Friday, December 26, 2014

G. K. Chesterton and Sherlock Holmes: Two great minds

Gilbert Keith Chesterton was one of those larger than life persons whom you cannot pigeonhole. While it may seem proper to call him a writer, that description sells him short. He was more than a mere wordsmith, because of what he wrote about. The subjects of his writing were what distinguished him as one of the great minds of the 20th century.

Chesterton considered himself to be a journalist, I supposed because he spent most of his life writing for newspapers. He wrote over 4000 newspaper essays for the Illustrated London News, and 13 years of columns for the Daily News. That’s the equivalent of writing an essay a day, every day, for twelve years. He was considered absent-minded, but that was likely the result of his mind being almost continuously consumed with some new thought that was gestating and finding its way into the next day’s newspaper column or story.

Chesterton took on most of the intellectuals of his time: George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Bertrand Russell, and Clarence Darrow.  He tackled what might be called the “big isms” of life: materialism, determinism, moral relativism, socialism, classism, and capitalism. He honored the “common man” and common sense. But what is just as amazing, he did this in a manner that made you chuckle or laugh.

Despite his monumental body of work, Chesterton is often neglected in classrooms, and his work is unknown by many who consider themselves “well educated.” I suppose, that is why he was introduced in a fictional story, “The Curse of the Black Feather,” which is one of the five tales in the collection Sherlock Holmes – The Golden Years by Kim H Krisco. In this tale, G. K. Chesterton brings a curious case to the great detective that sends Holmes and Watson on a series of madcap adventures that reach into the underground labyrinth beneath London, and across the Atlantic to America, as the infamous duo pursue one of the most diabolical villains Holmes has ever encountered.

Hopefully, this brief introduction to Gilbert Keith Chesterton might serve to open the door to the works of this literary giant who deserves to come out of the shadows. For, Chesterton ideas and words are as relevant today as they were 100 years ago. That is something he shares with the most popular fictional character of all time – Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Like Chesterton’s, Holmes’s original stories are also 100 years old, and they too have as much relevance and appeal today, as they did when they were first published.

Keeping the spirit of Sherlock Holmes and G. K. Chesterton alive!

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