30 MAY 1952, Page 35

Return to Chesterton. By Maisie Ward. (Sheed & Ward. 21s.)

SHAW, who was not given to hyperbole in describing his contemporaries, once referred to Chesterton as " a man of colossal genius." Public curiosity about those so described has always been strong, and it is, therefore, not surprising that Miss Ward has thought it worth-while to bring together fresh stories about Cheiterton by friends and acquaintances, as well as unpublished letters and verse found among his papers at Beaconsfield or in the hands of his corres- pondents. It might be expected that such a collection, offered by Miss Ward as a post- script to her more formal biography, would be too much of a hotch-potch, but instead an extraordinarily vivid impression of a human being, warts and all, forms in the reader's mind. For this all praise to the author, since it is due to her self-denial and the fact that she never obtrudes her own ideas of the man. She gives way before the house- maid (" He used to walk up and down the dining-room singing and saying poetry aloud to himself by the yard ") and the child (" When I was alone with him, I felt I was an important person worth talking to"). Any unworthy suspicion that the "character" was contrived, that a calculating little man sat inside the big one pulling the strings of the eccentricities, is entirely removed by this book. Moreover, behind the fantastic novelist, the boon companion, the rollicking poet and Catholic, one discerns what may well have been the essential Chesterton, the mystic, of whom his life long friend, Rann Kennedy, said : "He brough contemplation down to this earth and made it a habit."

K. Y.