Fr Peter Milward, SJ


Peter Milward, eminent Chestertonian in Japan, died on 16 August 2017. He came from a noted Catholic family in the Jesuit parish of Wimbledon (his brother Richard was the leading historian of Wimbledon) and joined the Jesuit novitiate in 1943, sent to Japan, still a scholastic, in 1954. After priestly ordination, he became Professor of English at the Jesuits’ Sophia University in Tokyo. Summer vacations were usually spent accompanying groups of his students, absorbing English culture through visiting the sites connected with Shakespeare, Hopkins… and Chesterton.

We tend to think of 1974 as the year that the Chestertonian Revival began, the year of G.K.C.’s centenary, with the Spode House conference, the foundation of the Society and the Review, and of John Sullivan’s A Centenary Appraisal. Peter Milward’s chapter in the Appraisal showed us that Chesterton was already known and appreciated in Japan, thanks to Soseki (1907) and Hakuson (1909), the Kyoto school and that at Keio University, Tokyo, and (after World War II) his own Sophia University. There was a Chesterton Society in Japan (founded by Peter) since 1966! His many publications included his Introduction to Chesterton’s collected Essays on Shakespeare, “In Search of the Middle Ages” (about the Road to Santiago) and “The Catholicism of Shakespeare’s Plays”, along with his memoirs “Admissions of an Absent-Minded Author”.

He ended his chapter by quoting some of his students’ essays on G.K.C., and sent many more as articles to the Review thereafter. May the last word come from one student: “Gilbert Keith Chesterton is like an orange juice that people drink in the morning. It is an eye-opener; and he opened my eyes widely and helped me see the world.” Or, as a Jesuit might put it, “Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.”

 William Griffiths

Trustee of the G.K. Chesterton Library