Cecil Chesterton

Cecil Edward Chesterton (12 November 1879 – 6 December 1918) was an English journalist and political commentator, known particularly for his role as editor of The New Witness from 1912 to 1916, and in relation to its coverage of the Marconi scandal.

Cecil Chesterton
Cecil Chesterton in uniform


He was the younger brother of G. K. Chesterton, and a close associate of Hilaire Belloc. While the ideas of distributism[1] came from all three, and Arthur Penty, he was the most ideological and combative by temperament. His death, according to his widow, removed the theorist of the movement.

He was born in Kensington, London, and educated at St Paul's School, then worked for a small publisher for a time. He then qualified as surveyor and estate agent, with a view to entering his father's business, which is still flourishing today. In 1901 he joined the Fabian Society,[2] with which he was closely involved for about six years. From 1907 he wrote for A. R. Orage's The New Age. In 1908 he published an anonymous biography of his better-known brother, G. K. Chesterton, a Criticism, but his authorship was quickly discovered.

Chesterton had been one of the 'Anti-Puritan League' of the 1890s, with Stewart Headlam (who stood bail for Oscar Wilde), Edgar Jepson and his brother; and then a member of Henry Holland's Christian Social Union. While Chesterton was writing from a socialist point of view for Orage, he was also moving to an Anglo-Catholic religious stance. In 1911 he started editorial work for Belloc, with whom he wrote in The Party System, a criticism of party politics. In 1912 he formally became a Roman Catholic.

That same year he bought Belloc's failing weekly Eye-Witness; Charles Granville who published it had been made bankrupt. He renamed it The New Witness, editing it for four years before enlisting in the army, and turning it into a scandal sheet. His persistent attacks on prominent political figures involved in the Marconi scandal (such as Lloyd George), and his public defence of his position in terms of a 'Jewish problem', have left him with a reputation as an anti-Semite. He was successfully brought to court by Godfrey Isaacs,[3] one of those attacked, although the damages awarded were nominal. A government investigation revealed that high government officials had engaged in insider trading in the stock of Marconi's American subsidiary, but the quantity of stocks they were known to have purchased was relatively small.

In 1916 he married journalist Ada Elizabeth Jones, later known as a writer, after a long courtship.[4] He joined the Highland Light Infantry as a private soldier. His brother Gilbert took over the paper, with Ada as Secretary and Business Manager. Eventually in 1925 Gilbert, with great reluctance, allowed it to be renamed G. K.'s Weekly because his name was very well-known and likely to attract interest.

He was three times wounded fighting in France, and died there in a hospital of nephritis on 6 December 1918. His wife Ada had rushed to his bedside and she arrived just before he died. She was his only relative at his funeral.[4] Although sick, he had refused to leave his post until the Armistice. On 13 December, G. K. Chesterton would report his death in the New Witness, noting that "He lived long enough to march to the victory which was for him a supreme vision of liberty and the light."

See also




  • Rubert Bland, Essays, with an Introduction by Cecil Chesterton. London: Max Goschen, Ltd., 1914.


  • Chesterton, Ada Elizabeth (1941). The Chestertons. London: Chapman & Hall, 1941.
  • Pearce, Joseph (1996). Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G. K. Chesterton. London: Hodder & Stoughton.
  • Sewell, Brocard (1975). Cecil Chesterton. Faversham: Saint Albert's Press.
  • Squire, John C. (1920). "Cecil Chesterton." In: Books in General, Third series. London: Hodder & Stoughton, pp. 119–121.


  1. ^ MJP Text Viewer
  2. ^ Chesterton, Cecil (1879–1918)
  3. ^ Donaldson, Frances (2011). "Ghastly Record: Isaacs vs. Chesterton." In: The Marconi Scandal. Bloomsbury Publishing.
  4. ^ a b Mark Knight, 'Chesterton , Ada Elizabeth (1869–1962)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2014 accessed 28 Feb 2017

External links

1938 New Year Honours

The 1938 New Year Honours were appointments by King George VI to various orders and honours to reward and highlight good works by citizens of the United Kingdom and British Empire. They were announced on 1 January 1938.The recipients of honours are displayed here as they were styled before their new honour.

Ada Elizabeth Chesterton

Ada Chesterton or Mrs Cecil Chesterton [née Jones] (30 June 1869 – 20 January 1962) was a British socialist journalist and philanthropist. Her best known work was In Darkest London.

Bohemia in London

Bohemia in London (1907) was Arthur Ransome's seventh published book, and his first success. The book is about literary and artistic London in the 1900s, and the area of London covered is Chelsea, Soho, and Hampstead. He had moved to London in 1901, and first lived in Chelsea. It was published by Chapman and Hall in late September 1907. An American edition was published by Dodd, Mead of New York in 1907, who also published it in Canada under the imprint of the Musson Book Co of Toronto. A "slightly bawdy" ballad had to be omitted for North America. A second edition was published by his new publisher Stephen Swift Ltd (Charles Granville) in 1912, before Granville absconded. A new edition was published by the Oxford University Press in 1984.

Ransome himself wrote that it was his first book that "was not altogether a makeshift". In 1906 he was approached by Stefana Stevens a "clever young woman" who worked for Curtis Brown, a London literary agency founded in 1899. She was later an authority on Middle Eastern folklore, and as E. S. Stevens a popular romantic novelist. He was having tea with Cecil Chesterton at the St George’s in St Martin’s Lane, when she leant across the table and said:

There’s a book that ought to be written, and you are the one that ought to write it, a book on Bohemia in London, an essayistic al sort of book, putting Bohemia of today against a background of the past. Think it over, I’ve got a publisher waiting for it.It did not take much thinking about; he sketched a synopsis the next day and two days later Curtis Brown had a contract for him with the publisher Chapman and Hall, whose office was also in Henrietta Street; and to his “further amazement” the unwritten book was also sold to Dodd, Mead in New York, for "respectable royalties" in both countries. He worked in Chelsea and the London Library. He went off to Cartmel with crates of books and had more sent by the London Library, and "settled down at Wall Nook to be Hazlitt, Lamb and Leigh Hunt all rolled into one." As illustrator he selected Fred Taylor, impressed by his black-and white poster of a newsboy used to advertise the bookseller W. H. Smith.

Brocard Sewell

Michael Seymour Gerveys Sewell (1912–2000), usually now known by his religious name Brocard Sewell, was a British Carmelite friar and literary figure.

He was born in Bangkok, and brought up in Cornwall, England. Educated at Weymouth College (leaving at 16), he became a Catholic convert in 1931. As a young man he was involved with H. D. C. Pepler in craft printing, before testing his vocation first of all with the Dominicans, whom he left shortly before joining the Royal Air Force during World War Two. Returning after the war to religious life, he was professed first of all with the Austin Canons before becoming a Carmelite friar in 1952 (and being ordained priest in 1954), remaining with the Carmelites for the rest of his life.In a subsequent career as editor, publisher, printer and writer, he commemorated and wrote up a number of lesser literary lights: Arthur Machen, Frederick Rolfe, Montague Summers, Marc-André Raffalovich, John Gray, Olive Custance, Henry Williamson. He also wrote on distributist figures and the Eric Gill and Ditchling circle. Using the Aylesford Review – the magazine of the monastery in which he was cloistered – he also publicised the works of some of the 1960s counterculture poets, in particular Michael Horovitz and his erstwhile wife Frances Horovitz who with others made many trips to Aylesford Priory during the 1960s and 1970s. Sewell, who enjoyed a close friendship with Frances Horovitz, became her confessor and confidant (the fact that she was not Roman Catholic did not prevent Sewell hearing her confession) and following her death of cancer in 1983, he became her biographer.

As noted by Oswald Mosley biographer Stephen Dorril, Sewell was himself a member of the Distributist League and the British Union of Fascists. Later, during the 1960s, he engaged in a high-profile controversy, speaking out against the Catholic Church's teachings on contraception, but seems in many other ways to have been critical of the modernising of the Roman Catholic Church following Vatican II particularly with regard to the use of the vernacular in the Mass. Yet in other ways Sewell seems to have been curiously non-condemnatory in his evaluations of people, and in spite of his friendship with Mosley and Henry Williamson he could also be extremely objective in assessing the contributions of those of other points of view or lifestyle, not least the Communist Harry Pollitt, whose oratory he praised, and Christine Keeler, with whom he struck up a friendship. Sewell notably criticised the treatment of Stephen Ward by the authorities during the Profumo affair of 1963, and was an opponent of nuclear weapons, finding himself, in his words, "at odds with a red hat" on account of his membership of the radical Catholic peace movement PAX.Following his pronouncements on contraception, in a letter to The Times that suggested Pope Paul VI should resign, Sewell was removed from Aylesford Priory, and lectured at St Francis Xavier's College, Antigonish in Canada for several years, having first of all spent a year in partial seclusion at the erstwhile monastery of Joseph Leycester Lyne at Capel-y-Ffin in South Wales. At this point, the monastery was the private residence of Helen Davies, granddaughter of both Hilary Pepler and of Eric Gill, but by Sewell's own admission, he went there because he had been informed he was no longer "persona grata" in the diocese in which he had worked, even if the suspension of his faculties to preach and hear confessions was quickly rescinded as uncanonical. He was ultimately permitted to return to Aylesford, with which monastery he is most associated.Brocard Sewell died in 2000.

Charles Granville

Charles Granville was an English book publisher, publishing in the 1900s and early 1910s as Stephen Swift or Stephen Swift Ltd. He published two literary magazines the Oxford and Cambridge Review and the Eye Witness which carried works by ‘up and coming’ literary authors, and also a third Rhythm. In October 1912 he was wanted for embezzlement and bigamy, and fled the country. He was brought back, tried, and imprisoned for bigamy. His publishing company was liquidated.

Granville was dining at a London dinner party when a London magistrate (who said that he never forgot a face) asked him for a private word. The magistrate said that they were fellow guests that night, but next morning he would inform the authorities that some years earlier Granville had earlier appeared before him for bigamy, was given bail, and absconded. Granville then fled to Algiers with his secretary and a large cheque from the Oxford and Cambridge Review. He was extradited for embezzlement, but subsequently charged only with bigamy, and was imprisoned although his wives were willing to give him testimonials as a good husband! The story was heard by Arthur Ransome from Ashley Dukes at the Garrick Club forty years later.

Charles William Daniel

Charles William Daniel (April 23, 1871 - 1955) was a writer and publisher who did much to disseminate Tolstoyan and pacifist ideas, and ideas about food reform and alternative medicine, in the first half of the twentieth century. During the First World War he was twice prosecuted for works that he published. The first prosecution was for his own pamphlet, The Knock-Out Blow; when fined he refused to pay and was imprisoned. Later he was prosecuted for publishing the controversial novel Despised and Rejected by Rose Allatini, and was again fined. The magazines that he edited and published included work by many of the advanced thinkers of the time.


Distributism is an economic ideology asserting that the world's productive assets should be widely owned rather than concentrated. It was developed in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries based upon the principles of Catholic social teaching, especially the teachings of Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Rerum novarum (1891) and Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo anno (1931). It views both capitalism and socialism as equally flawed and exploitative, and it favors economic mechanisms such as small-scale cooperatives and family businesses, and large-scale anti-trust regulations.

Some Christian Democratic political parties have advocated distributism in their economic policies.

Edmund von Mach

Edmund von Mach (August 1, 1870 – July 15, 1927) was a German-American art historian and lecturer on art.

G. K.'s Weekly

G. K.'s Weekly was a British publication founded in 1925 (with its pilot edition surfacing in late 1924) by seminal writer G. K. Chesterton, continuing until his death in 1936. Its articles typically discussed topical cultural, political, and socio-economic issues yet the publication also ran poems, cartoons, and other such material that piqued Chesterton's interest. It contained much of his journalistic work done in the latter part of his life, and extracts from it were published as the book The Outline of Sanity. Precursor publications existed by the names of The Eye-Witness and The New Witness, the former being a weekly newspaper started by Hilaire Belloc in 1911, the latter Belloc took over from Cecil Chesterton, Gilbert's brother, who died in World War I: and a revamped version of G. K.'s Weekly continued some years after Chesterton's death by the name of The Weekly Review.As an alternative publication outside of the mainstream press of the time, G. K.'s Weekly never attained a particularly large readership, with its highest circulation being some eight thousand. However, it attracted significant support from several benefactors, which included notables such as the internationally famous conductor Sir Thomas Beecham. Individuals whose work appeared in G. K.'s Weekly include public figures such as E. C. Bentley, Alfred Noyes, Ezra Pound, and George Bernard Shaw as well as (at the very beginning of his career) George Orwell. The relationship between the Distributist League and G. K.'s Weekly being a very close one, the publication advocated the philosophy of distributism in contrast to both the centre-right and centre-left attitudes of the time regarding socialism and industrialism.In terms of criticism, the publication has garnered condemnation for alleged anti-Semitic prejudice to be found in the views of Gilbert and Cecil Chesterton as well as of Hilaire Belloc. The controversy has involved sorting out the distinct differences in the opinions of the three men versus that of others within the publication, as essentially everyone featured had their own nuances to their viewpoints and would disagree among themselves. Critics have alleged that the writers often featured false stereotypes and made ignorant arguments about British capitalistic society while defenders have viewed the accusations as biased and misleading.

G. K. Chesterton

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, KC*SG (29 May 1874 – 14 June 1936), was an English writer, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, lay theologian, biographer, and literary and art critic. Chesterton is often referred to as the "prince of paradox". Time magazine has observed of his writing style: "Whenever possible Chesterton made his points with popular sayings, proverbs, allegories—first carefully turning them inside out."Chesterton is well known for his fictional priest-detective Father Brown, and for his reasoned apologetics. Even some of those who disagree with him have recognised the wide appeal of such works as Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man. Chesterton routinely referred to himself as an "orthodox" Christian, and came to identify this position more and more with Catholicism, eventually converting to Catholicism from High Church Anglicanism. George Bernard Shaw, his "friendly enemy", said of him, "He was a man of colossal genius." Biographers have identified him as a successor to such Victorian authors as Matthew Arnold, Thomas Carlyle, Cardinal John Henry Newman, and John Ruskin.

George Sylvester Viereck

George Sylvester Viereck (December 31, 1884 – March 18, 1962) was a German-American poet, writer, and pro-Nazi propagandist.

Hilaire Belloc

Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc (; French: [ilɛʁ bɛlɔk]; 27 July 1870 – 16 July 1953) was an Anglo-French writer and historian. He was one of the most prolific writers in England during the early twentieth century. He was known as a writer, orator, poet, sailor, satirist, man of letters, soldier and political activist. His Catholic faith had a strong impact on his works. He was President of the Oxford Union and later MP for Salford from 1906 to 1910. He was a noted disputant, with a number of long-running feuds, but also widely regarded as a humane and sympathetic man. Belloc became a naturalised British subject in 1902, while retaining his French citizenship.

His poetry encompassed comic verses for children and religious poetry. His widely sold Cautionary Tales for Children included "Jim, who ran away from his nurse, and was eaten by a lion" and "Matilda, who told lies and was burnt to death". He also collaborated with G. K. Chesterton on a number of works.

Hilaire Belloc bibliography

This is a chronological bibliography of books (with a few pamphlets) by the author Hilaire Belloc. His books of verse went through many different editions, and are not comprehensively covered.

Holbrook Jackson

George Holbrook Jackson (31 December 1874 – 16 June 1948) was a British journalist, writer and publisher. He was recognised as one of the leading bibliophiles of his time.

List of converts to Catholicism

The following is an incomplete list of notable individuals who converted to Catholicism from a different religion or no religion.

Marconi scandal

The Marconi scandal was a British political scandal that broke in the summer of 1912. Allegations were made that highly placed members of the Liberal government under the Prime Minister H. H. Asquith had profited by improper use of information about the Government's intentions with respect to the Marconi Company. They had known that the government was about to issue a lucrative contract to the British Marconi company for the Imperial Wireless Chain and had bought shares in an American subsidiary. The political consequences were slight, but certain journalists and writers drew conclusions about corruption in British politics that lasted for 25 years.

Rigby Swift

Sir Rigby Philip Watson Swift (7 June 1874 – 19 October 1937) was a British barrister, Member of Parliament and judge. Born into a family of solicitors and barristers, Swift was educated at Parkfield School before taking up a place in his father's chambers and at the same time studying for his LLB at the University of London. After completing his degree in January 1895 he was called to the Bar at Lincoln's Inn on 26 June. He took up a place in his father's chambers, and his work steadily increased. After the death of his father on 26 September 1899 he took over the chambers, and by 1904 he was earning 3,000 guineas a year.

By 1909 he was considered the most prestigious junior barrister in Liverpool, and in 1910 he became the Conservative Member of Parliament for St Helens. He moved to London in 1911, and was made a King's Counsel in 1912. His work continued to increase, and by 1916 he was earning 10,000 guineas a year. In the same year he became Recorder of Wigan and a Bencher of Lincoln's Inn. In 1917 he defended Frederick Handel Booth in Gruban v Booth, and in 1918 he represented the Air Ministry in front of the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the Women's Royal Air Force.

On 21 June 1920 he was made a judge of the High Court of Justice by the Lord Chancellor Lord Birkenhead, and became the youngest High Court judge at the time. In 1921 he heard the "Sinn Féin case", an application of the controversial Treason Felony Act 1848, and his decision in Nunan v Southern Railway Company [1923] 2 K.B. 703 was an important one in relation to exclusion clauses and liability, and was referenced by Lord Hanworth in the later case Thompson v LMS Railway. Swift died on 19 October 1937 while still a High Court judge, and was buried in Rotherfield.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

The Mystery of Edwin Drood is the final novel by Charles Dickens. The novel was unfinished at the time of Dickens's death on 9 June 1870.

Though the novel is named after the character Edwin Drood, it focuses more on Drood's uncle, John Jasper, a precentor, choirmaster and opium addict, who is in love with his pupil, Rosa Bud. Miss Bud, Edwin Drood's fiancée, has also caught the eye of the high-spirited and hot-tempered Neville Landless. Landless and Edwin Drood take an instant dislike to one another. Later Drood disappears under mysterious circumstances.

The story is set in Cloisterham, a lightly disguised Rochester.

The New Age

The New Age was a British literary magazine, noted for its wide influence under the editorship of A. R. Orage from 1907 to 1922. It began life in 1894 as a publication of the Christian socialist movement; but in 1907 as a radical weekly edited by Joseph Clayton, it was struggling. In May of that year, Alfred Orage and Holbrook Jackson, who had been running the Leeds Arts Club, took over the journal with financial help from George Bernard Shaw. Jackson acted as co-editor only for the first year, after which Orage edited it alone until he sold it in 1922. By that time his interests had moved towards mysticism, and the quality and circulation of the journal had declined. According to a Brown University press release, "The New Age helped to shape modernism in literature and the arts from 1907 to 1922". It ceased publication in 1938. Orage was also associated with The New English Weekly (1932–1949) as editor during its first two years of operation (Philip Mairet took over at his death in 1934).

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