Christopher Hitchens spent his final days with G.K. Chesterton. Hitchens’ last essay “The Reactionary” was published posthumously in the March 2012 edition of The Atlantic. According to Benjamin Schwarz, literary editor for The Atlantic, Hitchens read hundreds of pages of Chesterton’s work in research for the piece. Schwarz writes:
The resulting essay taxed Christopher. . .For this piece he read some 1,700 pages in his Houston hospital room, and because of his illness his writing sessions were painful, hard-won, and abbreviated.
The essay is well written and interesting — but who would expect less of Christopher Hitchens. He accurately pinpoints some of the frustrations that many, like himself, encounter in Chesterton’s writing. He gives appropriate credit for G.K.C’s literary legacy, calls his argumentation into question, and praises his work on Charles Dickens.
As a whole, I enjoyed the piece particularly in light of the great sacrifice by which Hitchens wrote it. I couldn’t help but consider the possibility of Hitchens reading Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man, which led C.S. Lewis to renounce his own atheism. It is hard to imagine Hitchens not consulting this work for his essay, since many believe it to be among Chesterton’s most influential writings.
This is no argument for a death-bed conversion: Hitchens disavowed any such possibility. It is, however, an interesting picture of an atheist facing death reflecting on the works of a Christian author whose books have initiated a journey to faith for many notable public intellectuals in the past. Perhaps it made its mark once more. Eternity alone will tell.
You can read The Atlantic piece here:
Here is a sketch I published of Hitch shortly after his death.
Here is a sketch I published of C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton.