Athenaeum Meeting Minutes Ė January 12, 2002 Ė Dog & Duck Pub

Attending:  John Mays, Steve Britt, Pete Hansen, Jimmy Martin, Eli Pickering

Welcome to new Athenaeum member, Steve Britt.

Book for Discussion:  Napoleon of Notting Hill, G. K. Chesterton


Pete: Chesterton is trying to replace the modern "brave new world" with a simpler medieval existence. This novel makes a farce of the modernist movement.

John: Chesterton shows a proclivity for the fantastic.

Steve: Notes that early on Chesterton reminds us that when miracles occur the world changes forever. This is exemplified in Quinnís reaction to his perception of the overcoats as "dragons, walking backwards".

Jimmy: Martin Gardner has it wrong. He misses the point of the novel, exp: "Sad that Chesterton believes the only good war is a religious war".

John: Chesterton shows us his passion for the created man (notes Everlasting Man), and for the universe as God created it, because Godís universe is full of passion.

Pete: Agrees with John adding this; Chesterton not a rationalist- heís a romantic. He sees the world as a poet. John notes this may be the root of Chestertonís issue with Calvinist. That Calvinists are too ridgid, too structured in there theology without the capacity to see Godís plan for us does include, and must include an embrace of our romantic notions of his creation.

John: Chesterton sees the world with the wonder of a child, and to support this John and Steve note the many instances where Quinn and Wayne are described as "child like" or to possess "child like features". John notes the use of "poet" and "child" are persistent symbols in all his work.

Steve: Chesterton likes to turn things on their head. Exp: the line "speaks for the public" uttered by Barker is siezed upon by Quinn as ridiculous. To Chesterton, clearly those who would portend to "Speak for the Public" are exactly the last people qualified to do so.

At this point the waiter/busboy suggests Girl with A Pearl Earring for future reading. Thanks, buddy. weíll look into it.

John: Chesterton would argue that God is a poet and so, Christians are also poets. Another theme, which Chesterton maintains throughout the novel, is the grand majesty of man as the pinnacle of Godís creation. John again sites Everlasting Man.

Pete: Reminds us of a similar thought in Mines of Solomon in which the buildings and homes of man, as viewed from a ship at sea seem to complete the picture of the shoreline.

Steve: Lifts up the line "Öman is like a womanÖ" as reason enough not to vote a woman into office. Someone tell his wife that.

John: The symbolism of names: Quinn is short for Quince (a carpenter) and Auberon is similar to Oberon (King of the Fairies), both characters in A Mid Sumner Nightís Dream. One of Quinceís lines, "Öa lover who kills himself adamantly for loveÖ" as a perfect description of Adam Wayne.

John/Jimmy: Adam Wayne is really the 2nd Adam, and the first perfect man, because he, unlike the others men of London is a poet, a romantic, and a passionate man. This was true even from his youth when the young Wayne poked Auberon with a stick.

Jimmy: Can anyone figure out the Nicaraguan President? No firm responses, but Steve notes Elí Presidente may be a foreshadow of Adam Wayne. Eli supports this notion he draws his own blood by a puncture wound to his left hand, reminiscent of the nail prints of Christ.

Eli/John: Also noted this about the President; the image of yellow and red blood was used by Chesterton in several places, and most notably at the end when Wayne rips the yellow cloak, and completes the flag with blood from his shoulder wound.

John: Back to Quinn. He is the God figure who created Wayne with his words of patriotism to the young boy. Quinn is the chief humorist (as we are too see God in Chestertonís theology).

John: From Orthodoxy, God hides from us only one quality during his incarnation on Earth, that being his mirth. Steve agrees that God is a humorist, a poet, and these qualities are embodied in Quinn.

Steve: Notes that Oberon-Auberon are well linked because they are both Kings of Mirth, and therefore never serious. This is yet another example of Chesteronís attention to detail, and impressive knowledge of literature. John notes that it also follows from this relationship that Chesterton allows himself to make light of a serious topic through Quinnís association with the King of Fairies.

John: Notes the wonderful picture of Quinn, the correspondent or keeper of the Word, trailing insignificantly behind Barkerís great army during itís first attack on Notting Hill. Itís reminiscent of the roll modernists have relegated to God in a modern world (as represented by the army). After all, in whom did the provosts put their trust? Pete points out they trusted the enlightened, mechanical, mathematical certainty of a larger force. We see the outcome.


Eli: Notes the precision of Chestertonís writing, and the careful construction of the story such that it is packed with symbolism.

John: Pushes forward with further symbolism in character names. Specifically, Barker (as a dog), Lambert (as a sheep), Buck (as a deer), and Steve added Swindon (as a pig). All men of the modern world, all relegated to animal names, none of them poets worthy of Quinnís great joke. They are subhuman, because only Wayne is truly human. Wilson alone is spared an animal name, and of all the generals of London, he is the only one for whom a statue is erected, or who played a serious part in the war (aside from Wayne and Quinn).

John: Opens discussion on the best part of the book, the last chapter. The voices of dead Quinn and Wayne are heard debating the modernist argument for a false and deceitful God who may not exist at all. Quinn echoes the modernist anthem: "What if your God were a joke?" Wayne tells us we win anyway, to be given such a role to play in a grand creation, irrespective of the Creatorís intent.

Eli/Steve: Talk about the significance of the tree in the final battle. Eli especially notices the way Chesterton frames the scene with 30 men straining in complete silence to rend Wayne from the tree. Also, Buck screams to have Wayne killed, and cries to God, "Have we been deceived all along?". Sure he has. Thatís the irony!

John: Chesterton must hate barbers, because the author has Quinn running around in the beginning complaining about having his hair cut, and the barber of Pump Street is the only one to quickly rebuke Wayne and send him on his way.

Pete: The scene with the Trinkets Dealer conjures up exoctentialism because he and Wayne speak of the disinterest in discussing birth, eating, and death (pretty much anything) in their London. It represents the malaise of the individual in modern society.

Steve: The fact that Chesterton writes about a war represents his opinion that war is preferable to silence in a godless society like that constructed by the modernists. It illustrates his passion, his poetry his romantic vision of the created man.

Pete: Comments on the hilarious political commentary. The fact that we are all idiots anyway, so why not pick our leaders out of a hat.

Steve: Agrees with Pete, adding a modern example, the election of the US president. We get 2 guys running from carefully crafted, inoffensive, and politically inert platforms. We get 2 guys who are virtually indistinguishable, and then act like it really matters which one wins. At least in Chestertonís London of 1984, the people realize it really doesnít matter, choosing to appoint the King by lottery!

John: Discusses the lines that describe Quinn and Wayne as lobes of the same brain. The pieces of the whole person. Hypostasis of Passion and Poetry.

Eli: Notes this also links them theologically if Quinn is the God Figure and Wayne the Christ Figure. Two parts of the same being.

Steve: In itís turnabout treatment of certain themes, Notting Hill brings out the ludicrous nature of the cross. How it just didnít make sense that the Christ would allow himself to die on the cross. The lion choosing the by sacrificed like a lamb.

Eli: Quotes again the line spoken by Quinn when first addressing Wayne, "Funnily it is serious, but seriously isnít it funny". This seems to encapsulate the point Steve was trying to make.

John/Eli: How is it that the good guys (Wayne and Quinn) loose in the end? Truly they donít. John brings up the Nordic hero mentality from Beowulf. Namely that the fight not the outcome, means victory for the righteous. Thatís how Wayne sees it, and this is the Christian ethic as well. "Death where is thy sting?" In the end, we may die and be pleased not to conceded defeat to death.

Eli: Why does Quinn not dress the part? If Chesteron is as careful, and purposeful as we think, then there must be some reason that he exempts himself from dressing as the Provosts do. Perhaps it is an expression of "the joke". Itís bad enough the Provosts have to look like fools, but the one who makes them do so dresses normally. That is pretty funny!

Steve: Funny line: "Monarchical institutions improve the manners"

John: Recommended (Essential) Chesterton: Napoleon of Notting Hill, Everlasting Man, Orthodoxy, The Man Who Was Tuesday. Two fiction, two nonfiction.

At this point, Atheneum read from the chapter entitled "Enter A Lunatic" from the first entrance of Wayne to the end of the chapter.

Eli as the Narrator

Jimmy as Auberon Quinn (excellent performance!)

John as Adam Wayne.

Best Quote by Quinn in reference to Wayne: "I shall begin to doubt the superiority of art to life!"

Also, mid chapter, we had a discussion with a fellow beer drinker and patron with recommended reading from science fiction author David Webber.

Voting for March:


(Eli) Inferno


(John) One Hundred Years of Solitude 


(John) No Logo


(Pete) Intellectuals


(Pete) Lord Jim


Next Meeting:

February 9th at the Dog and Duck Pub

February Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie

March Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad

Athenaeum Meeting Minutes