Friday, May 20, 2016
Seven Pearls of Wisdom from Chesterton's Father Brown
I came across The COMPLETE Father Brown Mysteries on Kindle, containing basically everything Chesterton wrote involving Father Brown, for $0.99. There are a number of versions out there labeled as The Complete Father Brown Mysteries, but which actually only contain the first two volumes GKC wrote. (He wrote five.) The one I linked above is really complete, containing all the stories. [There is also a 24-story collection of Father Brown mysteries (thus incomplete) for $0.99 for Kindle which has links to an audio recording of each story and an image gallery. These are in the public domain, so you may be able to track down audio on the Web anyway, but for $0.99 it would save you trouble.]
I’ve written about why these stories are priceless, especially for Christians, here and here. In honor of this latest opportunity, I’m posting seven examples of the brilliance and wit of Chesterton’s little priest detective (avoiding spoilers of the solutions).
Part of the charm and genius of these mysteries is how often they reveal and revolve around genuine spiritual truths. This is entertainment that also forms a Christian mind and teaches wisdom. Quite a few of the tales turn on the fact that outward appearances of respectability may make one person seem above suspicion and another quite guilty. Yet when the emotions and character are examined, it makes perfect sense that even the most honorable appearances can be misleading, while the poorest appearances may cover an honest heart and sincere intentions.
“Have you ever noticed this — that people never answer what you say? They answer what you mean — or what they think you mean. Suppose one lady says to another in a country house, ‘Is anybody staying with you?’ the lady doesn’t answer ‘Yes; the butler, the three footmen, the parlourmaid, and so on,’ though the parlourmaid may be in the room, or the butler behind her chair. She says ‘There is nobody staying with us,’ meaning nobody of the sort you mean. But suppose a doctor inquiring into an epidemic asks, ‘Who is staying in the house?’ then the lady will remember the butler, the parlourmaid, and the rest. All language is used like that; you never get a question answered literally, even when you get it answered truly."
“The Invisible Man” from The Innocence of Father Brown
"Men may keep a sort of level of good, but no man has ever been able to keep on one level of evil. That road goes down and down. The kind man drinks and turns cruel; the frank man kills and lies about it."
“The Flying Stars” from The Innocence of Father Brown
“Don’t say anything! Oh, don’t say anything,” cried the atheist cobbler, dancing about in an ecstasy of admiration of the English legal system. For no man is such a legalist as the good Secularist.
“The Hammer of God” from The Innocence of Father Brown
On the reliability of determining truth or lies by measuring the pulse:
“What sentimentalists men of science are!” exclaimed Father Brown, “and how much more sentimental must American men of science be! Who but a Yankee would think of proving anything from heart-throbs? Why, they must be as sentimental as a man who thinks a woman is in love with him if she blushes. That’s a test from the circulation of the blood, discovered by the immortal Harvey; and a jolly rotten test, too.”
“The Mistake of the Machine” from The Wisdom of Father Brown
"And if you don’t know that I would grind all the Gothic arches in the world to powder to save the sanity of a single human soul, you don’t know so much about my religion as you think you do."
“The Doom of the Darnaways” from The Incredulity of Father Brown
“What we all dread most,” said the priest in a low voice, “is a maze with no centre. That is why atheism is only a nightmare.”
“The Head of Caesar” from The Wisdom of Father Brown
‘Oh, I am sick of his holy pictures and statues!’ she said, turning her head away. ‘Why don’t they defend themselves, if they are what you say they are? But rioters can knock off the Blessed Virgin’s head and nothing happens to them. Oh, what’s the good? You can’t blame us, you daren’t blame us, if we’ve found out that Man is stronger than God.’ ‘Surely,’ said Father Brown very gently, ‘it is not generous to make even God’s patience with us a point against Him.’
“The Insoluble Problem” from The Scandal of Father Brown