A woman who is impressing me to death, one of the teachers of Maryvale Academy, Mrs. Heather Bradley, handed me a little essay of Chesterton a few minutes ago. She thought I would like to see what her 7/8 Lit. class would be studying this morning. Little does this woman know that when Chesterton comes into play my immediate reaction is always, "Good grief! Here we go with Chesterton again!"
It was his essay on Cheese, written in 1910. The first paragraph alone supplies sufficient explanation for why Chesterton should be so loved by, yes, Catholics, and I would say, deserves to be loved by anyone who takes classical (read: good or solid) education seriously.
So, maybe I am rethinking my disdain.
See, I am not a logical person. My likes and dislikes operate independently of the inherent quality of a thing or person I am appraising. These depend, rather, upon my surmising of the state of their celebrity. If something is popular I hate it. If it is the underdog, I am its partisan. I make a few exceptions: Dostoevsky, notably.
To make me love a thing, revile it, to make me scorn it, give praise. This is called oppositional defiant disorder. It is commonplace for bloggers. My wife has diagnosed me.
Occasionally something breaks through my adamantine walls, like Chesterton's essay 'Cheese.'
But this is not the subject of this post. So I began to read the essay on 'Cheese.' But, not even having finished the first paragraph, I could proceed no further. Inspiration struck like lightening. I had to run to this keyboard and ask, "Who are History's Greatest Bloggers?"
While I would not put Chesterton at the top, I would be hard pressed to find many to put over him. He has the wit and the sense of balance of expression and of humour, moreover, to put him right up to the tippy-top, but not quite all the way there. It is to his benefit that Chesteron seems to lack that one thing that infects many even great authors - a fault which would exclude so many likely candidates from the tippiest-top. Most great writers are too serious, too fixated on one thing. Thus, the greatest of modern writers, Leo Tolstoy, in the last half of his life, any way, would have been a dreadful bore. I would have been his blog's one 'follower,' and this not on account of anything other than my aeneidan piety.
So, let's begin with a few others who would not have made the cut, listed here in order of the outrage created by my exclusion of them:
4) Pope Benedict XVI. A powerful, wise, holy, perceptive, ingenious author. Is not too shy to write polemically, hence the Regensburg Address. However, limited by his office to write too much 'off the record.'
3) William Shakespeare. Although noms de plume are sometimes assumed by bloggers, in this case, as 'William Shakespeare,' Edward de Ver wrote too abstractly. Part of the pleasure of reading blogs lies in finding something in them to argue about. How can you fight about "the evil men do sometimes lives after them," really?
2) Cato the Elder. One great one-liner. Carthago delenda est. Can't live off that forever, as the old lady from the Wendy's commercials eventually discovered.
1) St. Thomas Aquinas. The author who includes the following in his commentary on St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians:
In the salutation, the person greeting comes first, second those greeted, and thirdly the formula of greeting. In reference to the first, he gives the name of the person, Paul; second, that person’s authority as an Apostle of Christ; lastly, the giver of this authority, by the will of God. He says Paul which is a name of humility, He is referring to the Latin “paulus” which means “little, small, trifling.” St. Thomas has more to say on the name Paul in his first lecture on Ch. 1 of the Letter to the Romans. Close whereas the title of Apostle is one of dignity; the reason is that “he that humbles himself shall be exalted” (Lk. 14:11; 18:14). An Apostle, I mean, of Jesus and not one of the pseudo-apostles who are of Satan: “It is no great thing if his [Satan’s] ministers be transformed as the ministers of justice” (2 Cor. 11:15). I am an apostle, he says, not by my own merits but by the will of God. In many instances it is just the opposite—“They have reigned, but not by me” (Hos. 8:4).
Sorry, I fell asleep for a second there after I pressed 'paste.'
So, on to the best-of all time bloggers list:
5) Either Chesterton or St. Bernard of Clairvaux. St. Bernard, a man with whom one is not permitted, neither by heaven nor by earth, to disagree. The man lectured popes. He was as angry as needed (sometimes more so) and as loving as needed to edify the most casual blog-surfer. Occasionally bordering on the pedantic, like Conrad Black, by whom one cannot ever resent being belittled. Strangely, I enjoy being condescended to by Black, much as Pope Eugenius III did by St. Bernard. I feel like, since he is actually really educating me and entertaining me, I deserve this treatment. I am grateful for the presence of an educated man in the papers. After all, one should be belittled by one's betters.
4) Bl. John Henry Newman. Perfection in a writer. His only shortcoming as a blogger: too smart, too difficult a read for most (me included).
3) Friedrich Nietzsche. Read anything by him at any time and then you will know. He is always a remedy for mindless hate and excoria. Yes, I said cure for.
2) St. Clement of Alexandria. A ingenious blend of the profound and mundane, all in the light of God's love for man. All the best qualities of Clement - Origin's teacher - can be found interspersed amongst the greatest bloggers today, like Fr. de Souza, Mark Shea and Simcha Fisher. Some nearly randomly selected passages of this second-greatest blogger:
The Greek preparatory culture, therefore, with philosophy itself, is shown to have come down from God to men, not with a definite direction but in the way in which showers fall down on the good land, and on the dunghill, and on the houses. And similarly both the grass and the wheat sprout; and the figs and any other reckless trees grow on sepulchres. And things that grow, appear as a type of truths...
the ideas entertained of God by wicked men must be bad, and those by good men most excellent. And therefore he who is in soul truly kingly and gnostic, being likewise pious and free from superstition, is persuaded that He who alone is God is honourable, venerable, august, beneficent, the doer of good, the author of all good things, but not the cause of evil...
Then by the practice of temperance men seek health: and by cramming themselves, and wallowing in potations at feasts, they attract diseases...
There are many, too, that dread inscriptions set up. Very cleverly Diogenes, on finding in the house of a bad man the inscription, “Hercules, for victory famed, dwells here; let nothing bad enter,” remarked, “And how shall the master of the house go in?”
1) St. Augustine of Hippo, obviously. Though by today's standards he boarders on loquacious, he has every ounce of humour, sagacity, vituperance, all in perfect measure, to qualify him as history's all-time greatest blogger. Could make anything interesting. Everything he wrote deserves to be studied endlessly.
* Bonus Points:
Can you spot the several neologisms in this post? Email your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org by June 23, 2012, for your chance to win lots of fun prizes. Neologisms are fun.
Update: I think Kierkegaard and Pascal would have made fine bloggers too...