When I was a child going through my late father’s library my maternal grandfather pointed out an old copy of G.K. Chesterton’s The Flying Inn, published in 1914, and said: “That’s a good story!” I wish now that Grandfather had lived long enough for me to talk to him about many things. I am not sure why he, Mayor, Member of Parliament, Knight, and general pillar of the community, with no sign I could detect of even my father’s bohemian streak, thought this tale of rum-disbursing rapscallions in flight from the law was a good story, but I took him at his word and when I read it found he was right. It is also curiously prophetic.
It was condemned to many years of neglect, presumably because of what was then seen as the quaintness and irrelevance of its subject matter — an Islamic attack on and infiltration of England. It has, however, recently been reissued in the U.S. by Dover publications.
It is, as one of its excellences, a swinging hit at political correctness, penned a couple of generations before the term political correctness was dreamed up. The British politician, Lord Ivywood, by a piece of legal trickery, bans the drinking of alcohol in England. That is, alcohol is not banned outright, but can only be sold by an inn displaying a sign, and the signs are banned.
The good people, like irresponsible vagabonds, travel the country just ahead of the law, first with a donkey and then a motor car, with a keg of rum and a cheese, as well as an inn-sign rescued from the destroyed inn “The Old Ship,” dispersing cheer to the workmen who have been denied a drink, singing merry songs on the way (naturally most of the establishment figures who support prohibition still manage to evade it for themselves in other ways).
But there is more sinister parallel development. Targeting the traditional English pub is only part of the politically correct targeting of all English institutions, traditions and identity, enforced by a British establishment enthralled by Islamicism. We also hear little asides about the cross being gradually banned, or rather, replaced by a combined cross-and-crescent symbol (“The Crescent, the growing thing…the religion of progress”). Smart art circles adopt Islamicist art. Then there are growing hints of political preparations for polygamy, the institution of the harem and the suppression of women.
Anticipating what would be one of the characteristics of 20th century totalitarianism and 21st century relativism, history is rewritten to show that England was originally an Islamic country. The old pub name “The Saracen’s Head,” probably dating from some memory of the Crusades, is, so the people are told, really a corruption of “The Saracen Is Ahead.” “The Green Man” (another traditional English pub name which is in fact probably a fossil reference to very ancient fertility beliefs) was actually, according to the new revisionists, a corruption of “The Agreeing Dragoman.”
One might think this pseudo-history a flight of fantasy too far. But in 2004 the Mufti of Australia and New Zealand, Taj Al-Din Hamad Abdallah Al-Hilali, who has described the holocaust as a Zionist lie, also claimed that Australia was originally Islamic land, settled by Afghans. The Australian Aborigines were their descendants. (In fact Aborigines reached Australia several tens of thousands of years ago. Some so-called “Afghans” — actually mostly Iranians – arrived in the 19th century to work as camel-drivers in the outback.)
This real-world Mufti claimed as evidence of the Aborigines’ Muslim origins the facts that they “have customs such as circumcision, marriage ceremonies, respect for tribal elders, and burial of the dead — all customs that show that they were connected to ancient Islamic culture before the Europeans set foot it Australia.” This real-world rubbish actually surpasses the tortured rationalizations and historical revisionisms of the fictional Islamicists in The Flying Inn. Apparently no one told the Mufti that circumcision (actually many Aborigines practiced subincision, a very different thing) far predates Islam and is characteristically Jewish, and marriage ceremonies, respect for elders, and burial of the dead are features of practically every society.
The same claim has been advanced by some modern Islamic writers for America, including statements that Columbus found mosques there. (The point here is that Islamic law states Muslims possess by right any land that once formed part of the House of Islam. This is a key element in Islamic claims against the existence of Israel.)
As The Flying Inn goes on it gradually becomes apparent that Ivywood is working towards destroying the entire Christian and Western identity of England. As Catholic priest Addison H. Hart pointed out in a recent essay, while Ivywood is using Islamicism as a tool, he is also a creature of pseudo-Nietzscheanism. “I see the breaking of barriers,” he says. “Beyond that I see nothing.” They are words that could be straight from modern deconstructionism and they encapsulate its ultimately Hellish nature. Ivywood is, ultimately, the voice of Antichrist. His associates and tools, his “false prophets,” are a strange little Turk, Misysra Ammon, and a miserable crawling journalist, Hibbs However.
Against Ivywood is an at first tiny resistance movement: a giant, red-haired, hard-drinking Irishman named Patrick Dalroy, a thoroughly English pub-owner named Humphrey Pump, dispossessed landlord of “The Old Ship,” who loves Pickwick and has the history of the country in his bones, and Lord Ivywood’s poet cousin, an aesthete who is, as a later generation would put it, mugged by reality. After many adventures the story concludes with England roused, a decisive battle against the Islamicist Army which Lord Ivywood has been secretly shipping in, and Dalroy getting the girl. Like Nietzsche, Lord Ivywood goes mad, babbling of the Superman in an asylum.
As with other books by Chesterton, when I first read it I was puzzled but liked it. Perhaps part of what appealed to me was its obviously fantastical nature. When Chesterton wrote it, on the eve of the First World War, the great perceived threat to England and to the “Western and Christian heritage” was not Islamicism, which had been out of such questions for centuries, but German militarism. When I read it, the Cold War had been on for all my life, and showed no signs of ending — or at least not of ending in victory. The Flying Inn had nothing to do with such “present discontents.” But it is in my mind yet, when those other things are gone.