My Dear Charles,
I originally called this book "What is Wrong," and it would
have satisfied your sardonic temper to note the number of social
misunderstandings that arose from the use of the title. Many a mild lady
visitor opened her eyes when I remarked casually, "I have been doing
'What is Wrong' all this morning." And one minister of religion moved
quite sharply in his chair when I told him (as he understood it) that I
had to run upstairs and do what was wrong, but should be down again in
a minute. Exactly of what occult vice they silently accused me I cannot
conjecture, but I know of what I accuse myself; and that is, of having
written a very shapeless and inadequate book, and one quite unworthy
to be dedicated to you. As far as literature goes, this book is what is
wrong and no mistake.
It may seem a refinement of insolence to present so wild a composition
to one who has recorded two or three of the really impressive visions of
the moving millions of England. You are the only man alive who can
make the map of England crawl with life; a most creepy and enviable
accomplishment. Why then should I trouble you with a book which, even
if it achieves its object (which is monstrously unlikely) can only be a
thundering gallop of theory?
Well, I do it partly because I think you politicians are none the worse
for a few inconvenient ideals; but more because you will recognise the
many arguments we have had, those arguments which the most wonderful
ladies in the world can never endure for very long. And, perhaps, you
will agree with me that the thread of comradeship and conversation must
be protected because it is so frivolous. It must be held sacred, it
must not be snapped, because it is not worth tying together again. It
is exactly because argument is idle that men (I mean males) must take it
seriously; for when (we feel), until the crack of doom, shall we have so
delightful a difference again? But most of all I offer it to you because
there exists not only comradeship, but a very different thing, called
friendship; an agreement under all the arguments and a thread which,
please God, will never break.
G. K. Chesterton.
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