Two of the Last of the Great Men
I found this amazing and charming little book online last week. I have wanted to read it for a while and since my city’s libraries don’t house it - I turned to the internet for help.
What this biography represents is the creative collision of two men that I have long admired: GK Chesterton (The Man Who Was Thursday, Orthodoxy, etc.), for his common sense and common theology, and Charles Dickens, for his idiosyncratic characters and his whimsical courage. I have read that Chesterton’s love for and praise of Dickens helped revive interest in the author in the early 20th Century when his pithy and poetic prose was falling out of fashion.
I am only a few pages into the volume but found this bit quite arresting:
“We shall not be much further troubled with the little artists who found Dickens too sane for their sorrows and too clean for their delights. But we have a long way to travel before we get back to what Dickens meant: and the passage is along a rambling English road, a twisting road such as Mr. Pickwick travelled. But this at least is part of what he meant; that comradeship and serious joy are not interludes in our travel; but that rather our travels are interludes in comradeship and joy, which through God shall endure forever. The inn does not oint to the road; the road points to the inn. And all roads point at last to an ultimate inn, where we shall meet Dickens and all his characters; and when we drink again it shall be from the great flagons in the tavern at the end of the world.”
As the calendar draws closer to the Christmas season (when I typically read one of Dickens longer novels) I am excited to tour the life and times of the prolific author from the outside with Chesterton as my guide.
Much like a musician produces a thoughtful cover of another artist’s music, this book makes me wonder what other great person would I enjoy reading a biography by? Perhaps Cornel West’s biography of Sam Cooke? Or Bob Dylan’s biography of Woody Guthrie? Or Zoey Deschanel’s biography of Billie Holiday? Or Frank Lloyd Wright’s biography of the American West?
Then again, I suppose that each of these great minds has already written those biographies. That is what creative inspiration is after all - men and women creating new things because we are inspired by what has come before us.
We become like the things we love.