The detail over which these monks went mad with joy was the universe itself; the only thing really worthy of enjoyment. The white daylight shone over all the world, the endless forests stood up in their order. The lightning awoke and the tree fell and the sea gathered into mountains and the ship went down, and all these disconnected and meaningless and terrible objects were all part of one dark and fearful conspiracy of goodness, one merciless scheme of mercy.
—“FRANCIS,” FROM VARIED TYPES (1903)
Long ago in those days of boyhood my fancy first caught fire with the glory of Francis of Assisi.” So wrote Chesterton in the opening pages of one of his best-beloved books, St. Francis of Assisi, published in 1923. This medieval saint, it seems, had always held a special place in his moral imagination, and the writing of this biographical study was fulfilling a debt of gratitude.
But it was an odd pairing of kindred souls, to be sure. Francis, the ascetic saint, and Chesterton the ebullient bon vivant—a man whose appearance and habits ran so dramatically counter to any notion of asceticism.
For years [Chesterton] forbore visiting America, but [finally] he decided to cross the Atlantic, in order, he announced, to “lose my impressions of the United States.”
—NEW YORK TIMES (1936)
Inclement weather aside, the Chestertons seemed to have relished the prospect of this, their first trip to America. When Maisie Ward was researching her biography of Chesterton, she discovered that “Frances kept clippings of almost all their interviews” during their travels in the United States. G. K., for his part, seems to have looked on the first days following their arrival with a mixture of amusement and curiosity.
Kevin Belmonte, Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life & Impact of G. K. Chesterton, from Chapter 20
G.K. CHESTERTON DYING
English Author Is Stricken with Paralysis at His Home
LONDON. Jan. 2.—Gilbert K. Chesterton is dying, according to information received today by The Times correspondent from a relative of the famous essayist. For more than a month Mr. Chesterton has been lying in a critical condition in his country home, Overroads, at Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. The exact nature of his illness has not been disclosed, but it is rumoured that he suffered a stroke of paralysis.
Special Cable to the New York Times, “G. K. Chesterton Dying,” a 94-word news flash published on Sunday, 3 January 1915, page 1
Kevin Belmonte, Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life & Impact of G. K. Chesterton, from Chapter 19