Here we go with Part Four of our brand new Tale for Our Time - taking us from our anarchic age to the anarchists of a century ago in G K Chesterton's metaphysical thriller, The Man Who Was Thursday. In tonight's episode, the author gives us a brilliant character sketch of our protagonist:
Gabriel Syme was not merely a detective who pretended to be a poet; he was really a poet who had become a detective. Nor was his hatred of anarchy hypocritical. He was one of those who are driven early in life into too conservative an attitude by the bewildering folly of most revolutionists. He had not attained it by any tame tradition. His respectability was spontaneous and sudden, a rebellion against rebellion.
I think that's even truer today: A conservative is less and less likely to be a chap of "tame tradition", and increasingly someone who, confronted by (as Laura Rosen Cohen notes) a supposedly Tory mayor obliged to pretend that men menstruate, decides to rebel against rebellion. Chesterton continues:
He came of a family of cranks, in which all the oldest people had all the newest notions. One of his uncles always walked about without a hat, and another had made an unsuccessful attempt to walk about with a hat and nothing else. His father cultivated art and self-realisation; his mother went in for simplicity and hygiene. Hence the child, during his tenderer years, was wholly unacquainted with any drink between the extremes of absinth and cocoa, of both of which he had a healthy dislike. The more his mother preached a more than Puritan abstinence the more did his father expand into a more than pagan latitude; and by the time the former had come to enforcing vegetarianism, the latter had pretty well reached the point of defending cannibalism.
Being surrounded with every conceivable kind of revolt from infancy, Gabriel had to revolt into something, so he revolted into the only thing leftâ€”sanity. But there was just enough in him of the blood of these fanatics to make even his protest for common sense a little too fierce to be sensible.
Thank you for your kind comments about this selection for our incendiary spring. Peter, a First Week Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club, writes from Berkshire (England, not Massachusetts):
I'm enjoying Mark's reading of The Man Who Was Thursday... The Flying Inn is another fine novel, funny and sadly apposite today: but I'm not sure about the full version of "The Logical Vegetarian"... Perhaps delete stanza three?
(I'm hoping MS reads Brave New World)
We get a lot of requests for The Flying Inn, Peter, so it is kinda sorta on the list maybe for later in Season Four.
Tales for Our Time is now three years old. So, if you've a friend who might be partial to our classic fiction outings, we have a special Gift Membership that, aside from audio yarns, also includes video poetry, live music and more. And I'll be doing a live-performance Tale for Our Time at sea on the next Mark Steyn Cruise - assuming that we're ever again permitted to sail.
Please join me tomorrow evening for Part Five of The Man Who Was Thursday.