Friday, June 29, 2007

Getting Back to Poet and Lunatics

One of my prize gifts from the ChesterCon07 is this wonderful and helpful book, called G.K. Chesterton: The Critical Judgements. Before I go on discussing Poet & Lunatics, I wanted to see what the reviewers said about the book in its own time.

Here are some excerpts:
Gale, the poet and painter, who is the hero of these tales, often expresses his sense of well-being, and of the sanity of the world, by standing on his head...

Many of these stories deal with men who are mad or on the verge of madness; Gabriel Gale has a sympathy with these unfortunate people, because he knows what has sent them to the verge of beyond, and believes he knows how to bring them back. Gale knows the dangerous moment when a man fancies that he is not a creature, but a god; and in these episodes from his life Mr. Chesterton tells of his adventures in bringing such men to sanity, or discovering their crimes or preventing their excesses.

Gabriel Gale's old friend, Dr. Garth, figures in many of the stories, and is certainly one of the best Watsons ever invented...
I didn't realize Dr. Garth was a Watsonian figure, did you?


  1. My wife takes exception to the Chesterton notion - especially found in Orthodoxy - that Poets do not go mad.

    She often points out the overwhelming prevalance of various mental disorders in the Poet community - Which we are well exposed to.

    Was GKC wrong about this point ?
    - or does his definition of "Madness" not match our modern ideas of "mental illness" ?


  2. I find Chesterton's parallel claim -- that mathematicians do go mad -- equally exceptionable.

  3. I believe Chesterton would engage you in a discussion of who is the true poet. He felt quite strongly that only those who created rhyming, metered poetry were the real poets. Perhaps you run in a circle of "free verse" poets, in which case, Chesterton would say that kind are not poets at all.

    I hope that helps, TJP.

  4. I admire GKC for so many reasons.
    This is unfortunately one of those places where our thoughts must part.

    What we are considering is that GKC is saying :
    Poets (as I define poets) don't go mad (as I define madness).

    With this kind of reasoning anyone can make just about any claim.

    Poor GKC this is first time I'm dissapointed in him.

    All the poets that I know are fully cabable of rhyming and using a full arsenal of poetic styles. Their choice of poetic style, tools, and devices do not make them any less of a poet.

    I may say that I prefer a rhyming verse. Which I do.

    But, that takes nothing away from the poet that chooses to rhyme or not.

    Of , course GKC would point out that the prevalance of mental disorders among them proves his point.

    Of which I would counter that he is comparing the prevalance of Mental Disorders among modern poets with the condition of historical poets. In which case I would point our to him that we simply do not know the actual mental state of all previous poets.

    This is a claim he simply can not back up.

    Which makes me want to ask him - which he believes come first ?

    The Poet or the poem ?



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