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The Defendant

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  183 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
G.K. Chesterton's collected essays on subjects ranging from detective stories and penny dreadfuls to heraldry and patriotism. The essays originally appeared in "The Speaker" but were edited and revised for republication.
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1901)
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Mar 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have such a crush of G. K. In this collection, he sets out to find the "diamonds in the dustheap"--all the good in the things that we think are silly, or sentimental, or useless (babyworship, for example, or idealistic pastoral). He is awfully clever. I love optimism.
Aug 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Every great literature has always been allegorical … of the whole universe.”

This collection of essays was first published in 1901. If you forget that, the wonder of Chesterton’s wisdom and timeliness will be diminished. This book collected his iconoclastic essays on various topics, some surprisingly relevant over a century later. Rather than bore you with my opinion of his opinion, I’ll share some pithy quotes. (Though most make better sense in context of their essay.)

“There is a road from the
Sep 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
It's hard to imagine anyone being so actively engaged with the world as Chesterton was. Not only did he have a strong opinion on absolutely everything (no matter how trivial), his opinions never conformed to any one ideology. And yet, one couldn't call him predictably non-conformist, either. He was completely his own man--a designation to which we all might aspire.
In THE DEFENDANT, Chesterton purposefully sets himself at odds with majority opinion regarding a number of topics, whether serious (p
Mary Catelli
An amusing collection of essays, all of which are entitled "A Defence of something". Indeed the introduction is "In Defense of a New Edition."

All sorts of topics. Penny dreadfuls, skeletons, baby-worship, china shepherdesses. . . .

With his usual wit. Such as

One would think it would be most unwise in a man to be afraid of a skeleton, since Nature has set curious and quite insuperable obstacles to his running away from it.

The vast mass of humanity, with their vast mass of idle books and idle wor
Morris Nelms
Feb 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I listened to David Grizzly Smith's excellent audiobook, available from
I could happily listen to audiobooks by Chesterton for the rest of my life. He's brilliant. This book brings together a group of essays in which GKC defends various things. My favorites were the defense of penny dreadfuls and the detective story, but I enjoyed all of them. As usual, he's funny, insightful, extremely intelligent, and original.
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
G.K. Chesterton in defence of all sorts of things and, as usual, laying it down.
Sep 04, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
another old book and still as modern and as accurate as if written this morning. go figure. a humorous look at things condemned that don't deserve such a verdict so chesterton takes on the defense of optimism, the over-looked, vulgar language, vows, skeletons, nonsense, pastoral life, useless information, farce, humility, slang, baby worship, detective stories, and patriotism.


a good example of the timeliness of chesterton's take on life can be found in chapter 10 where he addresses the iss
Angie Schoch
Jul 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The Defendant" is a collection of essays in which Chesterton defends things and concepts one wouldn't normally consider in need of defense(such as skeletons, humility, detective stories, etc.) That sounds positively dry, but it is a lot of fun, his use of bizarre example to make his point is what I enjoy. Basically he is commenting on the loss of positivity and wonderment(at the world around us), especially in the upper, elitist classes. Like Whitman Chesterton obviously sees the common man as ...more
Oct 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chesterton never ceases to amaze me. This is another series of essays. He defends things as they are because they are good though we miss their goodness.

In his own words: The person who is really in revolt is the optimist, who generally lives and dies in a desperate and suicidal effort to persuade all the other people how good they are. ... Every one of the great revolutionaries have been optimists. They have been indignant, not about the badness of existence, but about slowness of men in reali
Kirk Bozeman
Jun 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A long-time Chesterton fan, I was excited to finally find time for this volume, the first published book of his career. There is a noticeable youthfulness to his writing here (the prose is more purple than usual), but Chesterton's brilliance is already fully present. His love of paradox and elfland are already fully formed parts of his paradigm even here, an exciting thing to find. I especially enjoyed his essay on humility and will be returning to and referencing it again in the future.
Donald Owens II
Mar 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
24 karat Chesterton! Solid all through, and heavy.

This nugget describes what it is about him, that makes all his writing very nourishment to read:

"The function of imagination is not to make strange things settled, so much as to make settled things strange. Not so much to make wonders facts, as to make facts wonders."

All facts were wonders to him, and to wonder with him makes us richer.
Oct 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Chesterton is such autumn comfort reading for me. I am a biased reader, because despite all of the flaws in his logic and all of the assumptions he makes that I can't share, he just sweeps me along and I love the ride and come down feeling obscurely comforted. Gilbert from Sandman may have a lot to do with this.
Aug 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian-books
Chesterton's writings have the effect of making one glad to be part of the human race !!
May 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Chesterton. He makes your mind work to keep up with his wide array of contemplative essays.

This work reflects why he was such a potent social critique and influential Christian writer at the turn of the 20th century (he held major influence on C.S. Lewis' thinking among others). The book does contain a significant amount of cultural information that is not as accessible to the 21st century reader. He refers to contemporary figures and their thoughts from that epoch to make his points sali
Simon Stegall
May 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chesterton's first published book of essays lacks some of the elegance of his later works, though none of their wit and whimsy. In The Defendant he sets out to defend a variety of indefensible subjects (Skeletons, farce, ugly things, etc.) There are several brilliant essays in this collection (A Defense of Rash Vows, A Defense of China Shepherdesses) and those that aren't brilliant are highly entertaining in Chesterton's jolly way. Also, each essay is about four pages long- so they're short and ...more
May 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Not one of his best, but it is always enjoyable to read Chesterton. His observational skills partnered with his wit and skill in purveying his observations is unsurpassed.

My only complaint is his final paragraph in which he drops a racial epithet that seems to come straight outta left field. Was slightly jarring, although I understand it as a "product of the times".
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-affairs
In this collection of essays, GK Chesterton turns polemics on its head. Instead of arguing against this point of view or that one, Chesterton chooses to defend various topics, and indeed the topics that he chooses to defend are fascinating. All of those things that the haute society of his day chose to thumb their noses at, Chesterton lauds in these essays. In doing so, he points out some of the wisdom and beauty of everyday life that so many of us miss because we have our heads in the clouds an ...more
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Purtroppo, trattandosi di brevi saggi di costume scritti da un giovane Chesterton, praticamente il primo libro, soffre le distanze nel tempo e nello spazio, il secolo abbondante trascorso e il contesto britannico coevo al quale fa riferimento. Infatti dei sedici capitoli sono molto pochi quelli che sono immediatamente riconoscibili come ancora attuali, un po' di più quelli che si prestano a generare riflessioni sulla nostra contemporaneità, ovviamente mutatis mutandis, molti quelli che risultano ...more
Bryana Johnson
Sep 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Defendant is not really built around a unifying theme but is a collection of observations concerning varied and mostly unrelated topics. Chesterton’s two great weaknesses – carelessness and generalization – render a few of the essays unsubstantiated and shallow reasoning is evident in some places. However, there are also many moments of stunning brilliance contained in this volume and these make it well worth the read. Some of my favorites of the “defenses” were Rash Vows, Heraldry, Humility ...more
Jeremy Egerer
Dec 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was going to give this four stars due to a couple of confusing essays, but the last one on a decline in patriotism is one of the best damn things I've ever read on the subject. Even when I disagree with Chesterton, he's a joy to read: entertaining, enlightening, and insightful. A good look at all kinds of things, from the nature of drama, poetry, slang, heraldry, humility, and others -- as usual, the rare combination between fun and deep.
In this book, Chesterton takes to defending various things that are usually either disregarded as being not properly highbrow. In each chapter, Chesterton highlights topics ranging from publicity to humility, nonsense to useful information, baby-worship to skeletons. The book is humorous (defending farce in one chapter, after all) and thought-provoking in equal measure. Above all, a hearty dose of optimism runs throughout the work.
Jul 29, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I kept thinking I should be enjoying this. The concept is delightful, and I like Father Brown, but somehow it was just tedious, despite an occasional witty phrase (too occasional,I guess.). It is short, so I thought I would keep going, but at 58% I threw in the towel. Too many books that look better.
Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Chesterton's humor

I've always been a fan of Chesterton's Father Brown stories that I'd read as a youth, but didn't really enjoy these essays. I guess that I just didn't understand a lot of the references.
buckwheat loaf
Jan 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i really like the intrudction he wrote to preface the collection of essays. when i think of this book i think of the totally crazy awesome introduction. but some of the essays were really cute and nice too. my favorites were the one defending penny dreadfuls and the one defending ugly things.
May 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent. These essays are amazing. He explores the human perspective on beauty, skeletons, and other random subjects. This book illuminated how I see the world. Find it, read it!!
Jul 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Che c'è da dire? E' Chesterton. Ogni parola, ogni virgola, sono oro puro. Questa è una raccoltina minore e deliziosa.
the way this man of undeniable wits is capable to excavate essential knowledge from commonplace things is truly mind-blowing, even if some of his issues are now a little dated.
May 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first introduction to Chesterton's work. I love his humor. My favorite essays were A Defense of Nonsense and A Defense of Ugly Things.
Not one of his best, a bit dry.
Alex Stroshine
This is a great collection of articles. Characteristic Chestertonian wit although there are also some dated parts. My favourite essay is "In Defence of Baby Worship."
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Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was born in London, educated at St. Paul’s, and went to art school at University College London. In 1900, he was asked to contribute a few magazine articles on art criticism, and went on to become one of the most prolific writers of all time. He wrote a hundred books, contributions to 200 more, hundreds of poems, including the epic Ballad of the White Horse, fi ...more
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“My country, right or wrong,” is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober.” 197 likes
“...the function of imagination is not to make strange things settled, so much as to make settled things strange; not so much to make wonders facts as to make facts wonders.” 19 likes
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