I've been reading some of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries, lately, keeping a volume on my bedside table. I had only read a couple before now, and so I'm enjoying getting to know the sagacious little priest better.
The volume that I'm now reading begins with a preface by Auberon Waugh, and it strikes me as having been written by someone who had read Chesterton - and read about him - a good bit, but who had simply never understood him. He seems unable to see past Chesterton's ample surface, and weaves from his imagination a caricature of GKC that exaggerates all the wrong things.
So, he states that Chesterton "learned" Distributism from Hilaire Belloc, that he "drank himself into a state of corpulent immobility" while living in London, that because of this his wife "banished" him to Beaconsfield, and that she thereafter virtually forbade him to visit his "old haunts".
He speaks of Chesterton "churning out elegant paradoxes", and drily notes that he is certain to be forgotten except for his Father Brown stories and a few obscure bits of his poetry. He sums up Chesterton's brilliant essays as " ...pretty good rubbish, some of it repetitive, some contradictory, some nearly incomprehensible, with just the occasional flash of light that makes the reader gasp".
In other words, Waugh sounds like a thoroughly worldly modern trying to explain Chesterton's rather other-worldy and timeless thought in ways he and his more jaded peers can relate to.
The last laugh is Chesterton's, though. There has just concluded the tenth annual Chesterton Conference of the American Chesterton Society, and GKC is being read and quoted and considered more now than at any time since he was alive.
I haven't discovered, yet, when the next Auberon Waugh conference might be, but I'll keep you posted.