Saturday, July 26, 2008

Rediscovering an old quote

My Chesterton project has paid off in one particular way that I had been hoping to see: when I first read this volume XXVII of Chesterton's Collected Works (his first ILN articles) I'd come across a quote that I thought was absolutely hilarious. Unfortunately, I didn't write it down at the time or turn down the corner of the page, so I could never find it again. Now I've found it again, and I'm copying it down so I'll never lose it. Anyone who knows Chesterton knows that he was rather a bulky person, which adds to the humour. He starts off quoting a writer of the time, who was complaining that there were too many foreigners in England:
This is what Mr. Sims says about the decay of English trade--
In many parts of London, Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, and other great business centres, the prevalent language in the business quarters is not English. In London itself you may, at the hour the city lunches, enter restaurant after restaurant in the region lying round the Bank of England, and not hear a word of English spoken by the clamouring clientèle.
I cannot say, of course, that I have ever tested this in all its details. I never go into restaurant after restaurant, as I generally find that I can get all that I want in one, even if the resources of the establishment stagger for a moment under the strain.

September 8, 1906


Anonymous Antique said...

Chesterton, when he put his heart into it, could be at once eloquently charming and flippant, as you observe. He could also be incredibly poetic, using his words as perhaps Raphael might have used a brush. I can't recall the specific story, but one of his Fr Brown Mysteries began with, "Somewhere between the dawn and the sea a boat <something or another>."

I don't remember the story plot or even how that sentence was finished. I just remember the beautifully painted canvas of my mind. I envision standing on a deserted quay and looking out to the horizon, where I see a ruddy gray haze undercut by a sharp line of glistening black below it, and to my surprise I suddenly notice the near approach of a small wooden boat, its sole occupant striking the lone, homemade sail and preparing quietly to disembark for nefarious deeds.

All that from 9 words.

12:54 am  

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