Sunday, June 29, 2008

GK Chesterton Collected Works Volume 29, 1911-1913

Book: GK Chesterton Collected Works Volume 29, 1911-1913
Author: GK Chesterton
Edition: Ignatius Press
Read: March 2008
608 pages
Rated: 4
out of 5

Ignatius Press is putting out a collection of GK Chesterton’s works. The volume I read is 29 of the at least 35 volumes published. Obviously Chesterton is a prolific writer—which is an understatement. He is a writer of great wit, which he shows in this collection of newspaper columns, making this a good read. The columns cover three year period from 1911 to 1913 in The Illustrated London News.

Anytime which you read Chesterton, you have to understand, he was a man of his times. He used phrases which make us wince and shudder. But so did most people of his day. So some of his views are dated (Does dated mean wrong? Sometimes. I suspect most of time it just means out of fashion.) His use of certain ethnic terms, particularly pertaining to African descent and Jewish people are no longer acceptable. So you do need to read with caution.

But his insight on issues transcends his time—they cut a straight line to similar concerns of today. Even as WWI drew to an opening, Chesterton was pointing out that no real soldier wants to fight; it is those who have not seen real fighting want to fight.

I know that when he talks about the feminists of his day, it will rankle some of my friends. He talks about feminists with a mixture of quaintness which is out of pace for today. But he does talk about the stridency which laces our dialogue and concerns for being able to talk. In places there is a certain sense of admiration for some of the people who he knows—of course other paces he thinks there are other who are compete off base. But the call to civilality can be heeded in our time.

The columns stand alone and can be read, as a reader of a column would have read them. Some still stand up well; Others you need to be a Chesterton aficionado to enjoy. But you almost always will get the pleasure from his use of words—look at the sample quotes below.

Good Quotes-a small sample:
  • "Superficially one would fancy that complexity of civilization and subtlety of thought would go together, but they do not." - October 7, 1911, "The Meaning of Loyalty"
  • "A real soldier does not fight because he has something that he hates in front of him. He fights because he has something that he loves behind his back" - January 14, 1911, "Christmas and Disarmament"
  • "The aim of arguement is differing in order to agree; the failure of arguement is when you agree to differ" - April 2, 1911, "Shaw On Marriage"
  • It is in the clash of circumstances that men are most alive. - November 22, 1913, "The Fulfillment of Wishes"
  • As Christians, should always believe that this is a white world with black spots, not a black world with white spots. I should always believe the good in it was its primary plan. - May 31, 1913, "Tolerating Other Religions"
  • Human life is not a destiny; but it is a drama. - April 13, 1913, "The Unpredictability of Humanity"
  • You cannot learn by your mistakes unless you have first learnt that they are mistakes. - December 21, 1912, "Progress and Human Failure"
  • Idealists, consistent idealists, succeed much better than anyone else, because no man can be at ease in the presence of his own neglected ideal. - June 29, 1912, "The Right Way to Denounce Things"

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