Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born in London, England on the 29th of
May, 1874. Though he considered himself a mere "rollicking journalist,"
he was actually a prolific and gifted writer in virtually every area of liter-
ature. A man of strong opinions and enormously talented at defending
them, his exuberant personality nevertheless allowed him to maintain
warm friendships with peopleÑsuch as George Bernard Shaw and H. G.
WellsÑwith whom he vehemently disagreed.
Chesterton had no difficulty standing up for what he believed. He was
one of the few journalists to oppose the Boer War. His 1922 "Eugenics
and Other Evils" attacked what was at that time the most progressive of
all ideas, the idea that the human race could and should breed a superior
version of itself. In the Nazi experience, history demonstrated the wis-
dom of his once "reactionary" views.
His poetry runs the gamut from the comic 1908 "On Running After
One's Hat" to dark and serious ballads. During the dark days of 1940,
when Britain stood virtually alone against the armed might of Nazi Ger-
many, these lines from his 1911 Ballad of the White Horse were often
I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.
Though not written for a scholarly audience, his biographies of au-
thors and historical figures like Charles Dickens and St. Francis of Assisi
often contain brilliant insights into their subjects. His Father Brown mys-
tery stories, written between 1911 and 1936, are still being read and ad-
apted for television.
His politics fitted with his deep distrust of concentrated wealth and
power of any sort. Along with his friend Hilaire Belloc and in books like
the 1910 "What's Wrong with the World" he advocated a view called
"Distributionism" that was best summed up by his expression that every
man ought to be allowed to own "three acres and a cow." Though not
know as a political thinker, his political influence has circled the world.
Some see in him the father of the "small is beautiful" movement and a
newspaper article by him is credited with provoking Gandhi to seek a
"genuine" nationalism for India rather than one that imitated the British.