Gilbert Keith Chesterton (29 May 1874 – 14 June 1936) was one of the most influential English writers of the 20th century. His prolific and diverse output included journalism, philosophy, poetry, biography, Christian apologetics, fantasy and detective fiction.
He stands out as one of the most jovial and brilliant apologists for the Christian faith of the early twentieth century. In these times when religiosity barely simmers at all, Chesterton’s Orthodoxy registers as something very special. In it, he defends wonder, good conduct, free will, and a belief in God whose greatest secret is mirth. His writing is aglimmer with astonishment over the adventure of life.
To remember Chesterton is also to recall the vivid flights of imagination in his Father Brown detective stories, the sweep of his literary knowledge in biographies of Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson, and the variety of his manifold political and cultural writings.
Chesterton has been called the “prince of paradox.” Time magazine, in a review of a biography of Chesterton, observed of his writing style: “Whenever possible Chesterton made his points with popular sayings, proverbs, allegories — first carefully turning them inside out.” For example, Chesterton wrote the following: ‘Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it’.
Chesterton is well known for his reasoned apologetics and even those who disagree with him have recognized the universal appeal of such works as Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man.
Chesterton, as political thinker, cast aspersions on both Liberalism and Conservatism, saying: ‘The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected’.
Chesterton routinely referred to himself as an “orthodox” Christian, and came to identify such a position with Catholicism more and more, eventually converting to Roman Catholicism (in 1922). George Bernard Shaw, Chesterton’s “friendly enemy” according to Time, said of him, “He was a man of colossal genius”.
Chesterton wrote around 80 books, several hundred poems, some 200 short stories, 4000 essays, and several plays. He was a literary and social critic, historian, playwright, novelist, Catholic theologian and apologist, debater, and mystery writer. He was a columnist for the Daily News, the Illustrated London News, and his own paper, G. K.’s Weekly; he also wrote articles for the Encyclopædia Britannica, including the entry on Charles Dickens and part of the entry on Humour in the 14th edition (1929).
I have collected the more memorable quotes and excerpts and will slowly but surely insert them all in my pages (see links on column on the right under ‘The best of …’)