Friday, August 07, 2009
Our keynote address last night was presented by Norwegian Geir Hasnes. Hasnes is the meticulous biographer of G.K. Chesterton's. He very clearly loves this man, calling him "my Chesterton" with true feeling. Hasnes has spoken at several of the last few conferences, and never fails to amaze us with his trifles about Chesterton. One quite memorable speech proved methodically that Chesterton was not fat. I believe this will go down in history. And the subject came up again this year, as Hasnes related some interesting facts about Chesterton's 1921 American Lecture Tour.
Hasnes stated that the lectures were sold out repeatedly, and dates had to be added to accommodate the huge numbers of people who wanted to hear Chesterton. However, in researching this phenomenon, Hasnes discovered that many of these people not only longed to hear Chesterton, but also to see him. Apparently, word of his great girth had created a culture of curiosity amongst the American people, and they wanted to see if Chesterton was as fat as people said. Hasnes related their disappointment at his lack of gigantic proportions, proving, once again, Chesterton wasn't that fat.
In addition to the amazing trifles about the American lecture tour, Hasnes proceeded to lay waste to several other myths about Chesterton. One of these myths is that Chesterton wasn't published or recognized for his writing prior to the prize he won at school for the poem about St. Francis Xavier. Hasnes has found at least 15 occasions where Chesterton was published in school publications.
A second trifle Hasnes unearthed were the books that Chesterton ghost wrote prior to his first book publication. One of these books was titled: Roman Life Under the Cesaers by Emile Thomas.
A third trifle was that Hasnes was able to dispel the myth that Chesterton's fame waned in the later years after his conversion in 1922. This was simply not true. He was written up in Vanity Fair, and international publication, in 1923 as one of the most interesting people in the world.
There is more, but you'll have to read the Gilbert report, so stay tuned. Also, Geir informs me that this information is incomplete. Well, yes, it is because I don't know shorthand ;-) But for more, please see Gilbert, the Oct/Nov issue when it comes out will be all about the conference.