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Chesterton and the Eastern Church

Plato to MacDonald to Chesterton, Tolkien and the Boys in the Pub.

Re: Chesterton and the Eastern Church

Postby Mr Bultitude » 01 Nov 2009, 05:09

rusmeister wrote:The style of writing is largely irrelevant to what is being said. I went through a couple of stages of perceptions in discovering Chesterton, and an early one that I later had to discard was the idea that he was unnecessarily wordy - or as you put it, superfluous and flowery. This is a common impression - it was later cured by more reading.

I must defer here, for as I've said, I've only read a handful of his non-fiction books and essays. And to be clear, I don't mean my statements to come off as negative criticisms of Chesterton, because I do enjoy reading him. Perhaps because I enjoy Lewis' touch with metaphor more than I do Chesterton's (though one can sometimes see definite similarities, and sure, to be fair, it is more likely that Lewis would've borrowed from Chesterton than vice-versa), I sometimes wish Chesterton would use less of them. I've found myself lacking the interest to perfectly apprehend the light of every comparison he uses, for he sometimes uses so many, shotgun style.

Secondly, I wouldn't say that Chesterton's poetry 'tried to wriggle out' - as if it were something that tried, and sometimes failed, and had to 'struggle' to come out. He expressed it whenever the muse came on him. I wouldn't say his poetry is the greatest in poetry - although I'll have to make an exception for "The Ballad of the White Horse" - but in general it is far wiser and touches on truth much more than most of his contemporaries, including people of our time, which is undoubtedly the best criterion of what is "great".

In case there's a misunderstanding, I wasn't actually referring to any of Chesterton's poetry, but the sometimes poetic style that flows into his non-fiction prose. I haven't actually read any of his poetry (except some random stuff he included in some of his essays).

Next, on 'being bogged down with references and allusions': It is actually a mark of how far we have fallen in terms of knowledge (while tending to pride ourselves on knowing more than our ancestors) when we do not understand the references. It reveals what we don't know - that we don't know our own history and literature (I'll have to broadly include English and American history into one big bag - but it is certain that American history cannot truly be understood if English history is not. So that is one of the things that I mean by speaking of Chesterton's depth vis-a-vis Lewis. Chesterton really knew much more of English literature - although he had the unfair advantage of a near-photographic memory of nearly everything that he read. For history he was more dependent on his friend Hilaire Belloc - also a thinker of giant proportions - and this is one of the clues as to why knowledge of the Orthodox Church was a black hole to him, btw. Belloc had a thoroughly Catholic view of history, which always leaves the Eastern Church out of the picture and depicts the world as 'Catholic or Protestant".

No doubt not knowing all of his references reveals my ignorance, as well as revealing Chesterton's wider understanding of his world. But there are writers/politicians/scientists he refers to that average academics wouldn't know, whose reputations need elucidation in footnotes by Chesterton's posthumous editors. Not a big deal. Really not a valid point of criticism on my part.

I was attempting to communicate that Lewis attracts people who already believe much more than he does people who don't, and I will concede that my opinion is subjective - based on the limitations of my exposure to responses of believers vs non-believers to Lewis, but insist that the witty-humble-funny assertion is objective. Postjudice is the positive virtue of which prejudice is the vice. People know the latter word but seem to be completely unaware of the logical existence of the former.

I wouldn't say which group he attracts more...though numerically, I suppose it MUST be believers, because believers and non-believers alike are generally interested in reading literature that supports their positions. Though in our own cases, we can see how he does attract non-believers.

(Edit) One thing I do want to add - I recommend that the very next thing you read be Belloc's "On the Place of Gilbert Chesterton in English Letters" . It outlines six major ways in which Chesterton stands out, and addresses some of your own ideas and impressions about GKC. Obviously, the perspective is Catholic, but that only impacts one of the points, I think. The others would be pretty much universally acceptable. It's worth printing out and taking with you on your next reading opportunity. (I get about 20 pages on MS Word).

I will check that out, thank you.
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Re: Chesterton and the Eastern Church

Postby MotherLodeBeth » 25 Jan 2010, 08:01

When I read Chesterton I remember the era he was writing in which was pre Vatican 2. And I think there is enough in his writings to show he was Christian first and denomination second. As for any Catholics being driven away from the forums, I stepped away for awhile since I missed serious Christian discussions and Christianity re C S Lewis. Now I am back and am pleased to be here. ~Beth~
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Re: Chesterton and the Eastern Church

Postby cyranorox » 25 Jan 2010, 20:58

His era was post Schism of 1054. primarily, and of the schismatics of the West
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