Friday, July 8, 2016

Rum and Cheddar at Eighth Day Books

Tonight at Eighth Day Books, our Greater Wichita local society of the American Chesterton society will meet to begin our discussion of G.K. Chesterton's The Flying Inn.

William Kirkpatrick wrote about the book for Crisis Magazine a couple of years ago with one glaring error:

the book has a whimsical, Pickwickian quality. It follows the rambling adventures of two British (sic) stalwarts, Patrick Dalroy and Humphrey Pump, as they try to stay one step ahead of the law, dispensing free liquor as they go in an England where alcohol has been banned. The “Flying Inn” is their motor car which they have furnished with a large keg of rum, a cask of cheese, and a pub sign.

Patrick Dalroy is IRISH!

. . . The reason that alcohol is banned in Chesterton’s tale is because some upper-class elites have become enamored of Islam and everything Islamic—including the prohibition of drink. Chief among these is Lord Ivywood, a Nietzschean diplomat who has enlisted the aid of a mysterious Turk, Misyra Ammon, to spread the new gospel among the jaded upper class who find exotic Islam to be more exciting than their own traditions and religion.

Other than Mr. Quoodle, the dog who leaves Lord Ivywood and joins Dalroy and Pump on their adventures, the most interesting character is Lady Joan Brett, who is too close to Lord Ivywood because of family ties and is in mortal and moral danger. From Chapter 10, "The Character of Quoodle":

Now Lady Joan Brett did appreciate dogs. It was the whole of her type and a great deal of her tragedy that all that was natural in her was still alive under all that was artificial; and she could smell hawthorn or the sea as far off as a dog can smell his dinner. Like most aristocrats she would carry cynicism almost to the suburbs of the city of Satan; she was quite as irreligious as Lord Ivywood, or rather more. She could be quite equally frigid or supercilious when she felt inclined. And in the great social talent of being tired, she could beat him any day of the week. But the difference remained in spite of her sophistries and ambitions; that her elemental communications were not cut, and his were. For her the sunrise was still the rising of a sun, and not the turning on of a light by a convenient cosmic servant. For her the Spring was really the Season in the country, and not merely the Season in town. For her cocks and hens were natural appendages to an English house; and not (as Lord Ivywood had proved to her from an encyclopaedia) animals of Indian origin, recently imported by Alexander the Great. And so for her a dog was a dog, and not one of the higher animals, nor one of the lower animals, nor something that had the sacredness of life, nor something that ought to be muzzled, nor something that ought not to be vivisected. She knew that in every practical sense proper provision would be made for the dog; as, indeed, provision was made for the yellow dogs in Constantinople by Abdul Hamid, whose life Lord Ivywood was writing for the Progressive Potentatesseries. Nor was she in the least sentimental about the dog or anxious to turn him into a pet. It simply came natural to her in passing to rub all his hair the wrong way and call him something which she instantly forgot.

While Dalroy and Pump are on the run and in trouble, Lady Joan is in danger of losing her immortal soul!

In the book of essays we finished discussing in June, The Well and the Shallows, Chesterton often referred to Prohibition in the U.S.A. and he did not like it. For example: in number VII of "My Six Conversions":

I could point, for instance, to the collapse of Prohibition; not so much in the narrow sense of Prohibition as in the general sense of Prohibitionism. For what failed with the American experiment was not merely a particular chemical experiment with some alleged chemical constituent, which they chose to call alcohol. It was a whole attitude towards all the complex uses and abuses of human things. The great outstanding principle of the modern materialistic world has been Prohibition; even Prohibition in the abstract. Where we say that a social element is dangerous or doubtful, that it must be watched, that it may on due occasion be restrained, the thing that was called the Modern Mind always cried aloud with a voice of thunder that it must be forbidden. The Prohibitionist declares that there must be no wine; the Pacifist that there must be no war; the Communist that there must be no private property; the Secularist that there must be no religious worship. The failure of Prohibition in the one country in which it was a favourite, in which it was a popular ideal in so far as anything so inhuman can be popular, was the collapse of the whole conception of wiping out entirely the temptations of man and the trials of mortal life. After that, it is tacitly agreed that there is no such simple way out of moral problems; it is almost admitted that they must be referred to the moral sense. We were actually driven back on the desperate and tragic duty of our fathers, of deciding for ourselves whether we were drinking too much, or whether we were fighting in a just quarrel, or whether we were only defending our own lawful property, or getting other people's property by lawless usury. Such a demand was naturally a great strain on the Modern Mind. For the Modern Mind is not at all accustomed to making up its mind. It finds the task almost as unfamiliar as working its own farm or practising its own craft; or doing a hundred other things, that human beings had done from the foundations of the world. In short, it would not accept the Catholic doctrine that human life is a battle; it only wanted to have it announced, from time to time in the newsapers, that it was a victory.

I can confirm that rum and cheddar cheese will be available without charge and without any violation of Lord Ivywood's pernicious Parliamentary permutations. 

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