When I was in college, my parents gave me a book by G.K. Chesterton, entitled The Man Who Was Thursday. It was a sort of espionage novel about a huge underground conspiracy of men who secretly rule the world. Not my typical read, but I was intrigued by the characters and exceptional wordplay, so I looked for more by this early 20th century writer. Chesterton, it turns out, was a journalist, theologian, poet, and novelist, as well as a good friend of another writer I hold dear, Sir J.M. Barrie.
They used to say that Chesterton was the biggest writer in London, adding that when he stood on the train, three women could fill his seat. He was a man of profound conviction and uncompromising humor. One of my favorite quotes from him is, "Always be a comic in a tragedy. What the deuce else can you do?" Think of Father Christmas and you might be getting close to the Chestertonian silhouette, in both personality and figure.
I have gone on to read some of Chesterton's other works, two favorites being Manalive and Napoleon Of Notting Hill. Both are fictional commentaries on his own philosophy that, as stated in Heretics, "A man with a definite belief always appears bizarre, because he does not change with the world... Millions of mild black-coated men call themselves sane and sensible merely because they always catch the fashionable insanity." This cry echoes throughout Chesterton's life, as he stood boldly for his faith in the face of a sordid and antagonistic world. He was a fighter. He pushed back. When Kipling, Wells, and Shaw came out waxing eloquence that tickled the ears of the masses, Chesterton did not hesitate to step forward and call them wrong. He held firmly to the truth of who God is and the weight of that upon humanity, and he defended it like a giant on the front lines of war. He was physically bigger, he was debatably smarter, and he was a far better writer than nearly any man of his age or the next. The person of G.K. Chesterton was truly great.
He was a giant.
And then he fell in love.
I've admired Chesterton for several years now, looking up to him as an untouchable, historical demigod of sorts. But I was recently talking with a friend about Kensington Gardens, which we will visit this summer, and he pointed out to me a specific spot there. He gave me directions, turning our fries and burgers into the Garden grounds, "just past this wall, etc." This is the place where Chesterton proposed to Frances Blogg, 115 years ago. This is the place where a giant bowed low, to one knee, and bore his heart to the girl of his dreams.
We're all human. Some are just bigger than others. And even the biggest become small for the ones they love.