Too sickly to fight in the Great War, Christopher Dawson volunteered for civilian duty and spent roughly fourteen years reading and drawing up ideas to prepare for a career in writing. He had received a profound mystical vision on Easter, 1909, while visiting Rome. In that vision, the nineteen-year old Anglo-Welshman believed God had commanded him to record the entire history of the world, showing him all times and all peoples at once. Determined to live up to what God had asked him, he began building upon an already solid liberal education.
During these years, he kept extensive notes and journals influential writings included in his notes came from the significant historians, anthropologists, and thinkers from every school of thought from his day. Generally, he took notes in the same language as the original texts, and he delved deeply into Plato’s Laws and the various writings by Aristotle, Xenophon, and Heraclitus. In his journals, now residing at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, one can see vividly that Dawson readily moved through a variety of languages including English, French, Greek, and Latin.
In the same notebook, presumably after reading the above authors, Dawson concluded tellingly: “All the events of the last years have convinced me what a fragile thing civilization is and how near we are to losing the whole inheritance which our age might have
acquired [sic] enjoyed.”
In addition to his voluminous academic and scholarly reading, he also devoured wht works of Jane Austen, Henry David Thoreau, P.J. Wodehouse, Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, H.G. Wells, R.H. Benson, Arthur Conan Doyle, and a huge selection of science fiction, historical fiction, American westerns, and English detective stories. G.K. Chesterton, especially, influenced Dawson, as the latter regarded him as “one of the greatest champions of Christian culture in our time.” Chesterton’s most influential work on Dawson was his epic poem, The Ballad of the White Horse [read from this?]. This poem, perhaps the most significant call to arms for twentieth-century Christian Humanists, equally inspired C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Russell Kirk.
[Please continue reading on page 2]