The flying ship of Professor Lucifer sang through the skies like a silver arrow; the bleak white steel of it, gleaming in the bleak blue emptiness of the evening. That it was far above the earth was no expression for it; to the two men in it, it seemed to be far above the stars. The professor had himself invented the flying machine, and had also invented nearly everything in it. Every sort of tool or apparatus had, in consequence, to the full, that fantastic and distorted look which belongs to the miracles of science. For the world of science and evolution is far more nameless and elusive and like a dream than the world of poetry and religion; since in the latter images and ideas remain themselves eternally, while it is the whole idea of evolution that identities melt into each other as they do in a nightmare. . . .
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Like much of G. K. Chesterton's fiction, The Ball and the Cross is both witty and profound, cloaking serious religious and philosophical inquiry in sparkling humor and whimsy. Serialized in the British publication The Commonwealth in 1905-06, Chesterton's second novel first appeared in book form in America in 1909, delighting and challenging readers with its heady mixture of fantasy, farce, and theology.
The plot of The Ball and the Cross chronicles a hot dispute between two Scotsmen, one a devout but naive Roman Catholic, the other a zealous but naive atheist. Their fanatically held opinions—leading to a duel that is proposed but never fought—inspire a host of comic adventures whose allegorical levels vigorously explore the debate between theism and atheism.
Martin Gardner's superb introduction to The Ball and the Cross reveals the real-life debate between Chesterton and a famous atheist that provided inspiration for the story, and it explores some of the novel's possible allegorical meanings. Appraising the book's many intriguing philosophical qualities, Mr. Gardner alerts readers as well to the pleasures of its "colorful style . . . amusing puns and clever paradoxes . . . and the humor and melodrama of its crazy plot."
Unabridged Dover (1995) republication of the work originally published in 1909-1910. New Introduction by Martin Gardner.
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