Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Who is Aidan Mackey?

There will be a session at the conference called "AAA" Ask Aidan Anything. Another with Aidan's perspective on The Man Who Was Thursday.

The brochure says he's the founder of the G.K. Chesterton Study Centre in England. My bet is he's British (accent and all).

This is a man who knew Ada Chesterton. Talked to her. Who else did he talk to?

You people who know Aidan better than I: Tell us more about him, and why any Chestertonian would want to talk to him.


  1. Actually that name is the "human" equivalent of - er - a world-reknowned figure in high-lit espionage, correctly known to security forces under the code "8NMcE".

    He is an extremely brilliant man, specialising in feria-v-level anarchy, faultless felonies, and poetic lunacy, besides being an unparalleled long-bowman.

    For some years he has masqueraded as a SchoolMaster (one rumour has it that he was the model for Albus Dumbledore!). Together with his wife, Dorene, they managed a house full of women (seven to be precise, not counting Dorene!) who have now spread his unique views and styles to places as far away as Australia.

    This will not be the first time he will elude international lit-security forces by attending a ChesterCon, at which his mastery of disguise will keep him safe.

    There may be things about GKC which are yet unknown by most people - but what 8NMcE doesn't know about GKC can be written on a postage stamp (even under the old prices) and still leave plenty of room for a GKC quote or two.

  2. Aidan was a good friend of Ada ("Keith") Chesterton, and once rebuked her for the unkind things she wrote about Frances in her "The Chestertons."
    ~ Gramps

  3. Who is Ada Chesterton?

  4. Ada Jones married Cecil Chesterton, GKC's younger brother, just before Cecil left for the front during World War I.

    She was a writer, using the penname "J. K. Prothero": Maisie Ward records that "she was to become famous for her exploit in spending a fortnight investigating in the guise of a tramp the London of down-and-out women. She wrote In Darkest London and founded the Cecil Houses to improve the very bad conditions she had discovered and in memory of her husband." [Ward, Gilbert Keith Chesterton 425] She also wrote The Chestertons, which - and here one should heed, or at least hear, Ward - "is concerned with Gilbert and Frances as well as with Cecil; and the confusion between memory and imagination - to say nothing of reliance on feelings unsupported by facts - pervades the book. It can only be called a Legend, so long growing in Mrs. Cecil's mind that I am convinced that when she came to write her book she firmly believed in it herself. The starting-point was so ardent a dislike for Frances that every incident poured fuel on the flame and was seen only by its light. When I saw her, the Legend was beginning to shape. She told me various stories showing her dislike: facts offered by me were either denied or twisted to fit into the pattern. I do not propose to discuss here the details of a thoroughly unreliable book. Most of them I think answer themselves in the course of this biography." [Ibid., xi] See also Ward's appendix C for more on Ada's book.

    But she also survived not only her brother, but both Gilbert and Frances, and I think in later years came to revise her views, but others will know more than I do - hence I also look forward to Aidan's visit, though due to - er - metaphysical constraints I cannot escape, I will have to be elsewhere at that time.

    --Dr. Thursday

  5. At a time before the advent of alibris, when no copy of Boxen could be found on my side of the pond, it was ol' 8NMcE who came through for me. He was more than helpful and ever so prompt. Not to mention a jolly sport.

  6. I have known Aidan Mackey for over a quarter of a century since first meeting him at a meeting of the English Provincial Booksellers Association at Cambridge England where his table full of Inklings materials (rare firsts, hard to find reading copies etc.) was an eye-popping treasure chest of riches in the days before the internet took the fun out of book-buying.

    He is one of the most knowledgeable Chestertonian and Inklingian (to coin a term) scholars and dealers and was very generous to students and others who shared his love of Distributism, Christianity (especially Roman Catholicism) and the obscure byways of this area of English Literature.

    He lived in a large house in Bedford that was stuffed with books and visits there always included a trip to one of several old local pubs that served real beer.

    He abhors car radios and loves good beer.

    There is more that can and should be said and I would like to put some of it down someday.

    One vignette: we lived for a time (well 18 years) on a small island off Canada's west-coast before we moved to the south of France. While on that Island, Aidan Mackey would come to visit and stay prior to or after (or both) the Seattle G.K. Chesterton conferences sponsored by Seattle Pacific University.

    On one of these occasions, it was 1987, he happened to be with us in the summer when my wife, Eleanor, went into labour with our second child. Aidan offered to watch young Aidan (whom he called "good Aidan") while we went over on the ferry to have our baby.

    Returning home on a late ferry I approached our cottage in the woods only to discover that there were several large spherical objects sitting in the golden setting sun of a late June day.

    On the wooden railing of the deck were neatly displayed the spheres. Aidan said: "I wasn't sure what to do with these, they seem rather strange" Sure enough.

    One is not supposed to wash disposable diapers!

    Fondly to Aidan and to all who know and love him.

    Iain T. Benson
    St. Pe de Bigorre
    65270 France.

  7. Iain,
    Thanks for these wonderful stories about Aidan. I'm sure there is much more to know about a person, but you've let us see through a little window the wonder and generosity of a great Chestertonian and Inklingian (I love that word!).


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