The Napoleon of Notting Hill Additional Summary

G. K. Chesterton

The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The novel opens in London, England, in 1984, a time eighty years after the book’s publication. The government has become so efficient that party politics are obsolete. The king of England is now chosen by lottery. When Auberon Quin is appointed king, he revives certain medieval customs as an antidote to London’s bureaucratic monotony.

The future king, Quin, makes his first appearance in the company of his two friends, James Barker and Wilfrid Lambert, staid government officials who serve as foils for Quin’s fantastic imagination. The three men encounter the former president of Nicaragua, a striking figure in a bright green uniform with ceremonial medals. His name is Juan del Fuego, and his ostentatious appearance is more consistent with Quin’s wild imagination than with the conservative London setting. Del Fuego joins Quin and the other two men for lunch, at which they discuss the importance of patriotism in both small and large countries, namely in Nicaragua and Great Britain. Del Fuego dies three days later in Soho.

When Quin is selected at random as the next king of England, he is inspired by del Fuego’s pomp and politics to restore to London’s boroughs their medieval identities and customs. By encouraging loyalty to a small unit of government and by celebrating this small-scale patriotism with chivalric ceremony, Quin hopes to relieve the boredom that has resulted from London’s cosmopolitan but stale polish.


(The entire section is 416 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Barker, Dudley. G. K. Chesterton. New York: Stein & Day, 1973. Brief biography that is primarily concerned with Chesterton’s early years and fiction.

Clark, Stephen R. L. G. K. Chesterton: Thinking Backward, Looking Forward. Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation Press, 2006. Places The Napoleon of Notting Hill within the context of futuristic science fiction, studying Chesterton’s individual novels and the themes he introduced for later writers.

Coren, Michael. Gilbert: The Man Who Was Chesterton. New York: Paragon House, 1990. Examines Chesterton’s early years and influences, as well as The Napoleon of Notting Hill.

Dale, Alzina Stone. The Outline of Sanity: A Biography of G. K. Chesterton. 1982. Reprint: Lincoln, Nebr.: Authors Guild, 2005. Provides a detailed examination of Chesterton’s objections to the Boer War and imperialism.

Gardner, Martin. The Fantastic Fiction of Gilbert Chesterton. Shelburne, Ont.: George A. Vanderburgh, 2008. Includes Gardner’s valuable introduction to the 1991 Dover Press edition of The Napoleon of Notting Hill, as well as an essay originally published in the May 10, 1991, issue of Midwest Chesterton News.

McCleary, Joseph R. The Historical Imagination of G. K. Chesterton: Locality, Patriotism, and Nationalism. New York: Routledge, 2009. Chapter 4 focuses on The Napoleon of Notting Hill, The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare (1908), and The Ball and the Cross (1909) as expressing Chesterton’s political and historical views.

Payne, Randall. Introduction to The Autobiography of G. K. Chesterton. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006. The novel’s setting is strongly influenced by the setting of Chesterton’s childhood. Payne’s annotations to Chesterton’s autobiography make this work accessible to modern readers.

Pearce, Joseph. Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G. K. Chesterton. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004. Relates The Napoleon of Notting Hill to other Chesterton writings and includes comments by other writers and critics.