Chesterton at the end…

Hitchens and Martin Amis, aka, JOB and Lickona in their better and worse daydreams.

Ian McEwan recalls visiting Christopher Hitchens in the hospital during his last days:

The next morning, at Christopher’s request, Alexander and I set up a desk for him under a window. We helped him and his pole with its feed-lines across the room, arranged pillows on his chair, adjusted the height of his laptop. Talking and dozing were all very well, but Christopher had only a few days to produce 3,000 words on Ian Ker’s biography of Chesterton.

Whenever people talk of Christopher’s journalism, I will always think of this moment.

Consider the mix. Constant pain, weak as a kitten, morphine dragging him down, then the tangle of Reformation theology and politics, Chesterton’s romantic, imagined England suffused with the kind of Catholicism that mediated his brush with fascism and his taste for paradox, which Christopher wanted to debunk…


  1. I find it so poignant that his last missive to the world will be a wrangle with Chesterton. I’m reminded of Philip Yancey’s intro to Orthodoxy, where he describes Chesterton’s debates with Samuel Beckett, and C’s great sense of the hilarious–his joyfulness in the debate. Of course, he knew he had the better part.

    Yesterday Dennis Prager, who debated Hitchens, sounded a generous Chestertonian note when he said that what he loved about Hitchens was that H hated evil. Though I think his compass was off in finding it sometimes, I’d have to agree with McEwan that he did burn with that “gemlike flame” ( and what an apt reference).

    Love the picture.

  2. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

    What a fitting coincidence. Great catch.

    It calls to mind Dougherty, Michael Brendan, ‘Defending Chesterton’ (2010):

    […] Chesterton is rather a publicist and a polemicist on behalf of [his] ideals. He is not joining some great conversation with Dun Scotus, Aristotle, and Fredrick Nietzche. Rather he is in a constant scrum with Bertrand Russell, Benjamin Kidd, Cecil Rhodes, H.G. Wells, [etc.]. If Chesterton were alive today a similar list would be something like, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, [etc.]. Next to a considered book of philosophy, Chesterton seems a little smug. Next to a cartoon and letters to the editor and in response to his actual opponents, he’s not only a genius, but a delightful one.

    Also, quite possibly off topic, Dougherty quotes this keeper from Maureen Martin’s 2005 news flash, ‘Chesterton’s Ghost Appears, Suggests Fans Find “Other Interests”‘:

    Chesterton[‘s ghost] joked that while his friends Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton led lives that convinced people to help the poor and commune with God, that he, Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy were quickly becoming the patron saints of people ‘who just read all the time.’


  3. The son of Buckley on Hitchens:

    When we all gathered at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a few years later, to see W.F.B. off to the celestial choir, Christopher was present, having flown in from a speech in the American hinterland. (Alert: if you are reading this, Richard Dawkins, you may want to skip ahead to the next paragraph.) There he was in the pew, belting out Bunyan’s “He Who Would Valiant Be.” Christopher recused himself when Henry Kissinger took the lectern to give his eulogy, going out onto rain-swept Fifth Avenue to smoke one of his ultimately consequential cigarettes.

  4. Some people are extroverts.

  5. By the way, thanks for the copy of Dappled Things. I enjoy looking at the envelope. Thanks.

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