Monday, August 26, 2019 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Simon Conway Morris

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It was G.K. Chesterton who trenchantly reminded us that, if one was going to preach, then it was more sensible to expend one's energies on addressing the converted rather than the unconverted. It was the former, after all, that were—and even more so are—in constant danger of missing the point and sliding away from the Faith into some vague sort of syncretistic, gnostic, gobbledegook. Chesterton, as ever, was right and should you think this is just another of his tiresome paradoxes may I urge you to re-read him: his prescience concerning our present situation and, worse, where we are heading is astounding.

 
Simon Conway Morris

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For Chesterton… British public rhetoric was more than a mere style: "The motive is the desire to disguise a thing even when expressing it." To his mind, the dictator's words, even if his actions were as bad or worse than those of the parliamentarians, were morally and stylistically superior. At least they said openly what was being done openly. The British rhetoric, for Chesterton, was one with the decayed British liberalism that allowed exploitation of workers by plutocrats who were never rebuked by government or the courts. If nothing else, Mussolini's language was a bracing alternative.
Gazing back across the horrors of World War II, it is hard for us to imagine how good men like Chesterton, whatever their objections to British liberalism, could admire Mussolini, though several prominent intellectuals and politicians did. Many of us have family members or friends who fought or died to stop the fascist darkness, and we find it difficult to sympathize with Chesterton's desire to be fair to Mussolini. Mussolini's thuggish violence, of course, Chesterton and others rejected. But their admiration was an index of the scale of reform they thought needed.

 
Gilbert Keith Chesterton
 

The meeting between Chesterton and Il Duce occurred in 1929, ten years before the war, at a time when, whatever his other faults, Mussolini had reintroduced a mark spirit of optimism and freshness to an Italy that had formerly been pessimistic and stagnant. Throughout the 1920s, Chesterton thought he saw in the Italian leader qualities that might have offset certain evils in Britain. It is important to keep in mind that whatever the misreadings of fascism, Chesterton always had some quite specific British problem in view when he praises Mussolini.

 
Benito Mussolini
 

The meeting between Chesterton and Il Duce occurred in 1929, ten years before the war, at a time when, whatever his other faults, Mussolini had reintroduced a mark spirit of optimism and freshness to an Italy that had formerly been pessimistic and stagnant. Throughout the 1920s, Chesterton thought he saw in the Italian leader qualities that might have offset certain evils in Britain. It is important to keep in mind that whatever the misreadings of fascism, Chesterton always had some quite specific British problem in view when he praises Mussolini.

 
Gilbert Keith Chesterton
 

Chesterton was important — as important to me in his way as C. S. Lewis had been.
You see, while I loved Tolkien and while I wished to have written his book, I had no desire at all to write like him. Tolkien’s words and sentences seemed like natural things, like rock formations or waterfalls, and wanting to write like Tolkien would have been, for me, like wanting to blossom like a cherry tree or climb a tree like a squirrel or rain like a thunderstorm. Chesterton was the complete opposite. I was always aware, reading Chesterton, that there was someone writing this who rejoiced in words, who deployed them on the page as an artist deploys his paints upon his palette. Behind every Chesterton sentence there was someone painting with words, and it seemed to me that at the end of any particularly good sentence or any perfectly-put paradox, you could hear the author, somewhere behind the scenes, giggling with delight.

 
Gilbert Keith Chesterton
 

Chesterton was important — as important to me in his way as C. S. Lewis had been.
You see, while I loved Tolkien and while I wished to have written his book, I had no desire at all to write like him. Tolkien’s words and sentences seemed like natural things, like rock formations or waterfalls, and wanting to write like Tolkien would have been, for me, like wanting to blossom like a cherry tree or climb a tree like a squirrel or rain like a thunderstorm. Chesterton was the complete opposite. I was always aware, reading Chesterton, that there was someone writing this who rejoiced in words, who deployed them on the page as an artist deploys his paints upon his palette. Behind every Chesterton sentence there was someone painting with words, and it seemed to me that at the end of any particularly good sentence or any perfectly-put paradox, you could hear the author, somewhere behind the scenes, giggling with delight.

 
Neil Gaiman
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