“Considering the third”

Unfortunately, however, this trouble about conjunctions, about “ands” and “althoughs”, is used in our time to help the cowardice of modern thought. If modern journalists have to state unpopular or unpleasant truths, if they have to admit something which does not fit in with the policy of their paper, they can always cloud the question with a swarm of bewildering conjunctions. Despite this, nevertheless that, and considering the third, consequently the other, and while black, yet in some ways white — until the brain of the reader reels under the mere number of parenthetical sentences, under the burden of the number of brackets in this extraordinary equation. I remember a journalist who carried this weird use of conjunctions to the point of madness. He had to write the religious notes in some daily paper, and he was wildly anxious (being a worldly man) to treat religion reverently, and not to offend any Churchman, or any Nonconformist, or any Roman Catholic, or any Atheist, or anybody. But such dim convictions as he had he tried to convey by the selection of these small words in his sentences. The consequence was that he always left his whole meaning in an impenetrable darkness: nobody could understand why any of the conjunctions came in exactly where they did. He used to run all the religious scraps of news into a long sentence something like this: “While the Salvation Army is holding a meeting in the Albert Hall, and notwithstanding the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury has been compelled by his health to go to the Riviera, yet the Pope is likely to quarrel finally with the French Republic, and the Presbyterian Missions are doing well in the Hebrides; moreover, the Buddhist Cosmic Council has met in Chicago, and Canon Hensley Henson has even preached on the subject of immortality, although the Wesleyans have built a new church at Reading.” I used to read those paragraphs over and over again until my brain almost split, and I could not make out what was opposed to what, or, if so, why so. But the truth, I think, is that obscurity is a kind of curse from God, which often falls upon people either for the sin of intellectual pride or for that of moral timidity. And it is very odd how often the two things go together. It is very odd how often you will find that the man who has enough assurance to despise you, has not enough assurance even to hit you back.

Illustrated London News, 3 August 1907.

Published in: on July 9, 2008 at 6:00 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. A typically Chestertonian passage: insightfully observed and wittily expressed. His sharp eye missed very little, didn’t it? Of course, I loved it…


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