Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, better known by his initials as G. K. Chesterton, was an English essayist, novelist, poet, journalist, and author of literary and social criticism. Chesterton was a somewhat contentious man, writing on many subjects about which he had strong feelings, but always with charm, wit, and generosity. In 1925 he published The Everlasting Man, which incorporated many ideas suggested in his earlier works. It reflects his own spiritual journey, which had brought him to a conversion to Roman Catholicism in the summer of 1922.

The Everlasting Man attempts to describe the historical development of humanity and the place of Christianity within that history. It was occasioned by H. G. Wells’s The Outline of History (1920), which describes human history as a development from savagery to civilization by progress and improvement in a uniform way. In Wells’s view, man must adapt himself to his changing environment in order to achieve this progress.

Chesterton acknowledged Wells’s originality and courage, accepted the work as a useful accumulation of facts, and found it interesting, yet as an outline of history he found it wanting. It failed primarily because its proportions were wrong; everything seemed too even. Chesterton insisted that in human history certain events and developments are simply more important than others. Chesterton’s review of the work in The Times contains the germ of...

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(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Clipper, Lawrence J. G. K. Chesterton, 1974.

Evans, Maurice. G. K. Chesterton, 1939.

Hollis, Christopher. Gilbert Keith Chesterton, 1954 (revised edition).

Kenner, Hugh. Paradox in Chesterton, 1947.

Ward, Masie. Gilbert Keith Chesterton, 1943.

Ward, Masie. Return to Chesterton, 1952.

Wills, Garry. Chesterton, 1961.