The English, History, and Classics departments joined forces to invite renowned Chesterton scholar Dale Ahlquist to speak at Christendom in February. Ahlquist is President of the American Chesterton Society and host of the EWTN series “G.K. Chesterton – The Apostle of Common Sense.” He is also the father of Julian Ahlquist who is a junior at Christendom.
A large crowd of both students and faculty gathered in the College’s ChesterBelloc room to hear about “The book on Shakespeare that Chesterton never wrote.” Ahlquist offered G.K. Chesterton’s witty and profound insights on Hamlet, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (which is the Spring play of the Christendom College Players). According to Ahlquist, Chesterton was less a critic of Shakespeare than he was a critic of the critics of Shakespeare, of those who would psychoanalyze Shakespeare, of those who would force Shakespeare into narrow modern philosophies, of those who claim Shakespeare was really someone else, and of those who would “turn good poetry into bad metaphysics.” Chesterton’s response to the rather small-minded critics who complained that Shakespeare borrowed all his plots was, “If Shakespeare borrowed, he jolly well paid back.”
Ahlquist also spoke outside the College’s rare books room in the library to celebrate the college’s acquisition of a complete run of G.K.’s Weekly. Describing the paper as “Chesterton’s Scrapbook,” Ahlquist explained how Chesterton poured a great variety of material into this journal of politics and literature with original essays, poems, drawings, short news items and commentary. He also presented Chesterton’s views on the generally misunderstood issue of Distributism, the social philosophy that the great writer spent so much time defending in his newspaper. Small businesses and widespread ownership were seen by Chesterton as the best way of protecting the family and society as a whole. The break up of society began, said Chesterton, with the drift from hearth and home. The solution must involve a drift back.
Although Chesterton was a popular writer in his time, his newspaper never had a wide circulation, which explains in part why a complete collection is very rare. It also explains why the paper was never able to support itself. Whenever there was red ink, Chesterton would write a new Father Brown story to pay the bills. So, as Ahlquist explained, “Many people had to be killed in order to keep G.K.’s Weekly going. But Father Brown always discovered who the murderer was.” Several important writers also contributed articles to G.K.’s Weekly, including George Bernard Shaw, Ronald Knox, Christopher Dawson, and George Orwell. But the most important writer was G.K. Chesterton. There is a great deal of Chesterton material here that is not found anywhere else, and Ahlquist called it “a wealthy mine that is waiting to be excavated.” He said that Christendom is very privileged to have this collection.