A blog dedicated to providing quotes by and posts relating to one of the most influential (and quotable!) authors of the twentieth century, G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936). If you do not know much about GKC, I suggest visiting the webpage of the American Chesterton Society as well as this wonderful Chesterton Facebook Page by a fellow Chestertonian

I also have created a list detailing examples of the influence of Chesterton if you are interested, that I work on from time to time.

(Moreover, for a list of short GKC quotes, I have created one here, citing the sources)

"...Stevenson had found that the secret of life lies in laughter and humility."

-Heretics (1905)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

C.S. Lewis on GKC

In his spiritual autobiography, Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis mentions Chesterton on 8 different occasions, I believe. 4 of them were simply quoting or mentioning him, for the most part, without it being directly involved with Lewis' story itself. But the other 4 occasions were directly involved with his own story, in which he detailed Chesterton's influence on him. So I just wanted to include them here (I have not included any other quotes on GKC by C.S. Lewis from other sources other than Surprised by Joy in this post, though there are others).

First, the longest passage on Chesterton is when Lewis describes how he, when an atheist, first discovered GKC during WW1 while he was in the hospital at Le Treport:

(From the chapter "Guns and Good Company")
It was here that I first read a volume of Chesterton's essays. I had never heard of him and had no idea of what he stood for; nor can I quite understand why he made such an immediate conquest of me. It might have been expected that my pessimism, my atheism, and my hatred of sentiment would have made him to me the least congenial of all authors. It would almost seem that Providence, or some "second cause" of a very obscure kind, quite overrules our previous tastes when it decides to bring two minds together. Liking an author may be as involuntary and improbable as falling in love. I was by now a sufficiently experienced reader to distinguish liking from agreement. I did not need to accept what Chesterton said in order to enjoy it. His humor was of the kind which I like best- not "jokes" imbedded in the page like currants in a cake, still less (what I cannot endure), a general tone of flippancy and jocularity, but the humor which is not in any way separable from the argument but is rather (as Aristotle would say) the "bloom" on dialectic itself. The sword glitters not because the swordsman set out to make it glitter but because he is fighting for his life and therefore moving it very quickly. For the critics who think Chesterton frivolous or "paradoxical" I have to work hard to feel even pity; sympathy is out of the question. Moreover, strange as it may seem, I liked him for his goodness...

...In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere- "Bibles laid open, millions of surprises," as Herbert says, "fine nets and stratagems." God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.
The second passage mentions Chesterton briefly, but I wanted to quote the whole portion where it appears because I just absolutely loved the passage (even if it hadn't mentioned GKC):

(From the chapter "Checkmate")
All the books were beginning to turn against me. Indeed, I must have been as blind as a bad not to have seen, long before, the ludicrous contradiction between my theory of life and my actual experiences as a reader. George MacDonald had done more to me than any other writer; of course it was a pity that he had that bee in his bonnet about Christianity. He was good in spite of it. Chesterton had more sense than all the other moderns put together; bating, of course, his Christianity. Johnson was one of the few authors whom I felt I could trust utterly; curiously enough, he had the same kink. Spenser and Milton by a strange coincidence had it too. Even among ancient authors the same paradox was to be found. The most religious (Plato, Aeschylus, Virgil) were clearly those on whom I could really feed. On the other hand, those writers who did not suffer from religion and with whom in theory my sympathy ought to have been complete- Shaw and Wells and Mill and Gibbon and Voltaire- all seemed a little thin; what as boys we called "tinny." It wasn't that I didn't like them. They were all (especially Gibbon) entertaining; but hardly more. There seemed to be no depth in them. They were too simple. The roughness and density of life did not appear in their books.
And Lewis also describe when he first encountered The Everlasting Man (which he would on another occasion state to be the contemporary book that had helped him most in his conversion to Christianity, and as being the best popular defense of the Christian faith he knew of):

(From the chapter "Checkmate")
Then I read Chesterton's Everlasting Man and for the first time saw the whole Christian outline of history set out in a form that seemed to me to make sense...I already thought Chesterton the most sensible man alive "apart from his Christianity." Now, I veritably believe, I thought...that Christianity itself was very sensible "apart from its Christianity"
Finally, a last passage in which Lewis makes reference to GKC (or, to be more specific, The Everlasting Man) as being helpful in his conversion:

(From the chapter "The Beginning")
There could be no question of going back to primitive, untheologized and unmoralized, Paganism. The God whom I had at last acknowledged was one, and was righteous. Paganism had been only the childhood of religion, or only a prophetic dream. Where was the thing full grown? or where was the awakening? (The Everlasting Man was helping me here.)

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