Chesterton’s Defense of a Lady and Her Pet

Even in G.K. Chesterton’s little essay “On Pigs as Pets,” a reader will soon deeply sense that the writer is a man of gratitude; and that both his chivalrous tone on behalf of an elderly lady and his unexpected encomium of an unusual animal deftly convey—for our further nourishment and delight— “the idea of taking things with gratitude, and not taking things for granted.”

Chesterton always teaches us how to see again. He helps us to take a fresh view of little things, things that are often also things of moment to man, as well as a fitting occasion for giving gratitude.

On 14 June 2016, only ten days ago, those of us who have cherished Chesterton and his writings over many years were especially attentive to the eightieth anniversary of his death on 14 June 1936 and thus also to his posthumously published, and very modest, Autobiography. Even the first lines of that book show us his playful, but affectionate, irony—with a little poke at the inordinate Skepticism of the Higher Criticism and some of its self-professed Advocates. Drolly entitled “Hearsay Evidence,” that first Chapter surprisingly begins, as follows:

Bowing down in blind credulity, as is my custom, before mere authority and the tradition of the elders, superstitiously swallowing a story I could not test at the time by experiment or private judgment, I am firmly of the opinion that I was born on the 29th of May, 1874, on Campden Hill, Kensington; and baptised according to the formularies of the Church of England in the little church of St. George opposite the large Waterworks Tower that dominated that ridge. I do not allege any significance in the relation of the two buildings; and I indignantly deny that the church was chosen because it needed the whole water-power of West London to turn me into a Christian.


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