"With Considerable Art": Chesterton on Blake, Browning, and Shaw
Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature
In his account of the "very flattering" invitation he received from John Morley to write the Browning volume for the English Men of Letters series (an invitation that placed him in the company of such established critics and authors as Sir Edmund Gosse, Sir Leslie Stephen, Henry James, and Anthony Trollope), Chesterton utters this disclaimer: I will not say that I wrote a book on Browning; but I wrote a book about love, liberty, poetry, my own views on God and religion (highly undeveloped), and various theories about optimism and pessimism and the hope of the world; a book in which the name of Browning was introduced from time to time, I might almost say with considerable art. . . . Despite this disclaimer, however, in those works to be examined here, Chesterton does indulge the reader with some discussion of the historical circumstances, influences, and stylistic characteristics of Browning, Blake, and Shaw; nevertheless his larger purpose is always to employ the opportunities these artists afford him to explore the larger and loftier concerns of love, liberty, God, and the hope of the world, and in the process to defend these verities against the mood of pessimism and decadence he sees as threatening to erode them in the eyes of his contemporaries.
Blackstock, Alan. “’With Considerable Art’: Chesterton on Blake, Browning, and Shaw.” Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature 62.1 (Fall 2009): 21-39