Thursday, June 28, 2007

June 28th

The love of Chesterton and Blogg, 1901-2007

Today, Thursday, June 28, is a most important day to Chestertonians everywhere. And so we shall again interrupt our attempt to resume some kind of natural flow in our discussion of everything to discuss this most important and wonderful of days - and somehow such things are best discussed here, out in the E-cosmos, on a blogg. (All Chestertonians must spell it thus.)

For, if as some of us hope, one day both Gilbert and Frances are canonised, it might suitably be today rather than June 14, which would serve as their feast day. Yes, for today is their wedding anniverary, when Chesterton and Blogg became one in love and in the sight of God and Man.

(Another time I might comment on how useful that would be: a statue of the two together, books piled at GKC's feet, a pen in his hand, and a cigar in his mouth, but their hands joined and smiles on their faces. Useful, I say, both as a shock, and as an inspiration.)

But for today, let us listen to GKC's biographer, Maisie Ward, recall this loving couple, starting with just a little of our dear Uncle Gilbert's letter to our dear Aunt Frances, telling of how this momentous occasion was brought about...
One pleasant Saturday afternoon Lucian Oldershaw said to GKC, "I am going to take you to see the Bloggs."
"The what?" said the unhappy man.
"The Bloggs," said the other, darkly.
Naturally assuming that it was the name of a public-house GKC reluctantly followed his friend. He came to a small front-garden; if it was a public-house it was not a businesslike one. They raised the latch - they rang the bell (if the bell was not in the close time just then). No flower in the pots winked. No brick grinned. No sign in Heaven or earth warned him. The birds sang on in the trees. He went in.

The first time he spent an evening at the Bloggs there was no one there. That is to say there was a worn but fiery little lady in a grey dress who didn't approve of "catastrophic solutions of social problems." That, he understood, was Mrs. Blogg. There was a long, blonde, smiling young person who seemed to think him quite off his head and who was addressed as Ethel. There were two people whose meaning and status he couldn't imagine, one of whom had a big nose and the other hadn't.... Lastly, there was a Juno-like creature in a tremendous hat who eyed him all the time half wildly, like a shying horse, because he said he was quite happy....

But the second time he went there he was plumped down on a sofa beside a being of whom he had a vague impression that brown hair grew at intervals all down her like a caterpillar. Once in the course of conversation she looked straight at him and he said to himself as plainly as if he had read it in a book: "If I had anything to do with this girl I should go on my knees to her: if I spoke with her she would never deceive me: if I depended on her she would never deny me: if I loved her she would never play with me: if I trusted her she would never go back on me: if I remembered her she would never forget me. I may never see her again. Goodbye." It was all said in a flash: but it was all said.

Some time later he wrote to her:
... It is a mystic and refreshing thought that I shall never understand Bloggs.

That is the truth of it ... that this remarkable family atmosphere ... this temperament with its changing moods and its everlasting will, its divine trust in one's soul and its tremulous speculations as to one's "future," its sensitiveness like a tempered swords vibrating but never broken: its patience that can wait for Eternity and its impatience that cannot wait for tea, its power of bearing huge calamities, and its queer little moods that even those calamities can never overshadow or wipe out: its brusqueness that always pleases and its over-tactfulness that sometimes wounds: its terrific intensity of feeling, that sometimes paralyses the outsider with conversational responsibility its untranslatable humour of courage and poverty and its unfathomed epics of past tragedy and triumph - all this glorious confusion of family traits, which, in no exaggerative sense, make the Gentiles come to your light and the folk of the nations to the brightness of your house - is a thing so utterly outside my own temperamentthat I was formed by nature to admire and not understand it. God made me very simply - as he made a tree or a pig or an oyster to perform certain functions. The best thing he gave me was a perfect and unshakable trust in those I love.
It is well that we laugh in comparing God's making of GKC as he made an oyster, for humour played a role as well:
On his wedding morning, GKC stopped in a local store to buy and drink a glass of milk - which he explained in his autobiography as "a reminiscence of childhood. I stopped at that particular dairy because I had always drunk a glass of milk there when walking with my mother in my infancy. And it seemed to me a fitting ceremonial to unite the two great relations of a man's life." (CW16:44). He also stopped at another store to buy a revolver! He explained that too: "I did not buy the pistol to murder myself - or my wife; I never was really modern. I bought it because it was the great adventure of my youth, with a general notion of protecting her from the pirates doubtless infesting the Norfolk Broads, to which we were bound..." In a letter from that place he began: ""I have a wife, a piece of string, a pencil and a knife: what more can any man want on a honeymoon." Of course he was anticipating his dictum in Orthodoxy: "The greatest of poems is an inventory." CW1:267.

Elsewhere, GKC writes about how Man and Woman are:
...two stubborn pieces of iron; if they are to be welded together, it must be while they are red-hot. Every woman has to find out that her husband is a selfish beast, because every man is a selfish beast by the standard of a woman. But let her find out the beast while they are both still in the story of "Beauty and the Beast". Every man has to find out that his wife is cross - that is to say, sensitive to the point of madness: for every woman is mad by the masculine standard. But let him find out that she is mad while her madness is more worth considering than anyone else's sanity.
[GKC, The Common Man 142-3]
So today let us recall that great day when the "selfish beast" called Gilbert Chesterton married the "madwoman" called Frances Blogg. Though the fruitfulness of their marriage was not to be in merely biological progeny, they have given forth a bountiful harvest in fruits of the spirit: fruits seen in their radical effect on people like their secretary Dorothy Collins, like the Nicholl family, and (more recently) like Aidan, Dale, Stratford, Martin, Frank and Ann Petta, Frances Farrell, Fr. Boyd, Fr. Jaki, Fr. Schall, and vast flocks of younger nieces and nephews. Fruitful, also, in inspiring converts like Joseph Pearce, Dawn Eden, Alec Guiness, and many others.

And thus the work of Gilbert and Frances goes on. What are you waiting for? Come join our family!

God made thee mightily, my love,
He stretched his hands out of his rest
And lit the star of east and west
Brooding o'er darkness like a dove.
God made thee mightily, my love.

God made thee patiently, my sweet,
Out of all stars he chose a star
He made it red with sunset bar
And green with greeting for thy feet.
God made thee mightily, my sweet.
[GKC to FBC CW10:351]

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Thursday,

    A remarkable post. A work of love.


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