Cecil Chesterton

Cecil Chesterton books and biography


Cecil Chesterton

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Cecil Edward Chesterton (1879 – December 6, 1918) was an English journalist, known particularly for his role as editor of The New Witness from 1912 to 1916, and in relation to its coverage of the Marconi scandal, and British anti-Semitism. He also wrote on political matters, and during World War I as pro-war and anti-German.

He was the younger brother of G. K. Chesterton, and a close associate of Hilaire Belloc. While the ideas of distributism came from all three, and Arthur Penty, he was the most ideological and combative by temperament. His death, according to his wife, removed the theorist of the movement.

He was born in Kensington, London, and educated at St Paul's School, and the Slade School of Art. He worked as a freelance journalist. In 1901 he joined the Fabian Society, with which he was closely involved for about six years. From 1907 he wrote for A. R. Orage's The New Age.

He had been one of the 'Anti-Puritan League' of the 1890s, with Stewart Headlam (who stood bail for Oscar Wilde), Edgar Jepson and his brother; and then a member of Henry Holland's Christian Social Union. While Chesterton was writing from a socialist point of view for Orage, he was also moving to an Anglo-Catholic religious stance. In 1911 he started editorial work for Belloc, with whom he wrote in The Party System a disabused attack on party politics.

In 1912 he became a Roman Catholic convert. Also in that year he bought Belloc's failing Eye-Witness, and edited it as The New Witness for four years. It was a weekly paper and scandal sheet; Claud Cockburn's This Week of the 1930s was a descendant, as is Private Eye magazine. His persistent attacks on prominent Jewish figures during the period of the Marconi scandal, and his public defence of his position in terms of a 'Jewish problem', have left him with a permanent reputation as an anti-Semite. He was successfully brought to court by Godfrey Isaacs, one of those attacked.

In 1916 he married Ada Elizabeth Jones (1888-?), later known as a writer, after a long courtship. He joined the Highland Light Infantry as a private soldier. Ada took over the paper, which was also supported by G. K. Chesterton, and it eventually in 1925 became G. K.'s Weekly.

He was three times wounded fighting in France, and died there in a hospital of pneumonia on December 6, 1918. Although sick, he had refused to leave his post until the Armstice. On December 13, G. K. Chesterton would report his death in the New Witness, noting that "He lived long enough to march to the victory which was for him a supreme vision of liberty and the light."

Joseph Pearce's Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G. K. Chesterton, has more details about his life. According to one Internet source, which could not be confirmed, his wife Ada died on January 20, 1962.


  • Gladstonian Ghosts (1905)
  • G. K. Chesterton: A Criticism (1908)
  • Party and the People (1910)
  • The Party System (1911) with Hilaire Belloc
  • Nell Gwynne (1911)
  • The Prussian hath said in his Heart (1914)
  • The Perils of Peace
  • A History of the United States (1919)


  • Cecil Chesterton (1975) Brocard Sewell

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