In person Chesterton was a large man who was something of a strain on his clothes. Tidiness he persistently ignored in favor of comfort. Everyone who got near him was tempted to rearrange him, or at least to giving thought as to how it could be done. Eventually Chesterton gave up the idea of expecting to be held together in ordinary attire by ordinary threads and buttons, and went around wearing a cloak. The simplicity with which one could secure a sort of stylish seclusion by the tying of a single knot or the fastening of a single hook appealed to Chesterton. A cloak was a garment calculated to reveal not how he was fashioned, but where he was to be found.
In point of kindliness, Chesterton had one of the biggest hearts that has ever lived. And yet I am told the doctors found it undersized physically when they examined him in one of his illnesses. Nothing daunted, he went right on using what share of heart he had to love the world largely and lavishly until the hour of his death. This is what is known as a paradox.
When Chesterton stood up he was impressive. But it was even more marvelous to watch him sit down. He sat down with an air of supreme humility, as if totally collapsing in the arms of God. In the difficult assignment of being both huge and human he needed lots of support. Once seated, he would doze and dream a great deal, and seemed constantly distracted by the incessant rush of his own thoughts.
As humility was Chesterton’s outstanding moral virtue, so what he chose to call “sanity” was what he wanted most for the mind. He was far too humble to suppose that one could appropriate sanity as an assured possession without offering plenty of credentials. And so he undertook to outline what he meant by sanity perhaps more carefully than any man of his generation. One of his contemporaries, George Bernard Shaw, said sanity was the specialty of the superman. This pseudo-preternaturalism annoyed Chesterton, and his reply was devastating. “Shaw criticizes human nature,” he said, “as though he himself did not possess it.” Another contemporary, H. G. Wells, offered hope that sanity might blossom in some brain of the future. Chesterton was quick to analyze this mixture of biology and guesswork masquerading as prophecy, and he exposed it to relentless ridicule. In the end he made more of a monkey out of Wells than Evolution ever had.
The rest of the chapter is fantastic! I know many people will scouff because its by Father Feeney, but Father was a great literary man in his day. The comparison is often made to that of the Belloc of America.
Read the rest HERE