Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy: The Making of GKC, 1874–1908 by William Oddie - review by Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson

Born to Believe

Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy: The Making of GKC, 1874–1908

By

Oxford University Press 401pp £25 order from our bookshop
 

G K Chesterton was born in 1874, the same year as Winston Churchill, Somerset Maugham and Chaim Weizmann. It was a good vintage, which also included celebrated ‘moderns’ such as Gertrude Stein, Robert Frost, Arnold Schoenberg and Gustav Holst. But Chesterton and Churchill were the only two who combined a deadly serious purpose with an outstanding sense of humour, liable to burst out at all times. They also shared an unmistakably jovial appearance and delighted the cartoonists, though each had, when required, a tremendously sober face, Churchill’s expressing dogged determination to defend Britain, Chesterton’s a growly transcendental faith in Christianity. 

Both were fortunate, in my view, that they escaped university and so were able to develop their individual personalities without Oxbridge inhibitions and affectations. They were open to the accusation that they ‘never really grew up’, retaining a boyish bounce to the end. There, I think, the comparison has to

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