For [Wills], as for this reviewer, Chesterton is primarily the author of the Everlasting Man. In that book all his random thoughts are concentrated and refined; all his aberrations made straight. It is a great, popular book, one of the few really great popular books of the century; the triumphant assertion that a book can be both great and popular. And it needs no elucidation. It is brilliantly clear. It met a temporary need and survives as a permanent monument. Besides this, Chesterton wrote a number of memorable and delightful verses, notably Lepanto. He was a lovable and much loved man abounding in charity and humility. Humility is not a virtue propitious to the artist It is often pride, emulation, avarice, malice — all the odious qualities — which drive a man to complete, elaborate, refine, destroy, renew, his work until he has made something that gratifies his pride and envy and greed. And in doing so he enriches the world more than the generous and good, though he may lose his own soul in the process. That is the paradox of artistic achievement.
It was a happy chance that Chesterton lived before the era of television. His gifts, his amiability, his very simple eccentricities would have tempted him to become one of the great performers on that damning machine. He lived on the edge of the chasm. Men still had to express themselves in writing until Chesterton was too well habituated to literature to learn new tricks. Living today his words would be lost, his prestige prodigious and his renown brief.
The Everlasting Man is still widely considered one of Chesterton's two or three greatest works, a rollicking and fascinating book that, states the Ignatius Press description, outlines Chesterton's "whole view of world history as informed by the Incarnation.
Beginning with the origin of man and the various religious attitudes
throughout history, Chesterton shows how the fulfillment of all of man's
desires takes place in the person of Christ and in Christ's Church." In essence, it is an apologetic for the Incarnation, the "particular paradox of the divine being in the cradle."
Read an excerpt: