Tuesday, 8 January 2013
Contentment Is Always Unpatriotic
GK Chesterton's work as a literary critic, specifically his writings about Charles Dickens, may at times seem to be rather more self-referential than these things ought to be, but it captures the essential genius of the man better in my opinion than either his detective stories or his Christian works, the best of which is Heretics.
His analysis of Dickens's love-hate relationship with the United States is especially brilliant and will be the subject of another day's reflections. As a sample of what to expect, here is Chesterton on the fruit of another of Dickens's jaunts abroad, his holiday in Italy in 1844-45, which resulted in his Pictures from Italy.
"The Pictures from Italy are excellent in themselves and excellent as a foil to the American Notes. Here we have none of that air of giving a decision like a judge or sending in a report like an inspector; here we have only glimpses, light and even fantastic glimpses, of a world that is really alien to Dickens. It is so alien that he can almost entirely enjoy it. For no man can entirely enjoy that which he loves; contentment is always unpatriotic."
Try telling that to the dorks in Beijing, matey!