Monday 24 February 2020

G.K. Chesterton - Karl Schmude - CTS Biographies

G.K. Chesterton
CTS Biographies
Karl Schmude
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860825064
eISBN 9781784694937
CTS Booklet B704

I admit my knowledge of the man and his works is lacking. I have only read 1 short story by G,K, Chesterton, and read even less about him. But after encountering a fictional version of him in the novel Toward the Gleam by T.M. Doran, I knew that I had to expand that knowledge. And with how much I have enjoyed the books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society that I have read over the last few years it was the first place I looked. In the last few years I have read over 100 volumes from the CTS. And this little book is another excellent read in the CTS Biographies series.

Based on the number of this book, B704, there are over 700 books in the CTS Biographies series, spanning the over 150 years history. I have read about a dozen of them and have at least than many on wish list to track down and read. Even on the day I picked up and read this volume, Chesterton was in the news, because of a plan to demolish one of his homes in England has not passed at city council. And there are many I know that would love to see him canonized. But for myself I had always appreciated C.S. Lewis, before I returned to the Catholic faith and after. I never saw the need to expand into the man or works of G.K. That was my loss. This short volume on Chesterton is a great introduction. The chapters in this book are:

The Roots of Genius
Chesterton’s Worldview
Christian Hope
A Prolific Career
Chesterton’s Social Thought
Chesterton’s Legacy
Further reading

We are told in the introduction:

“The reputation of G. K. Chesterton has not escaped the fate of most famous authors after their death – that of dwindling from a mass readership to the level of more spasmodic attention.

At the same time it is difficult to call a writer neglected who attracts notice as often as Chesterton, particularly in the form of quotations from his works, and whose books are regularly reprinted. The scintillation and depth of his thought, the freshness of his expression, the liveliness of his humour - all converge to explain the survival and permanent relevance of a man who, as Anthony Burgess has written, “knew what it was like to live on the level of eternity”.”

And that may be why I avoided his works so long. You often hear about the man, his works, or even the various societies dedicated to his life and works. There are few Catholic writers I can think of whose fame is even greater since their death, than in life. And none written as large and grandiose as Chesterton. But what we encounter in this volume is the man, a man who wanted to be a man of the people. A man of massive output both academically, and in his fictional works. In the section on his legacy we are informed that:

“Thus, in the twilight of his life, Chesterton came again to emphasize the importance and enchantment of the ordinary life - the life of order and normality. He understood this life because he had lived it himself. His greatness as a writer was matched by his greatness as a man. Goodness and wisdom were combined in him to a remarkable degree. With great dedication did he practise the Augustinian precept to destroy errors but love men. Few individuals more naturally distinguished between a man and his views, or found easier the theological injunction to hate the sin but love the sinner.

His contemporaries found in him a living example of charity and humility and childlike innocence. What has often been misconstrued as childishness was, in fact, childlikeness - reflecting a basic humility of nature and a simplicity and clarity of mind. Chesterton was the living exemplar of Christ’s injunction that “unless you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven”.”

And that is what we encounter in this volume. But I will warn you this book will leave you wanting more. Wanting to know more about the man, wanting to read his non-fiction, and also hungry for his fictional novels. 

Another great read from the Catholic Truth Society, and like most I have read from them, it leaves me with an ever-growing wish list. Well worth the read, especially if you have not delved deep into Chesterton or his works yet.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2020 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For other reviews of CTS Biographies click here.

Books by Karl Schmude:
G.K. Chesterton
Hilaire Belloc

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