Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My new friend G.K.

I've been hearing about G.K. Chesterton for a while now. I've spied clever quotes by him on blogs and facebook profiles. This is a man who wrote a book that contributed to C.S. Lewis' conversion to Christianity, which sounded impressive to me. So in my first official "for fun" reading, I picked up not a novel, but G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense.

It was quite enjoyable! While you do have to get past the fact that the author clearly worships the ground Chesterton walks on, he gives a good introductory overview to the man and his writings. It was amazing to see how Chesterton's observations continue to ring true almost a hundred years later. He wrote all kinds of things and on all kinds of topics. I was a little less interested in his writings about politics and a little more interested in his writings about Christianity and the Church (he eventually became Catholic). I also think it would be fun to read some of his mystery stories. Perhaps most immediately, though, I'd like to read some more of his thoughts on womanhood.

Here's a taste:
Now if anyone says that this duty of general enlightenment [of children]... is in itself too exacting and oppressive, I can understand the view. I can only answer that our race has thought it worth while to cast this burden on women in order to keep common-sense in the world. But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination conceive what they mean. When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean. To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets cakes. and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.

Are you a Chesterton fan? What's your favorite quote of his?


  1. Yeah. He's amazing. You should also read Orthodoxy. His mystery series 'Father Brown" is also very good. My favorite quote of his is:

    "Christianity even when watered down is hot enough to boil all modern society to rags. The mere minimum of the Church would be a deadly ultimatum to the world." zing! :)

  2. Love Chesterton. Sometimes I get a little lost reading some of his books, but I love them anyway. I really love some of his different quotes.

    If I am quoting it correctly, I think my sister's favorite quote is, "Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. " You'll have to forgive us. We appreciate wild randomness in my family. :)

  3. I am not a Chesterton fan for the same reason that LAF loves him:

    But he is quite witty and great for quotes as long as you don't think about them for too long. Right now Josh and I are reading through the complete Father Brown, and I love it. So I don't like Chesterton as a "philosopher" or "theologian" but I enjoy him as a writer.

    Fun quote: Marriage is an adventure, like going to war.

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  5. wait, did someone just quote your own post in your blog? if they did, its because it was that good of a post! i love that you're getting to do "for fun" reading now (at least without feeling guilty) so please keep posting so that i can live vicariously! i've been really excited to read some G.K too because I have only heard great things about his philosophizing and influence on the thinking of other great writers. I'm excited to see more of what you find out!

  6. *blushing*

    Well, I guess it's obvious I got so excited by the Chesterton talk that I breathlessly clicked away before reading the quote you'd included...

    Deleting now -- sorry for the airhead moment!

  7. You happened to print one of my favorite Chesterton quotes! As a homeschooling mom who used to drive an aircraft carrier, I can testify that being everything to several little someones can be more exhausting than the "real" job... with the added burden that people respected one job and not the other.

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