Muggeridge on King Lear and G. K. Chesterton

Muggeridge on King Lear and G. K. Chesterton

Malcolm Muggerridge,  Chronicles of Wasted Time
1. The Green Stick: Chapter One, A Part In Search Of a Play

“Nonetheless, from the very beginning of my life I never doubted that words were my métier.  There was nothing else I ever wanted to do except use them; no other accomplishment or achievement I ever had the slightest regard for, or desire to emulate.  I have always loved words, and still love them, for their own sake.  For the power and beauty of them; for the wonderful things that can be done with them.  I had a memorable example of this once when I was in Darwin, Australia.  A message came to me that a man in hospital there had expressed a wish to see me.  It seemed that he had heard something I said on the radio that had taken his fancy.  So I went along.  He turned out to be a wizened old fellow who had spent much of his life in the bush, and now was obviously going to die.  Also, he was quite blind.  At first, I just couldn’t think of anything to say and felt the silent reproach of his dead eyes. Then, suddenly, there came into my mind what Gloucester says in King Lear when Edgar commiserates with him on his blindness – ‘I stumbled when I saw.’  Just five simple, ordinary words, but the effect was immediate and terrific.  My man loved them, and kept saying them over and over.  As I went out of the ward I could hear him still repeating them in a loud, joyous voice; ‘I stumbled when I saw.’

So, as a child, a writer was in my eyes a kind of god; any writer, no matter how obscure, or even bogus, he might be.  To compare a writer with some famous soldier or administrator or scientist or politician or actor, was, in my estimation, quite ludicrous.  There was no basis for comparison; any more than between, say, Francis of Assisi and Dr. Spock. Perhaps more aware of this passion than I realized, when I was still a schoolboy my father took me to a dinner at a Soho restaurant at which G. K. Chesterton was being entertained. . . . As far as I was concerned, it was an occasion of inconceivable glory. I observed with fascination the enormous bulk of the guest of honour, his great stomach and plump hands; how his pince-nez on a black ribbon was almost lost in the vast expanse of his face, and how when he delivered himself of what he considered to be a good remark he had a way of blowing into his moustache with a sound like an expiring balloon.  His speech, if he made one, was lost on me, but I vividly recall how I persuaded my father to wait outside the restaurant while we watched the great man make his way down the street in a billowing black cloak and old-style bohemian hat with a large brim.”

Joseph Pearce
Joseph Pearce is a Catholic author and biographer who has written about subjects as various as GK Chesterton, economics, and Shakespeare. His latest book, Race with the Devil, chronicles his conversion from racial hatred to Catholicism. He is also the Director of the Center for Faith & Culture and Writer-in-Residence at Aquinas College in Nashville as well as the editor of St. Austin Review.
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