His best-known character is the priest-detective Father Brown ,  who appeared only in short stories, while The Man Who Was Thursday is arguably his best-known novel. He was a convinced Christian long before he was received into the Catholic Church, and Christian themes and symbolism appear in much of his writing. Of his nonfiction, Charles Dickens: A Critical Study has received some of the broadest-based praise. According to Ian Ker The Catholic Revival in English Literature, — , , "In Chesterton's eyes Dickens belongs to Merry , not Puritan , England"; Ker treats Chesterton's thought in Chapter 4 of that book as largely growing out of his true appreciation of Dickens, a somewhat shop-soiled property in the view of other literary opinions of the time.
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Chesterton's writings consistently displayed wit and a sense of humour. He employed paradox, while making serious comments on the world, government, politics, economics, philosophy, theology and many other topics. Chesterton's writing has been seen by some analysts as combining two earlier strands in English literature.
Dickens' approach is one of these. Another is represented by Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw , whom Chesterton knew well: satirists and social commentators following in the tradition of Samuel Butler , vigorously wielding paradox as a weapon against complacent acceptance of the conventional view of things. Chesterton's style and thinking were all his own, however, and his conclusions were often opposed to those of Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw.
In his book Heretics , Chesterton has this to say of Wilde: "The same lesson [of the pessimistic pleasure-seeker] was taught by the very powerful and very desolate philosophy of Oscar Wilde. It is the carpe diem religion; but the carpe diem religion is not the religion of happy people, but of very unhappy people. Great joy does not gather the rosebuds while it may; its eyes are fixed on the immortal rose which Dante saw.
But Oscar Wilde was wrong; we can pay for sunsets. We can pay for them by not being Oscar Wilde. Chesterton and Shaw were famous friends and enjoyed their arguments and discussions. Although rarely in agreement, they both maintained good will toward, and respect for, each other.
G. K. Chesterton
However, in his writing, Chesterton expressed himself very plainly on where they differed and why. In Heretics he writes of Shaw:. After belabouring a great many people for a great many years for being unprogressive, Mr. Shaw has discovered, with characteristic sense, that it is very doubtful whether any existing human being with two legs can be progressive at all. Having come to doubt whether humanity can be combined with progress, most people, easily pleased, would have elected to abandon progress and remain with humanity.
Shaw, not being easily pleased, decides to throw over humanity with all its limitations and go in for progress for its own sake. If man, as we know him, is incapable of the philosophy of progress, Mr. Shaw asks, not for a new kind of philosophy, but for a new kind of man. It is rather as if a nurse had tried a rather bitter food for some years on a baby, and on discovering that it was not suitable, should not throw away the food and ask for a new food, but throw the baby out of window, and ask for a new baby. Shaw represented the new school of thought, modernism , which was rising at the time.
Chesterton's views, on the other hand, became increasingly more focused towards the Church. In Orthodoxy he writes: "The worship of will is the negation of will … If Mr. Bernard Shaw comes up to me and says, 'Will something', that is tantamount to saying, 'I do not mind what you will', and that is tantamount to saying, 'I have no will in the matter. This style of argumentation is what Chesterton refers to as using 'Uncommon Sense' — that is, that the thinkers and popular philosophers of the day, though very clever, were saying things that were nonsensical.
This is illustrated again in Orthodoxy : "Thus when Mr. Wells says as he did somewhere , 'All chairs are quite different', he utters not merely a misstatement, but a contradiction in terms. If all chairs were quite different, you could not call them 'all chairs'.
The wild worship of lawlessness and the materialist worship of law end in the same void. Nietzsche scales staggering mountains, but he turns up ultimately in Tibet.
He sits down beside Tolstoy in the land of nothing and Nirvana. They are both helpless — one because he must not grasp anything, and the other because he must not let go of anything. The Tolstoyan's will is frozen by a Buddhist instinct that all special actions are evil. But the Nietzscheite's will is quite equally frozen by his view that all special actions are good; for if all special actions are good, none of them are special.
They stand at the crossroads, and one hates all the roads and the other likes all the roads. The result is — well, some things are not hard to calculate. They stand at the cross-roads. Chesterton, as a political thinker, cast aspersions on both progressivism and conservatism , saying, "The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives.
The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected. Another contemporary and friend from schooldays was Edmund Bentley , inventor of the clerihew.
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Chesterton himself wrote clerihews and illustrated his friend's first published collection of poetry, Biography for Beginners , which popularised the clerihew form. Chesterton faced accusations of anti-Semitism during his lifetime, saying in chapter 13 of The New Jerusalem that it was something "for which my friends and I were for a long period rebuked and even reviled". Despite his prostestations to the contrary, the accusation continues to be repeated. The Marconi scandal of —13 brought issues of anti-Semitism into the political mainstream. Senior ministers in the Liberal government had secretly profited from advanced knowledge of deals regarding wireless telegraphy, and critics regarded it as relevant that some of the key players were Jewish.
In a work of , titled A Short History of England , Chesterton considers the royal decree of by which Edward I expelled Jews from England , a policy that remained in place until Chesterton writes that popular perception of Jewish moneylenders could well have led Edward I's subjects to regard him as a "tender father of his people" for "breaking the rule by which the rulers had hitherto fostered their bankers' wealth".
He felt that Jews, "a sensitive and highly civilized people" who "were the capitalists of the age, the men with wealth banked ready for use", might legitimately complain that "Christian kings and nobles, and even Christian popes and bishops, used for Christian purposes such as the Crusades and the cathedrals the money that could only be accumulated in such mountains by a usury they inconsistently denounced as unchristian; and then, when worse times came, gave up the Jew to the fury of the poor".
In The New Jerusalem Chesterton dedicated a chapter to his views on the " Jewish Problem ": the sense that Jews were a distinct people without a homeland of their own, living as foreigners in countries where they were always a minority. We desired that in some fashion, and so far as possible, Jews should be represented by Jews, should live in a society of Jews, should be judged by Jews and ruled by Jews.
I am an Anti-Semite if that is Anti-Semitism. It would seem more rational to call it Semitism. In the same place he proposed the thought experiment describing it as "a parable" and "a flippant fancy" that Jews should be admitted to any role in English public life on condition that they must wear distinctively Middle Eastern garb, explaining that "The point is that we should know where we are; and he would know where he is, which is in a foreign land. Chesterton, like Belloc, openly expressed his abhorrence of Hitler 's rule almost as soon as it started.
When Hitlerism came, he was one of the first to speak out with all the directness and frankness of a great and unabashed spirit. Blessing to his memory! In The Truth about the Tribes Chesterton blasted German race theories, writing: "the essence of Nazi Nationalism is to preserve the purity of a race in a continent where all races are impure. The historian Simon Mayers points out that Chesterton wrote in works such as The Crank , The Heresy of Race , and The Barbarian as Bore against the concept of racial superiority and critiqued pseudo-scientific race theories, saying they were akin to a new religion.
His own bones are the sacred relics; his own blood is the blood of St. Mayers also shows that Chesterton portrayed Jews not only as culturally and religiously distinct, but racially as well. In The Feud of the Foreigner he said that the Jew "is a foreigner far more remote from us than is a Bavarian from a Frenchman; he is divided by the same type of division as that between us and a Chinaman or a Hindoo.
He not only is not, but never was, of the same race. In The Everlasting Man , while writing about human sacrifice, Chesterton suggested that medieval stories about Jews killing children might have resulted from a distortion of genuine cases of devil-worship. Chesterton wrote:. The American Chesterton Society has devoted a whole issue of its magazine, Gilbert , to defending Chesterton against charges of antisemitism.
Some backing the ideas of eugenics called for the government to sterilise people deemed "mentally defective"; this view did not gain popularity but the idea of segregating them from the rest of society and thereby preventing them from reproducing did gain traction. These ideas disgusted Chesterton who wrote, "It is not only openly said, it is eagerly urged that the aim of the measure is to prevent any person whom these propagandists do not happen to think intelligent from having any wife or children. That is the situation; and that is the point … we are already under the Eugenist State; and nothing remains to us but rebellion.
He derided such ideas as founded on nonsense, "as if one had a right to dragoon and enslave one's fellow citizens as a kind of chemical experiment". Chesterton also mocked the idea that poverty was a result of bad breeding: "[it is a] strange new disposition to regard the poor as a race; as if they were a colony of Japs or Chinese coolies … The poor are not a race or even a type. It is senseless to talk about breeding them; for they are not a breed.
They are, in cold fact, what Dickens describes: 'a dustbin of individual accidents,' of damaged dignity, and often of damaged gentility. Chesterton is often associated with his close friend, the poet and essayist Hilaire Belloc. Though they were very different men, they shared many beliefs;  Chesterton eventually joined Belloc in the Catholic faith, and both voiced criticisms of capitalism and socialism.
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Catholicism portal. Chesterton's fence is the principle that reforms should not be made until the reasoning behind the existing state of affairs is understood compare to the Precautionary principle. In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox.