Friday, December 16, 2016

G. K. Chesterton ~ "The Bore"

Featured Author ~ G. K. Chesterton

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (18744 – 1936) was born in London, England, the son of Marie Louise and Edward Chesterton.  His middleclass upbringing was comfortable and secure.  His father encouraged literacy as well as balance between work and play.  In 1895, Chesterton left University College without earning a degree and began working for Redway, a London publisher.  During his lifetime, he was a prolific writer.  In addition to writing books, poems, plays, and essays, Chesterton was a literary and social critic, historian, Catholic theologian, and debater.  His better-known works are the Father Brown mysteries, Heretics, Orthodoxy, The Man Who Was Thursday, and The Napoleon of Notting Hill.

The following is an excerpt from “On Mr. Rudyard Kipling and Making the World Small” from Heretics. 1905
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“There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person.  Nothing is more keenly required than a defence of bores.  When Byron divided humanity into the bores and bored, he omitted to notice that the higher qualities exist entirely in the bores, the lower qualities in the bored, among whom he counted himself.  The bore, by his starry enthusiasm, his solemn happiness, may, in some sense, have proved himself poetical.  The bored has certainly proved himself prosaic.

“We might, no doubt, find it a nuisance to count all the blades of grass or all the leaves of the tree; but this would not be because of our boldness and gaiety, but because of our lack of boldness and gaiety.  The bore would go onward, bold and gay, and find the blades of grass as splendid as the swords of an army.  The bore is stronger and more joyous than we are; he is a demigod – nay, he is a god.  For it is the gods who do not tire of the iteration of things; to them the nightfall is always new, and the last rose as red as the first.

“The sense that everything is poetical is a thing solid and absolute; it is not a mere matter of phraseology or persuasion.  It is not merely true, it is ascertainable.  Men may be challenged to deny it; men may be challenged to mention anything that is not a matter of poetry.

“I remember a long time ago a sensible sub-editor coming up to me with a book in his hand, called ‘Mr. Smith,’ or ‘The Smith Family,’ or some such thing.  He said, ‘Well, you won’t get any of your damned mysticism out of this,’ or words to that effect.  I am happy to say that I undeceived him; but the victory was too obvious and easy.  In most cases the name (of a person) is unpoetical, although the fact is poetical.  In the name of Smith, the name is so poetical that it must be an arduous and heroic matter for the man to live up to it.  The name of Smith is the name of the one trade that even kings respected, it could claim half the glory of that arma virumque which all epics acclaimed.  The spirit of the smithy is so close to the spirit of song that it has mixed in a million poems, and every blacksmith is a harmonious blacksmith.

“Yet our novelists call their hero ‘Aylmer Valence,’ which means nothing or ‘Vernon Raymond,’ which means nothing, when it is in their power to give him this sacred name of Smith – this name made of iron and flame.

“If you think the name of ‘Smith’ prosaic, it is not because you are practical and sensible; it is because you are too much affected with literary refinements.  The name shouts at you.  If you think of it otherwise, it is because you are steeped and sodden with verbal reminiscences, because you remember everything in Punch or Comic Cuts about Mr. Smith being drunk or Mr. Smith being henpecked.  All these things were given to you poetical.  It is only by a long and elaborate literary effort that you have made them prosaic.”

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