hampstead 
and Highgate should each have an opportunity 
of finding out independently \vhat they like ? 
May they not compete in taste one against 
the other ? 
This introduction of the question of dramatic 
censorship invites a slight digression. Chester- 
ton has a decided regard for a dramatic censor- 
156 



THE POLITICIAN 


ship. A book need not be censored, because it 
need not be finished by its reader, but it may 
be difficult to get out of a theatre in the course 
of a performance. And there are performances 
of plays, \vritten by "irresponsible modern 
philosophers," which, to Chesterton, seem to 
deserve suppression. A suggestive French 
farce may be a dirty joke, but it is at least a 
joke; but a play \vhich raises the question Is 
marriage a failure? and answers it in the 
affirmative, is a pernicious philosophy. The 
answer to this last contention is that, in point 
of strict fact, modern philosophers do not 
regard happy marriages as failures, and opinion 
is divided on the others, which are generally 
the subjects of their plays. But there is no 
doubt that a jury is better qualified than a 
single Censor. A French jury decided that 
Madame Bovary ,vas not immoral. An English 
jury decided that a certain book by Zola was 
immoral and sent the publisher to prison. 
.A..nother English jury, for all practical pur- 
poses, decided that Dorian Gray was not 
immoral, and so on. The verdicts may be 
accepted. T\velve men, picked from an 
alphabetical list, may not be judges of art, 
but they will not debase morality. 
Chesterton's personal contribution to the 
political thought of his day lies in his criticism 
157 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


of the humaneness of legislative proposals. A 
thing that is human is commonly a very 
different matter from a thing that is merely 
humanitarian. G.K.C. is hotly human and 
almost bitterly anti-humanitarian. 
The difference bet\veen the t,vo is illustrated 
by the institution of the gallows, which is 
human, but not humanitarian. In its essen- 
tials it consists of a rope and a branch, which 
is precisely the apparatus that an angry man 
might employ in order to rid himself of his 
captured enemy. Herbert Spencer, seeking 
in his old age for means whereby to increase 
the happiness of mankind, invented a humani- 
tarian apparatus for the infliction of capital 
punishment. It consisted of a glorified round- 
about, on which the victim was laid for his 
last journey. As it revolved, the blood-pres- 
sure on his head gradually increased (or 
decreased, I forget which) until he fell asleep 
and died painlessly. This is humanitarianism. 
The process is safe and sure (so long as the 
machine did not stop suddenly), highly efficient, 
bloodless and p
inless. But just because it is 
so humanitarian it offends one a great deal 
more than the old-fashioned gallo\vs. The 
only circumstance which can justify violence 
is anger. The only circumstance which can 
justify the taking of human life is anger. And 
158 



THE POLITICIAN 


anger may be expressed by a rope or a knife- 
edge, but not by a roundabout or any other 
morbid invention of a cold-blooded philosopher 
such as the electric chair, or the lethal chamber. 
In the same way, if flogging is to continue as 
a punishment, it must be inflicted by a man 
and not by a machine. 
Now this distinction (made \vithout preju- 
dice as to Chesterton's vie\vs on capital or 
corporal punishment) holds good through his 
\vhole criticism of modern legislation. He 
believes that it is better that a man and his 
family should starve in their own slum, than 
that they should be moulded, by a cumbersome 
apparatus of laws and officials and inspectors, 
into a tame, mildly prosperous and mildly 
healthy group of individuals, \vhose opinions, 
occupations and homes should be provided for 
them. On these lines he attacks ,vhatever in 
his opinion \vill tend to put men into a position 
where their souls will be less thcir own. He 
believes that the man who has been costered 
by the Government into a mediocre state of 
life will be less of a man than one who has been 
left unbothered by officials, and has had to 
shift for himself. 
Very largely, therefore, Chesterton's political 
faith is an up-to-date variety of the tenets of 
the Self- Hclp School, which was own brother 
159 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


to the Manchester School. And here we come 
to a curious contradiction, the first of a series. 
For Chesterton loathes the Manchester School. 
The contradiction comes of an inveterate 
nominalism. To G.K.C. all good politics are 
summed up in the words Liberty, Equality, 
Fraternity. But nobody, not even a French- 
man, can explain what they mean. Chesterton 
used to believe that they mean Liberalism, 
being led astray by the sound of the first \vord, 
but he soon realized his error. Let a man say 
"I believe in Liberty" and only the vague- 
ness of the statement preserves it from the 
funniness of a Higher Thinker's affirmation, 
"I believe in Beauty." A man has to feel 
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, for they are not 
in the nature of facts. And one suspects 
horribly that what Chesterton really feels is 
merely the masculine liberty, equality and 
fraternity of the public-house, where men l11eet 
together but never do anything. For Chester- 
ton has not yet asked us to do anything, he 
only requests Parliament to refrain. He sup- 
ports no political programl11e. He is opposed 
to Party Government, which is government 
by the Government. He is in favour of Home 
Rule, it may be inferred; and of l11aking things 
nasty for the Jews, it may be supposed. But 
he does not poach on the leader-\vriters' pre- 
160 



THE POLITICIAN 


serves, and his political programme is left 
hazy. His opposition to Liberal proposals 
brings him near the Tories. If the Liberals 
continue in po,ver for a few years longer, and 
Home Rule drops out of the things opposed 
by Tories, the latter may well find Chesterton 
among their doubtful assets. He \vill probably 
continue to call himself a Liberal and a " child 
of the French Revolution," but that will be 
only his fun. For the interesting abortions to 
which the French Revolution gave birth- 
well, they are quite another story. 
Chesterton is a warm supporter of the 
queerly mixed proposals that are known as 
the "rights of sl11all nationalities," and the 
smaller the nationality, the l110re warmly he 
supports (so he would have us believe) its 
demand for self-government. Big fleas have 
little fleas, alas, and that is the difficulty he 
does not confront. For Home Rule carried to 
its final sub-division is simply home rule; the 
independence of homes. Political Home Rule 
is only assented to on general principles; 
apparently on the ground that on the day 
when an Englishman's home really does be- 
come his castle he will not, so to speak, mind 
much \vhether he is an Englishman or an 
Irishman. 
And here we may bid farewell to the poli- 
L 161 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


tician who is Chesterton. His politics are like 
his perverse definitions of the meaning of such 
words as progress and reform. He is like a 
child who plays about with the hands of a 
clock, and makes the surprising discovery that 
some clocks may be made to tell a time that 
does not exist-with the small hand at twelve 
and the large at six, for example. Also that if 
a clock goes fast, it comes to register an hour 
behind the true time, and the other way round. 
And so Chesterton goes on playing with the 
times, until at last a horrid suspicion grips us. 
\1Vhat if he cannot tell the time himself? 


162 



VIII 


A DECADENT OF SORTS 


AN idea, if treated gently, may be brought up 
to perform l11any useful tasks. It is, however, 
apt to pine in solitude, and should be allowed 
to enjoy the cOlnpany of others of its o\vn 
kind. It is much easier to overwork an idea 
than a man, and of the two, the wearied idea 
presents an infinitely more pathetic appearance. 
Those of us who, for our sins, have to review 
the novels of other people, are accustomed to 
the saddening spectacle of a poor little idea, 
beautiful and fresh in its youth, come wearily 
to its tombstone on page 300 (where or 'where- 
abouts novels end), trailing after it an immense 
load of stiff and heavy puppets, taken down 
from the common property-cupboards of the 
nation's fiction, and not even dusted for the 
occasion. 
lanalive, as we have seen, suffered 
from its devotion to one single idea, but the 
poor little thing was kept going to the bitter 
end by the flo,v of humorous encouragemcnt 
given it by the author. The later works of 
163 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


Chesterton, however, are symbolized by a 
performing flea, dragging behind it a little 
cartIoad of passengers. But it sometimes 
happens that the humour of Manalive is not 
there, that one weary idea has to support an 
intolerable d
al of prose. 
In 4-n Essay on Two Cities 1 there is a long 
passage illustrating the adventures of a man 
who tried to find people in London by the 
names of the places. He might go into Buck- 
ingham Palace in search of the Duke of Buck- 
ingham, into Marlborough House in quest of 
the Duke of Marlborough. He might even 
look for the Duke of 'Vellington at 'Vaterloo. 


I wonder that no one has written a wild rOlnance 
about the adventures of such an alien, seeking the 
great English aristocrats, and only guided by the 
names; looking fOl' the Duke of Bedford in the town 
of that name, seeking for some trace of the Duke 
of Norfolk in Norfolk. He might sail for Wellington 
in New Zealand to find the ancient seat of the Welling- 
tons. The last scene might show him trying to learn 
\Velsh in order to converse with the Prince of '\'Vales. 


Here is an idea that is distinctly amusing when 
made to fill one short paragraph, and might 
be deadly tedious if extended into a wild 
romance. Perhaps the best way of summariz- 
ing the peculiar decadence into ,vhich Ches- 


1 All Things Oonsidered. 
164 



A DECADENT OF SORTS 


terton seemed at one tim@ to be falling is by 
the statement that up to the present he has 
not found time to write the book, but has done 
others like it. And yet the decadence has 
never showed signs of that fin de siècle rustiness 
that marked the decadent movement (if it was 
really a movement and not just an obsession) 
of the generation that precedcd Chesterton. 
He cursed it in the dedication to I\lr. E. C. 
Bentley of The 1Jlan who was Thursday, and 
he remained true to the point of view expressed 
in that curse for ever afterwards. 


A cloud was on the mind of men, and wailing went the 
weather, 
Yea, a sick cloud upðn the soul, when we were boys 
together. 
Sciencc announced nonentity, and art admired decay; 
The world was old and ended: but you and I were gay. 
Round us in antie order their crippled vices came- 
Lust that had lost its laughter, fear that had lost its 
shame. 
Like the white lock of 'Vhistler, that lit our aimless gloom, 
Men showed their own white feather as proudly as a 
plume. 
Life was a fiy that faded, and death a drone that stung; 
The world was very old indeed when you and I were 
young. 
They twisted even decent sin to shapes not to be named: 
l\Ien were ashamed of honour; but we were not ashamed. 


The Chestertonian decadence \vas not even 
an all-round falling-off. If anybody \vere to 
165 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


make the statement that in the yeal' nineteen- 
hundred-and-something Chesterton produced 
his worst work it would be open to anybody 
else to declare, with equal truth, that in the 
same year Chesterton produced his best work. 
And the year in which these extremes met 
,vould be either 1913 or 1914, the years of 
Father Brown and The Flying Inn on one hand, 
and of Father Brown and some of the songs of 
The Flying Inn on the other. It was not a 
technical decline, but the period of certain 
intellectual ,vearinesses, when Chesterton's 
mental resilience failed him for a time, and 
he welcomed with too much enthusiasm the 
nasty ideas from ,vhich no man is wholly free. 
The main feature indeed of this period of 
decadence is the brandishing about of a whole 
mass of antipathies. A man is perfectly en- 
titled to hate what he will, but it is generally 
assumed that the hater has some ideas on the 
subject of the reform of the hatee. But Ches- 
terton is as devoid of suggestions as a goat is 
of modesty. A man may have a violent ob- 
jection against ,vomen earning their own 
livings, and yet be regarded as a reasonable 
being if he has any alternative proposals for the 
well-being of the unendo,ved and temporarily 
or permanently unmarriageable woman, with 
no relatives able to support her-and there 
166 



A DECADENT OF SORTS 


are two or three millions of such women in the 
United Kingdom. But a mere " You shouldn't" 
is neither here nor there. 
Take this verse. It was written two or 
three years ago and is from a poem entitled 
To a Turk. 


'Vith us too rage against the rood 
Your devils and your swine; 
A colder scorn of womanhood, 
A baser fear of wine, 
And lust without the harem, 
And Doom without the God, 
Go. It is not this rabble 
Sayeth to you" Ichabod." 
A previous stanza talks about "the creedless 
chapel." Here is a whole mass of prejudices 
collected into a large splutter at the expense 
of England. If the verse means anything at 
all, it means that the English are nearer the 
beasts than the Turks. 
Another of Chesterton's intellectual aber- 
rations is his anti-Semitism. He continually 
denied in the columns of The Daily IIerald that 
he was an anti-Semite, but his references to the 
Jews are innumerable and ahvays on the same 
side. If one admits what appears to be Ches- 
terton's contention that Judaism is largely 
just an exclusive form of contemporary atheism, 
then one is entitled to ask, \ Vhy is a wicked 
Gentile atheist merely an atheist, while a 
167 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


Jewish atheist remains a Jew? Surely the 
morals of both are on the same level, and the 
atheism, and not the race, is the offensive 
feature. The Jews have their sinners and their 
saints, including the greatest Saint of all. 
They and they only, amongst all mankind, 
Received the transcript of the eternal mind; 
Were trusted with His own engraven laws, 
And constituted guardians of His cause: 
Their's were the prophets, their's the priestly call, 
And their's, by birth, the Saviour of us all. 


Even if Chesterton cannot work himself up 
to Cowper's enthusiasm (and few of us can), 
he cannot deny that the race he is continually 
blackguarding ,vas preparing his religion, and 
discovering the way to health at a time when 
his own Gentile ancestors were probably per- 
forming human sacrifices and eating worms. 
Unquestionably what is the matter ,vith the 
modern J e\v, especially of the educated classes, 
is that he refuses to be impressed by the Chris- 
tian Church. But the Christian Church cannot 
fairly be said to have made herself attractive 
in the past; her methods of Inquisition, for 
example. . . . 
It is difficult to write apathetically on this 
extreme instance of a great writer's intolerance. 
One single example will suffice. A year or 
two ago, a Jew called Beilis was put on his trial 
168 



A DECADENT OF SORTS 


(after an imprisonment of nearly three years) 
for the murder of a small Christian boy named 
Y ushinsky, in order that his blood might 
be used for ritual purposes. Y ushinsky, 
\vho was found dead under peculiar circum- 
stances, was probably a J e,v himself, but 
that does not affect the point at issue. 1\11'. 
Arthur Henderson, l\I.P., tried to arouse an 
agitation in order to secure the freedom of 
Beilis, because it ,vas perfectly evident from 
the behaviour of certain parties that the 
prisoner's conviction would be the signal for 
the out break of a series of massacres of the 
Jews, and because a case which had taken 
nearly three years to prepare was obviously 
a very thin case. Chesterton wrote a ribald 
article in The Daily Herald on 1\11'. Henderson's 
attempt at intervention, saying in effect, Ho\v 
do you know that Beilis isn't guilty? Now it 
is impossible to hold the belief that Beilis 
might be guilty and at the same time disbelieve 
that the J e\vs are capable of committing 
human sacrifice. 'Yhen a leading Russian 
critic named Rosanov, also an anti-Semite, 
issued a pamphlet proclaiming that the Jews 
did, in fact, con1mit this loathsome crime, he 
was ignominiously ejected from a prominent 
Russian literary society. The comparison 
should appeal to Chesterton. 
169 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


The nadir of these antipathies is reached in 
The Flying Inn, a novel published a few months 
before the Great War broke out, and before 
we all made the discovery that, hold what 
prejudices we will, we are all immensely 
dependent on one another. In this book we 
are given a picture of England of the future, 
conquered by the Turk. As a concession to 
Islam, all intoxicating drink is prohibited in 
England. It is amusing to note that a few 
months after the publication of this silly 
prognostication, the greatest Empire in Chris- 
tendom prohibited drink within its frontiers 
in order to conquer the Turk-and his Allies. 
A Patrick Dalroy, an Irishman (with red hair), 
and of course a giant, has been performing 
Homeric feats against the conquering Turks. 
A Lord Ivywood, an abstraction bloodless to 
the point of albinism, is at the head of affairs 
in England. The Jews dominate everything. 
Dalroy and Humphrey Pump, an evicted inn- 
keeper, discovering that drinks may still be 
sold where an inn-sign may be found, start 
journeying around England loaded only \vith 
the sign-board of "The Green l\ian," a large 
cheese, and a keg of rum. They are, in fact, a 
peripatetic public-house, and the only demo- 
cratic institution of its kind left in England. 
Every other chapter the new innkeepers run 
170 



A DECADENT OF SORTS 


into Ivywood and his hangers-on. As the 
story wriggles its inconsequent length, the 
author curses through the mouths of his 
heroes. He anathematizes teetotallers, bre\vers, 
vegetarians, temperance drinks, model villages, 
æsthetic poets, Oriental art, Parliament, poli- 
ticians, Jews, Turks, and infidels in general, 
futurist painting, and other things. In the 
end, Dalroy and Pump lead a vast insurrection, 
and. thousands of dumb, long-suffering English- 
men attack I vywood in his Hall, and so free 
their country from the Turk. 
Only the songs already described in Chapter 
V preserve this book from extreme dullness. 
Technically it is poor. The action is as scat- 
tered as the parts of a futurist picture. A 
whole chapter is devoted to a picture of a 
newspaper editor at \vork, inventing the phrase- 
ology of indefiniteness. Epigrams are few and 
are very much overworked. Once a catch- 
word is sprung, it is run to death. The Turk 
who by lneans of silly puns attempts to prove 
that Islamic civilization is better than European, 
never ceases in his efforts. The heartlessness 
of I vywood is continuous, and ends in insanity. 
Parts of The l?lying Inn convey the impres- 
sion that Chesbirton \vas tired of his o\vn style 
and his own manner of controversy, and had 
taken to parodying himself. The arguments 
171 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


of the already-mentioned Turk, for example, 
might well pass for a really good parody of the 
theological dispute in the first chapter of The 
Ball and the Cross. There, it may be remem- 
bered, t\VO men (more or less) discussed the 
symbolism of balls and crosses. In The Flying 
Inn people discuss the symbolism of crescents 
and crosses, and the Turk, l\Iisysra Ammon, 
explains, "'Yhen the English see an English 
youth, they cry out 'He is crescent!' But 
when they see an English aged man, they cry 
out 'He is cross ! ' " On these lines a great 
deal of The Flying Inn is written. 
\" e now come to Chesterton's political 
decadence, traceable, like many features in his 
history, to l\Ir. llilaire Belloc. The friendship 
between G.I{.C. and the ex-Liberal l\f.P. for 
Rochdale bore a number of interesting fruits. 
There were the amusing illustrations to The 
Great Enquiry, an amusing skit on the Tariff 
Reform League, to Emmanuel Burden and 
The Green Overcoat. But curious artificialities 
sprang into existence, like so many funguses, 
under the lengthening shadow of 1\11'. Belloc. 
To him is due the far-fetchedness of some of 
Chesterton's pleading in support of the miracu- 
lous element in religion. To him also is due 
the growing antipathy against the Liberal 
Party and the party system in general. 
172 



A DECADENT OF SORTS 


Up to the end of January, 1913, Chesterton 
had continued his connection with The Daily 
N e\vs. On January 28th there took place, at 
the Queen's Hall, London, a debate between 
Mr. Bernard Shaw and 1\11'. Hilaire Belloc. 
The latter nloved "That if we do not re- 
establish the institution of property, we shall 
re-establish the institution of slavery; there 
is no third course." The debate was an ex- 
tremely poor affair, as neither combatant dealt, 
except parenthetically, \vith his opponent's 
points. In the course of it 1\11'. Sha,v, to illus- 
trate an argument, referred to Chesterton as 
"a flourishing property of Mr. Cadbury," a 
remark which G.K.C. appears to have taken 
to heart. His quarrel ,vith official Liberalism 
was at the moment more bitter than ever 
before. 1\11'. Belloc had taken a very decided 
stand on the 1\larconi affair, and 1\11'. Cecil 
Chesterton, G.K.C.'s brother, \vas sturdily sup- 
porting him. The Daily N e\vs, on the other 
hand, was of course vigorously defending the 
Government. Chesterton suddenly severed 
his long connection \vith The Daily N e\vs and 
came over to The Daily Herald. This paper, 
\vhich is now defunct, except in a weekly 
edition, ,vas the organ of Syndicalism and 
rebellion in general. In a letter to the editor 
of The Herald, Chesterton eXplained with 
173 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


pathetic irony that The Daily News" had come 
to stand for almost everything I disagree with ; 
and I thought I had better resign before the 
next great measure of social reform made it 
illegal to go on strike." 
A week or so later, Chesterton started his 
series of Saturday articles in The Daily Herald. 
His first few efforts show that he made a 
determined attempt to get down to the intel- 
lectual level of the Syndicalist. But anybody 
who sits down to read through these articles 
\vill notice that before many \veeks had passed 
Chesterton was beginning to feel a certain dis- 
comfort in the cOlnpany he was keeping. He 
writes to say that he likes writing for The 
Daily Herald because it is the most revolu- 
tionary paper he knows, "even though I do 
not agree with all the revolutions it advocates," 
and goes on to state that, personally, he likes 
most of the people he meets. Having thus, 
as it were, cleared his conscience in advance, 
Chesterton let himself go. He attacked the 
Government for its alleged nepotism, dis- 
honesty, and corruption. He ended one such 
article with, "There is nothing but a trumpet 
at midnight, calling for volunteers." The N e\v 
Statesman then published an article, "Trum- 
pets and How to Blow Them," suggesting, 
among other things, that there ,vas little use 
174 



A DECADENT OF SORTS 


in being merely destructive. It is typical of 
what I have called the decadence of Chesterton 
that he borrowed another writer's most offen- 
sive description of a lady prominently con- 
nected with The New Statesman in order to 
quote it \vith glee by way of answer to this 
article. The Syndicalist hates the Socialist 
for his catholicity. The Socialist wishes to 
see the world a comfortable place, the Syndica- 
list merely wishes to work in a comfortable 
factory. Chesterton seized the opportunity, 
being mildly rebuked by a Socialist paper, to 
declare that the Fabians "are constructing a 
man-trap." A little later on he \vrites, \vith 
reference to a controversialist's request, that 
he should explain why, after all, he was not 
a Socialist : 


If he wants to know what the Marconi Scandal has 
saved us from, I can tell him. It has saved us from 
Socialism. l\ly God! what Socialism, and run by 
what sort of Socialists! 
Iy God! what an escape! 
If we had transferred the simplest national systems 
to the State (as we wanted to do in our youth) it is 
to these men that we should have transferred them. 


There never was an example of more muddled 
thinking. Let us apply it to something 
definite, to that harmless, necessary article of 
diet, milk, to be precise, cow's milk. To-day 
milk is made expensive by a multiplicity of 
175 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


men who have interests in keeping milk expen- 
sive. There are too many milkmen's wages 
to be paid, too many milk-carts to be built, 
too many shop-rents paid, and too much 
apparatus bought, simply because we have 
not yet had the intelligence to let any munici- 
pality or county run its own milk -service and 
so avoid all manner of duplication. Chester- 
ton's answer to this is: "I used to think so, 
but what about Lord Murray, 1\11'. Lloyd 
George, and Mr. Godfrey Isaacs?" It would 
be as relevant to say, "What about Dr. 
Crippen, Jack Sheppard, and Ananias," or, 
"But what about Mr. Bernard Shaw, the 
Grand Duke Nicolas, and my brother?" The 
week later Chesterton addresses the Labour 
Party in these ,vords : 


Comrades (I mean gentlemen), there is only one 
real result of anything you have done. You have 
justified the vulgar slander of the suburban Con- 
servatives that men from below are men who merely 
want to rise. It is a lie. No one knows so well as 
you that it was a lie: you who drove out Grayson 
and deserted Lansbury. Before you went into 
Parliament to represent the working classes, the 
working classes were feared. Since you have repre- 
sented the working classes, they are not even respected. 
Just when there was. a hope of Democracy, you have 
revived the notion that the demagogue was only the 
sycophant. Just when there had begun to be an 
176 



A DECADENT OF SORTS 


English people to represent, you have been paid to 
misrepresent them. Get out of our path. Take your 
money; go. 
Regarding which passage there is only to be 
said that it is grossly unjust both to the Labour 
Party and to the working classes. It was 
followed up in subsequent numbers by violent 
attacks on woman suffrage and the economic 
independence of women; a proceeding quite 
commendably amusing in a paper \vith a 
patron saint surnamed Pankhurst. A promise 
to say no more about Votes for 'Vomen was 
followed by several more spirited references 
to it, from the same point of view. Mter \vhich 
Chesterton cooled off and ,vrote about detec- 
tive stories, telephones, and worked himself 
down into an all-round fizzle of disgust at 
things as they are, to illustrate which" I win 
not run into a paroxysm of citations again," 
as l\IiIton said in the course of his Epistle in 
t\VO books on Reformation in England. 
The most unpleasant feature of The Daily 
IIerald articles is the assumption of superiority 
over the British working man, expressing 
itself in the patronizing tone. The British 
working man, as Chesterton sees him, is a very 
different person from what he is. If the l\Iiddl
 
Ages had been thc peculiar period Chesterton 
appears to believe it ,vas, then his working 
l\I 177 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


man would be merely a trifling anachronism 
of five centuries or so. But he is not even that. 
Five centuries would be but a trifle compared 
with the difference between him and his real 
self. Chesterton's attitude towards the work- 
ing man must resemble that of a certain 
chivalrous knight towards the distressed dam- 
sel he thought he had rescued. He observed, 
" \Vell, little one, aren't you going to show me 
any gratitude?" And the lady replied, "I 
wasn't playing Andromeda, fathead, I was 
looking for blackberries. Run away and play." 
The attitude of the middle-class suburbanite 
towards the working man and his wife is not 
exactly graceful, but the former at any rate 
does not pretend to love the latter, and to find 
all decency of feeling and righteousness of 
behaviour in them. Chesterton both pretends 
to reverence the working classes, and exhibits 
a profound contempt for them. He is never 
happier than when he is telling the working 
classes that they are wrong. He delights in 
attacking the Labour Party in order to have 
the supreme satisfaction of demonstrating that 
working men are their own worst enemies. 
At the beginning of August, 1914, the Great 
'" ar broke out, and everything seemed changed. 
No man now living will bc able to say definitely 
what effects the war \vill have upon literature, 
178 



A DECADENT OF SORTS 


but one thing is certain: nothing ,viII remain 
the same. 'Ve have already learned to view 
each other with different eyes. For better or 
for worse, old animosities and party cleavages 
have given way to unforeseen combinations. 
To assert that we have all gro\vn better would 
be untrue. But it might reasonably be argued 
that the innate generousness of the British 
people has been vitiated by its childlike trust 
in its journalists, and the men who own them. 
'Vhen l\tJr. Bernard Shaw wrote a brilliant 
defence of the British case for intervention in 
the war, his mild denigration of some of the 
defects of the English nation, a few trivial 
inaccuracies, and his perverse bellicosity of 
style made him the object of the attentions of 
a horde of panic-stricken heresy-hunters. Those 
of us who had not the fortune to escape the 
Press by service abroad, especially those of us 
who derived our living from it, came to loathe 
its misrepresentation of the English people. 
There seemed no end to the nauseous vomits 
of undigested facts and dishonourablc preju- 
dices that came pouring out in daily streams. 
Then we came to realize, as never before, thc 
valuc of such men as Chesterton. Christianity 
and the common dccencics fare badly at the 
hands of the bishops of to-day, and the 
journalists thre\v them over as soon as thc 
179 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


war began. But, unfortunately for us all, 
G.K.C. fell seriously ill in the early period of 
the war, and was in a critical state for many 
months. But not before he had published a 
magnificent recantation-for it is no less-of 
all those bitternesses which, in their sum, had 
very nearly caused him to hate the British. 
It is a poem, Blessed are the Peacemakers. 
Of old with a divided heart 
I saw my people's pride expand, 
Since a man's soul is born apart 
By mother earth and fatherland. 
I knew, through many a tangled tale, 
Glory and truth not one but two : 
King, Constable and Amirail 
Took me like trumpets: but I knew 
A blacker thing than blood's own dye 
Weighed down great Hawkins on the sea; 
And Nelson turned his blindest eye 
On Naples and on liberty. 
Therefore to you my thanks, 0 throne, 
o thousandfold and frozen folk, 
For whose cold frenzies all your own 
The Battle of the Rivers broke; 
Who have no faith a man could mourn, 
Nor freedom any man desires; 
But in a new clean light of scorn 
Close up my quarrel with my sires ; 
Who bring my English heart to me, 
Who mend me like a broken toy; 
Till I can see you fight and flee, 
And laugh as if I were a boy. 
180 



A DECADENT OF SORTS 


,\Yhen we read this poem, with its proclama- 
tion of a faith restored, Chesterton's temporary 
absence from the field of letters appears even 
more lamentable. For even before his break- 
down he had given other signs of a resurrection. 
Between the overworked descriptions of The 
Flying Inn and the little book The Barbarism 
of Berlin which closely follo\ved it, there is a fine 
difference of style, as if in the interval Chester- 
ton had taken a tonic. Thus there is a jolly pas- 
sage in \vhich, describing German barbarism, he 
refers to the different ways of treating women. 


The two extremes of the treatment of women 
might be represented by what are called the respect- 
able classes in America and in France, In America 
they choose the risk of comradeship; in France the 
compensation of courtesy. In America it is practi- 
cally possible for any young gentleman to take any 
young lady for what he calls (I deeply regret to say) 
a joy-ride; but at least the man goes with the woman 
as much as the woman with the man. In France the 
young woman is protected like a nun while she is 
unmarried; but when she is a mother she is really a 
holy woman; and when she is a grandmother she is 
a holy terror. By both extremes the woman gets 
something back out of life. France and America aim 
alike at equality-America by similarity; France 
by dissimilarity. But North Germany does actually 
aim at inequality. The woman stands up, with no 
more irritation than a butler; the man sits down, 
with no more embarrassment than a guest. 
181 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


And so on. It runs very easily; we recognize 
the old touch; the epigrams are not worked 
to death; and the chains of argument are not 
mere strings of damped brilliancies. And before 
1914 had come to its end, in another pamphlet, 
Letters to an Old Garibaldian, the same style, 
the same freshness of thought, and the same 
resurgent strength were once again in evidence. 
Then iHness overcame. 


Of all futures, the future of literature and 
its professors is the least predictable. We have 
all, so to speak, turned a corner since August, 
1914, but we have not all turned the same way. 
Chesterton would seem to have felt the great 
change early in the war. Soon he will break 
his silence, and "\ve shall know whether we have 
amongst us a giant with strength renewed or 
a querulous Nonconformist Crusader, agreeing 
with no man, while claiming to speak for 
every man. Early in the course of this study 
a distinction was drawn between Christians 
and Crusaders. Chesterton has been through- 
out his career essentially a Crusader. He set 
out to put wrongs to rights in the same spirit ; 
in much the same spirit, too, he incidentally 
chivvied about the Jews he met in his path, 
just as the Crusaders had done. He fought for 
the Holy Sepulchre, and 
ained it. Like the 
182 



A DECADENT OF SORTS 


Crusaders, he professed orthodoxy, and, like 
them, fell bet\veen several "orthodoxies." 
He shared their visions and their faith, so far 
as they had any. But one thing is true of all 
Crusaders, they are not necessarily Christians. 
And there is that about Chesterton ,vhich 
sometimes makes me 'yonder whether, after 
all, he is not" a child of the French Revolu- 
tion " in a sense he himself does not suspect. 
He has cursed the barren fig-tree of modern 
religious movements. But there comes a sus- 
picion that he denies too much; that from 
between those supple sentences and those too 
plausible arguments one may catch a glimpse 
of the features of a mocking spirit. Chesterton 
has given us the keenest enjoyment, and he 
has provoked thought, even in the silly atheist. 
\Ye all owe him gratitude, but no two readers 
of his works are likely to agree as to the causes 
of their gratitude. That, in itself, is a tribute. 
'Yherefore let it be understood that in ,vriting 
this study I have been speaking entirely for 
myself, and if any man think me misguided, 
inappreciative, hypercritical, frivolous, or any- 
thing else, why, he is \velcome. 


183 



BIBLIOGRAPHY (To JULY, 1915) 


WORKS 


1900. Greybeards at Play. Brimley Johnson. 
Cheaper edition, 1902. 
The Wild Knight. Grant Richards. Second 
edition, Brimley Johnson, 1905. Enlarged 
edition, Dent, 1914. 
1901. The Defendant. Brimley Johnson. Second 
enlarged edition, 1902. Cheap edition, 
in Dent's \Vayfarer's Library, 1914. 
1902. Twelve Types. A. L. Humphreys. PartIy 
reprinted as Five Types, 1910, same 
publisher. Cheap edition, 1911. 
G. F. Watts. Duckworth. In Popular Library 
of Art. Reissued at higher price, 1914. 
1903. Robert Browning. In English l\Ien of Letters 
Series. l\IacmiIlan. 
1904. The Patriotic Idea. In England a Nation. 
Edited by Lucien Oldershaw. Brimley 
Johnson. 
The Napoleon of Nolting Hill. John Lane. 
With 7 full-page illustrations by \V. Graham 
Robertson and a Map of the Seat of War. 
185 



1905. 


1906. 


1908. 


1909. 
1910. 


1911. 


1912. 


G. K. CHESTERTON 


The Club of Queer Trades. Harper. Cheap 
edition, Hodder and Stoughton, 1912. 
lIeretics. John Lane. 
Charles Dickens. :Mcthuen. Cheaper edition, 
1907. Popular edition, 1913. 
The Man who was Thursday. Arrowsmith. 
All Things Considered. 1\lethuen. 
Orthodoxy. John Lane. 
Tremendous Trifles. Methuen. 
Alarms and Discursions. Methuen. 
Five Types. A. L. Humphreys. Reprinted 
from Twelve Types, 1905. 
What's Wrong with the World? Cassell. 
Cheap edition, 1912. 
William Blake. Duckworth. In Popular 
Library of Art. 
George Bernard Shaw. John Lane. Cheap 
edition, 1914. 
The Ball and the Cross. 'Yells Gardner, Darton. 
The Ballad of the JVhite I-Iorse. Methuen. 
Appreciations of Dickens. Dent. Reprinted 
prefaces from Everyman Series edition of 
Dickens. 
The Innocence of Father Brown. 
Simplicity and Tolstoy. A. L. 
Another edition, H. Siegle. 
Series, 1913. 
A Miscellany of Men. 1\lethuen. 
Manalire. Nelson. 
186 


Cassell. 
Humphreys. 
In Watteau 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 


1913. IJfagic. :l\1artin Seeker. 
The Victorian Age in Literature. '",,'ïlliams 
and Norgate. In Home University Library. 
1914. The Wisdom of Father Brown. Cassell. 
The Flying Inn. ::\Iethuen. (The Songs of 
the Simple Life appeared originally in The 
New JVitness.) 
The JVild Knight. Dent. Enlarged edition, 
first published 1900. 
The Barbm'ism of Berlin. Cas. ell. 
Letters to an Old Garibaldian. :Methuen. 
1915. Poems. Burns and Oates. 
And articles on Tolstoy, Stevenson, Tennyson, 
and Dickens in a series of booklets pub- 
lished by The Bookman, 1902-1904. 


PREFACES TO THE FOLLOWING BOOKS 


1903. 


P a
t and Present. 
World's Classics. 
Life of Johnson. 
Is bister . 
1904. The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table. By 
O. 'V. Holmes. Red Letter Library. 
Blackie. 
Sartor Resartus. By Thomas Carlyle. Cas- 
sell's National Library. 
The Pilgrim's Progress. By John Bunyan. 
Cassell's National Library. 
187 


By Thomas Carlyle. In 
Grant Richards. 
Extracts from Boswell. 


1902. 



G. K. C H EST E R TON 


1905. Creatures That Once Were 
len. By Maxim 
Gorky. Rivers. 
1906 etc. TVorks of Dickens. In Everyman Library. 
Dent. 
1906. Essays. By 1\1atthew Arnold. In the Every- 
man Library. Dent. 
Literary London. By Elsie 1\1. Lang. Werner 
Laurie. 


1907. The Book of Job. <'Vellwood Books.) 
From W orklwuse to Westminster,. the Life 
Story of TVill Crooks, JJl.P. By George 
Haw. Cassell. Cheaper edition, 1908. 
1908. Poems. By John Ruskin. l\'Iuses Library. 
Routledge. 
The Cottage Homes of England. By W. W. 
Crotch. Industrial Publishing Co. 
1909. A Vision of Life. By Darrell Figgis. Lane. 
l11eadows of Play. By :Margaret Arndt. Elkin 
:Mathews. 
1910. Selections from Thackeray. Bell. 
Eyes of Youth. An Anthology. Herbert and 
Daniel. 
1911. Samuel Johnson. Extracts frOln, selected by 
Alice 1\leynell. Herbert and Daniel. 
The Book of Snobs. By 'V. 1\1. Thackeray. 
Red Letter Library. Blackie. 
188 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 


1912. Famous Paintings Reproduced in Colour. 
Cassell. 
The English Agricultural Labourer. By A. H. 
Baverstock. The Vineyard Press. 
Fables. By Æsop. Translated by V. s. 
Vernon Jones. Illustrated by Arthur Rack- 
ham. Heinemann. 


1913. The Christmas Carol. In the 'Vaverley 
Dickens. 


1915. Bohemia's Claim for Freedom. The London 
Czech COlnmittee. 


ILLUSTRATIONS TO THE FOLLOWING BOOKS BY 
OTHER \V RITERS 
1901. Nonsense Rhymes. By W. C. l\1onkhouse. 
Bl'imley Johnson. Cheaper edition, 1902. 
1903. The Great Enquiry. By H. B. (Hilaire Belloc). 
Duckworth. 


1904. Emmanuel Burden. 
l\let huen. 


By Hilaire Belloe. 


1905. Biography for Beginners. By E. Clerihew. 
Cheaper edition, \Verner Laurie, 1908. 
Cheap edition, 1910. 
1912. The Green Overcoat. By Ililaire BeIIoe. 
Arrowsmith. 


189 



G. K. CHESTERTON 


CONTRIBUTIONS TO PERIODICALS 
Bookman. From 1898 onwards, passim. 


The Speaker (afterwardlit The Nation). From 1898 
onwards. 


The Daily News. Weekly article, 1900-1913. Also 
occasional poems and reviews. 


The Daily Herald. Weekly article, 1913-1914. 


The Illustrated London News. 1905-1914; 1915- 


The Eye- Witness (afterwards The New TV itness). 
Poems and articles, 1911 onwards. 
Also correspondence columns of The Tribune (1906- 
1908), The Clarion, and the London Press in 
general. 


The Oxford and Cambridge Review (afterwards The 
British Review). Articles 1911, etc. 


The Dublin Review. Occ.'lsional article.;. 


CONTRIBUTIONS TO OFFICIAL PUBLICATIONS 
Evidence before the Joint Select Committee of the 
House of Lords and the House of Commons on 
Stage Plays (Censorship), included in the Minutes 
of Evidence, 1909. 


190 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 


SPEECHES 
1908. The Press. Speech at Pan-Anglican Congress. 
Proceedings published by The Times. 
1910. What to do with the Backward Races. Speech 
at the Nationalities and Subject Races 
Conference, London. Proceedings pub1ished 
by P. S. King. 
1914. Do 111iracles Happen? Report of a Discussion 
at the Little Theatre in January, 1914. 
Published as a pamphlet by The Christian 
Commonwealth Co. 



PRINTED BY 
WILLIAM BRENDON AND SON, LTD 
PLYMOUTH,E
GJAND 



MARTIN SECKER 
HIS COMPLETE CATALOGUE MCMXr 



'lhe Books in this list should be obtainable 
from all Booksellers and Libraries, and if 
any difficulty is experimced thl Publisher 
will be glad to be informed oj the fatt. He 
will also be glad if those interested in 
receiving from time to time An1louncement 
Lists, Prospectuses, ö'c., of new and forth- 
toming books from Numher Five John 
Street will send their names and addresses 
to him for this purpose. Any book in this 
list may be obtained on apprO'lJal through the 
booksellers, or direct from the Publisher, on 
remitting him the published price, plus the 
postage. 


MAR'IIN SECKER 
Publisher 
Number Five John Street 
Adelphi Lot/doll 
'l elephone Gerrard 4779 
'l eiegraphic Address : 
Psophidian London 



PART ONE 
INDEX OF AUTHORS 


ABERCROl\IBIE, LASCELLES 
SPECULATIV
 DIALOGUES. Cr. 8vo. ss. net. 
THOMAS HARDY: A CRITICAL STUDY. Demy 8vo. 
7 S . 6d. n
t. 
THE EPIC (The Art and Craft of Letters). F'cap 
8vo. IS. net. 
AFLALO, F. G. 
BEHIND THE RANGES. lPid
 Demy 8vo. 10S. 6d. net. 
REGILDING THE CRESCENT. Demy 8vo. 10S. 6d. net. 
BIRDS IN THE CALENDAR. Crown 8vo. 3 s . 6d. nIt. 
ALLSHORN, LIONEL 
STUPOR I'vIUNDI. Jfedium Octavo. 16s. net. 
APPERSON, G. L. 
THE SOCIAL HISTORY OF SMOKING. Post 8vo. 
6s. net. 
ARl\ISTRONG, DONALD 
THE 1\.IARIUAGE 01" QUIXOTE. Crown 8vo. 6s. 
ARTZIBASHEF, l\lICHAEL 
SANINE. Preface by Gilbert Cannan. Crown 8vo. 6s. 
BREAKING-POINT. Crown 8vo. 6s. 
THE MILLIONAIR
. Intro. by the Author. Cr. 8vo.6s. 
TH:! REVOLUTION. Crown 8vo. 6s. 
BARRINGTON, lVIICHAEL 
GRAHAME OF CLAVERHOUSE. Imperial 8vo. 30s. 
net. Edition de Luxe 63 s . net. 
BENNETT, ARNOLD 
THOSE UNITED STATl:S. Post 8vo. U. 6d. net. 
BLACK, CLEl\IENTINA 
THE LINLEYS 01' BATH. 111edium 8vo. 16s. net. 
THE CUMBERLAND LETTERS. 
fed. 8vo. 16s. net. 
3 


Mart;" 
SeekerJ 
Catalogue 



Manin 
Suk"' J 
COlalogue 


BOULGER, D. C. 
THE BATTLE OF THE BOYNE. Med. 8vo. 2 IS. net. 
BOTTO ME, PHYLLIS 
THE COMMON CHORD. 
BRO\VN, IVOR 
YEARS OF PLENTY. 
SECURITY. 
BURROW, C. KENNETT 
CARMINA VARIA. F'eap 8vo. 21. 6d. nd. 
CALDERON, GEORGE (\Vith St. John Hankin) 
THOMPSON: A Comedy. Sq. Cr. 8[10. 21. net. 
CANNAN, GILBERT 
ROUND THE CORNER. Crown 8vo. 6s. 
OLD MOLE. Crown 8vo. 6s. 
YOUNG EARNEST. Crown 8vo. 6s. 
SAMUEL BUTLER: A CRITICAL STUDY. Demy 8vo. 
7s 6d. net. 
WINDMILLS: A Book of Fables. Cr. 8vo. 5s. net. 
SATIRE ('I he Art and Craft of Letters). F'cap 8vo. 
IS. net. 
CHESTERTON, G. K. 
MAGIC: A Fantastic Comedy. Sq. Cr. 8vo. 21. net. 
CLAYTON, JOSEPH 
THE UNDERMAN. Crown 8vo. 6s. 
LEADERS OF THE PEOPLE. Demy 8vo. 121. 6d. net. 
ROBERT KETT. Demy 8vo. 8s. 6d. net. 
COKE, DESMOND 
THE ART OF SILHOUETTE. Demy 8vo. 10S. 6d. net. 
CRAVEN, A. SCOTT 
THE FOOL'S TRAGEDY. 
DAWSON, WARRINGTON 
THE TRUE DIMENSION 
DE SELINCOURT, BASIL 
W AL T W HlTMAN: A CRITICAL STUDY. Demy 8[10. 
7S. 6d. net. 
RHYME ('Ihe Art and Craft of Letters). F'cap 8[10. 
IS. net. 


Crown 8[10. 6J. 


Crown 8vo. 6J. 
Crown 8vo. 6s. 


Crown 8vo. 6s. 


Crown 8vo. 6J. 


4- 



DOUGLAS, LORD ALFRED lv/arti" 
THE WILDE MYTH. Demy 8vo. 12S. 6d. net. Seekers 
DOUGLAS, NORMAN Catplogul 
FOUNTAINS IN THE SAND. Wide Demy 8vo. 7s. 6d. net. 
OLD CALABRIA. Demy 8vo. 15s. net. 
DRAYCOTT, G. M. 
MAHOMET: FOUNDER OF ISLAM. Demy 8vo. 
12S. 6d. net. 
DRINKWATER, JOHN 
WILLIAM l'vl0RRIS: A CRITICAL STUDY. Demy 8f/O. 
7s. 6d. net. 
D. G. ROSS
ITI: A CRITICAL STUDY. Demy 8f/0. 
7s. 6d. net. 
THE LYRIC (
he Art and Craft of Letters). F'cap 
8[10. IS. net. 
FALLS, CYRIL 
RUDYARD KIPLING: A CRITICAL STUDY. Demy 
8vo. 7s. 6d. net. 
FE A, ALLAN 
OLD ENGLISH HOUSES. Demy 8vo. 10S. 6d. net. 
NOOKS AND CORNERS OF OLD ENGLAND. 5S. net. 
THE REAL CAPTAIN CLEVELAND. Demy 8[10. 
8s. 6d. net. 
FLECKER, J. E. 
COLLECTED POEMS. Including THE GOLDEN JOURNEY 
TO SAMARKAND. Demy 8vo. 7S. 6d. net. 
FRANCIS, RENÉ 
EGYPTIAN ÆSTHETICS. Wide Demy 8vo. 7s. 6d. net. 
GRETTON, R. tIe 
HISTORY (
he Art and Craft of Letters). F'cap 8f/o. 
IS. net. 


HANKIN, ST. JOHN 
THE DRAMATIC WORKS, with an Introduction by 
John Drinkwater. Small 4to. Definitive Limited 
Edition in 
hTee Yolumes. 25s. net. 


5 



MIU"IÍn 
Sliker J 
Catawgue 


HANKIN, ST. JOHN (continueá) 
THE RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL. Sq. Cr. 8vo. 
THE CASSILIS ENGAGEMENT. Sq. Cr. 8vo. 
THE CHAR.ITY THAT BEGAl'( AT HOME. 
THE CONSTANT LOVER, ETC. Sq. Cr. 8vo. 
HAUPTMANN, GERHART 
THE COMPLETE DRAMATIC \V OR:l:I. 6 vols. Crown 
8vo. 5S. net per volumi. 
HE\VLETT, WILLIAl\l 
TELLING THE TRUTH. Crown 8vo. 6s. 
UNCLE'S ADVICE: A NOVEL IN LETTERS. Cr. 8vo. 6s. 
THE CHILD AT THE \VINDOW. Crown 8vo. 6s. 


21. net. 
u. net. 
2J. net. 
2S. net. 


HORSNELL, HORACE 
THE BANKRUPT. 


Crown 8f- ' o. 6s. 


HOWE, P. P. 
THE REPERTORY THEATRE. Cr. 8vo. 21. 6d. nit. 
DRAMATIC PORTRAITS. Crown 8vo. 5s. nit. 
BERNARD SHAW: A CRITICA.L STUDY. Demy 8vo. 
7s. 6d. net. 
J. M. SYNGE: A CRITICAL STUDT. Demy 8fJO. 
7s. 6d. net. 
CRITICISM (7'he .Art and Craft oj Letters). F'&ap 
8vo. IS. net. 
HUEFFER, FORDMADOX 
HENRY JAMES: A CRITICAL STUDY. Demy 8vo. 
7J. 6d. net. 
COLLECTED POEMS. Dlmy 8[10. 6s. nit. 
IBSEN, HENRIK 
PEER GYNT. A New Translation by R. Ellia 
Roberts. If? ide Crown 8[10. 5s. net. 
JACOB, HAROLD 
PERFUMES OF ARABY. Wid, Dlmy 8vo. 7s. 6d. net. 
JAMES, HENRY 
THE TURN OF THE SCRiW. THE Asp ERN PAPERS. 
THE LESSON OF THE MASTER. DAISY MILLER. 
THE DEATH OF THE LION. Tn!!: COXON FUND. 
() 



JAMES, HENRY (continued) 
THE REVERBERATOR. GLASSES. 
THE ALTAR OF THi DEAD. THE PUPIL. 
THE BEAST IN THE JUNGLE. 
TlIE FIGURE IN THE CARPET. 
Each F'cap 8vo. 2S. 6d. net. 


JOHNSON, O\VEN 
THE SALAMANDER. 
MAKING rvIONEY. 
LAMONT, L. M. 
A CORONAL: AN ANTHOLOGY. 
LEWISOHN, L. 
THE l\10DERN DRAMA 
LLUELLYN, RICHARD 
THE IMPERFECT BRANCH. 
LO\V, IVY 
THE QUESTING BEAST. 
LYNCH, BOHUN 
UNOFFICIAL. 
L.S.D. 
McFEE, \VILLIAM 
CASUALS OF THE SEA. 
MACHEN, ARTHUR 
HU:ROGL YPHICS. 
MACKENZIE, COMPTON 
THE P ASSIONATJ: ELOPEMENT. Cr. 8vo. 6s. and 25. net. 
CARNIVAL. Crown 8vo. 6s. and 25. net. 
SINISTER STREET. Volume 1. Crown 8vo. 6s. 
SUlIlTER STREIT. Volume II. Crou'n 8Z1O. 6s. 
GUT AND PAULINE. Crown 8vo. 6s. 
KEJfSINGTON RHTMIS:-" Crown 4to. 5s. net. 
MAKOWER, S. V. 
THE OUTWARD ApPEARANCE. 
MAVROGORDATO, JOHN 
LJtTTllls FROM GIlEECJ:. 
CASSANDRA IN TROY. 


Crown 8vo. 6s. 
Crown 8vo. 6s. 


F'cap 8vo. 25.6d.net. 


Cro-on Svo. 5s. net. 


Crown 8vo. 6s. 
Cro:vn 8vo. 6!. 
Crown 8vo. 6s. 
Cro':,()1
 8vo. 6s. 
Crown 8vo. 6s. 


F'cap 8vo. 25. 6d. net. 


Crown 8vo. 6s. 


F' cap 8vo. 
Small 4to. 


2S. net. 
5s. net. 
7 


j
laftin 
Secker's 
Cata:ogu". 



J.Y. al'tin 
Se,ktrs 
CatalogUi 


MELVILLE, LEWIS 
SOME ECCENTRICS AND A \VOMAN. Demy 8[10. 
10S. 6d. net. 
METHLEY, VIOLET 
CAMILLE DESMOULINS: A Biography. Dy. 8VO.I5 s . net . 
MEYNELL, VIOLA 
LOT BARROW. Crown 8vo. 6s. 
MODERN LOVERS. Cl'own 8vo. 6s. 
COLUMBINE. Cl'own 8[10. 6s. 
NARCISSUS. Crown 8vo. 6s. 
MURRY, J. MIDDLETON [net. 
DOSTOEVSKY: A CRITICAL STUDY. Dy. 8vo. 7s. 6d. 
NORTH, LAURENCE 
IMPATIENT GRISELDA. Cl'own 8vo. 6s. 
THE GOLIGHTLYS: :FATHER AND SON. CI'. 8vo. 6s. 
ONIONS, OLIVER 
W IDDERSHINS. Cl'own 8[10. 6s. 
IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE EVIDENCE. Cr. 8vo. 6s. 
THE DEBIT ACCOUNT. Cl'own 8vo. 6s. 
THE STORY OF LOUIE. Crown 8[10. 6s. 
PAIN, BARRY 
ONE KIND AND ANOTHER. Crown 8vo. 6s. 
COLLECTED TALES: Volume I. ]l,iedium 8vo. 6s. 
COLJÆCTED TALES: Volume II. Medium 8vo. 6s. 
THE SHORT STORY (7' he Art and Craft of Letters). 
F' cap 8vo. IS. net. 
PALl\fER, JOHN 
PETER PARAGON. Crown 8[10. 6s. 
THE KING'S MEN. Crown 8[10. 6s. 
COMEDY (7'he Art and Craft oj LItters). F'cap 800. 
IS. net. 
PERUGINI, l\IARK E. 
THE ART OF BALLET. Demy 8vI. IU. 6d. net. 
PHILIPS, AUSTIN 
BATTLES OF LIFE. Crown 8[10. 61. 
PRESTON, ANNA 
THE RECORD OF A SILENT LIFB. Crown 800. 6s. 


8 



REID, FORREST 
YEATS: A CRITICAL STUDY. 


Martin 
D 8 6d t Seeker's 
y. flOe 7s. . ne . 
Catalogue 


ROBERTS, R. ELLIS 
IBSEN: A CRITICAL STUDY. Dy. 8f/o. 7S. 6d. net. 
TOLSTOI: A CRITICAL STUDY. Dy.8f/0. 7s. 6d. net. 
PEER GYNT: A NEW TRANSLATION. Cr.8vo. 5s. net. 
SABATINI, RAFAEL 
THE SEA-HAWK. 
THE BANNER OF THE BULL. 


Crown 8vo. 61. 
Crown 8vo. 61. 


SAND, MAURICE 
THE HISTORY OF THE HARLEQUINADE. 7'WD 
Polumes. Med. 8f/o. 25S. net the set. 
SCOTT-]A1\lES, R. A. 
PERSONALITY IN LITERATURE. Demy 8vo. 7s. 6d. net. 
SIDG\VICK, FRANK 
THE BALLAV (7'he Art and Craft of Letters). F'cap 
8f/o. IS. net. 
SOLOGUB, FEODOR 
THE OLV HOUSE. 
THE LITTLE DEMON. 
THE CREATED LEGEND. 


Crown 8f/o. 6s. 
Crown 8vo. 6s. 
Crown 8vo. 6s. 


STONE, CHRISTOPHER 
THE BURNT HOUSE. Crown 8f/o. 6s. 
PARODY (7'he Art and Craft of Letters). F'cap 8f/o. 
IS. net. 
STRAUS, RALPH 
CARRIAGES AND COACHEi. 


Med. 8f/o. 18s. net. 


STREET, G. S. 
PEOPLE AND QUESTIONS. Wide Cr. 8f/O. 5s. net. 
SWINNERTON, FRANK 
GISSING: A CRITICAL STUDY. Dy. 8f/O. 7s. 6d. net. 
STEVENSON: A CRITICAL STUDY. Dy. 8f/O. 7s. 6d. net. 
TAYLOR, G. R. STIRLING 
MARY W OLLSTONECRAFT. Demy 8vo. 7s. 6d. net. 
THE PSYCHOLOGY 0.. THE GREAT WAR. %s. 6d. net. 
9 



Martin 
Seeker' J 
Catalogue 


TAYLOR, UNA [net. 
MAETERLINCK: A CRITICAL STUDY. Dy. 8vo. 7s.6d. 
THOMAS, EDWARD 
FEMININE INFLUENCE ON TilE POEn. Demy 8vo. 
10S. 6d. net. 
SWINBURNE: A CRITICAL STUDY. Dy.8vo. 7S. 6d. net. 
PATER: A CRITICAL STUDY. Dy. 8vo. 7s. 6d. net. 
THE TENTH MUSE. F'cap 8vo. 2S. 6d. net. 
VAUGHAN, H. M. 
MELEAGER. Crown 8vo. 6s. 
AN AUSTRALASIAN W ANDER- YEAR. Dy.8vo.los.6d.net. 
WALPOLE, HUGH 
FORTITUDE. 
THE DUCHESS OF W REXE. 
WEST, JULIUS 
CHESTERTON: A CRITICAL STUDY. 
WILLIAMS, ORLO 
VIE DE BOHÈME. Demy 8vo. 15S. net. 
MERI':DITH: A CRITICAL STUDY. Dy. 8vo. 7s. 6d. nit. 
THE ESSAY (7'he Art and Craft of Litters). F'cap 
8vo. IS. net. 
YOUNG, FILSON 
NEW LEAVES. Wide Crown 8vo. 5s. net. 
A CHRISTMAS CARD. Demy 16mo. IS. nit. 
PUNCTUATION (7'he Art and Craft oj Letters). 
F'tap 8vo. H. net. 
YOUNG. FRANCIS BRETT 
DEEP SEA. 
THE DARK TOWEK.. 
THE IRON AGE. 
YOUNG, F. & E. BRETT 
UNDERGROWTH. Crown 8vo. 61. 
BRIDGES: A CRITICAL STUDY. Dy. 8vo. 71. 6d. net. 


10 


Crown 8vo. 61. 
Crown 800. 61. 
[ net. 
Dy. 8vo. 71.6d. 


Crown 8vo. 61. 
Crown 8vo. 6s. 
Crown 8vo. 61. 



PART TWO: CLASSIFIED 
INDEX OF TITLES 


General Literature 


ART OF BALLET, THE. By Mark E. Perugini. 
ART OF SILHOUETTE, THE. By Dumond Coke. 
BATTLE OF THE BOYNE, THE. By D. C. Boulger. 
BEHIND THE RANGES. By F. G. Aflalo. 
BIRDS IN THE CALIiNDAR. By F. G. Aflalo. 
CA1ULLE D:!SMOULINS. By Piolet jl"lethll'J. 
CARRIAGES AND COACHES. By Ralph Straus. 
CHRISTMAS CARD, A. By Filson YOU1zg. 
CUMB:!RLAND LETTERS, THE. By Clementina Black. 
DRA.:MATIC PORTRAITI. By P. P. Howe. 
FnUNIl'{E INFLUENCE ON THE POETS. By E. 7'homas. 
GUHAME OF CLAVERHOUSE. By Michael Barrington. 
HIEROGLYPHICS. By Arthur JJlachen. 
HISTORY 01" THE HARLEQUINADE, THE. By lYl. Sand. 
L.A.DERI OF THE PEOPLE. By 10seph Clayton. 
LETTI:RS FROM GREECE. By 'ohn ]1,1 avrogordato. 
LUiLEYI OF BATH, THE. By Clementina Black. 
MAHOMET. By G. 111. Draycott. 
MAllY W OLLiTONECRAFT. By G. R. Stirling 7' aylor. 
Nxw LEAVES. By Filson Young. 
PEOPLX AND QUESTIONS. By G. S. Strtlt. 
PERSONALITY IN LITERATUltE. By R. A. Scott-Jamls. 
PSYCHOLOGY OF TilE GREAT \V AR. By Stirling 7' aylof'. 
REAL CAPTAIN CLEVELAND, THE. By Allan Fta. 
REOILDING THE CRESCENT. By F. G. Aflalo. 



f artin 
Seekers 
Catalogue 


II 



M at'tin 
Setker's 
Catalogue 


ROBERT KETT. By Joseph Clayton. 
SOCIAL HISTORY OF SMOKING, THE. By G. L. Apperson. 
SOME ECCENTRICS AND A WOMAN. By Lewis Melville. 
SPECULATIVE DIALOGUES. By Lasalles Abercrombie. 
STUPOR MUNDI. By Lionel Allshorn. 
TENTH MusE, THE. By Edward 'l homas. 
THOSE UNITED STATES. By Arnold Bennett. 
VIE DE BOHÈME. By 01'10 Williams. 
\VILDE MYTH, THE. By Lord Alfred Douglas. 
WINDMILLS. By Gilbert Cannan. 


J7erse 


COLLECTED POEMS OF J. E. FLECKER. 
COLLECTED POEMS OF F. 1\1. HUEFFER. 
CARMINA VARIA. By C. Kennett Burrow. 
CORONAL, A. A New Anthology. By L. M. Lamont. 
GOLDEN JOURNEY TO SAMARKAND, THE. By J. E. 
Fluker. (See Collected Poems.) 
KENSINGTON RHYMES. By Compton l11ackenzie. 


Drama 


DRAMATIC WORKS OF ST. JOHN HANKIN. 3 vols. 
DRAMATIC \VORKS OF GERHART HAUPTMANN. 6 vols. 
CASSANDRA IN TROY. By 'John Mavrogordato. 
MAGIC. By G. K. Chesterton. 
l\.tIODERN DRAMA, THE. By L. Lewisohn. 
PEER GYNT. 'I ranslated by R. Ellis Roberts. 
R:ePERTORY THEATRE, THE. By P. P. Howe. 
THOMPSON. By St. John Hankin and G. Calderon. 
u. 



Martin 
Seekers 
C atalogUl 
AUSTRALASIAN WANDER YEAR, AN. By H. 111. Faughall. 
EGYPTIAN ÆSTHETICS. By René Francis. 
FOUNTAINS IN THE SAND. By Norman Douglas. 
NooKs AND CORNERS OF OLD ENGLAND. By Allan Fea. 
OLD CALABRIA. By Norman Douglas. 
OLD ENGLISH HOUSEs. By Allan Fea. 
PERFUMES OF ARABY. By Harold Jacob. 


Travel 


Martin Seeker's Series if 
Critical Studies 


ROBERT BRIDGES. By F. E. Brett Young. 
SAMUEL BUTLER. By Gilbert Connan. 
G. K. CHESTERTON. By Julius West. 
FEODOR DOSTOEVSKY. By J. Mz'ddleton JJlurry. 
GEORGE GISSING. By Frank Swinnerton. 
THOMAS HARDY. By Lascelles Abercrombie. 
HENRIK IBSEN. By R. Ellis Roberts. 
HENRY JAMES. By Ford l'vladox Hueffer. 
RUDYARD KIPLING. By Cyril Falls. 
MAURICE IVIAETERLINCK. By Una 'I aylor. 
GEORGE MEREDITH. By Orio lf7illiams. 
WILLIAM MORRIS. By John Drinkwater. 
WALTER PATER. B'V Edward 'Ihomas. 
D. G. ROSSETTI. By John Drinkwater_ 
BERNARD SHAW. B'V P. P. Howe. 
R. L. STEVENSON. By Frank Swinntrton. 
A. C. SWINBURNE. By Edward 'Ihomas. 
J. M. SYNGE. By P. P. Howe. 
LEo TOLSTOI. B'V R. Ellis Roberts. 
WALT WHITMAN.' By Basil de Selincourt. 
W. B. YEATS, Bv Forrest Reid. 


13 



}'1 at""" 
Seeke1" s 
C.t..Ùig'.l-e 


The Art and Craft of Letters 


BALLAD,THE. By Frank Sidgwick. 
COMEDY. By John Palmer. 
CRITICISM. By P. P. Howe. 
EpIc, THE. By Lascelles Abercrombie 
ESSAY, THE. By Orlo Williams. 
HISTORY. By R. H. Gretton. 
LYRIC, THE. By John Drinkwater. 
PARODY. By Christopher Stone. 
PUNCTUATION. By Filson Young. 
SATIRE. By Gilbert Cannan. 
SHORT STORY, THE. By Barry Pain. 


F ietion 


ALTAR OF THE DEAD, THE. By Henry James. 
Asp ERN PAPERS, THE. By Henry James. 
BANKRUPT, THE. By Horace Horsncll. 
BANNER OF THE BULL, THE. By Rafael Sabatini. 
BATTLES OF LIFE. By AustÏ1z Philips. 
BEAST IN THE JUNGLE. THE. By Henry James. 
BREAKING-POINT. By 1I1ichael Artzibashef. 
BURNT HOUSE, THE. By Christopher Stone. 
CARNIVAL. By Compton Mackenzie. 
CASUALS OF THE SEA. By TPilliam l'vlcFee. 
COLLRCTED TALES: Vol. I. By Barry Pain. 
COLLECTED TALES: Vol. II. By Barry Pain. 
COLUMBINE. By Fiola Me'j'nell. 
COMMON ClIORD, THE. By Phyllis Bottome. 
14 



COXON FUND, THE. By Henry James. 
CREATED LEGEND, THE. By Feodor Sologllb. 
DAISY MILLER. By Henry James. 
DARK TOWER, THE. By E. Brett roung. 
DEATH OF THE LION, THE. By Henry James. 
DEBIT ACCOUNT, THE. By Oliver Onions. 
DEEP SEA. By F. Brett r oung. 
DUCHESS OF WREXE, THE. By Hu&h TValpole. 
FIGURE IN THE CARPET, THE. By Henry. James. 
FOOL'S TRAGEDY, THE. By A. S(ott Craven. 
FORTITUD:!. By Hugh TValpole. 
GLASSES. By Henry James. 
GOLIGHTLYS, THE. By Laurence North. 
Guy AND PAULINE. By Compton !vI ackenzie. 
IMPATIENT GRISELDA. By Laurence North. 
IMPERFECT BRANCH, THE. By Richard Lluellyn. 
IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE EVIDENCE. By O. Onions. 
IRON AGE, THE. By F. Brett roung. 
KING'S l\IEN, THE. By John Palmer. 
L.S.D. By Bohun Lynch. 
LESSON OF THE l\IASTER., THE. By Henry James. 
LITTLE DEMON, THE. By Feodor Sologub. 
LOT BARROW. By Fiola Meynell. 
l\1ARRIAGE OF QUIXOTE, THE. By Donald Armstrong. 
.l\IAKING MONEY. By Owen Johnson. 
l\1ELEAGER. By H. M. Faughan. 
MILLIONAIRE, THE. By Michael Artzíbashef. 
MODERN LOVERS. By Fiola IJleynell. 
NARCISSUS. By Fiola Meynell. 
OLD MOLE. By Gilbert Cannan. 
OLD HOUSE, THE. By Feodor Sologub. 
ONE KIND AND ANOTHER. By Bm'ry Pain. 


Martin 
Seeker's 
Catalogue 


15 



Martin 
Seekers 
C
talogue 


OUTWARD ApPEARANCE, THE. By Stanley Y. Makower. 
PASSIONATE ELOPEMENT, THE. By Compton /t,lackenzie. 
PETER PARAGON. By John Palmer. 
PU
IL, THE. By Henry 1 ames . 
QUESTING BEAST, THE. By Ivy Low. 
RECORD OF A SILENT LIFE, THE. By Anna Preston. 
REVERBERATOR. THE. By Henry James. 
ROUND THE CORNER. By Gilbert Cannan. 
SALAMANDER. THE. By Owen Johnson. 
SANINE. By /t,lichael Artzibashe{. 
SEA HAWK, THE. B'Y Rafael Sabatini. 
SECURITY . By I vor Brown. 
SINISTER STREET. I. By Compton Mackenzie. 
SINISTER STREET. II. By Compton Mackenzie. 
STORY OF LOUIE, THE. By Oliver Onions. 
T ALES OF THE REVOLUTION. By M. Artzìbashef. 
TELLING THE TRUTH. By William Hewlett. 
TRUE DIMENSION
 THE. By 11' arrington Dawson. 
TURN OF THE SCREW, THE. By Henry 1 ames . 
UNCLE'S ADVICE. By William Hewlett. 
UNDERGROWTH. By F. fj' E. Brett roung. 
UNDERMAN, THE. By 10seph Clayton. 
UNOFFICIAL. By Bohun Lynch. 
\VIDDERSHINS. By Oliver Onions. 
YEARS OF PLENTY. By Ivor Brown. 
YOUNG EARNEST. By Gilbert Cannan. 


BALLANTYNE PRESS : LONDON AND EDINBURGH 




VR 
'f't

 
.c4( 
-Z-{ø 
w'Lf 
1
,6