Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born in London in 1874 and passed away in Beaconsfield in 1936. During his prolific professional career, he wrote thousands of articles that were regularly published in the press and also poems, plays, novels, philosophy essays with a clear, easygoing prose. His supposedly verbose verbiage has baffled his readers and critics for decades. He gave his opinion on countless subjects of social importance, without claiming to be the ultimate expert, thus prodding civic debate amongst his readers.
Looking in retrospect at his amazing intellectual output, he can be considered as a pioneer of mass communications in the English language. A blogger. The first one.
G.K. Chesterton grew up in a middle-class family that was politically liberal but adhered to the Unitarian church as well. His happy childhood was shaken by the sudden death of his sister Beatrice, a lasting remembrance. It was the only subject his father refused to ever discuss with him, As such it taught him the value of both memory and silence in the human relationships. Two years after her death, his brother Cecil was born and they remained close throughout their lifetimes; he was the “critical audience” he needed. Cecil and Gilbert often engaged in written sparring over subjects of pressing interest but they knew how to argue them in a civilized manner in an acrimonious age.
Chesterton studied in the Slade School of Visual Art in London, for which his prose is filled with imagery and not too much classical linear argumentation. He tackled almost any subject of importance of his times in his journal articles, sometimes spreading his reach too thin. Critics said that his lack of focus prevented him from attaining a “scholarly depth” for lasting value; he did not pay any attention to them as he openly claimed the mantle of a “popular writer” and not of a haughty academician. He never trusted the persuasive power of “pure reason”, which he associated with insanity, but rather preferred a slightly less focused and more tainted rhetoric that could reach a massive audience and not only the educated elite. Reading “Heretics”, a series of personal essays that support a thesis, we have the feeling of being seated in a Piccadilly Circus café chatting with friends and not listening to a pompous professor at Oxford University.
His taste for paradox prodded him to use the power of popular journalism to make a case in his essays for abstraction; he considered that the most important thing for a man is his view of the Universe, i.e. his philosophy. The most important thing is not to choose between “the abstract’ and “the practical” but to seize “the practicality of the abstraction” for daily usage.
G.K. Chesterton, quick witted and courageous writer, as well as an honest critic of the prevailing social prejudices, we salute you as the often disrespected pathfinder in the long-term quest for Truth that also we, the modern bloggers, have embraced. Thank you.
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Don’t leave me alone.