New York: The John Lane Company, 1905. First American edition. Original red cloth (7 5/8 inches tall), gilt titles to spine and front board. Bookplate. Front upper corner bumped, very slight wear to corners and spine ends. A near fine copy. Item #1072
"THE SERIOUS OPPONENT OF THE LATIN CHURCH IN HISTORY, EVEN IN THE ACT OF SHOWING THAT IT PRODUCED GREAT INFAMIES, MUST KNOW THAT IT PRODUCED GREAT SAINTS" Scarce first American edition of G.K. Chesterton's Heretics—the predecessor and eventual companion volume to Orthodoxy. A bright, crisp copy of this early Chesterton (listing only "By the Same Author: "The Napoleon of Notting Hill: A Romance"). Heretics collects eighteen essays, forming a bridge of sorts for Chesterton, a transition from his earliest biographical writings into the realm of apologetics. Heretics and Orthodoxy are marked by Chesterton's increasing skill in the deployment of dazzling paradoxes in defense of the truths inherent in Tradition, revealing the shallow relativism of much of modern life: "The man who understands the Calvinist philosophy enough to agree with it must understand the Catholic philosophy in order to disagree with it. The serious opponent of the Latin Church in history, even in the act of showing that it produced great infamies, must know that it produced great saints." "This literary brilliance, attached to an orthodox Christian view of God, man, and the world, surrounded a unique note in twentieth-century literature. And no Christian apologist—with the possible exception of C.S. Lewis—came close to matching it" (Robert Royal, A Deeper Vision).
The book opens with Introductory Remarks on the Importance of Orthodoxy and closes with Concluding Remarks on the Importance of Orthodoxy. Chesterton’s heretics included intellectual and literary luminaries such as Kipling, Shaw, Wells and Whistler and their embrace of relativism, materialism, and skepticism. "Although famous as a Catholic apologist, Chesterton's formal conversion to Catholicism came only in 1922 when he was forty-eight. But he had been traveling in this direction for many years. One of his most famous books, Orthodoxy, a defense of traditional Christianity, was published in 1908. The book was inspired by the remark of a reader of his previous book, Heretics, who challenged him to state the standpoint from which he dismissed the views of everyone else. So he had set out to define his own religion, only to realize that a definition already existed in the creeds of Christianity" (Robert Ellsberg, All Saints). The British and American editions were both published in 1905 by John Lane/Bodley Head (the eventual publisher of Orthodoxy). Heretics and Orthodoxy were bound uniform in size and binding, each with the publisher’s catalogue. Royal, A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century. Ellsberg. All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time. John Sullivan, G.K. Chesterton: A Bibliography, 9.