Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Chesterton's first real friend, Edmund Clerihew Bentley. It is fitting that Chesterton's novel is dedicated to his good friend, a friend who had seen him through this teen years and into adulthood. Now, they are both married and working on their careers.

Chesterton writes a long introductory poem to his friend. There are clues to the story in the poem, allusions to poems and stories that Bentley and Chesterton must both have read. And of this line:
"And none shall understand but you..Oh who shall understand but you; yea, who shall understand?"
...leading one reviewer to comment that if Bentley was the only one who would understand this book, wasn't it unreasonable to expect anyone else to read it?

Chesterton tells Bentley:
"This is a tale of those old fears
even of those emptied hells
the doubts...
such truth can now be told..."
One can certainly read TMWWT without reading this poem, but I think it makes it more personal and puts Chesterton's mind at the time in perspective to read the poem.

My favorite line is:
"We have found common things at last, and marriage, and a creed..."
I don't know Bentley's faith life, or if he had any kind of conversion, or who he married of if they had children (who would have been nieces and nephews), but we know Bentley remained friends with Gilbert all his life, even attempting to visit him two days prior to his death. Bentley dedicated his best selling novel Trent's Last Case to Gilbert.


  1. Here's another great line from the Bentley poem that rings for me: "Not all unhelped, we held the fort, our tiny flags unfurled...

    I just love that, "we held the fort". So many images come to mind. Childhood, fighting off invaders, keeping what's inside safe, being watchful, defending your ground, etc.

  2. I suspect that what Bentley would understand is the passage through hell that Chesterton endured.

    Chesterton writes of his long period of doubt and despair in his young years. Bentley must have known of this and perhaps come through the journey with him. I think the reason Chesterton speaks with authority to us, "and not as one of the scribes" is that he came through hell. He was, before his conversion, a modernist, a post-modernist, and he confronted a world without meaning and passed through some terrible darkness. When he came out on the other end he found the Faith, and he found it a real and living Thing.

    I think this novel is a story of the terrors of the night-sea journey, the nightmare of hell, and what happens when anarchy takes a human shape, and what one learns upon coming out the other end.

  3. Yes. It has been noted that the story begins with the sunset of despair and ends with the sunrise of hope.

  4. Sunsets and sunrises are frequent motifs in Chesterton novels. And every time he writes about them, it reads like an act of thanksgiving. :-)

  5. Did anyone read "To E.C.B." in "The Wild Knight and other Poems" (p.66f). It's far worse to understand, e.g. what's about the man who hangs down in a well (war atrocities in WWI???)


Join our FaceBook fan page today!