In "The Secret of Father Brown" by G. K. Chesterton, the author was describing a Spanish man, saying:

He was fond of his wife and family; he never went farther afield than was needed for a little shooting; and he seemed, to his American globe - trotter neighbour, the embodiment of that cult of a sunny respectability and a temperate luxury, which the American was wise enough to see and admire in the Mediterranean peoples.

What's meant here by "cult of a sunny respectability"?


Literally, a cult is a small but zealous religious group. Cults often have beliefs that seem strange to outsiders.

Figuratively, "a cult of X" is an extreme attachment to the idea of X. The speaker uses this to suggest that "X" is not actually always a good thing

So we might say "the cult of the expert" (the belief that experts can solve all our problems) to suggest that actually many "experts" are charlatans.

The author here suggests that people value "sunny respectablity" (I guess "sunny" here has a double meaning of both lots of sunshine and cheerfulness) too highly. And in particular the character "He" (who is not American) seems to be be a particular good example of this.

"He" seems to value sunshine, and respectability very highly. But it is further implied that this is not real. He "seems" to embody ... which implies that actually he is in some way radical or revolutionary.

  • So "sunny" here is not an adjective? – Ahmed Samir May 17 '20 at 20:06
  • Yes, an adjective, meaning both cheerful and lots of sunshine. Perhaps it has a double meaning here – James K May 17 '20 at 20:10
  • So It's like "cheerful respect". – Ahmed Samir May 17 '20 at 20:12
  • It is more like "being cheerful and being respectable".. but compare with "temperate luxury", again a double meaning on the adjective "temperate". – James K May 17 '20 at 20:17
  • That's really helpful, thank you so much. – Ahmed Samir May 17 '20 at 20:18

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