The best introduction to the spirit of St. Thomas is, to my mind, the small book by G. K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas.  This is not a scholarly work, in the proper sense of the word.  It might be called journalistic – for which reason I am somewhat chary about recommending it.  Maisie Ward, co-owner of the British-American publishing firm which publishes the book, writes, in her biography of Chesterton that, at the time her house published it, she was seized by a slight anxiety.  However, she goes on to say, Etienne Gilson read it, and commented: “Chesterton makes one despair.  I have been studying St. Thomas all my life and I could never have written such a book.”  Still troubled by the ambiguity of this comment, Maisie Ward asked Gilson, once more, for his verdict on the Chesterton book.  This time, he expressed himself in unmistakable terms: “I consider it as being, without possible comparison, the best book ever written on St. Thomas. . .Everybody will, no doubt, admit that it’s a ‘clever’ book, but the few readers who have spent twenty or thirty years studying St. Thomas Aquinas and who, perhaps, have themselves published two or three volumes on the subject, cannot fail to perceive that the so-called ‘wit’ of Chesterton has put their scholarship to shame. . .He has said all that which they were more or less clumsily attempting to express in academic formulas.”

From: Guide to Thomas Aquinas by Josef Pieper; translated from the German by Richard and Clara Winston; reprint (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1987), pp. 7-8.  The English translation was originally published in 1962 by Pantheon Books.


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