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G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
Gilbert Keith Chesterton was, in a word, huge. Tall and weighing close to 400 pounds, he once told a chauffeur who suggested he attempt to exit a car sideways, “I have no sideways.” But Chesterton loomed large in other ways as well. He commanded the attention of an enormous audience through his prolific production of newspaper columns, short stories, novels, plays, poetry, and non-fiction. He counted many of Britain’s leading lights among his friends and enemies. And he exerted a powerful influence on the next generation of British Christian writers, a group that included J.R.R. Tolkien, T.S. Eliot, Dorothy Sayers, and C.S. Lewis.
Nothing in Chesterton’s upbringing suggested such an important career. He was born to a conventionally liberal, middle-class family that fit comfortably into the secular culture of the late Victorian era. Within that culture, Chesterton later wrote in his wonderful Autobiography, “We might almost say that agnosticism was an established church.” His education, at the Slade School of Art, was even more resolutely anti-religious, or at least anti-Christian. A creative and restless mind such as Chesterton’s might have been expected to explore anything other than orthodoxy. . . .
Elesha Coffman, is an Assistant Professor of History, Baylor University. She teaches modern U.S. and intellectual history at Baylor. She graduated from Wheaton College and worked at Christianity Today International before completing her PhD at Duke University. Her scholarly interests include American evangelical and mainline Protestant traditions, print media, assessments of cultural influence, and religious constructions of gender. She is writing a spiritual biography of the anthropologist Margaret Mead for the Oxford University Press “Spiritual Lives” series, edited by Timothy Larsen.