The Man Who Was Thursday (1908), by G.K. Chesterton (Paperback)

Thriller, Philosophical Novel, Adventure Fiction

By G. K. Chesterton

Createspace Independent Publishing Platform, 9781535044172, 102pp.

Publication Date: July 1, 2016



The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare is a novel by G. K. Chesterton, first published in 1908. The book is sometimes referred to as a metaphysical thriller.In Edwardian era London, Gabriel Syme is recruited at Scotland Yard to a secret anti-anarchist police corps. Lucian Gregory, an anarchistic poet, lives in the suburb of Saffron Park. Syme meets him at a party and they debate the meaning of poetry. Gregory argues that revolt is the basis of poetry. Syme demurs, insisting the essence of poetry is not revolution but law. He antagonizes Gregory by asserting that the most poetical of human creations is the timetable for the London Underground. He suggests Gregory isn't really serious about anarchism, which so irritates Gregory that he takes Syme to an underground anarchist meeting place, revealing his public endorsement of anarchy is a ruse to make him seem harmless, when in fact he is an influential member of the local chapter of the European anarchist council.The work is prefixed with a poem written to Edmund Clerihew Bentley, revisiting the pair's early history and the challenges presented to their early faith by the times. Like most of Chesterton's fiction, the story includes some Christian allegory. Chesterton, a Protestant at this time (he joined the Roman Catholic Church about 15 years later), suffered from a brief bout of depression during his college days, and claimed afterwards he wrote this book as an unusual affirmation that goodness and right were at the heart of every aspect of the world. However, he insisted: "The book ... was not intended to describe the real world as it was, or as I thought it was, even when my thoughts were considerably less settled than they are now. It was intended to describe the world of wild doubt and despair which the pessimists were generally describing at that date; with just a gleam of hope in some double meaning of the doubt, which even the pessimists felt in some fitful fashion." The costumes the detectives don towards the end of the book represent what was created on their respective day. Sunday, "the sabbath" and "the peace of God," sits upon a throne in front of them. The name of the girl Syme likes, Rosamond, is derived from "Rosa Mundi," meaning "Rose of the World" in Latin, and a title given to Christ.(Usually a title given to the Virgin Mary) The central council consists of seven men, each using the name of a day of the week as a cover name; the position of Thursday is about to be elected by Gregory's local chapter. Gregory expects to win the election but just before, Syme reveals to Gregory after an oath of secrecy, that he is a secret policeman. Fearful Syme may use his speech in evidence of a prosecution, Gregory's weakened words fail to convince the local chapter that he is sufficiently dangerous for the job. Syme makes a rousing anarchist speech and wins the vote. He is sent immediately as the chapter's delegate to the central council.In his efforts to thwart the council, Syme eventually discovers that the other five members are also undercover detectives; each was employed just as mysteriously and assigned to defeat the Council. They soon find out they were fighting each other and not real anarchists; such was the mastermind plan of their president, Sunday. In a surreal conclusion, Sunday is unmasked as only seeming to be terrible; in fact, he is a force of good like the detectives. Sunday is unable to give an answer to the question of why he caused so much trouble and pain for the detectives. Gregory, the only real anarchist, seems to challenge the good council. His accusation is that they, as rulers, have never suffered like Gregory and their other subjects and so their power is illegitimate. Syme refutes the accusation immediately, because of the terrors inflicted by Sunday on the rest of the council....