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Schall on Chesterton

Timely Essays on Timeless Paradoxes

James V. Schall

Publication Year: 2010

In this book of essays, Father James V. Schall, a prolific author himself and a prominent Catholic writer, brings readers to Chesterton through a witty series of original reflections prompted by something Chesterton wrote--timely essays on timeless issues.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-xiv

When I was in my twenties, I first encountered the writings of G.K.Chesterton. I have often been struck, on almost constant reading of him since, by the extraordinary fertility and, yes, delight of his thought and expression.Not only was he himself prolific— our library here...

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pp. xv

The essays in this book were originally published in the Midwest Chesterton News. I wish to thank Mr. John Peterson, editor of the Midwest Chesterton News, for permission to collect them here in this volume.The Introduction...

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Introduction: G. K. Chesterton, Journalist

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pp. 1-20

Peter Milward, in an essay in The Chesterton Review, has speculated on the problem that an unsuspecting cataloguer at some famous library might have in first confronting the works of Chesterton. How would they be identified? Works in literature? in theology? in philosophy...

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The Natural Home of the Human Spirit

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pp. 21-25

In 1927,Chesterton’s book The Catholic Church and Conversion was published. Belloc did the “Foreword” and Chesterton himself wrote his own “Introduction,” which he called, not without some amusement, “A New Religion.” Both short essays remain of considerable and refreshing..

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On the Nate of "Yes" in the State of Maine

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pp. 26-28

Chesterton is often called amusing, mostly because he is. In a column on March 21,1914, he mentioned that he was also called an “Apostle of Unreason.” Needless to say, Chesterton never thought of himself as merely a humorist, a sort of Art Buchwald of his times. But he did enjoy a good laugh even when occasioned by a philosopher.Yet he was...

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The Philosopher with Two Thoughts

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pp. 29-31

Several years ago, a friend of mine who was living in England at the time found an 1888 edition of Thomas Babbington (Lord) Macaulay’s Essays, a volume reprinted from The Edinburgh Review. This was a handsome old tome, published by Longmans, and printed by Spottiswoode on New-Street Square in London.This book is a kind of gift...

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Equal with the Souls of Hildebrand and Shakespeare

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pp. 32-34

In our childhood home in Iowa, we had two rather special books, as I recall it now, books my father often used to talk about with some earnestness, books I remember reading with distinct awe as quite a young boy.They were by an English priest by the name of Owen Francis Dudley...

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The Traditional Scene of the Nativity

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pp. 35-36

Several years ago, I was given the collection of Chesterton poems and essays called The Spirit of Christmas.1 In this little book, there is found an essay from The New Witness (December 8,1922) entitled “The Heart of Bethlehem.” In this essay, Chesterton brought up the curious...

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On the Qualified and Experienced

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pp. 37-40

In the October Midwest Chesterton News,Christopher Derrick wrote a brief reply to Frances Farrell’s earlier essay in which she questioned Derrick’s use of the term “sado-masochism,” which he had applied to Chesterton.1 I too was surprised and quite dubious about the wisdom and truth of this allegation when I had first seen it in Derrick.What concerns me here...

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On Staring at the Picture of "Tuesday"

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pp. 41-44

In the collection of stories and fables by Chesterton entitled Daylight and Nightmare, there appears a four-page story called “A Picture of Tuesday.”This story originally was published in something called The Quarto, in 1896, that is, when Chesterton was twenty-two years...

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The Real End and Final Holiday of Human Souls

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pp. 45-48

An original mind, I think, is one that sees truth as it exists in things.To be sure, we must affirm what we see to make it ours and therefore fulfill in some sense the higher purpose of things that are not ourselves. But books and philosophies and discourses ought not to stand between...

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A Definite, Defiant, and Quite Unmistakable Thing

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pp. 49-54

Every so often, I receive a note from W. Shepherdson Abell in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Mr. Abell once made the mistake of asking me to recommend a number of books to read on the centrality of faith and truth. He may even have been the immediate catalyst that finally resulted in the...

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On Looking Down at the Stars

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pp. 55-60

I do not recall now when I first read Chesterton’s The Defendan. It was one of his earliest books, from 1901, basically a revised series of essays from a journal called The Speaker. Until Christmas, I did not have a copy of this book, but John Peterson somehow dug up a copy—the...

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The Most Inexhaustible of Human Books

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pp. 61-65

John Peterson called my attention to an essay in a book I had never heard of, but which fortunately I found in the Georgetown Library, namely, G.K.C. as M.C..This is a wonderful book published by Methuen in London in 1929, Being a Collection of Thirty-Seven Introductions....

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On God's Making both Hell and Scotland

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pp. 66-70

Let me continue the thought in the previous chapter on Dr. Johnson, by talking about the first essay in Chesterton’s G.K.C. as M.C., his essay “Boswell.”Actually, this essay is not so much on Boswell as on Boswell’s book on Samuel Johnson. I say this because I have read Boswell’s...

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The Ten Thousand Reasons

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pp. 71-76

The very first words in Chesterton’s essay,“Why I Am a Catholic,” are these:“The difficulty of explaining ‘why I am a Catholic’ is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.”1That this claim to be true is the real problem with Catholicism, I have no doubt.To the modern mind, any claim to truth...

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Against Pride

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pp. 77-82

Chesterton once tried to steal some of the thunder belonging to us clerics. In Robert Knille’s collection, As I Was Saying, I found an essay entitled “If I Had Only One Sermon To Preach,” an essay originally collected in The Common Man. It is not without revealing a very deep understanding of the modern mind that Chesterton proposed to give...

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The Christian Ideal

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pp. 83-87

Recently, Ignatius Press published a new paperback edition of Chesterton’s 1910 book, What’s Wrong with the World. Over the years, I have owned not the original but still several earlier editions of this wonderful book but somehow I have misplaced, lost, or given them away. I think....

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On the Alternatives to Right and Wrong

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pp. 88-92

Thinking of November, I casually looked up what Chesterton was writing about in this month.On November 24,1906, in the Illustrated London News, for example, Chesterton wrote a column entitled “On Wicked Actions.” By any philosophic standards, this title looked promising...

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The Spirit of Chirstmas

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pp. 93-96

Chesterton’s Christmas essay for 1926 was entitled, in the Collected Works edition (Vol. XXXIV), “The Old Christmas Carols,” while the essay for 1927 was called “The Rituals of Christmas.” In one sense, of course, carols and rituals make Christmas.The essence of Christmas is the Nativity, the...

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Second Thoughts on Detective Stories

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pp. 97-102

The May 1993 issue of The Chesterton Review contains an essay of Professor John Wren-Lewis at the University of Sydney entitled, “Adam, Eve, and Agatha Christie.” Professor Wren-Lewis as a young man in London happened to be present when...

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On the Inability to Blaspheme

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pp. 103-107

The first pages of Heretics (1905) are entitled “Introductory Remarks on the Importance of Orthodoxy.”These remarks were written about five years after the turn of the twentieth century, just as these present remarks are written some five years before its ending.Were it not apt...

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"I Say As Do All Christian Men..."

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pp. 108-112

A friend in Berkeley Springs had mentioned a new edition of Chesterton’s Ballad of the White Horse. Though I naturally coveted this book, I never made any effort to buy, borrow, or steal it. Such are the designs of gods and men, however, that for Christmas, John Peterson, as is his kindly...

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"The Way the World Is Going"

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pp. 113-117

At the beginning of The Well and the Shallows (1935), Chesterton writes six essays on his conversion after his conversion.These essays were written in response to the question of whether he ever regretted his conversion. Chesterton wrote in the days in which he did not have to...

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On the Winning of World Wars I and II

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pp. 118-123

Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind, argued that in fact the Germans won World War II. He meant by this provocative observation that the ideas that have come to undermine our morals and institutions were of German philosophical origin, dating back to Kant...

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Christmas and the Most Dangerous Toy

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pp. 124-128

The last chapter of an obscure book I published in England was entitled “Of God’s Jokes,Toys, and Christmas Trees.”1 I was reminded of this chapter when I came across Chesterton’s 1921 Christmas column in the Illustrated London News.2What had occasioned my earlier reflections...

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pp. 129-133

A memorable essay in The Well and the Shallows (1935) is entitled “Babies and Distributism.”1 It may well be the most defiantly counter-cultural essay of our times, to be matched only by Flannery O’Connor’s remark that the Church’s pronouncement on birth control is the most...

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On the Dullness of Chaos

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pp. 134-137

The other day I received from NewYork a copy of the 1986 British Penguin edition of The Man Who Was Thursday.A young friend spotted it in a book store and figured I would like it.How do you give thanks for such unexpected gifts? What interests me here...

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The Invisible Man

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pp. 138-143

John Peterson, in generous exchange for my old paperbound Chesterton anthology of Father Brown stories printed during WorldWar II (a volume he had never seen), kindly sent me The Father Brown Omnibus: Every Father Brown Story Ever Written. This is the Dodd, Mead edition of...

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Wilde and Wilder

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pp. 144-148

Readers have no doubt noticed that I have referred to Original Sin quite a bit of late. It is a fascinating topic, to be sure, the one subject about which Chesterton maintained we need no real proof.We just have to go out in the streets and open our eyes. Just how to describe or define Original...

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The Horror

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pp. 149-154

We cannot help today but be conscious of the degree to which both law and ideological pressure impose on language, requiring us to say certain things in certain ways or forbidding us from saying them in other customary or normal ways.We have to utter the boring “happy...

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Virtue and Duty

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pp. 155-158

When I do a class on St.Thomas, I like the class to read with me during the semester Chesterton’s book St. Thomas Aquinas. One rainy morning near the end of March, about eleven-thirty in the morning, by chance I read aloud to the class a short passage from the August 1995 Chesterton...

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pp. 159-163

A gentleman in Ireland sent me a copy of Humanism:The Wreck of Western Culture, by the Australian philosopher John Carroll.1 The thesis of this provocative book is simply that western humanism is dead, that its premises of complete human autonomy have proved to be impossible to maintain and dangerous to mankind. The major sign of this...

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On Not Wrecking Divine or Secular Things

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pp. 164-168

The Chesterton Review (May 1992) reprinted a Chesterton essay entitled “The Roots of theWorld.”The essay was originally published in The Daily News in London on August 17,1907. This would be about the time Chesterton was writing Orthodoxy. The essay begins with a kind...

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Belloc on Chesterton

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pp. 169-174

Frank Petta, on reading of my brother-in-law’s troubles in finding Belloc’s little book on Chesterton, was kind enough to send me a copy of the obituary—it is entitled simply “Gilbert Keith Chesterton”—that Belloc published in The Saturday Review of Literature, for July...

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The Only Virtue

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pp. 175-179

Volume III of the Collected Works (1990) includes a book known as TheWell and the Shallows (1935).The book ends with two short essays, one of which was a Letter Chesterton wrote to The Catholic Herald entitled “Why Protestants Prohibit.”Chesterton had evidently been asked...

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The Coming of Christ

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pp. 180-184

In April 1932, during the height of the Depression, Chesterton published an essay entitled “If Christ Should Come” in, of all journals, Good Housekeeping (reprinted in The Chesterton Review, February 1984). Chesterton, of course, loved houses and good housekeeping, as his What’s Wrong with the World shows. But this particular...

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"The Divine Vulgarity of the Christian Religion"

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pp. 185-189

Several years ago, at a book sale somewhere here inWashington, I bought for a nominal price, to wit, fifty cents, the Doubleday Dolphin Edition (no date) of Oliver Wendell Holmes’s The Autocrat at the Breakfast Table. This famous collection of chatter, humor, and reflection was written..

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On Becoming Inhuman out of Sheer Humanitarianism

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pp. 190-195

In the summer of 1926 (July 3 and 10), Chesterton wrote two essays in the Illustrated London News on literature and novels.1 He began with some advice that I recall my old professor Rudolf Allers had also given some years ago, namely,“read even bad novels.” Allers’s point was that you...

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"Woman and the Philosophers"

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pp. 196-202

Quite by chance, I happened to pull out of my files the February 1985, issue of The Chesterton Review on the day after I had happened to see an amusing headline in USA Today (February 5, 1993).The headline read: EQUALITY OF SEXES? GIVE IT 1,000 YEARS .. As it turned out, this headline...

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On the Discovery of Things Whose Existence Is Impossible to Deny

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pp. 203-207

Somewhere along the line, I acquired Chesterton’s little book on the English painter George Frederick Watts. This book was originally published in 1904. I have a 1906 Duckworth edition, printed in Edinburgh, a gift from John Peterson. One Saturday in March, I decided to read this...

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The Campaign against the Ten Commandments

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pp. 208-213

We have heard the complaint, no doubt, that religion, particularly the Christian religion, is so negative. It seems always to be telling us what we cannot do, not what we can do.We want a “positive” religion; we do not want to worry about don’ts. Just give us the dos. Having propounded...

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"An Awful Instance of the Instability of Human Greatness"

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pp. 214-219

We have a public radio station here inWashington that plays what is rightly called “good music,” that is, classical music.The only flaw in this station is that it also broadcasts National Public Radio “News.”When you forget to turn this news off as quickly as you hear it come on, it forces...

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The Dogmas Are Not Dull

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pp. 220-223

Chapter twenty-nine of Chesterton’s The Thing:Why I Am a Catholic is entitled “What We Think About.” It is a remarkable chapter because it states most clearly the reason Chesterton is not a modernist and what effect, by contrast, the Catholic dogmas have on our ability to think...

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pp. 224-225

The columns from which these chapters were drawn began in 1989.As far as I can now tell, after we have read and reflected on the whole vast corpus of Chesterton, we will find as much there when we read him again as we found when we began. As Chesterton intimated in his reflections...

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Epilogue: On the Enemies of the Man Who Had No Enemies

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pp. 226-244

Chesterton (1874–1936), the great English essayist, journalist, and philosopher, was a man of singular good will, engaging charm, and broad interests. From all eyewitness reports about him, he never really had any enemies.He does not seem to have loved those who hated him...


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pp. 245-254


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pp. 255-258


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pp. 259-267

E-ISBN-13: 9780813218236
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813209630

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2010

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Subject Headings

  • Chesterton, G. K. -- (Gilbert Keith), -- 1874-1936 -- Criticism and interpretation
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