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Twelve Types: A Collection of Mini-Biographies

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G. K. Chesterton's biographical essays provide unique portraits of 12 of Europe's most defining figures. Written by one of the world's master essayists, this collection richly expresses Chesterton's thoughts on Charlotte Brontë, William Morris, Byron, Pope, St. Francis of Assisi, Rostand, Charles II, Stevenson, Thomas Carlyle, Tolstoy, Savonarola, and Sir Walter Scott. The G. K. Chesterton's biographical essays provide unique portraits of 12 of Europe's most defining figures. Written by one of the world's master essayists, this collection richly expresses Chesterton's thoughts on Charlotte Brontë, William Morris, Byron, Pope, St. Francis of Assisi, Rostand, Charles II, Stevenson, Thomas Carlyle, Tolstoy, Savonarola, and Sir Walter Scott. The book is a perfect companion for any literature, politics, or history course dealing with European history. It is also an excellent addition to any personal or scholarly library.


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G. K. Chesterton's biographical essays provide unique portraits of 12 of Europe's most defining figures. Written by one of the world's master essayists, this collection richly expresses Chesterton's thoughts on Charlotte Brontë, William Morris, Byron, Pope, St. Francis of Assisi, Rostand, Charles II, Stevenson, Thomas Carlyle, Tolstoy, Savonarola, and Sir Walter Scott. The G. K. Chesterton's biographical essays provide unique portraits of 12 of Europe's most defining figures. Written by one of the world's master essayists, this collection richly expresses Chesterton's thoughts on Charlotte Brontë, William Morris, Byron, Pope, St. Francis of Assisi, Rostand, Charles II, Stevenson, Thomas Carlyle, Tolstoy, Savonarola, and Sir Walter Scott. The book is a perfect companion for any literature, politics, or history course dealing with European history. It is also an excellent addition to any personal or scholarly library.

30 review for Twelve Types: A Collection of Mini-Biographies

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    1. CHARLOTTE BRONTË: The Brontë is in the position of the mad lady in a country village; her eccentricities form an endless source of innocent conversation to that exceedingly mild and bucolic circle, the literary world. 2. WILLIAM MORRIS AND HIS SCHOOL: It is proper enough that the unveiling of the bust of William Morris should approximate to a public festival, for while there have been many men of genius in the Victorian era more despotic than he, there have been none so representative. 3. THE 1. CHARLOTTE BRONTË: The Brontë is in the position of the mad lady in a country village; her eccentricities form an endless source of innocent conversation to that exceedingly mild and bucolic circle, the literary world. 2. WILLIAM MORRIS AND HIS SCHOOL: It is proper enough that the unveiling of the bust of William Morris should approximate to a public festival, for while there have been many men of genius in the Victorian era more despotic than he, there have been none so representative. 3. THE OPTIMISM OF BYRON: And the world of Byron seems a sad and faded world, a weird and inhuman world, where men were romantic in whiskers, ladies lived, apparently, in bowers, and the very word has the sound of a piece of stage scenery. Roses and nightingales recur in their poetry with the monotonous elegance of a wall-paper pattern. The whole is like a revel of dead men, a revel with splendid vesture and half-witted faces. 4. POPE AND THE ART OF SATIRE: 5. FRANCIS: (Chesterton deals mainly with JG Adderley's bio of St Assissi) 6. ROSTAND: When 'Cyrano de Bergerac' was published, it bore the subordinate title of a heroic comedy. We have no tradition in English literature which would justify us in calling a comedy heroic, though there was once a poet who called a comedy divine. 7. CHARLES II: There are a great many bonds which still connect us with Charles II., one of the idlest men of one of the idlest epochs. 8. STEVENSON: (Chesterton deals mainly with 'Robert Louis Stevenson,' by Mr H. Bellyse Baildon). He says of that glorious riot of horror, 'The Destroying Angel,' in 'The Dynamiter,' that it is 'highly fantastic and putting a strain on our credulity.' 9. THOMAS CARLYLE: There are two main moral necessities for the work of a great man: the first is that he should believe in the truth of his message; the second is that he should believe in the acceptability of his message. It was the whole tragedy of Carlyle that he had the first and not the second. 10. TOLSTOY AND THE CULT OF SIMPLICITY: Ibsen returns to nature by the angular exterior of fact, Maeterlinck by the eternal tendencies of fable. Whitman returns to nature by seeing how much he can accept, Tolstoy by seeing how much he can reject. [..]The new collection of 'Tales from Tolstoy,' translated and edited by Mr R. Nisbet Bain, is calculated to draw particular attention to this ethical and ascetic side of Tolstoy's work. Chesterton forgoes his usual derision here: 'The Christianity of Tolstoy is, when we come to consider it, one of the most thrilling and dramatic incidents in our modern civilisation. It represents a tribute to the Christian religion more sensational than the breaking of seals or the falling of stars. From the point of view of a rationalist, the whole world is rendered almost irrational by the single phenomenon of Christian Socialism. It turns the scientific universe topsy-turvy, and makes it essentially possible that the key of all social evolution may be found in the dusty casket of some discredited creed. It cannot be amiss to consider this phenomenon as it really is.' 11. SAVONAROLA: Savonarola is a man whom we shall probably never understand until we know what horror may lie at the heart of civilisation. This we shall not know until we are civilised. It may be hoped, in one sense, that we may never understand Savonarola. 12. THE POSITION OF SIR WALTER SCOTT: He was a chaotic and unequal writer, and if there is one thing in which artists have improved since his time, it is in consistency and equality. http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/12491 Chesterton was so scathing - hilarious. These very short profiles are gems.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Whenever I feel that the shadows are gathering around me, and all my efforts are coming to naught, I pick up a volume of G.K. Chesterton and find that I've just been looking at things through the wrong end of the telescope. Twelve Types: A Collection of Mini-Biographies is ostensibly a collection of essays on literary subjects. I don't know why the subtitle refers to "Mini-Biographies," because GKC is not interested in biographies. Instead he concentrates on how we see the world around us, as su Whenever I feel that the shadows are gathering around me, and all my efforts are coming to naught, I pick up a volume of G.K. Chesterton and find that I've just been looking at things through the wrong end of the telescope. Twelve Types: A Collection of Mini-Biographies is ostensibly a collection of essays on literary subjects. I don't know why the subtitle refers to "Mini-Biographies," because GKC is not interested in biographies. Instead he concentrates on how we see the world around us, as suggested by the lives and work of figures such as Sir Walter Scott, Tolstoy, Robert Louis Stevenson, Thomas Carlyle, Charles II, and Lord Byron, to name just a few. Some he excoriates, like Carlyle and Tolstoy, for urging us into dead ends; others, like Scott, he praises for seeing things in a different light, even when it has seemed to become unfashionable:Closely connected with this is one of the charges most commonly brought against Scott, particularly in his own day—the charge of a fanciful and monotonous insistence upon the details of armour and costume. The critic in the 'Edinburgh Review' said indignantly that he could tolerate a somewhat detailed description of the apparel of Marmion, but when it came to an equally detailed account of the apparel of his pages and yeomen the mind could bear it no longer. The only thing to be said about that critic is that he had never been a little boy. He foolishly imagined that Scott valued the plume and dagger of Marmion for Marmion's sake. Not being himself romantic, he could not understand that Scott valued the plume because it was a plume, and the dagger because it was a dagger. Like a child, he loved weapons with a manual materialistic love, as one loves the softness of fur or the coolness of marble. One of the profound philosophical truths which are almost confined to infants is this love of things, not for their use or origin, but for their own inherent characteristics, the child's love of the toughness of wood, the wetness of water, the magnificent soapiness of soap. So it was with Scott, who had so much of the child in him. Human beings were perhaps the principal characters in his stories, but they were certainly not the only characters. A battle-axe was a person of importance, a castle had a character and ways of its own. A church bell had a word to say in the matter. Like a true child, he almost ignored the distinction between the animate and inanimate. A two-handed sword might be carried only by a menial in a procession, but it was something important and immeasurably fascinating—it was a two-handed sword.There is something about being able to rotate the axis of one's life by a few degrees so that the sun shines more brightly and the megrims are dispelled. Sometimes I think he was the greatest psychologist who ever lived.

  3. 4 out of 5

    John

    There's no one I'd rather read literary criticism from than G.K. Chesterton. True, he doesn't usually deal in hard facts or provide much in the way of evidential support for his arguments, but what he does do is give you tons of interesting ideas to mull over, and he presents them in some of the most eloquent, sophisticated prose I've ever seen. The title for this book is wrong. In no way could these essays be construed as "mini-biographies." They are simply Chesterton's thoughts on a dozen diffe There's no one I'd rather read literary criticism from than G.K. Chesterton. True, he doesn't usually deal in hard facts or provide much in the way of evidential support for his arguments, but what he does do is give you tons of interesting ideas to mull over, and he presents them in some of the most eloquent, sophisticated prose I've ever seen. The title for this book is wrong. In no way could these essays be construed as "mini-biographies." They are simply Chesterton's thoughts on a dozen different people, most of whom were famous writers, but a couple of whom were famous for other reasons. Chesterton will make you look at each of them in a new light. His essay on Sir Walter Scott is particularly amazing, both in terms of substance and style. Edit: I recently discovered another Chesterton volume, titled VARIED TYPES, which contains all the essays in found in TWELVE TYPES plus about eight more. Since you can download both books for free on Amazon, you might as well go for the one with all the additional content.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Heiner

    If you enjoy Chesterton and biographies, this tiny work is a treat, as you get his inimitable prose together with snapshots of individuals who seem only connected by their being of interest to Chesterton, namely: Charlotte Bronte William Morris Lord Byron Alexander Pope St. Francis Edmond Rostand King Charles II Robert Louis Stevenson Thomas Carlyle Leo Tolstoy Savonarola Sir Walter Scott "Surely it is ridiculous to maintain seriously that Byron's love of the desolate and inhuman nature was the mark of vital If you enjoy Chesterton and biographies, this tiny work is a treat, as you get his inimitable prose together with snapshots of individuals who seem only connected by their being of interest to Chesterton, namely: Charlotte Bronte William Morris Lord Byron Alexander Pope St. Francis Edmond Rostand King Charles II Robert Louis Stevenson Thomas Carlyle Leo Tolstoy Savonarola Sir Walter Scott "Surely it is ridiculous to maintain seriously that Byron's love of the desolate and inhuman nature was the mark of vital scepticism and depression. When a young man can elect deliberately to walk alone in winter by the side of the shattering sea, when he takes pleasure in storms and stricken peaks, and the lawless melancholy of the older earth, we may deduce with the certainty of logic that he is very young and very happy." (p. 24) "Athleticism in England is an asceticism, as much as the monastic rules. Men have overstrained themselves and killed themselves through English athleticism. There is one difference and one only: we do feel the love of sport; we do not feel the love of religious offices. We see only the price in the one case and only the purchase in the other." (p. 35) "When we see men in a spiritual extravaganza, like Cyrano de Bergerac, speaking in rhyme, it is not our language disguised or distorted, but our language rounded and made whole." (p. 42) "The germ of all his stories lies in the idea that every landscape or scrap of scenery has a soul: and that soul is a story." (p. 53) "Aristocracy uses the strong for the service of the weak; slavery uses the weak for the service of the strong." (p. 60) "For the universe is like everything in it; we have to look at it repeatedly and habitually before we see it. It is only when we have seen it for the hundredth time that we see it for the first time." (p. 62) "If the whole world was suddenly stricken with a sense of humour it would find itself fulfilling the Sermon on the Mount. It is not the plain facts of the world which stand in the way of that consummation, but its passions of vanity and self-advertisement and morbid sensibility." (p. 66) "...ease is the worst enemy of happiness, and civilization potentially the end of man." (p. 72) "To let no bird fly past unnoticed, to spell patiently the stones and weeds, to have the mind a storehouse of sunset, requires a discipline in pleasure, and an education in gratitude." (p. 73) "Of one thing I am sure, that Savonarola's friend Michael Angelo would have piled all his own statues one on top of the other and burnt them to ashes, if only he had been certain that the glow transfiguring the sky was the dawn of a younger and wiser world." (p. 75) "The boast of the realist (applying what the reviewers call his scalpel) is that he cuts into the heart of life; but he makes a very shallow incision if he only reaches as deep as habits and calamities and sins. Deeper than all these lies a man's vision of himself, as swaggering and sentimental as a penny novelette." (p. 77)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Erunion

    Chesterton is not the sort of writer you read for logical argument. You will find no brilliantly set forth syllogisms. You will find no premises that support their conclusions. Nor will you find a brilliant explanation of a fallacy that will completely devastate the other side. Chesterton is not that sort of writer. Rather, in him you find a writer with brilliant, and witty, insights. Chesterton is the sort of author that does not change your conclusions, but instead he changes the very way you t Chesterton is not the sort of writer you read for logical argument. You will find no brilliantly set forth syllogisms. You will find no premises that support their conclusions. Nor will you find a brilliant explanation of a fallacy that will completely devastate the other side. Chesterton is not that sort of writer. Rather, in him you find a writer with brilliant, and witty, insights. Chesterton is the sort of author that does not change your conclusions, but instead he changes the very way you think. Often you will emerge from his writing with something you hadn't thought about. Consider quotes such as: "There are no chains of houses; there are no crowds of men. The colossal diagram of streets and houses is an illusion, the opium dream of a speculative builder. Each of these men is supremely solitary and supremely important to himself. Each of these houses stands in the centre of the world. There is no single house of all those millions which has not seemed to someone at some time the heart of all things and the end of travel." "There is written, with all the authority of a human scripture, the eternal and essential truth that until we love a thing in all its ugliness we cannot make it beautiful." "This is, indeed, only another way of putting the simple truth that in order to attack an army we must know not only its weak points, but also its strong points. England in the present season and spirit fails in satire for the same reason that it fails in war: it despises the enemy." "Men do not speak so, it is true. Even when they are inspired or in love they talk inanities. But the poetic comedy does not misrepresent the speech one half so much, as the speech misrepresents the soul." "It is strange that men should see sublime inspiration in the ruins of an old church and see none in the ruins of a man." "The very word 'superficial' is founded on a fundamental mistake about life, the idea that second thoughts are best. The superficial impression of the world is by far the deepest. What we really feel, naturally and casually, about the look of the skies and trees and the face of friends, that and that alone will almost certainly remain our vital philosophy to our dying day." And so on. If you have read his biography of Thomas Aquinas, you probably know what to expect of the biographies here; they are short on biographical substance, but very long on understanding the essence of the writers. Even if he completely misunderstands what each writer was about, he still nonetheless understands them on a very fundamental level. The introduction is, unfortunately, subpar. It seeks to claim that Chesterton is not a modern individualist at all, and then goes to prove that in a very... modern individualist sort of way. Like far too many introductions, it is often seeking to prove something that perhaps does not need to be proved at all. If one is looking for an introduction to Chesterton I cannot more highly recommend Philip Yancey's chapter on Chesterton found in Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church.

  6. 5 out of 5

    John Yelverton

    I don't know if I would say that these are biographies so much as essays on each person's writing style. G.K. Chesterton, being a master of the craft himself, does it with panache on the authors he likes and eviscerates those he does not. It's a testimony to the craft, and well worth a bibliophile's time to read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    A fine set of cameos - in GKC's inimitable style. Makes me want to read Scott, Bronte and Pope.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rex Libris

    Not quite biographical sketches as the title holds, but more a commentary on what the lives of these 12 people really meant: Charlotte Bronte William Morris Byron Pope Francis (of Assisi) Rostand Charles II Stevenson (Robert Louis) Thomas Carlyle Tolstoy Savonarola Walter Scott I found the commentary on Savonarola to be the most interesting. History has cast him as the Robespierre-lite of the Renaissance, but Chesterton holds that he save the people of the Renaissance from the being the victims of their own Not quite biographical sketches as the title holds, but more a commentary on what the lives of these 12 people really meant: Charlotte Bronte William Morris Byron Pope Francis (of Assisi) Rostand Charles II Stevenson (Robert Louis) Thomas Carlyle Tolstoy Savonarola Walter Scott I found the commentary on Savonarola to be the most interesting. History has cast him as the Robespierre-lite of the Renaissance, but Chesterton holds that he save the people of the Renaissance from the being the victims of their own smug, self-satisfaction. I can see echoes of that today. We are material quite well off, but cannot interact with others except through electronic messaging. Some of the people I am totally unfamiliar with their works, but I suppose this will give me an impetus to go and read them.

  9. 5 out of 5

    vittore paleni

    A fine sampler. Oh how we finds shimmering goodness!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ginger Perry

    Shooter, Slick, Vegas and Doc 12/31/15

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth

    This little volume, originally published in 1902, is a collection of short pieces Chesterton wrote originally for publication in contemporary periodicals of his day. They are a mix of historical, cultural and literary criticism in content, and left me with an urge to read more of the works of the novelists included - Charlotte Bronte, Robert Louis Stevenson, Leo Tolstoy and Sir Walter Scott. Perhaps I will, although I own a zillion books I have yet to read, so they will have competition for my a This little volume, originally published in 1902, is a collection of short pieces Chesterton wrote originally for publication in contemporary periodicals of his day. They are a mix of historical, cultural and literary criticism in content, and left me with an urge to read more of the works of the novelists included - Charlotte Bronte, Robert Louis Stevenson, Leo Tolstoy and Sir Walter Scott. Perhaps I will, although I own a zillion books I have yet to read, so they will have competition for my attention. Chesterton throughout these essays scattered numerous allusions to various persons and events of his time and before, which the editor of this edition was kindly enough to identify in a series of footnotes. The cultural landscape of the late 19th century is seen in these essays and Chesterton, for all his originality, was a product of his time and place. To read him is to get a glimpse of that world, now over 100 years past, but also to let it speak to us.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Nuckols

    This short collection of biographies has renewed my love of Chesterton. Sir Walter Scott's was bracingly good, even though I don't care for Scott that much. . .

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    I read the chapters on Bronte, Stevenson and Scott. It was very good. I love Chesterton, he always makes me think in ways I've yet to discover. Bronte is my personal favorite, Stevenson is my favorite for children's works, and Scott is a new discovery to me. I would describe him as the male form of an Austin/Bronte mix. Not bad for a good read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    John

    Another odd yet fascinating book from Chesterton. These aren't mini biographies. He writes about twelve people and analyzes their work. Tolstoy, Charlotte Bronte, Walter Scott and others. As always, his way with words is amazing.

  15. 4 out of 5

    foundfoundfound

    a series of enlargements upon life (under the guise of literary criticism). entry on charlotte brontë the best thing said on that subj. only the pieces on savonarola & tolstoy are not up to form. a series of enlargements upon life (under the guise of literary criticism). entry on charlotte brontë the best thing said on that subj. only the pieces on savonarola & tolstoy are not up to form.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tom vC

    Amazing. Full of insights.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Hitchman

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mani

  20. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  21. 4 out of 5

    Iris Fogel

  22. 5 out of 5

    Johnny B3

  23. 4 out of 5

    Randall Gwin

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joe

  25. 5 out of 5

    T.E.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rob Rice

  27. 4 out of 5

    Roxane Walsh

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marcos Junior

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tina

  30. 4 out of 5

    Morag Gray

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