Gilbert Keith Chesterton: Fundamentally a Serious Writer



Evil comes at leisure like the disease; good comes in a hurry like the doctor.”- The Man who was Orthodox

G.K.Chesterton was fundamentally a serious writer and popular for his brilliant, vigorous, and witty style, despite holding sometimes controversial views.. He liked satire, paradox and also favored epigrammatic expression. Naturally his language becomes powerful, lucid and graceful. Reason is the flavour of his prose. He has sensitivity for his subjects. He used satire and epigram for the defense of constructive principles as well as positive rather creative criticism. Simplicity helped Chesterton to from beauty from day to day happenings. Naturally he was greatly moved by antithesis. Regarding his style we may welcome cordially the conception of Edward Albert:



“The quizzical humour, the scintillating wit, the delight in mental gymnastics, in paradox and epigram, and the whole-hearted defense of whatever is old, or gay, or romantic, are things which distinguish his writing from that of any of his contemporaries. He is fundamentally a serious writer, the prophet of medievalism and Catholicism, and the propagandist for the romantic, mystical view of life, though his jesting conceals the philosophical import which underlies even his most extravagant novels. At times his mental gymnastics and his passion for the paradoxical become irritating, and often he seems to rely on his stylistic gifts to carry him though when his thought fails. Yet his obvious mannerisms do little to detract from the simplicity and char of his prose, which is eminently readable.”

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Chesterton published his first books, the poetry collections The Wild Knight and Greybeards at Play In 1900. His more important nonfiction works include books of literary criticism, such as Robert Browning (1903), Charles Dickens (1906), and George Bernard Shaw (1909); theological studies, such as Orthodoxy (1909), St. Francis of Assisi (1923), and St. Thomas Aquinas (1933); and books of social criticism, such as The Defendant (1901) and What’s Wrong With the World (1910). Today Chesterton is perhaps most famous for his novels The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904), a futuristic fantasy, and The Man Who Was Thursday (1908), a witty allegory, and for a series of detective stories relating the adventures of Father Brown, a mild-mannered Roman Catholic sleuth.

Here are a few examples of quizzical humour, satire and paradox:
“A playwright can attack the institution of marriage so long as he dose not misrepresent the manners of society, and I have met Ibsenite pessimists who thought it wrong to take beer but right to take prussic acid.”
“… Our views change constantly; but our lunch does not change.”
“What was the soul in all those stones? They were varied, but it was not variety; they it was not farce. What is it in them that thrills and soothes a man of our blood and history that is not there in an Egyptian pyramid or an Indian Temple or a Chinese pagoda?”
“The wheel, as a mode of movement, is a purl human thing”.
“A wheel is the sublime paradox; one part of it is always going forward and the other part always going back.”



Ref: 1. History of English Literature- Albert, 
      2. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature
      3. Microsoft Students’ Encarta


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