Friday, 27 March 2015


This is G. K. Chesterton and his wife Frances, nee Blogg. They were a devoted and happy couple, and Frances was largely responsible for managing the chronically disorganised Chesterton's life. (He famously once sent her a telegram reading 'Am in Market Harborough. Where ought I to be?')

When they were engaged, Gilbert sent Frances a letter beginning '...I am looking over the sea and endeavouring to reckon up the estate I have to offer you.' You can read all twelve items he came up with here, but here are the first six. The sixth is my favourite.

1st. A Straw Hat. The oldest part of this admirable relic shows traces of pure Norman work. The vandalism of Cromwell's soldiers has left us little of the original hat-band.

2nd. A Walking Stick, very knobby and heavy: admirably fitted to break the head of any denizen of Suffolk who denies that you are the noblest of ladies, but of no other manifest use.

3rd. A copy of Walt Whitman's poems, once nearly given to Salter, but quite forgotten. It has his name in it still with an affectionate inscription from his sincere friend Gilbert Chesterton. I wonder if he will ever have it.

4th. A number of letters from a young lady, containing everything good and generous and loyal and holy and wise that isn't in Walt Whitman's poems.

5th. An unwieldy sort of a pocket knife, the blades mostly having an edge of a more varied and picturesque outline than is provided by the prosaic cutler. The chief element however is a thing 'to take stones out of a horse's hoof.' What a beautiful sensation of security it gives one to reflect that if one should ever have money enough to buy a horse and should happen to buy one and the horse should happen to have stone in his hoof--that one is ready; one stands prepared, with a defiant smile!

6th. Passing from the last miracle of practical foresight, we come to a box of matches. Every now and then I strike one of these, because fire is beautiful and burns your fingers. Some people think this waste of matches: the same people who object to the building of Cathedrals.


Fifth Bear said...

I am imagining Chesterton playing tennis. The mind frankly boggles.

Kathryn said...

This is lovely. Thank you.

Also: Robbie Hudson was an excellent Stunt Finnemore on Wednesday. If you ever require an understudy for that surely inevitable Since You Ask Me musical, I'm sure he'd be only too delighted to step into the breach.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful sensation of security it gives one to reflect that if one should ever have money enough to buy a horse ....


Anonymous said...

Oddly, he reminds me of someone...

Jü said...

This is a great find - thanks for sharing. I'm lightning a match now in the Chestertons' memory.

The telegram made me chuckle - I'm glad to find out I'm not the first person who is essentielly a remote secretarial and GPS service for relatives and friends.

(Also, Blogspot is creepy with its interchangeable country domain endings. I came here through the link you tweeted and this link totally reveals where you were when you copied it/clicked the 'share' button).

Lothiriel said...

I love that list! I hope it'll make into the upcoming series of John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme.

Oh, and are you sure that Chesterton doesn't happen to be one of your ancestors, by any chance?

Tim said...

John, loved the post I have for the last 5 years or so been fond of Chesterton's writing. I want to make a list like this once I have a fiancee. I thought you were going to comment further, like writing a list of your own? Can you please write one and post it here?

1 I am in possession of some obscure knowledge for instance that the number of passengers on an aircraft at which it is necessary to have a steward is 19.
2. I happen to hold the knowledge of 10 weird games which will never make car trips boring again including but not limited to: Brians of Britain, Extreme Simon Says, Titles That Would Sound Better With The Final Letter Knocked Off, Passenger Derby, Hero/Villain Names, Flight Deck Buckeroo, Yellow Car, etc.
3. I treasure my intercom system which I can use to make nonsense announcements and pretend to be important (love the airport)
4 I have a bottle of Talker which I use to raise a toast to Mr. Birling.
5. I have a slightly devious mind with which I liberated said whiskey.
6. I have the approval of millions of fans world wide.

Bess said...

Read the whole letter from the link. Golly! I'd marry anybody, straw hat or none, who wrote me a letter like that. Thanks for sharing it. xx

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see the straw hat. Is it on show somewhere? What has happened to it?

Kirsty said...

Isn't it a shame Frances lived too early to have a blog?

TheRealEmily said...

"Some people think this waste of matches: the same people who object to the building of Cathedrals."


Simon Harries said...

Superb! I think I might be a knock-kneed epicure...

Anonymous said...

Fascinating. Whitman, eh??? GKC was indeed a man of contradiction, although this may explain certain things. Idealistic young men often run into the arms of Orthodoxy in middle age for some security. Blogg was obviously a good solid blanket, which smothered out Whitman's "monstrous wrong," i.e. something tells me Salter got the poems soon after. Thank you for this entry. I was looking for an interesting bio on GKC and this helped me find one.

Btw: I, Not Robot (wink,wink). First law of Robot Club, you don't talk about Robot Club.

Anonymous said...

He also made a very enjoyable marriage proposal...

doc dave said...

The upper reaches of the letter are charming to hilarious; the finale is sublime. One forgets that Chesterton the bulky orthodoxist was also wildly, wittily romantic. Now, how was he at lawn tennis?

Laura Slade said...

Who else thinks Mrs Chesterton looks like Alan Davis in drag?

TaB said...

This brings out the sappy smiles in me - I challenge the Twilights and 50 greying shades of this cynical world to bring back sweet romantic gestures like these.

Anonymous said...

The thought his rotundity playing Tennis of course brings to mind Chesterton's observation,
--"Anything worth doing is worth doing badly." This is my justification to those who laughed when I took up the lap harp (a "Fullsickle" I named Pottifer) at the age of 64. (Yes, my husband still needs me, my husband still feeds me, though I'm. . .usually out of tune )

Hannah Long said...

Don't forget, this was also the man who costarred with George Bernard Shaw in a silent cowboy film entitled How Men Love, directed by J.M. Barrie.

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