Standing six foot, four inches tall, and weighing 21 stone, GK Chesterton was a man of striking appearance, and all the more so for his chosen uniform of cape, large hat, swordstick, and cigar. A prolific writer, he regarded himself primarily as a journalist, but he also wrote poetry, philosophy, biography, detective fiction, Christian apologetics - and fantasy.
For as he once said: 'Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.' Fascinated by the occult in his youth, Christianity played an increasingly important part in his life, and he wrote the biography of St Francis of Assisi in 1922, shortly after converting to Roman Catholicism.
His choice of clothes revealed a man who liked attention; but he also displayed great reserves of will power, which he directed towards his chosen goals. Using paradox and laughter as weapons - he was called the 'Prince of Paradox' by Time magazine - his writing was a constant assault on complacent acceptance of conventional views. He rallied against the dark side of English imperialism; and with his friend Hilaire Belloc, he promoted the social system of 'distributism', which called for a greater sharing of wealth. When The Times newspaper asked various leading figures of the day to say what was wrong with the world, Chesterton simply replied: 'Dear Sirs, I am. Sincerely yours, GK Chesterton.'
Orthodoxy, first published 1908, is Chesterton's spiritual autobiography. Subtitled, 'The romance of faith', Chesterton declares that people need a life of 'practical romance; the combination of something that is strange with something that is secure.'
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