The University of Notre Dame (USA) in England is proud to soon house the G.K. Chesterton Library at the London Global Gateway. As well as being the premier English Catholic intellectual of the 20th century, Chesterton had a very specific connection to the University of Notre Dame: he was named a visiting professor and given an honorary degree at the home campus in South Bend in 1930. It is appropriate then that Notre Dame, widely recognized to be the leading Roman Catholic teaching and research university in the United States, is home to such a remarkable collection. Serving as a tangible connection between the Notre Dame main campus and the London Global Gateway, the collection also aims to unite the University with the broader Roman Catholic community in the United Kingdom.
The Gateway will have a multifaceted approach to the use of this library, which would, in fact, be the focal point for a center for Chesterton studies. Chesterton was a genuine polymath who wrote prolifically on philosophy, theology, Catholic social teaching, literary criticism, history, and more. He was also a journalist, a writer of fiction and poetry, and was formally trained in the areas of art and design. The Chesterton collection reflects all those talents, but it is particularly strong in the area of reception and translation studies (including parodies and imitations), the literature of distributism and social policy, and what we might generally call “design” (i.e., the children’s theater as well as his marginal doodling in his personal books). Much of this collection will thus be of interest to scholars in any of the above-mentioned fields.
Once the library is established in London, Chesterton enthusiasts can look at an array of carefully curated artifacts and books that best represent his life’s work.
Chesterton's signature in one of his books
The collection reflects the multifaceted nature of Chesterton's work; containing books, personal effects, art and other items related to the life of this renowned 20th century English Catholic writer, orator, apologist and provocateur.
It includes a vast array of Chesterton's works, many of which are inscribed with his drawings and doodles, demonstrating his imaginative engagement with the material he was reading. It is also rich in works broadly inspired by Chesterton, including translations and critical commentary.
As well as his writings, Chesterton's art is represented by the library, through his paintings, drawings and even in his designs of a toy theater.
The collection was independently compiled by schoolmaster and bookseller Aidan Mackey, one of the foremost Chesterton experts and among the only surviving individuals with connections to Chesterton’s family circle. For many years it was under the custodianship of Stratford Caldecott and Centre for Faith & Culture in Oxford (with support from the Chesterton Institute at Seton Hall and later the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts). The Trust was formed by Stratford Caldecott in 2008 with the object of safeguarding the collection and promoting "the study of G.K. Chesterton and other writers for the benefit of the public by activities related to the establishment and maintenance in England of a suitably equipped research library". In 2013, the collection moved to the Oxford Oratory library building.
Chesterton's walking canes
The early influence of Stratford Caldecott was instrumental in Mackey's building of the collection and the efforts of Rev. Jerome Bertram and Dr. William Griffiths in housing it at the Oxford Oratory have also been significant.
The Trustees see this move to Notre Dame's London Global Gateway as the best way to further these aims and provide a safe and fruitful setting for the collection in Chesterton's home country. Mr Mackey is delighted about the move. "To watch as the trustees and Notre Dame have arranged the collection’s elevation to so prestigious a home as the London Global Gateway is, for me, warming beyond measure,” he said.
The London Global Gateway is dedicated to maintaining a study center through which interest in G.K. Chesterton will be encouraged and scholarship promoted.
For more information, contact Tom Finch at the London Global Gateway.
During 2020 the library will transition from the Oxford Oratory to the London Global Gateway. The London Global Gateway will announce on this website and through a press release when the collection is again available to the public.