Great Twin Brethren,
Who fought so well for Rome.
A critic was struck some years ago by the propriety of the fact that Mr. Chesterton and Mr. Belloc brought out books of the same kind and the same size, through the same publisher, almost in the same week. Mr. Belloc, to be sure, called his volume of essays This, That, and the Other, and Mr. Chesterton called his A Miscellany of Men. But if Mr. Chesterton had called his book This, That, and the Other and Mr. Belloc had called his A Miscellany of Men, it would not have made a pennyworth of difference. Each book is simply a ragbag of essays—the riotous and fantastically joyous essays of Mr. Chesterton, the sardonic and arrogantly gay essays of Mr. Belloc. Each, however, has a unity of outlook, not only an internal unity, but a unity with the other. Each has the outlook of the mediaevalist spirit—the spirit which finds crusades and miracles more natural than peace meetings and the discoveries of science, which gives Heaven and Hell a place on the map of the world, which casts a sinister eye on Turks and Jews, which brings its gaiety to the altar as the tumbler in the story brought his cap and bells, which praises dogma and wine and the rule of the male, which abominates the scientific spirit, and curses the day on which Bacon was born. Probably, neither of the authors would object to being labelled a mediaevalist, except in so far as we all object to having labels affixed to us by other people. Mr. Chesterton’s attitude on the matter, indeed, is clear from that sentence in What’s Wrong with the World, in which he affirms: “Mankind has not passed through the Middle Ages. Rather mankind has retreated from the Middle Ages in reaction and rout.” And if, on learning some of the inferences he makes from this, you protest that he is reactionary, and is trying to put back the hands of the clock, he is quite unashamed, and replies that the moderns “are always saying ‘you can’t put the clock back.’ The simple and obvious answer is, ‘You can.’ A clock, being a piece of human construction, can be restored by the human finger to any figure or hour.” The effrontery of an answer like that is so magnificent that it takes one’s breath away. The chief difficulty of Mr. Chesterton and Mr. Belloc, however, seems to be that they want their clock to point to two different hours at the same time, neither of which happens to be the hour which the sun has just marked at Greenwich. They want it to point at once to 878 and 1789—to Ethandune and the French Revolution.
Similar though they are in the revolutio-mediaevalist background of their philosophy, however, Mr. Chesterton and Mr. Belloc are as unlike as possible in the spirit in which they proclaim it. If Mr. Chesterton gets up on his box to prophesy against the times, he seems to do so out of a passionate and unreasoning affection for his fellows. If Mr. Belloc denounces the age, he seems also to be denouncing the human race.