Saturday, December 10, 2022

Not a saint

I have quoted G.K. Chesterton many times on this blog. A review of the posts that I have tagged with his name finds much quoted that I like and nothing that I don't.  Some have advocated that Catholics ought to canonize him as a saint but after investigation the Bishop of Northampton "announced that things would be taken no further: there was too much evidence of antisemitism and, surprisingly, too little of ‘a pattern of personal spirituality’ in G.K.’s life." That quotation comes from a review of The Sins of G.K. Chesterton and from that review I've learned a lot that I didn't know and might have wished not to. My opinion of Hilaire Belloc (never high) and Chesterton's brother Cecil ("a stinker by all accounts") is certainly lower today than before. Nevertheless, I won't stop quoting GKC. He said too many true things well. From the book review:
.... Everyone who knew G.K. loved him for his kindliness and jollity, as well as the dazzling turns of phrase and the forensic psychology of the Father Brown stories. Chesterton adapted his detective’s talent for noticing the deceptiveness of the taken-for-granted in his defences of Christian belief in a secular world. ....

[Chesterton] took part in a number of nasty instances of journalistic intimidation...all of them a result of trailing along after his pugnacious brother and their mentor, Hilaire Belloc. After Auden discerned the pair’s ‘pernicious influence’ in his 1970 selection of Chesterton’s prose, biographers and commentators have discovered how much the resentful obsession with rich Jews and Liberal politicians was primarily Belloc and Cecil’s. Ingrams supplies detail about just how nasty the pair were to G.K., too. The witty debater and brilliant controversialist was, in private, incapable of resisting Cecil’s tests of his family loyalty or Belloc’s bullying demands for a pulpit. ....

G.K. fell under the power of both men. ‘It was the hero in Mr Belloc that captured Mr Chesterton’s heart,’ rued A.G. Gardiner, his editor at the Daily News, as he watched his protégé being drawn into Belloc’s orbit. ‘For Mr Chesterton is the boy who refused to grow up. The world is forever filled with knights and dragons and Dulcineas in horrid dungeons ... he watches his volcanic leader flashing into the lists and he winds his mighty horn to cheer him on.’ ....

The Sins of G.K. Chesterton is primarily aimed at the fan club who mistook unworldliness and a habit of avoidance for heavenly-mindedness. ‘He never shirked an intellectual issue,’ a former employee of G.K.’s Weekly complained to Maisie Ward after the paper collapsed, ‘but in a practical crisis he was inclined to slide out.’ .... (more)
"I may not practice what I preach but God forbid I should preach what I practice" GKC

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