“The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children’s games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up…”
The Napoleon of Notting Hill has been called the best first novel ever written by any of England’s many great fiction writers in the 20th century.
It is a grand and uniquely Chestertonian blend of the comic and the tragic—where soldiers clash, bleed, and die in thundering explosions of color, speech, and emotion over the soul of English society.
Chesterton imagines a London eighty years hence (yes, 1984) in which nothing much has really changed. Horse-drawn hansom cabs still cruise the streets and the government has degenerated into a despotic democracy.
Every now and then, a man is chosen from a list (just as one is called for jury duty) to be King.
Intellectually, Chesterton was as nimble as a hummingbird. His writing became famous for its use of paradox: little controlled explosions that ranged from everyday clichés (“travel narrows the mind”) to the perils of the suffragette movement: “Ten thousand women marched through the streets of London saying: ‘We will not be dictated to’, and then went off to become stenographers.”
Everything about Chesterton was larger than life: his height, his bulk, and a list of publications long enough to stock a small library.
In a career spanning four decades, he produced some 80 books, 200 short stories, 4,000 essays and countless newspaper columns that he dictated while chuckling at his own jokes and jabbing at the air with a knife.
A “man of colossal genius”, according to George Bernard Shaw, he sometimes seemed to have several other writers nested inside him, like Russian dolls.
G.K. CHESTERTON (1874–1936) was an English writer, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, biographer, and art critic. Today he is best known for his fictional priest-detective, Father Brown. Ernest Hemingway, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Karel Capek, Marshall McLuhan, Paul Claudel, Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, Sigrid Undset, Ronald Knox, Kingsley Amis, W.H. Auden, Anthony Burgess, E.F. Schumacher, Neil Gaiman, and Orson Welles among others have praised his writing.