- File Size: 784 KB
- Print Length: 302 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 145100205X
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publication Date: September 9, 2011
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B005MDD1H4
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,145,533 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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G. K. Chesterton, a Criticism Kindle Edition
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Apart from that this is a fascinatingly different picture of G K Chesterton from someone who, being part of his family, didn't give GKC the halo that the rest of us tend to put on his head. Though the book was written before Chesterton had produced some of his great works, it remains something that should be read for a good insight into where GK is right, and where (horrors!) he's wrong.
But "A Criticism" was written just before that book slipped out to the reading public. Since Cecil was a soldier, later killed in battle, he could not write a follow-up, and this portrait is, as it were, frozen in time. The most fascinating thing about it is that Cecil takes two then well-known poems by GKC, and comparing the ideas in them, explores the changes in his brother's thinking, from, for instance, a Socialist, which is what Cecil was, to the writer of "Why I Am Not a Socialist", included here as an appendix; from an atheist to an anglo-Catholic (Church of England) to a Roman Catholic, although he did not join this last until years later in 1922; from an implicit believer in what Cecil would call "the doctrine of Progress" to someone "reacting against it".
Were I reviewing Cecil's book a century ago, I would only give it four stars. However, this centenary edition may rate a five. Inklings Books publisher Michael W. Perry provides a great many "helps", some better than the book itself. These include seven appendices, editorial remarks necessary to put the book into context, a foreword and introduction, as well as copious footnotes. The best of these are five pieces that ran in a newspaper called "The New Age" in 1908, in which the first, by G.K. Chesterton, is answered in the second, by H.G. Wells, to which GKC, in the third, responds, to which in the fourth George Bernard Shaw replies, to which in the fifth GKC at last retorts. The GKC bits, "Wells and a Glass of Beer" and "The Last of the Rationalists" are amoung the best he's ever written, which is saying a lot.
Cecil wonders aloud what history will make of GKC; where, if anywhere, he will have a place in literature; what he will yet write, with all his road, as it were, before him. I don't agree with all of Cecil's assessments, at that time more like forecasts, when GKC was mainly known for his early poetry, the novels (or mysteries, as Cecil would tag them, "The Napoleon of Notting Hill" The Napoleon of Notting Hill (Dover Books on Literature and Drama), "The Club of Queer Trades" The Club of Queer Trades, and "The Man Who Was Thursday" The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare (Annotated Edition), and continual prolific output in various papers. This would, of course, be enough to cement his reputation in the current era. But yet to come were the handful of novels that are today his most read, including "Manalive" Manalive (Hilarious Stories), "The Ball and the Cross" The Ball and the Cross, and "The Flying Inn" The Flying Inn, not to mention the Father Brown mysteries Father Brown: The Essential Tales (Modern Library Classics). And all the later non-fiction, including "Orthodoxy" Orthodoxy and "The Everlasting Man" The Everlasting Man.
That said, this book is amazingly quotable, culling any number of sparkling epigrams of GKC, and filled with lucid, ringing prose, as in his essay "The Patriotic Idea" to give one example (here cited on page 44). The other helpful source in understanding this period is GKC's own autobiography, published much later, in 1936, and here often cited by the editor The Autobiography of G.K. Chesterton. Cecil's book is not the place to first encounter GKC. But for those who already have met him it provides a fascinating journey back to the the millieu of a century ago, and helps explain why this unique and delightful writer, who in many ways stood outside of his own time, some hundred years later speaks to ours.