Tuesday, October 27, 2009

G. K. Chesterton goes canvassing

From Chesterton's Autobiography, first published in 1936:

Charles Masterman used to swear with derisive gusto that when we went canvassing together, he went all down one side of a street and up most of the other, and found me in the first house, still arguing the philosophy of government with the first householder.

... it is perfectly true that I began electioneering under the extraordinary delusion that the object of canvassing is conversion. The object of canvassing is counting. The only real reason for people being pestered in their own houses by party agents is quite unconnected with the principles of the party (which are often a complete mystery to the agents): it is simply that the agents may discover from the words, manner, gesticulations, oaths, curses, kicks or blows of the householder, whether he is likely to vote for the party candidate, or not to vote at all.

Nothing has changed, but it is pleasing to find that Chesterton and Masterman were friends.


Matthew Huntbach said...

It is a reminder that Chesterton was a Liberal.

Unfortunately, his memory is being held captive by a bunch of right-wing Catholics for whom "liberal" is a dirty word. They are very keen on making out that GKC was a conservative like them.

He never was, and he needs saving from that bunch.

Jacobitess said...

Happily, Chesterton evolved to become above the dichotomy of liberal/conservative (as was plain from his written work, see the Grey Monk and the Lamppost analogy).

In either case, he would have shunned the intellectual snobbery of liberalism (which is certainly not liberal in the classical sense) and held hands even with grubby middle-class conservatives if that's what it took to save innocent life.

Set your left-wing right on the issue of abortion, and then there may be a meeting of minds.