G. K. Chesterton, the “Prince of Paradox,” is at his witty best in this collection of twenty essays and articles from the turn of the twentieth century. Focusing on “heretics” — those who pride themselves on their superiority to conservative views — Chesterton appraises prominent figures who fall into that category from the literary and art worlds. Luminaries such as Rudyard Kipling, George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, and James McNeill Whistler come under the author’s scrutiny, where they meet with equal measures of his characteristic wisdom and good humor.
In addition to incisive assessments of well-known individuals (“Mr. Rudyard Kipling and Making the World Small” and “Mr. H. G. Wells and the Giants”), these essays contain observations on the wider world. “On Sandals and Simplicity,” “Science and the Savages,” “On Certain Modern Writers and the Institution of the Family,” “On Smart Novelists and the Smart Set,” and “Slum Novelists and the Slums” reflect the main themes of Chesterton’s life’s work. Heretics roused the ire of some critics for censuring contemporary philosophies without providing alternatives; the author responded a few years later with a companion volume, Orthodoxy (also available from Dover Publications). Sardonic, jolly, and generous, both books are vintage Chesterton.