Wednesday, February 20, 2008

GKC answers the latest Blog Meme

Here is GKC's answers to the latest meme blogg-game...
GKC was reading the "Blue Boar" blogg and saw that someone had tagged "Chestertonian" in one of those games. He sent us his answers. He wishes to tag Belloc, Shaw, Wells, his wife, and his brother - and YOU if you care to play.

GKC writes:

Ah, another game. It's been quite some time since I played one, and it shall be a delight to do so. Few writers have bored their readers with countless details about their lives as I have - so much so that I myself termed my Orthodoxy a "slovenly autobiography". [CW1:215] So perhaps you will enjoy this game as I have.

G. K. C.

Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself.

1. I was nearly arrested by two excited policemen in a wood in Yorkshire. I was on a holiday, and was engaged in that rich and intricate mass of pleasures, duties, and discoveries which for the keeping off of the profane, we disguise by the esoteric name of Nothing. At the moment in question I was throwing a big Swedish knife at a tree, practicing (alas, without success) that useful trick of knife-throwing by which men murder each other in Stevenson's romances. Suddenly the forest was full of two policemen; there was something about their appearance in and relation to the greenwood that reminded me, I know not how, of some happy Elizabethan comedy. They asked what the knife was, who I was, why I was throwing it, what my address was, trade, religion, opinions on the Japanese war, name of favourite cat, and so on. They also said I was damaging the tree; which was, I am sorry to say, not true, because I could not hit it. The peculiar philosophical importance, however, of the incident was this. After some half-hour's animated conversation, the exhibition of an envelope, an unfinished poem, which was read with great care, and, I trust, with some profit, and one or two other subtle detective strokes, the elder of the two knights became convinced that I really was what I professed to be, that I was a journalist, that I was on the Daily News (this was the real stroke; they were shaken with a terror common to all tyrants), that I lived in a particular place as stated, and that I was stopping with particular people in Yorkshire, who happened to be wealthy and well-known in the neighbourhood.
In fact the leading constable became so genial and complimentary at last that he ended up by representing himself as a reader of my work. And when that was said, everything was settled. They acquitted me and let me pass.
["Some Policemen and a Moral" in Tremendous Trifles]

2. I once read a history of China (I need hardly say that I was paid to read it) and in this work there was an account of the Twenty-Four Types of Filial Piety. Of twenty-three of them I can now give no account. But one of them has stuck in my memory; he was an elderly statesman and Prime Minister of the Empire, or something of that description. And on his fiftieth birthday he dressed up as a child of four and danced gaily in front of his aged parents in order to soothe them with the illusion that they were still quite young. It would certainly be interesting if Mr. Balfour or Mr. Asquith would dress up as four-year-olds and dance before their gratified parents; but, upon the whole, I think this is carrying the principle of reminiscence and ritual unification a little too far, and requires at least a power of Oriental gravity which may not be completely at our command. But the principle involved is sound enough. Happy is he who not only knows the causes of things, but who has not lost touch with their beginnings. Happy is he who still loves something that he loved in the nursery: he has not been broken in two by time; he is not two men, but one, and has saved not only his soul but his life. I can count a fair list of things I have always desired and still desire - sword-blades, the coloured angels of religious art, a kind of cake called jumbles, Grimm's "Fairy Tales" and a shilling paint-box. Some of these things I confess thankfully that I now have (though jumbles have died with a decaying civilisation), but I am more thankful still that the desire in these cases remains. For this is a great gift from God, to have things and still to desire them.
[ILN Sept 26 1908 CW28:186]

3. I once lectured before a congress of elementary schoolmasters, trying to persuade them to tolerate anything so human as Penny Dreadfuls or Dime Novels about Dick Turpin and Buffalo Bill. And I remember that the Chairman, with a refined and pained expression said, "I do not think Mr. Chesterton's brilliant paradoxes have persuaded us to put away our Alice in Wonderland and our" - something else, possibly The Vicar of Wakefield or Pilgrim's Progress. It never struck him that the nonsense tale is as much an escape from educational earnestness as the gallop after Buffalo Bill. For him it was simply a classic, and it went along with the other classics. And I thought to myself, with a sinking heart, "Poor, poor little Alice! She has not only been caught and made to do lessons; she has been forced to inflict lessons on others. Alice is now not only a schoolgirl but a schoolmistress. The holiday is over and Dodgson is again a don. There will be lots and lots of examination papers, with questions like:
(1) What do you know of the following; mime, mimble, haddock's eyes, treacle-wells, beautiful soup?
(2) Record all the moves in the chess game in Alice Through the Looking-Glass, and give diagram.
(3) Outline the practical policy of the White Knight for dealing with the social problem of green whiskers.
(4) Distinguish between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
["Lewis Carroll" in The New York Times 1932, printed in A Handful of Authors]

4. I once borrowed a corkscrew from [Mr. J. L.] Hammond and found myself trying to open my front-door with it, with my latch-key in the other hand. Few will believe my statement, but it is none the less true that the incident came before and not after the more appropriate use of the corkscrew. I was perfectly sober; probably I should have been more vigilant if I had been drunk.
[Autobiography CW16:152]

5. I once waited for rather more than two days in a palatial Prussian post-office for a common money order addressed to me; while the officials conducted an elaborate correspondence with an old lady of about ninety, whom I did not know, and whom they finally insisted should come in person to the post-office and swear to my identity. There is nothing particularly practical in this. Marble post-offices, however, palatial, are not the most profitable places in which to spend one's days. The oaths of dying German school-mistresses are not an indispensable condition of the transfer of two pounds of a man's own money to his own pocket. But, upon the whole, Germany is neither more nor less efficient than France or England, but its success is national and peculiar. The marble post-office pleases the national appetite as if it were something to eat; Teutons do not mind waiting if they can wait in a pleasant and impressive place. It is not the efficiency of Germans that produces their rules and regulations, their buttons and their notice-boards. It is their sentimentality; they like behaving in omnibuses and railway-stations as if they were in church. Germany does not manage better in the abstract. But Germany manages Germans better than even Napoleon could do when backed by the right reason of Europe; and so the sword of liberty was broken at Leipzig. That is the whole argument for nationalism.
[ILN July 1 1911 CW29:113]

6. Some time ago, seated at ease upon a summer evening and taking a serene review of an indefensibly fortunate and happy life, I calculated that I must have committed at least fifty-three murders, and been concerned with hiding about half a hundred corpses for the purpose of the concealment of crimes; hanging one corpse on a hat-peg, bundling another into a postman's bag, decapitating a third and providing it with somebody else's head, and so on through quite a large number of innocent artifices of the kind. It is true that I have enacted most of these atrocities on paper; and I strongly recommend the young student, except in extreme cases, to give expression to his criminal impulses in this form; and not run the risk of spoiling a beautiful and well-proportioned idea by bringing it down to the plane of brute material experiment, where it too often suffers the unforeseen imperfections and disappointments of this fallen world, and brings with it various unwelcome and unworthy social and legal consequences. I have explained elsewhere that I once drew up a scientific table of Twenty Ways of Killing a Wife and have managed to preserve them all in their undisturbed artistic completeness, so that it is possible for the artist, after a fashion, to have successfully murdered twenty wives and yet keep the original wife after all; an additional point which is in many cases, and especially my own, not without its advantages. Whereas, for the artist to sacrifice his wife and possibly his neck, for the mere vulgar and theatrical practical presentation of one of these ideal dramas, is to lose, not only this, but all the ideal enjoyment of the other nineteen. This being my strict principle, from which I have never wavered, there has been nothing to cut short the rich accumulation of imaginative corpses; and, as I say, I have already accumulated a good many. My name achieved a certain notoriety as that of a writer of these murderous short stories, commonly called detective stories; certain publishers and magazines have come to count on me for such trifles; and are still kind enough, from time to time, to write to me ordering a new batch of corpses; generally in consignments of eight at a time.
[Autobiography CW16:312]

Two bonus answers, in case you are still curious:
I can swim: I cannot ride. I can play chess: I cannot play bridge. I can scull: I cannot punt. I can read Greek lettering: I cannot read Arabic lettering. In this strong, sound, fundamental sense, I can write literature; whereas I could not write music. Or, if you like to put it so, I can't play the piano, but I can play the fool. But the distinction is decisive. I can do it; and therefore I am a trader and not a thief. And I would sooner call myself a journalist than an author; because a journalist is a journeyman. He has a real working human trade; he even has a trade-union.
[Preface to A Miscellany of Men]

There are some who complain of a man for doing nothing; there are some, still more mysterious and amazing, who complain of having nothing to do. When actually presented with some beautiful blank hours or days, they will grumble at their blankness. When given the gift of loneliness, which is the gift of liberty, they will cast it away; they will destroy it deliberately with some dreadful game with cards or a little ball. I speak only for myself, I know it takes all sorts to make a world; but I cannot repress a shudder when I see them throwing away their hard-won holidays by doing something. For my own part, I never can get enough Nothing to do. I feel as if I had never had leisure to unpack a tenth part of the luggage of my life and thoughts. I need not say that there is nothing particularly misanthropic in my desire for isolation; quite the other way. In my morbid boyhood, as I have said, I was sometimes, in quite a horrible sense, solitary in society. But in my manhood, I have never felt more sociable than I do in solitude.
[Autobiography CW16:202]

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