G. K.'s Weekly - The Chesterbelloc and Anti-Semitic Prejudice

The Chesterbelloc and Anti-Semitic Prejudice

There is a continuing debate about the extent of anti-Semitic prejudice to be found in the views of Gilbert and Cecil Chesterton, and of Hilaire Belloc. The discussion involves three people, who were very different in character, and who have certainly been put in the frame on grounds of guilt by association in the past. The Chesterbelloc was the term coined by George Bernard Shaw for Gilbert Chesterton in partnership with Belloc; the description stuck. Cecil Chesterton was the most combative, and probably the most theoretical of the three. Looking at them together acknowledges that the publications' history pieced together does represent a continuity of thought.

Barnet Litvinoff has written

Britain had its replicas of Maurras and Daudet in those adornments of English letters, G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc.

This question has to be examined on a historical trajectory, from the time of the Second Boer War to the Spanish Civil War, via the Marconi scandal. Bryan Cheyette speaks of Chesterton's 'literary decline' from around 1922, and writes

To his detriment, Chesterton's fiction at this time seems to be unduly influenced by Belloc's Barnett quartet with its constant reference to all-powerful Jewish plutocrats

Litvinoff also cites Chesterton commenting on Henry Ford, Sr.'s view on the 'Jewish problem', in his 1922 What I Saw in America.

The journalism of Cecil Chesterton for the Eye-Witness at the time of the Marconi scandal, is a substantive though flawed reason why Belloc, Cecil Chesterton and G. K. Chesterton have often been considered an anti-semitic clique. This can justly be called guilt by association; which was certainly the precise tactic and fallacy Cecil himself used. One Jewish member of the government, Herbert Samuel, was accused and no evidence was ever shown of his involvement. Godfrey Isaacs sued successfully; he was the brother of the politician Rufus Isaacs, who was cleared by Parliament, but had a case to answer.

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G. K.'s Weekly - The Chesterbelloc and Anti-Semitic Prejudice - Gilbert Chesterton's Views
... Bernard Levin, a leading British columnist who frequently quoted Chesterton, in The Case for Chesterton brought up some of his light verse, and said "The best one can say of Chesterton's anti-semitism is that it was less vile than Belloc's let us leave it at that." Joseph Pearce wrote that It is clear that such verses may cause offence, but it is equally clear they were not intended to ... Against Chesterton are also cited remarks in The New Jerusalem (1920) ...

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