Waugh and Chesterton

The Italian religious website Radio Spada has posted an essay by Luca Fumagalli entitled “Chesterton e Waugh: ridere per non dimenticare“,  roughly “Chesterton and Waugh: laughing so as not to forget.” The article notes that Waugh and Chesterton had little to connect them as writers except their similar paths in converting to Roman Catholicism:

Chesterton and Waugh are, so to speak, the alpha and omega of the first period of English Catholic literature from the early twentieth century, the one that draws in full from the theological-cultural tradition of Newman and Manning, and ending with the 2nd Vatican Council  (criticized by Waugh) and after which leadership passed to Graham Greene and a new generation of progressive authors. Waugh… admired the work of Chesterton, in particular the poem “Lepanto”, a striking lyrical rider in the footsteps of Don John of Austria and the Christian fleet defeating that of Turkey in 1571…

In fact, the work of Chesterton which Waugh seems to have emphasized over all others is his survey of history The Everlasting Man, not cited in the article. Waugh also mentions in his writings another of Chesterton’s poems “The Song of Right and Wrong”, the first verse of which Waugh is said to have recited from memory to a group of Notre Dame University students to whom he had lectured in 1949:

FEAST on wine or fast on water,/And your honour shall stand sure,/God Almighty’s son and daughter/He the valiant, she the pure;/If an angel out of heaven/Brings you other things to drink,/Thank him for his kind attentions,/Go and pour them down the sink.

This was by way of explaining to the students why he found the lack of beer and wine in their dining halls one of the most annoying things about America. In the lecture he gave on that tour, Chesterton was one of the three British writers whose works he discussed. The others were Ronald Knox and Graham Greene, all converts to Roman Catholicism.

After discussing other works by Waugh and Chesterton (including Brideshead Revisited) Fumagalli concludes his essay: 

The “Contra mundum” shouted out loudly by Charles and Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited, far from being the slogan of a post-adolescent rebellion, is the banner under which Chesterton and Waugh are battling to challenge conventions and banality. And both writers, to face a declining universe, decide to use the smile, a sophisticated weapon, the best way to entertain and engage the reader. If Chesterton excels in the art of paradox, Waugh opts for satire, for a melancholy laugh, with tight teeth, which sometimes results in the extremes of black humor. His temperamental style, however, has nothing nihilistic about it, and teasing is never separated from pity and compassion, to evoke the mysterious ways by which Divine Providence attains its purposes. Still today, Chesterton and Waugh are two authors who deserve to be read and read…

Translation is by Google Translate with minor edits. Not sure about the title and a few other points if anyone would care to comment.

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