Lecture 120: Chesterton’s Unwritten Books – Part One – Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton
The Apostolate of Common Sense

Lecture 120: Chesterton’s Unwritten Books – Part One

Books Chesterton Wanted to Write but Never Did

These Chesterton University columns began more than fifteen years ago, and our survey of Chesterton’s books is now complete. We will next begin to delve into his vast uncollected writings, but before we do let us first consider the books that he did not write but wanted to. There are probably more of these than we will ever discover, but here begins the list of what Chesterton himself made known: 

 

  1. Once I planned to write a book of poems entirely about the things in my pockets.  But I found it would be too long; and the age of the great epics is past. (“A Piece of Chalk,”Tremendous Trifles) 

 

  1. There is a gentleman who is always writing letters tome of a controversial character. I have never had the time adequately to answer his communications. My only comfort is that I possess every line he ever wrote, being ready even to sell books to make room for his stacks of correspondence. Thus, I have all the materials for his biography, which I intend to write some day. (Daily News, June 30, 1906) 

 

  1. I once planned out a series of short stories, exactly on the same model as the short stories about Sherlock Holmes, and having titles similar to The Adventure of the Speckled Band, or The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb. Only my stories were all intended to narrate not instances of marvelous observation, but instances of marvelous lack of observation. I was the Sherlock Homes of this series, and I had a Watson who continually broke out into respectful astonishment at the things that I failed to notice and the small details that I did not observe. He asked me in dazed admiration how I had managed not to post the letter that was given me that morning, or not to see the man into whom I had run in the street. Of course, I only waved my hand at him airily, and said, “You know my methods.” (Daily News, Mar. 23, 1907) 

 

  1. I have often had a fancy for writing a romance about an English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas. I always find, however, that I am either too busy or too lazy to write this fine work. (“Introduction,”Orthodoxy)

 

  1. My forthcoming work in five volumes,The Neglect of Cheese in European Literature, is a work of such unprecedented and laborious detail that it is doubtful if I shall live to finish it. Some overflowings from such a fountain of information may therefore be permitted to sprinkle this page. I cannot yet wholly explain the neglect to which I refer. Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. (Daily News, July 10, 1909) 

 

  1. If I write a novel about the future I shall make the whole populace live in a clean and comparatively humane jail. (Illustrated London News, Dec. 30, 1911) 

 

  1. Before I finally desert the illusions of rationalism for the actualities of romance, I should very much like to write one last roaring, raging book telling all the rationalists not to be so utterly irrational. The book would be simply a string of violent vetoes, like the Ten Commandments. I would call it “Don’ts for Dogmatists; or Things I am Tired Of.” (“The Angry Author,”Miscellany of Men) 

 

  1. Some day, I think, I shall take a holiday and write a book full of opinions that I do not hold. Then shall the world see what a paradox is really like, and my enemies be confounded. (Illustrated London News, May 10, 1913) 

 

  1. I have never been to America, and what is more, I gravely doubt I shall ever go there. I have my vision of New York, and why should I undo it? I have half a mind to put it all into a book, and I might call the book “America Unvisited.” (New York Times, July 19, 1914) [He would visit America 6 years later.]

 

  1. Some day I will write a thrilling book of travels about all the places I have never visited. (New Witness, Sept. 9, 1915) 

 

  1. I have no opinion of the ideal which dismisses charity as a mere confession of injustice. I should class it with the Fifty-Seven Fallacies of the Victorian Age, a trifle in some twenty-four volumes which it is my intention to toss off. (New Witness, Dec. 20, 1917)

 

  1. Among the numberless fictitious things that I have fortunately never written, there was a little story about a logical maiden lady engaging apartments in which she was not allowed to keep a cat or a dog, who, nevertheless stipulated for permission to keep a bird, and who eventually walked round to her new lodging accompanied by an ostrich. (New Witness, Feb. 7, 1919)

 

  1. If ever I wrote a responsible and serious sociological forecast, which God forbid, I should represent many existing and dominant English institutions as still existing but as no longer dominant; as dwarfed by newer but larger things. (New Witness, Jan. 10, 1919)

 

  1. I once sketched out a short story about a Sidney Webb Utopia, in which each person was obliged to consume a certain amount of soap: and some child or artist was punished for having wasted it in blowing soap bubbles. (New Witness, Aug. 29, 1919)

 

  1. Some dayI shall publish a great historical work—a monograph based on laborious research, but revealing a sensational secret. It will be devoted to demonstrating that the younger daughter of James II, commonly called Queen Anne…is dead. (Illustrated London News, Sept. 18, 1920) 

 

  1. I never use paradox. The statements I make are wearisome and obvious common sense. I have even been driven to the tedium of reading through my own books, and have been unable to find any paradox. In fact, the thing is quite tragic, and some day I hope to write an epic called “Paradox Lost.” (New York Times, Feb. 7, 1921) 

This essay was first published in the July/August 2016 issue of Gilbert! magazine.