When one attempts to write a novel, one of the greatest challenges is developing characters with depth and substance who can come off the page and be fully formed in the imaginations of the reader. Developing characters for fiction at times leads me to reflect on my own character. And as a woman of faith, I must ask myself at times am I the woman Christ is desiring me to be?
In a book by G. K. Chesterton, titled: The Common Man, there is a particular chapter that struck home with me. This book is a series of essays on topics that were, I’m sure, more in the common knowledge at the time of its writing, (the 1950’s.) There was one essay that is particularly stirring. It is an essay on Samuel Johnson.
Now if you don’t know who Samuel Johnson was here’s a clip from Wikipedia:
-Samuel Johnson (18 September 1709 [O.S. 7 September] – 13 December 1784), often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor, and lexicographer. Johnson was a devout Anglican and committed Tory, and is described by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as “arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history”.
In Chesterton’s essay entitled: The Real Dr. Johnson, he discusses the character of the man. And I found it quite moving and thought where are the men these days that these things can be said of. Or am I such a woman? It just makes me realize how far I have to go in who I am in Christ.
Here are the quotes that I wrote in my quote book. I hope they give you as much cause for reflection as they did me. The bolding is mine, as particular segments that especially spoke to me.
“…everything about the man rang of reality and honour; he never thought he was right without being ready to give battle; he never thought he was wrong without being ready to ask pardon.”
“there is no better test of a man’s ultimate chivalry and integrity than how he behaves when he is wrong, and Johnson behaved very well. He understood (what so many faultlessly polite people do not understand) that a stiff apology is a second insult. He understood that the injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.”
“…He did not waste time in formally withdrawing this word with reservations and that word with explanations. Finding that he had given pain, he went out of his way to give pleasure. If he had not known what would irritate…, he knew at least what would soothe him. It is this gigantic realism in Johnson’s kindness, the directness of his emotionalism, when he is emotional, that gives him his hold upon generations of living men. There is nothing elaborate about his ethics; he wants to know whether a man, as a fact, is happy or unhappy, is lying or telling the truth. He may seem to be hammering at the brain through long nights of noise and thunder, but he can walk into the heart without knocking.”
If you don’t know who G. K. Chesterton was here’s another clip from Wikipedia:
– Gilbert Keith Chesterton (May 29, 1874–June 14, 1936) was an influential English writer of the early 20th century. His prolific and diverse output included journalism, philosophy, poetry, biography, Christian apologetics, fantasy, and detective fiction.
Chesterton has been called the “prince of paradox.” He wrote in an off-hand, whimsical prose studded with startling formulations. For example: “Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it.” He is one of the few Christian thinkers who is equally admired and quoted by both liberal and conservative Christians, and indeed by many non-Christians.