Cover image for Gilbert, the man who was G.K. Chesterton
Gilbert, the man who was G.K. Chesterton
Coren, Michael.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Paragon House, 1990.
Physical Description:
304 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
"Published in a slightly different version by Jonathan Cape, Ltd., United Kingdom, 1989"--T.p. verso.

Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PR4453.C4 Z5876 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
Central Library PR4453.C4 Z5876 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Biographers of Chesterton can't really go wrong: the man is theatrically eccentric in such a lovable way he might have emerged full-grown from the brow of Dickens. The priggish Catholic and anti-Semite in private life is generously paradoxical in his serious fiction. His spiritualism--a Ouija board saved one of his marriages--will endear him to New Agers. He was no misogynist; misogynists have to think about women. His friendships (with men, of course) were steadfast. And finally, he loved to party. Coren's biography, relying on voluminous correspondence, convincingly details the Victorian London in which Chesterton lived through his pen, though his subject's unconventionality at times baffles the biographer. Bibliography; to be indexed. --Roland Wulbert

Publisher's Weekly Review

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936), although perhaps best known nowadays for his Father Brown mysteries, which have been adapted for TV, was a prolific poet, novelist and essayist. He deserves another biography, but this affectionate work by a Toronto literary critic is merely adequate. Catholic writers in particular have lauded Chesterton's wit, style and industriousness, while others have castigated his logorrhea, sloppy research, unintending insensitivity and anti-Semitism. Coren tries to deal fairly with the corpulent, sword-stick-carrying author--whom he insists on calling Gilbert--but he fails to convince us of Chesterton's charm or importance. Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Chesterton (1874-1936) crammed his life with work, drawing, editing, debating, and writing mysteries, biographies, histories, essays, and poetry, over 70 volumes in all. He knew many contemporary literary figures such as Shaw, Belloc, and Beerbohm. In a balanced and chronological way, Coren follows this huge, peculiar man, quoting extensively from letters, journals, and his autobiography. In readable prose he chronicles Chesterton's sometimes naive economic and political ideas, occasional bigotry, efforts to maintain his bloated body, and influential conversion to Catholicism. With his ``frequent insistence on treading the middle road, even when that position was untenable,'' Chesterton is a slippery, sometimes annoying, figure. The book is a life, not a literary criticism, and is recommended for large libraries that want another view of this writer.-- John Miller, Normandale Community Coll., Bloom ington, Minn. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Yet another biography of G. K. Chesterton, Coren's offering might be most easily characterized as a domestic one, in contrast to the politically oriented The Outline of Sanity by Alzina Stone Dale (CH, May '83) or to Michael Ffinch's G.K. Chesterton (1986), which traced the religious development. Coren handles the domesticity well, including a fuller treatment of Chesterton's childhood, schooldays, and early professional career than any this reviewer has seen before. As many others lured to write on Chesterton may have experienced, however, such choices have high costs, in that one must ignore other facets of a long and multileveled career, a career that included the writing of about 130 books. Among other things that Coren chooses to jettison is extended criticism of the works and ideas; when he does get into such matters, he writes, at most, a page or two and very often only a paragraph or even a sentence. Coren handles the problem of the anti-Semitism and racism more evenhandedly than any of his predecessors, and he is not afraid to conclude that the hero is more than a little tainted and guilty in helping to create the atmosphere that led to more horrendous events. Conversely he downplays the Roman Catholicism, which has been a stumbling block for many potential readers of GKC. Nonetheless, this is a rewarding and well-written book that deserves the attention of serious Chestertonians and would be a worthwhile purchase for all libraries. L. J. Clipper Indiana University at South Bend

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