Wednesday, 24 November 2010

One sees great things from the valley ...

This a photo of a stone seat in the grounds of the school where I teach. The school lies in a valley and so an enlightened nun or headmistress chose a quotation from G.K. Chesterton's 'The Hammer of God' to adorn the seat: "One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak."

The story from which the quotation is drawn deals with the dangers of spiritual pride, the dangers that come from cutting oneself off from the messiness of the everyday world. This was not Father Brown's besetting sin: by immersing himself in the world, he not only came to understand his flock but also came to be a master detective.

'The Hammer of God' is a great detective story which provides English teachers with all sorts of opportunities. The Innocence of Father Brown, in which it can be found, was published in 1911 and so usefully falls before the National Curriculum's 1914 cut off point. I, for one, would love to teach some of the Father Brown stories to GCSE students. They're cheap too. You can get a good selection of Chesterton's fiction at a very reasonable rate and the Father Brown stories even cheaper.

After years of neglect, Chesterton is being taken seriously once again. This is good news for us all.

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