G. K. Chesterton: Philosopher without Portfolio

G. K. Chesterton: Philosopher without Portfolio

G. K. Chesterton: Philosopher without Portfolio

G. K. Chesterton: Philosopher without Portfolio

Excerpt

It might very well be questioned--by more than one reader --whether it is still worthwhile to write a book about an author who, it is true, profoundly influenced Anglo-American thought in the first four decades of this century, but whose productivity was so copious that it is difficult to think of it as of truly lasting value. There is a certain sense in which such a questioning is justified. As I see it, there is no reason to write another biography of G. K. Chesterton: that has been admirably taken care of already. By the same token, so much has been quite competently written about his literary output in general--be it his poetry, his novels, his literary criticism, his biographies, or his contribution to all forms of controversy--that I should consider it rash to try to say something that has not already been said. Underneath all this, however, there is a profundity of what I shall dare to call philosophical thought which can still speak to us--if we are willing to listen--50 years after Chesterton's death, with a vigor that has not lost its freshness.

Before I do this, however, it may be necessary to introduce Chesterton to a readership many of whom have never heard of him and most of whom have never read him. Let me begin with an anecdote. Forty-four years ago I taught senior English in a prestigious Jesuit high school. One of the things I was determined to do, in my youthful enthusiasm, was to get the students to write correct--even if not necessarily elegant-- English. With a view to this, one of the things I did was to have them take ten minutes to write a paragraph every morning of the week. Believe it or not, I corrected every one of those paragraphs, all thirty-five of them, every night--once more, youthful enthusiasm kept me going. Then, each Monday, I went over a selected number of these paragraphs, pointing out errors, even infelicities of style. Incidentally, the end . . .

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