September 13, 2011


Dale Ahlquist review of latest Chesterton biography.

"The most sniveling criticism of the book has been that it is too long. The book weighs almost as much as Chesterton himself. And yet, if anything, it is a miracle of condensation. After Maisie Ward completed her biography of Chesterton, more stories and personal accounts poured in so that she was prompted to write a supplemental work, Return to Chesterton, because it was clear there were those who simply did not get enough of him in the first go-round. Ker has, in essence, done both of these things and more in one volume. There is the basic account of Chesterton’s life (which necessarily relies heavily on Maisie Ward, as all Chesterton biographies must), and then there are fascinating new details, especially of Chesterton’s travels, that have never before been revealed. The most interesting new sources are the occasional diaries of Frances Chesterton and correspondence from Chesterton to Hilaire Belloc. In addition, Ker provides succinct synopses of all Chesterton’s major books and some minor ones, too. Though he says he is not going to go into Chesterton’s journalism, he still manages to go into it quite a bit. The resulting combination will make this a standard work of reference for years to come. It is the most comprehensive biography of Chesterton ever .written. It will not satisfy everyone. Actually, it will not satisfy anyone. No book on Chesterton ever will. Even those who are pleased by the book will still want more. Fortunately, there is more. The rediscovery of Chesterton is just beginning, in spite of those who think they can easily dismiss him. Chesterton is saying to the critics, as he said to Shaw: 'You have just jumped into this deep river to prove that it was shallow.'"


William Luse said...

Did you know that the cover art for Ahlquist's book about Chesterton is a painting by Timothy Jones? Here:

TS said...

I did not know that, but knew that Timothy Jones is talented as the day is long.