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G.K. Chesterton - Date Unknown, Click To Enlarge

G.K. Chesterton
(My complete GMD bio/commentary is here).
Bibliography

Update! (You can now get all four of the only known audio recordings by Chesterton on CD here).

 

G.K. Chesterton was an extremely prolific author. He wrote only six novels (seven if you count an early one he wrote at the age of twenty and which was never published until 2001) and several more collections of short stories. His novel, The Man Who Was Thursday, is undoubtedly one of the greatest English novels of all-time. Nevertheless, it was in the area of nonfiction that he really stood out. His biographies of Thomas Aquinas and St. Francis are often spoken of as the best available. Of the many religious/philosophical studies he wrote, The Everlasting Man has had the biggest impact, and C.S. Lewis counted it as the most important book leading to his own conversion to Christianity. Chesterton's social commentaries such as--What's Wrong With the World--are rife with the wit and the common sense thinking he was known for. He penned nearly one hundred books along with thousands of newspaper articles, mostly for his own paper--GK's Weekly.

Chesterton was drawn to the work of George MacDonald as a young man reading The Princess and the Goblin. He spoke of it in the introduction he wrote for Greville MacDonald's biography of his father, George:

But in a certain rather special sense I for one can really testify to a book that has made a difference to my whole existence, which helped me to see things in a certain way from the start; a vision of things which even so real a revolution as a change of religious allegiance has substantially only crowned and confirmed. Of all the stories I ever read ... it remains the most real, the most realistic, in the exact sense of the phrase the most like life. It is called The Princess and the Goblin, and is by George MacDonald....

Chesterton once said that he counted George MacDonald as one of the three or four greatest men of the 19th century. Unlike C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, or David Lindsay, it's very difficult to pinpoint the influence of MacDonald in Chesterton's work. Chesterton was one of the most original voices the literary field has ever had. Indeed, it would be very hard to show the direct influence of anyone on his writing. Yet we must concede the ideas, or at least the morality, of MacDonald made its way into Chesterton's awareness and impacted his soul with significance that Chesterton himself would always be acutely sensitive to. One source of common ground between the two authors would be a sense of mystical awareness, a feeling of the Divine presence in their thoughts, impacting their imaginations, and Chesterton could easily see this in MacDonald's books:

And when he comes to be more carefully studied as a mystic, as I think he will be when people discover the possibility of collecting jewels scattered in a rather irregular setting, it will be found, I fancy, that he stands for a rather important turning point in the history of Christendom, as representing the particular Christian nation of the Scots. As protestants speak of the morning stars of the reformation, we may be allowed to note such names here and there as morning stars of the reunion.

At the Centenary Celebration of what would have been George MacDonald's 100 birthday in 1924, G.K. Chesterton was chairmen ofCentenary Program, Click to Enlarge events. We unfortunately do not have a transcript of the speeches given that day which would have included those by Chesterton and the members of the MacDonald family who participated at the gathering. We do, however, at least have a copy of the program. Please visit The American Chesterton Society for more information about this fascinating man.

 

 

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