GK Chesterton; Natural-Born Blogger!

GKC wearing that hat!

If GK Chesterton had been born in my generation he would have been a natural-born blogger! As it is, he invented blogging before his time and used the best technology availabe to get his brief, pithy, brilliant posts out there.

Let me explain. Chesterton published a regular series of short, topical thought-provoking essays  in all kinds of journals and newspapers, and towards the end of his life, when he was too hot for some big publishing house to handle, in his own paper GK’s Weekly.  But what makes him  a natural born blogger is the ways he approached the task.  In the preface to Tremendous Trifles, a collection of some of his very best, he says something that will ring bells with many bloggers about the way what he writes has to be both personal and public. He calls his writing:

“a sort of sporadic diary—a diary recording one day in twenty which happened to stick in the fancy—the only kind of diary the author has ever been able to keep. Even that diary he could only keep by keeping it in public, for bread and cheese.”
Now what’happens to stick in his fancy’ is always a particular thing, an object, an image, a visual clue, something that catches the eye and opens the mind’s eye. He explains his approach like this:
“As the reader’s eye strays, with hearty relief, from these pages, it probably alights on something, a bed-post or a lamp-post, a window blind or a wall. It is a thousand to one that the reader is looking at something that he has never seen: that is, never realised.”
Chesterton wonders whether by writing he might help us to see, whether he
“could not write an essay on such a post or wall… even write the synopsis of an essay; as “The Bed-Post; Its Significance—Security Essential to Idea of Sleep—Night Felt as Infinite—Need of Monumental Architecture,” and so on…. [or] sketch in outline his theoretic attitude towards window-blinds, even in the form of a summary. “The Window-Blind—Its Analogy to the Curtain and Veil—Is Modesty Natural?—Worship of and Avoidance of the Sun, etc., etc.”
Then he addresses his readers in an inspiring call to work at seeing, in a passage which I think should be written in gold letters above every blogger’s desk ( or on the wallpaper of their iPad!):
“None of us think enough of these things on which the eye rests. But don’t let us let the eye rest. Why should the eye be so lazy? Let us exercise the eye until it learns to see startling facts that run across the landscape as plain as a painted fence. Let us be ocular athletes. Let us learn to write essays on a stray cat or a coloured cloud. I have attempted some such thing in what follows; but anyone else may do it better, if anyone else will only try.”
Well in what follows I am going to try! GKC keeps his promise in Tremendous Trifles and ‘blogs’ about stray cats and coloured clouds, about a piece of chalk, the contents of his pockets,  a man running after his hat, a magical toy theatre. These  were all glorious starting places, all portals and gateways into wider realms.
And with his help I am going to do the same.
A Secret Revealed
For now it is time for me to reveal a wonderful secret. These treasures, these starting places, these tactile little nuggets of his life, have not been lost. I have held in my hand the piece of chalk he picked up from white horse down:

The chalk he picked up from White Horse Vale, the pen with which he wrote the poem!

 and the pen with which he wrote the Ballad of the White Horse! I have worn the hat that so often blew and flew from a head so full of ideas!

Yours truly wearing that hat!

I have played with the magical toy theatre of which he said:

‘All the essential morals which modern men need to learn could be deduced from this toy’

The Magical Toy Theatre!

 I am one of the stewards and guardians of these treasures for the Chesterton Library Trust, and at last  we have the good news that these wonderful things, together with a library of Chesterton’s personal books, full of his annotations,will soon be properly housed, displayed and available for people to see! In my next post I will tell you the story of these treasures, the trust we have formed to  look after them, and where they will soon be housed and displayed.
 In the meantime, by way of anticipating that display, I am going to do a series of blog posts on the very things GKC had in front of him on his desk, and about which he himself ‘blogged’, so coming soon:
A Piece Of Chalk,  A Hat To Run After, A Tale Of Two Sticks! And of course A Toy Theatre!


Filed under christianity, literature, Theology and Arts

9 responses to “GK Chesterton; Natural-Born Blogger!

  1. Definitely a natural born blogger! I feel very conflicted about GKC – don’t like his attitude to Paganism, and think he was wrong about many things – but also a brilliant writer – and I love some of his poetry and pithy quotes. But then, he was a human being, with all the contradictions that that implies…

    • malcolmguite

      Yes, I think you can love and honour a writer without agreeing with everything they say, indeed GKC loved it when people disagred and was good friends, and frequently in debate with George Bernard Shaw and HG Wells with both of whom he profoundly disagreed. They were even (bizarly!) in an early cowboy movie together!

  2. Malcolm, when will the GKC Center be open? I’m bringing my two daughters to Cambridge in October. I met you at the CSL writers lretreat in Navasota TX. DO you have a favorite pub we should visit?

    • Michael,
      Glad to read your comment. I too was at the Navasota retreat and I pray you and your daughters have a great time in Cambridge. I hope Malcolm replies and points you toward a favorite pub. I will be back in England for the CSLF’s Summer Institute in July and hope to visit the GKC Center and Malcolm’s favorite pub as well.

      Kirk Manton

    • malcolmguite

      The Eagle in Bennet Street

  3. Laurie

    A blogger indeed! Chalk from the horse and the pen, wonderful. Once again the White Horse canters before me- I look forward to hats, sticks, chalk and your theatre of thoughts!

  4. Fellow Chesterton-enthusiast here!
    Tim Makarios of Ideophilus (another WordPress blog I follow) is planning to record a free (Creative Commons-licensed) audio-book of Chesterton’s ‘The Everlasting Man’.
    I don’t know if this is something you and/or your readers would be keen to support, but he’s seeking pledges on PledgeMe if you know of anyone who’d like to contribute.
    He also has a lovely reading voice – Librivox’s ‘Progress and Poverty’ by Henry George being an example.

  5. bekahbellev

    If GKC lived today, I am almost certain he would have a FaceBook account. And, what an account it would be! I would definitely want to be his “friend.”

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