Wednesday, June 4, 2014

HvS's Conversion, G. K. Chesterton's Influence (Superseded)

Young HvS (L, at 6 years) with Willem
van Stockum (R) and their parents,
about 1914.
[The entirety of this and the comments that follows have been added to HvS's biography, which supersedes this post.]

One of the wonderful things about the Internet and Google in particular is that connections are made for you that are illuminating.

My mother Hilda van Stockum always told me that G. K. Chesterton's book What's Wrong with the World was an important influence on her decision to join the Catholic Church.

But John Beaumont's new book on Catholic conversions in the United States mentions another book that clinched the decision.  His book is The Mississippi Flows Into the Tiber: A Guide to Notable American Converts to the Catholic Church (South Bend, Indiana: Fidelity Press, 2014), 1014 pp., $69, Hardcover.   

I reached the quote via a review of Beaumont's book by Anne Barbeau Gardiner. She says:
throughout these pages we see the influence of certain books on conversions, such as the works of Thomas Aquinas, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Newman, Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and Gilson. Then, too, some entered at an early age, like Marco Rubio who at thirteen told his parents he wanted to be a Catholic, and others, like Wallace Stevens, waited till their deathbed. Some inched their way into the Church over the course of years, like John Sparrow Thompson, the first Catholic Prime Minister of Canada, and others converted in a flash, like Hilda van Stockum, who finished reading Arnold Lunn’s Now I See and exclaimed, “I’m not thinking about being a Catholic, I am a Catholic.”
This is not a good time for me to order Lunn's book or try to find it online, because I am about to leave for D-Day memorials, including one to HvS's brother Willem van Stockum. I am posting this in the hope that someone will know the book and will contact me.


  1. On Google + 1 Michael Phillips questioned G. K. Chesterton's right to be a spiritual leader on the grounds that he was anti-Semitic. I cited Paul Johnson on this topic and Michael was satisfied. I'd like to have this attached to my original post. Johnson wrote in 2010: "Why this hostility [to Chesterton by the BBC]? One explanation often advanced is that he was anti-Semitic. I have never been able to see this. His odd and aggressive brother, Cecil, was certainly an anti-Semite. So was his friend and associate Hilaire Belloc. GKC was involved in the Marconi campaign against Lloyd George and Rufus Isaacs. But that was all. GKC lacked all the characteristics of the real anti-Semite: love of conspiracy theory, bitterness, huge hidden hatreds and violence of thought. It is significant that he saw through Hitler before anyone else in England, issuing dire warnings from 1932 onwards. Before his death in 1936, he even predicted Hitler would begin the Second World War with a grab at Poland."

  2. May 29, 2017 — Today is G.K. Chesterton's birthday and is a good time to update this post with some additional comments. He was born in London in 1874. He was a large man, well over six feet, and rotund. He used to say that when he got the urge to go and exercise he would lie down until the urge passed away. He argued with people like H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, but he kept them as friends. He wrote 4,000 newspaper essays, 80 books, several hundred poems, about 200 short stories, and several plays. His Father Brown stories, about a detective-slash-priest, were imitated in the social-psychological crime series called Inspector Morse and its follow-on Endeavour. He dabbled in mysticism before going the Church of England and then becoming a Catholic. His book The Everlasting Man (1925) contributed to C.S. Lewis's conversion from atheism to Christianity. Chesterton wrote of Shaw, in Heretics (1905): "If man, as we know him, is incapable of the philosophy of progress, Mr. Shaw asks, not for a new kind of philosophy, but for a new kind of man. It is rather as if a nurse had tried a rather bitter food for some years on a baby, and on discovering that it was not suitable, should not throw away the food and ask for a new food, but throw the baby out of window, and ask for a new baby."
    Another quote:
    "The sane man knows that he has a touch of the beast, a touch of the devil, a touch of the saint, a touch of the citizen. Nay, the really sane man knows that he has a touch of the madman. But the materialist's world is quite simple and solid, just as the madman is quite sure he is sane." (Orthodoxy, 1908)
    "Fairy tales do not give a child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon." (Tremendous Trifles, 1909)
    "Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property, that they may more perfectly respect it." (The Man Who Was Thursday, 1908)
    For the great Gaels of Ireland
    Are the men that God made mad,
    For all their wars are merry,
    And all their songs are sad."
    (The Ballad of the White Horse, 1911)