9 votes
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Meaning of "the humility of a charge" in "The Chief Mourner of Marne"?

The context of the phrase here is that the phrase, "the humility of a charge too great for men", refers to the idea that someone has been given a very important task which they may not ...
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8 votes
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Which Chesterton story is alluded to in Childhood's End?

In ‘The Purple Wig’ (published in The Pall Mall Magazine, May 1913, and collected in The Wisdom of Father Brown, 1914), the narrator, Francis Finn, a freelance reporter, is investigating a legend ...
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7 votes

Meaning of "interrupted spirals, inverted cones and broken cylinders" in "The Worst Crime in the World"?

"The Worst Crime in the World" was published in 1927 in the collection The Secret of Father Brown. At that time, cubism was roughly 20 years old. Some cubist painters depicted human bodies as made up ...
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7 votes
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What is "negative" and "positive whiteness" in "The Dagger with Wings"?

Normally, if a door is open a crack, at the bottom of it you will see something dark. It might be the grass, or dirt, or whatever else is outside the door. Above that you will see whiteness. That ...
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7 votes
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Identify Chesterton's story in which a character wants people to be cheerful but ends up committing suicide

The story is almost certainly “The Three Tools of Death”, a Father Brown mystery, in which Sir Aaron Armstrong appears to have been murdered. A scene is set where it appears he has been shot at, ...
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7 votes
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Do clergymen usually use spades?

I can think of only two possibilities. One is that as the children gathered for a service, he would play along with the children in the sand with a spade, and then, as it transitioned, he would ...
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7 votes
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Dunedin to Samoa spoke

The reference is to the author Robert Louis Stevenson, and comes among other passages alluding to other authors - Walt Whitman ("leaves of grass"), Oscar Wilde ("Green Carnation"), ...
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6 votes
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What does "in the way of business" mean in "The Oracle of the Dog" by G. K. Chesterton?

Dr. Valentine is a surgeon, so his "business"—what he does for a living—is or includes performing surgery. Surgical procedures are not without risk; if the procedure goes wrong, the patient can even ...
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6 votes
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Meaning of "private gentleman" in "The Worst Crime in the World"?

A fourth position: I do not hold a position of public trust. As an official, it would be his duty to deal with odious people. As a private individual, he has no such duty. The reason why I think ...
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6 votes
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Meaning of "interrupted spirals, inverted cones and broken cylinders" in "The Worst Crime in the World"?

Tsundoku's answer explains the meaning in context of the geometric objects referred to, but the structure of the whole sentence is a bit confusing too: He would indeed be of an inflammable ...
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6 votes
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What's meant here by "the sort of lunacy allowed in the gentry"?

The phrase "the sort of lunacy allowed in the gentry" is an allusion to the (real or perceived) eccentricity of the English aristocracy, i.e. that eccentricity is more common among the ...
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6 votes
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What does "at all" mean in "The Vampire of the Village"?

Yes, "at all" can be used in a positive sense: think of it as the opposite of "not at all". See for example Macmillan and Cambridge for the usage of "at all" in a ...
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5 votes
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How can he be "so shabbily dressed" and "must have been a millionaire"?

Extremely wealthy (or powerful) people can get away with offending against conventions that other people are bound by, because other people don't want to offend them. Also, an ordinary person wanted ...
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5 votes
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Meaning of "spelt backwards" in "The Oracle of the Dog"

The character Fiennes immediately explains the remark: But he stopped in the torrent of his talk in a momentary bewilderment before he saw the priest’s very simple meanmg. “You mean that people make ...
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Meaning of "vision of the world’s desire" in "The Oracle of the Dog"

“Vision of the world’s desire” is an allusion to the novel The World’s Desire (1890) by H. Rider Haggard and Andrew Lang. In chapter 2, also titled “The Vision of the World’s Desire”, the goddess ...
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What's meant here by " his serving as second proves very little about what he thought of the quarrel"?

According to general Outram, Maurice Marne had been taking acting lessons with Hugo Romaine. At that time, Romaine was not yet a celebrated actor, so giving acting lessons was a very welcome source of ...
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5 votes

Does the title of "Marquis" change the name of its holder?

Technically, he remains James Mair. Any children would have the name Mair. However, a noble is addressed by title, not by name -- Lord Marne. And uses it, too. He would sign things James Marne.
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4 votes
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What did G. K. Chesterton mean by these two paragraphs from the first chapter of 'The Man Who Knew Too Much'?

It means that Jenkins has embarked on a social reform agenda to build “cottage estates”, i.e., public housing: a tract of cottages for the poor. The dialogue suggests that the speakers don’t think ...
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When was each article of Avowals and Denials written?

Yes, this is straightforward (if somewhat tedious). Avowals and Denials begins with a note: The essays of which this book is composed are reprinted, often with slight alterations, from the ...
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4 votes
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Meaning of "ethical fellowship" in "The Secret of Father Brown"?

"Ethical fellowship" is a sort of a keyphrase for secular beliefs that there are right and wrong actions distinct from any religious framework, as per Felix Adler's Ethical Movement. So ...
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4 votes
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What connects "dripping with gore" and Buddhism & Christianity in "The Dagger with Wings"?

"Dripping with gore" indicates that the man had just committed a violent murder and was literally dripping with blood from the victim. However if he were philosophically inclined, he could hold forth ...
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4 votes
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What would Mr Aylmer resent in "The Dagger with Wings"?

"It" refers back to "go[ing] straight to the point". If the man's thoughts are dominated by paranoia (the monomania in this story), then he will sense that any indirect questions asked by Father ...
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Why both "noticed" and "thought noticeable" in "The Oracle of the Dog"?

"Noticeable" here means more "worthy of being noticed" than "able to be noticed". Noticeable has two different, albeit related meanings, which coul be summarised as "able to be noticed" and "worthy ...
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4 votes

Meaning of "the humility of a charge" in "The Chief Mourner of Marne"?

To offer a contrasting view to that given: the nineteen hundred years are since the time of Jesus. Father Brown is a Catholic priest, and Catholicism is a rather hierarchical faith. The "charge ...
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4 votes
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Who is "the man in Dickens" in "The Worst Crime in the World"?

Who is "the man in Dickens"? The answer is that Chesterton is referring to the following passage from Charles Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop, in which the question "is the old [man] ...
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What's meant here by " his serving as second proves very little about what he thought of the quarrel"?

It carries the implication that if Romaine had not acted as his second, even if he thought Maurice ought not to fight the duel, Maurice might have cut off the money, which he was dependent on. (...
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Does "entertain about" mean "distract about" or "entertain because"?

"Entertain" and "about" are not linked. They (honestly, in this case, the "we" is a more general usage of the pronoun, not any indication that he himself was doing the ...
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4 votes

Does "entertain about" mean "distract about" or "entertain because"?

In the above excerpt, "about" is not directly connected to the verb "entertain", so it does not work like, e.g. "talk about". The structure is as follows: "we had ...
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What's meant here by "over the cosier chambers of Humanism ..."?

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", ...
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4 votes
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What's meant here by "[the heresies] are actually unconscious?

"there’s so much of it that deserve to be down on" The Master is trying to indicate that Communism is not nearly as prevalent or as dangerous as they think. They're taking what is a minor ...
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