BOOKS: by Michael Daniel (reviewer)News Weekly
A MISCELLANY OF MEN, by G.K. Chesterton
, January 20, 2007
A sage and prophetA MISCELLANY OF MEN
by G.K. Chesterton,
with an introduction by Dale Ahlquist
(Norfolk, Virginia: IHS Press)
Paperback: 182 pages (incl. notes)
Rec. price: $25First published in 1912, this interesting anthology of essays by G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) - originally written for newspaper publication - has been re-released with a foreword by Dale Ahlquist, president of the American Chesterton Society.
Some of Chesterton's essays, written as they were almost a century ago, reflect the thinking of his time, for example, his personal opposition to female suffrage; however, the vast bulk of the ideas contained therein are still very applicable to our own age. Chesterton's observations cover a broad spectrum of social trends and human behaviour, from "new" theologians to democracy or Cecil Rhodes.
In these essays, Chesterton acutely observes certain modern trends, such as the marginalisation of the ordinary man by political and economic forces. He also reiterates the point that, although Britain may be a democracy, the ordinary person has little influence over the policies of the major parties, and is presented with comparatively few options from which to choose when voting in an election.
Chesterton also expresses opposition to aspects of the women's movement that seek to remove, and/or fail to recognise, the distinctions between men and women that complement each other.
Although this anthology was published a decade before Chesterton's conversion to Catholicism, one can discern the intellectual path that would eventually lead to his conversion.
For example, inherent in his worldview is the belief that Christianity provides the best moral framework for the flourishing of society, and that societies which have an official Christian religion, such as England, are the most tolerant societies.
Chesterton also saw clearly the folly of liberal Christianity, which sought to downgrade or deny doctrine. Chesterton's rejoinder was that one cannot have Christianity without the Creed.
This anthology is not everyone's idea of light reading: each essay must be read through at least twice and reflected upon to do it justice. Nevertheless, as Dale Ahlquist argues in his preface, the testament to their value is not only that these essays, originally published as ephemeral pieces for a newspaper, were republished in book form shortly after their composition, but also that they have been republished almost a century later.