Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Peter Hitchens Quotes Father Brown...

...on his blog (which, with delicious stuffiness, he insists on calling a "weblog"):

The interesting reverse of the [atheist] bus slogan ["There's Probably No God, Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life"], the Christian understanding that actions matter in a way we can't readily observe or understand if we reject the eternal, is hauntingly expressed in this passage from a 'Father Brown' story 'The Sins of Prince Saradine'.

"Do you believe in doom?" asked the restless Prince Saradine suddenly.

"No", answered his guest. "I believe in Doomsday."

The prince turned from the window and stared at him in a singular manner, his face in shadow against the sunset. "What do you mean?"he asked.

"I mean that we here are on the wrong side of the tapestry," answered Father Brown. "The things that happen here do not seem to mean anything; they mean something somewhere else. Somewhere else retribution will come on the real offender. Here it often seems to fall on the wrong person."

I particularly like that phrase 'the wrong side of the tapestry', as it is such a good metaphor for the way humans so often completely misunderstand the circumstances in which they find themselves. And the idea that our actions 'mean something somewhere else' sends a shiver down my spine whenever I think about it, as well it might.

Read the whole post here.

Peter Hitchens is an interesting character. I read his recent book, The Rage Against God, several times. As a memoir of English society and attitudes to religion, it's marvellous. As an argument against atheism, it leaves something to desired (especially Hitchen's oft-repeated claim that there is no decisive proof or disproof of God's existence; something a Catholic could not affirm.) He also quotes Chesterton's poem, The Silent People, in his equally readable The Abolition of Britain.

Hitchens is pretty much a lone voice in England now in his full-blooded traditionalism. (Even Roger Scruton's conservatism is rather qualified, agnostic and fatalistic, very far from Chesterton and Belloc's rousing and fighting creed.) But Chesterton would clash with him in his defence of Prohibition.


  1. Hitchens is a barometer of change within the individual, I find. When I was much younger, I found him to be an arch-Tory crackpot; perhaps he is, but as I've gotten older, I've been disturbed to find that even arch-Tory crackpots aren't always wrong about everything. Frightening, eh?

  2. Someone should write a book about the well-trodden path from liberal to conservative. How many intellectuals, writers and others have taken it? Peter Hitchens himself was a Trotskyist in this youth. Hitchens I admire because he tries to be consistent in his conservatism and not just reactionary. He refuses to support the Tory Party (saying they're not conservatives anymore), the BNP (saying they're racist), the free market (which he rightly points out can be just as anti-conservative and anti-tradition as anything else) and now he has come out in favour of tough laws against smoking and alcohol, since he can't square liberalism towards those with suppression of drugs. I don't necessarily agree with him on the logic in the last case, but I do really admire him for striving after integrity and not just "picking a side". I love that he was called the Daily Mail's "fulminator-in-chief". I fear he will be the last "arch-Tory"-- a breed worth preserving if only for sentimental reasons.