Appeared in Spring/Summer 1995, Vol. XXI, Nos. 1, 2
An embryonic form of this essay appeared in Midwest Chesterton News, March 10, 1993. Thanks to John Peterson for publishing it, to Ann Stull for accepting this paper for delivery at the 1993 Midwest Chesterton Conference and to Bill Heyck, who read an earlier form of this article and offered useful comments and suggestions.
To say that G. K. Chesterton strongly influenced the subsequent generation of British Catholic intellectuals is a commonplace. Evelyn Waugh, for example, recommended The Everlasting Man in letters to friends and even considered rewriting it, being much influenced by the analysis but disliking the style.1 Graham Greene, too, was greatly impressed by Chesterton, even before he became a Roman Catholic. In fact, Greene relates in his autobiography that the only autograph he sought as a youngster was “when I ran, in my school cap after G. K. Chesterton, as he labored like a lepanto galleon down Shaftsbury Avenue.”2 Yet, despite knowledge of this early affinity, it is still bracing to read in Greene’s essay on Chesterton, “Orthodoxy, The Thing, and The Everlasting Man are among the great books of the age.”3 The Thing? What are we to make of this text which is largely ignored, even by the best Chesterton analysts, and why would it have so impressed Greene?4 For Greene, at least this time, was not being eccentric; rather he points to an unjustly neglected book deserving far greater attention from Chesterton admirers and scholars.
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