This is one important reason for the defense of the common man that runs through Chesterton’s writings and that distinguished him so sharply from the majority of other contemporary writers.  What Chesterton calls the

“merely educated can scarcely ever be brought to believe that this world is, itself, an interesting place.  When they look at a work of art, good or bad, they expect to be interested but, when they look at a newspaper advertisement or a group in the street, they do not, properly and literally speaking, expect to be interested.  But, to common and simple people, this world is a work of art, although it is, like many great works of art, anonymous.”

Their popular literature, unlike the morbidities of modern literature, contains “a plainer and better gospel.”  To them, “this planet is like a new home into which we have just moved our baggage.”  The common and simple are humble and, therefore, are privileged to have a “colossal vision” of “things as they really are.”  The loss of respect for the virtue of humility had led to the revival of “the bitterness of Greek pessimism.”  The “merely educated” have also “lost altogether that primitive and typical taste of man – the taste for news.”  And Chesterton then makes a familiar and hackneyed expression come alive in all its original sense: “When Christianity was named the good news, it spread rapidly, not only because it was good, but also because it was news.” 

The dignity of the poor was always close to Chesterton’s heart, a dignity he thought was more threatened in modern society than even in “ages in which the most arrogant and elaborate ideals of power and civilization held…undisputed sway,” when “the ideal of the perfect and healthy peasant did, undoubtedly, represent, in some shape or form, the conception that there was a dignity in simplicity and a dignity in labor.”  Sadly, “no such ideal exists in the case of the vast number of honorable trades and crafts on which the existence of a modern city depends.”  

From: G. K. Chesterton: A Biography by Ian Ker (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 84-85.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s