G.K. Chesterton is at his witty best in this collection of twenty essays and articles from the turn of the twentieth century.
Chesterton begins the book by pointing out a very strange use of the term “Heretic”: it seemed to be gaining use in England as a synonym for someone who was “clear-headed and courageous.”
Chesterton, however, saw this use as betraying another sort of attitude: one where people no longer cared whether the things they believed were right or wrong.
He points to the cultural trend where an individual can have a moral opinion on things like art, or politics, but for some strange reason the same person was looked down on for having an opinion on God, life, the universe, and everything else.
Against that, Chesterton asserts that he is one of the people “who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his “view of the universe.”
Focusing on the “Heretics” among us—i.e. those who pride themselves on their superiority to conservative views—Chesterton appraises prominent figures in that category from the literary and art worlds.
Celebrities such as Rudyard Kipling, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, and James McNeill Whistler come under the author’s examination, where they meet with equal measure his characteristic wisdom and good humor.
Intellectually Chesterton was as nimble as a hummingbird. His writing became famous for its use of paradox: little controlled explosions that ranged from everyday clichés (“travel narrows the mind”) to the perils of the suffragette movement: “Ten thousand women marched through the streets of London saying: ‘We will not be dictated to’, and then went off to become stenographers.”
Everything about Chesterton was larger than life: his height, his bulk, and a list of publications long enough to stock a small library.
In a career spanning four decades, he produced some 80 books, 200 short stories, 4,000 essays and countless newspaper columns that he dictated while chuckling at his own jokes and jabbing at the air with a knife.
A “man of colossal genius”, according to G B Shaw, he sometimes seemed to have several other writers nested inside him, like Russian dolls.
G.K. CHESTERTON (1874–1936) was an English writer, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, biographer, and art critic. Today he is best known for his fictional priest-detective, Father Brown. Ernest Hemingway, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Karel Capek, Marshall McLuhan, Paul Claudel, Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, Sigrid Undset, Ronald Knox, Kingsley Amis, W.H. Auden, Anthony Burgess, E.F. Schumacher, Neil Gaiman, and Orson Welles among others have praised his writing.