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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Don't You Love a Lazy Sunday with Friends?

Young Chesterton 1898
What a delightful day. I've been browsing the internet looking for information on G.K. Chesterton and Myles Connolly for a little presentation I'm doing next month at the get-together of the Northern Virginia Chesterton Society. We're looking at Chesterton's Manalive and Connolly's Mr. Blue, two absolutely delightful, light-hearted books with bigger-than-life protagonists filled with the joy of life and living it to the full.

We've discussed both books individually, although, sad to say, I missed the meeting on Mr. Blue which occupies a prominent place on my "best of all times" books. Now we'll see them side by side. That statement, "side by side," makes me laugh. Chesterton and Connolly were both physically large men, about 6'3". Chesterton weighed about 300 pounds and Connolly wasn't far behind at 270. What fun it would have been to see them together in a discussion -- a meeting of the Titans. Connolly was twenty years younger than Chesterton, but, even in those early days when he was fresh out of college, I suspect he was well aware of the bigger-than-life journalist across the pond.

Young Myles Connolly 
I'm particularly curious about whether the two wordsmiths ever met. They could have, especially during Chesterton's first American visit in 1921. Although his ship landed at New York Harbor, Chesterton gave his first lecture at Jordan Hall in Boston. Connolly, a Boston boy, had graduated from Boston College in 1918 and may have been working by then as a reporter for the Boston Post (which went out of print in 1956). I haven't found a biography on Connolly, only brief sketches, and everything I've seen says he served a "short stint" in the Navy which was probably right out of college. But what does "a short stint" mean? A year? Eighteen months? The military was no doubt downsizing bigtime as veterans returned from the "War to End All Wars" so perhaps he joined after graduation, served a few months or even a year until the Treaty of Versaille, and then returned to work at the Post. If I could find the years of Connolly's Boston Post employment the puzzle would be solved, but alas, that's been elusive as well.

Chesterton 1921 - On the ship?
If Connolly worked at the Boston Post in 1921, as I believe is likely, he may very well have attended Chesterton's lecture at Jordan Hall, "The Ignorance of the Educated." Chesterton was a well known journalist and author, and why would an eager young reporter miss an opportunity to be there to hear one of the best-known commentators of the day? Or perhaps Connolly was even assigned to cover it. If he did attend, he no doubt, enjoyed it. His rival paper, the Boston Globe, reported the lecture with this headline, "Chesterton Opens American Tour: Big Audience Kept in Roars of Laughter by Great Briton." (Great, indeed, in both Girth and greatness of mind.) Being educated, Chesterton told the audience, means "reading the newspapers. Being properly educated means not believing newspapers after you have read them." Wouldn't Connolly have enjoyed that?

In the course of my search on the internet for anything I could find on Connolly, not much unfortunately, I stumbled on a portion of Frank Capra's autobiography. Connolly moved to Hollywood to write screenplays in 1929 and never returned to journalism. He and Capra became great friends. I was so taken with the few pages I read, that I ordered Capra's book. I love his films and it is interesting that Connolly was often an uncredited contributor to some of the most popular: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It's a Wonderful Life.

Spending my Sunday with Chesterton and Connolly  and talking about them over tea with my husband and my brother and sister-in-law who dropped by to loan me a book on Chesterton was everything a lazy Sunday should be: family, fellowship, pleasures of the table, and interesting conversation.

Do yourself a favor. Read Manalive and Mr. Blue in close proximity to each other. If they don't inspire an intense joie de vivre, I'll be surprised!


Carol said...

Maybe when you folks are in Northern Virginia you could swing by and visit John?

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

We're still an hour away, but I'll see if it can work out some time. We're carpooling next meeting.