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Making them think

J.I.M. Stewart

18 September 1986
G.K.​ Chesterton 
by Michael Ffinch.
Weidenfeld, 369 pp., £16, June 1986, 0 297 78858 2
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... In a Foreword to this very substantial book Michael Ffinch says that G.K.Chesterton ‘was above all things a great champion of Liberty’. He goes on: ‘This being so, it has often come as a surprise that in religion Chesterton should have moved away from the Liberal Unitarianism ...
4 September 1997
The Fu Manchu Omnibus: Vol. II 
by Sax Rohmer.
Allison and Busby, 630 pp., £9.99, June 1997, 0 7490 0222 0
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... In his first Father Brown story, ‘The Blue Cross’, published in 1910, G.K.Chesterton introduced a ‘colossus of crime’ who seemed to have strayed in from Comic Cuts: a giant Gascon called Flambeau who planted dummy pillar boxes in quiet suburbs in the hope of catching the odd ...
12 December 1996
Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G.K.​ Chesterton 
by Joseph Pearce.
Hodder, 522 pp., £25, November 1996, 0 340 67132 7
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... G.K.Chesterton wrote every day of his life, seldom revising and missing as many targets as he hit. But because of the sheer magnitude of the output, that still leaves a monument of achievement, a mountain of words ...

A Preference for Torquemada

Michael Wood: G.K. Chesterton

9 April 2009
Chesterton​ and the Romance of Orthodoxy: The Making of GKC 1874-1908 
by William Oddie.
Oxford, 401 pp., £25, November 2008, 978 0 19 955165 1
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The Man Who Was Thursday 
by G.K. Chesterton.
Atlantic, 187 pp., £7.99, December 2008, 978 1 84354 905 5
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... I have often had a fancy,’ G.K.Chesterton wrote in his book Orthodoxy (1908), ‘for writing a romance about an English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in ...

Flying Mud

Patrick Parrinder

8 April 1993
The Invisible Man: The Life and Liberties of H.G. Wells 
by Michael Coren.
Bloomsbury, 240 pp., £20, January 1993, 0 7475 1158 6
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... eugenics intellectually attractive, but soon began to doubt the scientific claims of Galton and Pearson. In 1903 he outspokenly condemned eugenic measures as wholly impractical (though not, G.K.Chesterton pointed out, as evil), but Anticipations spoke of the need to improve mankind physically and mentally, and of the New Republicans’ readiness to kill to achieve these ends. The coloured races, the ...

The Idea of America

Alasdair MacIntyre

6 November 1980
Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence 
by Garry Wills.
Athlone, 398 pp., £12.50, September 1980, 0 485 11201 9
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... in order to discredit the view that the United States is founded upon an idea, upon a set of moral beliefs. In so doing, he is trying to refute, not only external commentators such as G.K.Chesterton, who wrote that ‘America is the only nation in the world founded upon a creed,’ but more importantly a central American tradition whose hero and spokesman is Lincoln. Lincoln is for Wills the ...

Porcupined

John Bayley

22 June 1989
The Essential Wyndham Lewis 
edited by Julian Symons.
Deutsch, 380 pp., £17.95, April 1989, 0 233 98376 7
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... There is a cartoon by Beerbohm somewhere showing a distended G.K.Chesterton banging the table with his fist and saying he’d ‘had enough of all this bloody nonsense’. It seems surprising now, but for peaceful humanitarians like Beerbohm Chesterton represented a very ...

Bonfire in Merrie England

Richard Wilson: Shakespeare’s Burning

3 May 2017
... in Brave Enterprise, the official history of the Memorial Theatre ‘issued by the Governors’ to celebrate its rebuilding. Brave Enterprise was written by the theatre’s publicist, Arthur Kenneth Chesterton, who had moved to Stratford in 1925, after being appointed drama critic of the Stratford Herald on the recommendation of his famous second cousin, G.K.Chesterton. Born in 1899 in South Africa, where ...
6 March 1997
... enormous, rancid bunch of stock he had brought her, Mary reflected that the Holy Father could no more be depended upon to make an appropriate donation than any other representative of Hit sex. G.K.Chesterton, ‘Gabriel Gale and the Pearl Necklace’ Dundee, and the Magdalen Green. The moon is staring down the sun; one last white javelin inches out of Lucklawhill, and quietly floats to JFK or Reykjavik ...

Save us from the saviours

Slavoj Žižek: Europe and the Greeks

7 June 2012
... threat is that the ferocity of the defence is more of a threat to ‘civilisation’ than any number of Muslims. With friendly defenders like this, Europe needs no enemies. A hundred years ago, G.K.Chesterton articulated the deadlock in which critics of religion find themselves: ‘Men who begin to fight the Church for the sake of freedom and humanity end by flinging away freedom and humanity if only they ...
15 October 1987
A History of Private Life. Vol. I: From Pagan Rome to Byzantium 
edited by Paul Veyne.
Harvard, 670 pp., £24.95, May 1987, 0 674 39975 7
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The Roman World 
edited by John Wacher.
Routledge, 2 pp., £100, March 1987, 0 7100 9975 4
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The Roman Empire: Economy, Society and Culture 
edited by Peter Garnsey and Richard Saller.
Duckworth, 231 pp., £24, March 1987, 0 7156 2145 9
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Sexual Life in Ancient Egypt 
by Lisa Manniche.
KPI, 127 pp., £15, June 1987, 0 7103 0202 9
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... Three substantial books on the world of ancient Rome, each in a different idiom. A critic of G.K.Chesterton said that he had a style in which it was impossible to tell the truth; in what style, indeed, can truth be told? Perhaps that aim is altogether too high, and the question should be ‘What style does ...

Shopping for Soap, Fudge and Biscuit Tins

John Pemble: Literary Tourists

7 June 2007
The Literary Tourist 
by Nicola J. Watson.
Palgrave, 244 pp., £45, October 2006, 1 4039 9992 9
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... 19th-century writers. Think of Bulwer-Lytton and Dickens; Mrs Henry Wood and George Eliot; R.D. Blackmore and Thomas Hardy. All were equally popular when alive. Looking back at Scott’s heyday, G.K.Chesterton marvelled in 1904 at ‘the way in which a whole period can suddenly become unintelligible’. Watson offers a partial explanation. She reckons that the ‘spectacular popular forgetting’ of ...

Short Cuts

Patrick Wright: The Moral of Brenley Corner

6 December 2018
... to complete the last 26 miles of their journey to Dover on the A2, which was still the old Roman road known as Watling Street. Although straighter than the ‘rolling English road’ that G.K.Chesterton imagined being made by the ‘rolling English drunkard’ before the Romans arrived, it remained, as the Kent county surveyor of the time would later admit, ‘little more than a country lane’. As ...

Cameron’s Crank

Jonathan Raban: ‘Red Tory’

22 April 2010
Red Tory: How Left and Right Have Broken Britain and How We Can Fix it 
by Phillip Blond.
Faber, 309 pp., £12.99, April 2010, 978 0 571 25167 4
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... the matter of the moral economy and the ‘moral market’, and how they might be achieved, that Blond’s sermon builds to its utopian climax. He alludes, in passing, but with high approval, to G.K.Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, and their Catholic Distributist League. Aside from one quotation from Chesterton (‘Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists’) and one ...

In Praise of Barley Brew

E.S. Turner: Combustible Belloc

20 February 2003
Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc 
by Joseph Pearce.
HarperCollins, 306 pp., £20, July 2002, 0 00 274095 8
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... Middle Class was quite prepared. But as it is . . . My language fails! Go out and govern New South Wales! He was the outstanding practitioner in a golden, occasionally leaden, age of light verse (Chesterton, Beerbohm, Wodehouse, Harry Graham, Baring, Squire, Seaman, ‘Evoe’ and, improbably, Housman, along with many others, not forgetting the prolific Anon). Even the newspapers published well-turned ...

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