In "The Crime of The Communist" by G. K. Chesterton, the author was describing three men and the surrounding architecture of Mandeville College, saying:

They themselves, in a curious quiet way, were quite harmonious with their surroundings. Though the Tudor arches that ran like a cloister round the College gardens had been built four hundred years ago, at that moment when the Gothic fell from heaven and bowed, or almost crouched, over the cosier chambers of Humanism and the Revival of Learning — though they themselves were in modern clothes (that is in clothes whose ugliness would have amazed any of the four centuries) yet something in the spirit of the place made them all at one. The gardens had been tended so carefully as to achieve the final triumph of looking careless; the very flowers seemed beautiful by accident, like elegant weeds; and the modern costumes had at least any picturesqueness that can be produced by being untidy.

I found that Gothic means "Gothic architecture", which is well-known for its arches and bowed patterns, and that Revival of Learning refers to the Renaissance, and that cosy means relaxed, but I can't get the whole meaning of this sentence.

1 Answer 1


I think Chesterton is packing multiple allusions and metaphors into the opening paragraphs of that short story. The first paragraph says there was "something that blasted like lightning", which is followed in the second paragraph by "when the Gothic fell from heaven". These phrases are reminiscent of Luke 10, 18:

He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven (...)"

There was a lot of Gothic architecture in England, which can still be seen mainly in churches and other religious buildings. One of the striking characteristics of Gothic architecture is its pointed arches.

The Catholic faith, of which Father Brown is a (fictional) 20th-century representative, fell from grace (rather than from heaven) under king Henry VIII, the second Tudor king. The Act of Supremacy (1534) established the king as head of the Church of England, and the dissolution of the monasteries led to the closing of many religious houses. Religious buildings had used a lot of stone, but due to the dissolution of the monasteries, stone became more widely available for other types of buildings. (See Tudor Architecture: History, Facts, and Characteristics.) When Chesterton writes in 1935 (when The Scandal of Father Brown was published) that those "Tudor arches that (...) had been built four hundred years ago", he is referring exactly to this period.

The English Renaissance also began during the Tudor period. The phrase "the cosier chambers of Humanism and the Revival of Learning" may have several meanings:

  • Literally, the chambers in which the humanists lived where cosier than those of their (Catholic) scholastic predecessors.
  • Humanism and Renaissance thought were "cozier" in the sense of more forgiving than Catholicism. (Simply put, humanity replaced God as the centre of interest. This does not imply that humanism in general was anti-Christian or anti-clerical, but it is possible that some people in the early 20th century still believed it was.)
  • On another literal level, the dissolution of the monasteries allowed the University of Oxford (of which Mandeville is a fictional college) to build cozier lodgings than before, using stone that would otherwise have been used for religious buildings.
  • That's very adequate explanation. Thank you so much Jul 5, 2020 at 19:59

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