A Christian literary feast
One of the more fascinating books I’ve read in the last 10 years is a sort of group biography by the prolific Catholic writer Joseph Pearce. Called Literary Converts (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2000), this sprawling account leads us through a surprisingly large and varied network of 20th-century British literary Christians. Here are G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Evelyn Waugh, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Ronald Knox, T. S. Eliot, Dorothy L. Sayers, and many more. They all play their part in the spread of Christianity in English literary culture after the spiritual doldrums of the 1910s and 20s.
Pearce weaves themes and connections that will grip any fan of those writers who shares their faith. His keen eye for the telling detail, the revealing vignette, and the colorful anecdote make this book both a rich resource and a pleasure to read, if you can forgive the Roman Catholic triumphalism that emerges here and there along the way. Continue reading
Posted in Patron Saints for Postmoderns, Resources for Radical Living
Tagged Anglicanism, C S Lewis, distributism, Dorothy L Sayers, economics, G K Chesterton, J R R Tolkien, Joseph Pearce, literature, Roman Catholicism, World War II
Hilaire Belloc, half of the "Chesterbelloc"
A couple of days ago I listed some of the ways that such authors as C S Lewis, Dorothy L Sayers, and G K Chesterton were antimodern, (“How do I hate thee, modernity? Let the Inklings count the ways“) I started the list with this item: “Humane economics and a holistic theological anthropology vs. utilitarianism and materialism; e.g. Sayers’s writings on vocation (vs. “homo economicus”) in Begin Here and essays such as “Why work?” Lewis’s Abolition of Man.” I left out the biggest example: the new “economic third way” promoted by Chesterton and his friend, French historian Hilaire Belloc: Distributism. As a sort of “trial article” back in 2002 when I was trying to get hired as editor of Christian History magazine, I got to write about that subject for the magazine’s Chesterton issue:
Economics after God’s Own Image
Appalled by the slavery of the British working class, Chesterton joined Hilaire Belloc in promoting a brave new ideal.
One night in 1900, deep within one of those gray British metropolises that he once called “the interior of a labyrinth of lifeless things,” G.K. Chesterton discovered a kindred spirit. At the Mont Blanc Restaurant in London’s Soho district, a man approached him and opened a decades-long conversation with the remark, “You write very well, Chesterton.”
As the evening progressed, Chesterton became increasingly excited. He had discovered in this man—the cantankerous, visionary historian and author Hilaire Belloc—a lifelong friend and intellectual partner.
George Bernard Shaw imagined this partnership as a monstrous quadruped, the “Chesterbelloc,” whose best-known idea issued from the Belloc half and was blithely accepted by the Chesterton half. That idea was distributism, a “third economic solution” distinct from both capitalism and communism. Continue reading