Read A Miscellany of Men by G.K. Chesterton Dale Ahlquist Online


Covering topics ranging from literature to philosophy, history to social criticism, this is a snapshot of thought on 20th-century Europe (and the world) by one of Europe's sharpest wits and ablest pens. With chapter titles ranging from “The Miser and His Friends” to “The Red Reactionary,” from “The Separatist and Sacred Things” to “The New Theologian” and “The Romantic inCovering topics ranging from literature to philosophy, history to social criticism, this is a snapshot of thought on 20th-century Europe (and the world) by one of Europe's sharpest wits and ablest pens. With chapter titles ranging from “The Miser and His Friends” to “The Red Reactionary,” from “The Separatist and Sacred Things” to “The New Theologian” and “The Romantic in the Rain,” this volume includes 39 brief sketches of individuals, each one of whom illustrates an aspect of contemporary society. Social, historical, and religious thought all figure prominently in this book, making it of great use in any study of the literary, religious, and social aspects of early 20th-century England and Europe generally. It will be of interest to students and scholars of the essay in English literature. It is a fine introduction to Chesterton's social criticism, which remains unique for its willingness to criticize some of the uncomfortable truths about capitalism without straying toward an inhuman bureaucratic socialism....

Title : A Miscellany of Men
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ISBN : 9780971828612
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 184 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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A Miscellany of Men Reviews

  • Buck
    2019-04-26 17:56

    Reading Chesterton is a jerky experience, like being stuck on a subway train that keeps lurching forward and shuddering to a stop for no apparent reason (yes, Toronto Transit Commission, you’re still on my shit list). One minute he’s giving you these little starts of wonder or excitement, and the next he has you recoiling in dismay.This effect can be partly explained by Chesterton’s crazy, bipolar politics. It’s almost unbelievable to me that a single brain, even one as capacious as Chesterton’s, could hold so many antithetical ideas without exploding. From a certain angle, he looks like your garden variety proto-fascist. Anti-Semitic, anti-modern and anti-secular, he voiced a lot of opinions that wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow in a Weimar-era beer hall. At the same time, he could be as pink and fiery as any socialist in his denunciations of big business, the aristocracy and imperialism (he was an outspoken opponent of the Boer War). Even more surprisingly, he was a democrat to the core, placing unlimited faith in the wisdom of the people, and instinctively siding with the working classes in their long struggle against oppression. In short, I don’t even know if there’s a name for his particular ideological orientation, apart from ‘screwy’.Although Chesterton exasperates me to no end, he’s one of the few writers I keep going back to year after year because, for all his claptrap, he handled words with such casual aplomb. Here was this pudgy, wheezy, walrus-faced man, beer-sodden and sedentary, who would sit down heavily at his desk and dash off some of the most graceful, dancing prose you’ll ever read. The contrast is somehow encouraging. It’s like watching some fat slob effortlessly pick up the hottest chick in the bar. Just in A Miscellany of Men -- a slender collection of old newspaper columns -- Chesterton gets off more great lines than most writers manage in an entire career:On the super-rich: To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it.On cultural decline: It is the final sign of imbecility in a people that it calls cats dogs and describes the sun as the moon – and is very particular about the preciseness of these pseudonyms. To be wrong, and to be carefully wrong: that is the definition of decadence.And then there’s my favourite, a passage that seems to anticipate the last fifty years of Continental philosophy and settle its hash in advance:Whenever you hear much of things being unutterable and indefinable and impalpable and unnameable and subtly indescribable, then elevate your aristocratic nose towards heaven and snuff up the smell of decay. It is perfectly true that there is something in all good things that is beyond all speech or figure of speech. But it is also true that there is in all good things a perpetual desire for expression and concrete embodiment; and though the attempt to embody it is always inadequate, the attempt is always made. So what does Chesterton do with this small but genuine insight? He uses it to beat up on Picasso and the post-Impressionists, like any lettered yahoo of the popular press. See what I mean? Maddening. Don’t get me wrong: a wonderful writer and all that, but sometimes you just want to smack him one upside the head.

  • Jim
    2019-04-29 14:45

    Reading the early essays of G.K. Chesterton (before he got too involved with politics or religion) is one of the best experiences of my reading life. A Miscellany of Men was published in 1912 and contains some thirty or forty short essays that range in quality from good to magnificent -- particularly in "The Mystagogue," in which he says everything there is to say about criticism.At the same time I read this book, I have been reading the music criticism of Aldous Huxley, which he wrote for The Weekly Westminster Gazette during the 1920s. Instead of just indicating that the great classical music he reviews is ineffable, he tries to analyze how it achieves its effects. This is exactly what GKC looks for in a good critic (I wonder if they ever met):The man who really thinks he has an idea will always try to explain that idea. The charlatan who has no idea will always confine himself to explaining that it is much too subtle to be explained. The first idea may really be very outrée or specialist; it may really be very difficult to express to ordinary people. But because the man is trying to express it, it is most probable that there is something in it, after all. The honest man is he who is always trying to utter the unutterable, to describe the indescribable; but the quack lives not by plunging into mystery, but by refusing to come out of it. A Miscellany of men may not be a great book, but it is a great read. It is always fascinating to see where the man's mind leads.

  • G.
    2019-04-29 17:41

    Say what you will say about the ideas of the Catholic faith that, to a 21st century socially liberal reader, will seem extremely outdated and not "abnormal" at all when Chesterton defends them as "normal" things, Chesterton himself, and his writing, are always vividly refreshing. He writes controvertially, as he always does, about things that were "right and proper" in his time, and seem right and proper in our time as well. He goes up against feminism, which is seems was just a bold move then as it would be now, for a man to openly come out in writing and oppose such a popular movement as feminism. But his criticisms were unlike any others that I've ever heard. In fact they actually drew me in and caused me to think about the nature of feminism and its goals. And no argument can be bad that promotes a critical think. But read it for yourself. The first essay, and then maybe more.

  • Perry Whitford
    2019-05-14 15:59

    I do like G. K. Chesterton, it's just that...(fill in the blank.)The guy was entertaining and he makes you think, a man with a nimble mind and clever way with an aphorism, ideal in fact for writing opinion pieces in a newspaper, where these three dozen observations probably first appeared. But sometimes he leaves me shaking my head.Take for example his take on women in politics from an article called 'The Suffragist'. Firstly he observes how 'when a woman puts up her fists to a man she is putting herself in the only posture in which he is not afraid of her.' An interesting point, but surely not enough to naturally explain why men will always dislike the 'political woman.' He pictures female orators aping the gestures of men, but can't see them developing their own approach for some reason. With regards female suffrage he in effect says "votes are worthless so why should women bother about them," a truly pathetic apology for disenfranchisement if ever there was one, unless Chesterton was either a fascist or a communist, which he most certainly was not.There is plenty more on offer to similarly enjoy and confound, I will only select a few highlights.In 'The Gardener and the Guinea' his gardener shovels up a valuable coin and Chesterton has some interesting thoughts on property and ownership, including the excellent line 'I am not interested in wealth beyond the dreams of avarice since I know that avarice has no dreams, but only insomnia.'Modern Art obviously ruffled his cape. In 'The Mystagogue' Cubism is dismissed as 'paper on which Mr. Picasso has had the misfortune to upset the ink and tried to dry it with his boots.' Critics were reduced to merely eulogising and not explaining his art because, presumably, there was nothing to explain.I think this quote about the humble brolly is well worth recording: 'Shut up, an umbrella is an unmanageable walking stick; open, it is an inadequate tent.'That said, they are good for hitting people over the head in an inherently comic manor. G. K. Chesterton, the Suffragist, and the wet brolly - that would have made an excellent Edwardian tableau!

  • Steve
    2019-05-20 16:38

    A collection of Chesterton's essays written for the Daily News. This collection shows Chesterton at his usual Genius. More broad than some of the other collections of this type, this book still has a cohesive feel as the themes of Family, Liberty, and Common Sense permeate the work. Well worth reading. Especially relevant to our current political environment are Chesterton's comments on political choice, " For the powerful class will choose two courses of action, both of them safe for itself, and then give the democracy the gratification of taking one course or the other. The lord will take two things so much alike that he would not mind choosing from them blindfold - and then for a great jest he will allow the slaves to choose."

  • Karen
    2019-04-25 20:37

    So it was a little dated in style and some of the sentiments expressed would have Chesterton labelled today as a racist, misogynist, jingoist and much worse, the prescient tone and clarity of expression make Chesterton a writer with timeless relevance. This collection of essays is particularly good at illustrating how the best and worst of human behaviours remain constant down through generations. Chesterton remains positive and hopeful, with an amusing touch, but he manages to avoid sarcasm and scorn. His wisdom and humility are invaluable but you do have to acknowledge and forgive the social thought errors of his time.

  • Evan Hays
    2019-05-10 20:03

    Another excellent one from Chesterton, the apostle of common sense. This one is a great reflection of some of his journalism from his early career. Not only could I see the development of some of his key ideas, such as Distributism, but also I learned about the history of the early twentieth century through the lens of Chesterton's writing. Definitely recommend.

  • Jeremy Egerer
    2019-05-13 13:39

    Decent Chesterton -- though by no means his best. Vast selection of topics, good sense of humor, keen insight. A few unfair rants against businessmen that were a little out of place, especially for a man who's overwhelmingly romantic about everything else; but I guess that sort of thing was handled perfectly by Ayn Rand, so I'll give Chesty a pass.

  • Al
    2019-05-20 14:34

    Terrific compilation of essays and articles by GK Chesterton written for an English paper between 1930 and 1934. Insightful, wise, witty, thoughtful, and funny... Chesterton is at his best in essays of socio/political/spiritual commentary.

  • Chrisanne
    2019-05-14 18:42

    It's easy to tell that in most of these essays he's talking about political concerns of the time. Not being as conversant with said issues some of it was hard to digest. But some of the essays were lovely-- and he makes some good points about introspection, freedom, and nature.

  • T.E.
    2019-05-21 15:02

    Highly interesting