Chesterton’s Autobiography, published posthumously in the autumn of 1936, was the last flowering of his literary gifts. It was a bittersweet achievement but a very worthy addition to the Chesterton canon. And since it was completed before his passing, it seems fitting here to discuss its contents and something of the critical reception it had.
G.K. Chesterton died on June 14, 1936, at his home in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. He wrote around 80 books, several hundred poems, some 200 short stories, 4000 essays, and several plays. He also, thankfully, wrote an autobiography. A chronicler of lives, he graced us in the end with a measure of context on his own. Chesterton seemed to understand his gift as one which beaconed connection to his reader.
In Chapter 25 of his book Defiant Joy, Kevin Belmonte wrote:
One day before his death, Chesterton had an article published in the Illustrated London News. He had no way of knowing it would be the last word from him to appear in print before his passing. But it proved to be so—one last reply in a conversation he had kept up with his readers for the better part of forty years. He referred to the great novel of his youth, The Man Who Was Thursday, saying that it “was not intended to describe the real world as it was, or as I thought it was. . . . It was intended to describe the world of wild doubt and despair which the pessimists were generally describing at that date; with just a gleam of hope in some double meaning of the doubt, which even the pessimists felt in some fashion.” At the last, Chesterton found one more way to come alongside fellow pilgrims and offer a hand of friendship. He had found a “sort of moonshine” in the night. Would they not walk further with him? A gleam of hope beckoned.
Have you written an autobiography or kept a detailed journal?
L E A R n M O R E
Kevin Belmonte holds a BA in English from Gordon College, an MA in Church History from Gordon-Conwell Seminary, and a second master’s degree in American and New England Studies from the University of Southern Maine. He has twice been a finalist for the prestigious John Pollock Award for Christian Biography, and in 2003, his biography, “William Wilberforce,” won that award. On several occasions, he has served as a script consultant for the BBC, and also for the PBS documentary, “The Better Hour.” For six years, he was the lead script and historical consultant for the critically-acclaimed film, “Amazing Grace.” He has spoken in a wide array of noteworthy settings, from the Houses of Parliament in London, and gatherings of legislators in Washington, D.C., to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. For several years, his biography of Wilberforce has been required reading for a course taught by David Gergen on leadership and character formation at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Sources & Resources
Kevin Belmonte, Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life & Impact of G. K. Chesterton (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011).