A blog dedicated to providing quotes by and posts relating to one of the most influential (and quotable!) authors of the twentieth century, G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936). If you do not know much about GKC, I suggest visiting the webpage of the American Chesterton Society as well as this wonderful Chesterton Facebook Page by a fellow Chestertonian

I also have created a list detailing examples of the influence of Chesterton if you are interested, that I work on from time to time.

(Moreover, for a list of short GKC quotes, I have created one here , citing the sources)

"...Stevenson had found that the secret of life lies in laughter and humility."

-Heretics (1905)



Friday, July 4, 2014

"The more transcendental is your patriotism, the more practical are your politics."

The man who is most likely to ruin the place he loves is exactly the man who loves it with a reason. The man who will improve the place is the man who loves it without a reason. If a man loves some feature of Pimlico (which seems unlikely), he may find himself defending that feature against Pimlico itself. But if he simply loves Pimlico itself, he may lay it waste and turn it into the New Jerusalem. I do not deny that reform may be excessive; I only say that it is the mystic patriot who reforms [...] The more transcendental is your patriotism, the more practical are your politics."
-Orthodoxy (1908)

Monday, June 30, 2014

"Half the vices that exist are only unchecked virtues."

A letter Chesterton wrote to The Speaker

Patriotism and Ethics
  (June 1, 1901)

To the Editor of THE SPEAKER
 
Sir,—I am very grateful to Mr. Godard for the courteous letter in which he replies to my defence of the existence of patriotism as a virtue. The whole of his case appears to hang upon one idea, that because I and other reasonable people think that patriots are at present making fools of themselves therefore we ought to abandon altogether a virtue which we cannot permit to have full play. "To have to subdue or check an instinct lest it should lead to vice scarcely harmonises with the theory that it is a virtue." Now I should have thought that it harmonised extraordinarily well, for I know no virtue in the world that does not have to be subdued and checked. Why, half the vices that exist are only unchecked virtues. If a man had such love for his children that he forged bank notes to enrich them, he would be turning a virtue into a vice. If he was so courteous about the feelings of others that he perjured himself rather than distress the prisoner in the dock, he would be turning a virtue into a vice. If he had such reverence for his mother that he assisted her to commit murder, he would be turning a virtue into a vice. And as a matter of fact every virtue is turned into a vice by millions of silly people, just as patriotism is. Domestic love is made an excuse for swindling, purity for scandal-mongering, public spirit for private advancement. I do not, as Mr. Godard seems to think, choose solemnly between the ethical code and the patriotic code, not having the smallest notion what the latter thing may be. I simply rank my loyalty to my nation, along with that to my kind and my family, in its reasonable place in the ethical code itself. It is quite true that I admire patriotism because I think it ethical. The same applies to honesty.

I admit I cannot yet understand why I should accept Mr. Chamberlain's opinion, or the majority's opinion, about whether I am patriotic. No doubt they would say I am not patriotic; probably they would say that Mr. Godard was not ethical. Of course, the patriotism I think a virtue is my own patriotism, not that of Mr. Chamberlain. So it is with all virtues. It is my own honesty I think right, not the honesty of Highland cattle-lifters; it is my own chastity I think right, not the chastity incumbent on the Grand Turk. Every virtue has its varieties and its irregular history. As to Mr. Chamberlain and his "patriots," I can only say that I detest them primarily because I am a patriot and they are ruining my fatherland.

One word as to the Boers. I repeat that I cannot imagine any decent man doing what the Boers are doing, continuing a sanguinary struggle, unless he was fighting for a virtue. "I sympathise with the Boers, not because they are patriots," says Mr. Godard, "but because independence is a thing to be prized, because liberty is a jewel to be guarded." Surely neither Mr. Godard nor any Liberal can really mean that the Boers had some secret of political perfection, that the government of President Kruger was so full of recondite joys and beauties that a person would be wrong to permit it to be altered at any cost. If, on the other hand, he means by "liberty" the independence of the fatherland, then I entirely agree with him. But in that case he does sympathise with the Boers because they are patriots. To sum up, I think Mr. Godard imagines that when I say patriotism is a virtue I mean that patriotism is virtue. I refer it and everything else to a test of universal good. Only I happen to find that it passes the test with honours.— Yours, &c., G.K.C

Saturday, June 28, 2014

It is, needless to say, nearly a year old, but a video by "Rome Reports" on Chesterton's cause

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7OyI-jTRpc

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"A man who really resented the income-tax...might amuse himself, not by giving short, evasive answers, as such malcontents do, but by giving true but interminably long answers."

[An interesting idea....lol. Sorry, just found this passage amusing.] 

It is true, as everyone is saying, that the official inquiry [concerning the income tax] is far more stringent and irritating than it was; but it is not quite fair to state that fact alone. If the system of inquisition is carried very far, it is also true that the system of exemptions is carried very far also. What is increased both by inquisition and exemption is the official's knowledge of the citizen's private affairs. The modern tax-gatherers ask for so much because of the private fact that a surgeon got a very big fee. But they are willing to give part of it back for the sake of another private fact-  that he went to earn it in a motor-car. I do not discuss here whether the change is good or bad; I only say that an honest man who confesses all his windfalls and claims all his exemptions has provided the government with something like a small volume of autobiography.

In fact, it would be rather fun to treat it like that. A man who really resented the income-tax (which I do not) might amuse himself, not by giving short, evasive answers, as such malcontents do, but by giving true but interminably long answers. There is always a complication of purely personal reasons why this or that is convenient to a man in his trade. A pony-cart or a telephone might be made the subject-matter of pages of rich prose. In my own trade, in particular, there are real difficulties in deciding what is and is not necessary to a purely professional activity. Let all these difficulties be set out, pro and con, in a document of somewhat the weight and length of the manuscript of a three-volume novel. It is certain that, except for certain circumstances, there might be a worse article, or an unsaleable article, or no article. Let all those circumstances be set down with a literary and lavish hand. I like to think of the face of an Income-Tax Commissioner, as he opens an appeal against the assessment, and reads some item like this: "Five shillings for hansom-cab driving the necessary number of times round Barnes Common. This item may surprise the Commissioners, and, indeed, it is impossible that they should realise how indispensable it was for literary industry, unless they realise the atmosphere of the occasion. The sun had just set, or rather, had just vanished- for a low hedge of soft-hued but heavy clouds completed and, as it were, fortified the horizon; the air, though not without a certain still coolness, seemed to call aloud for some more exhilirant, etc. etc." It would go on for some pages, and prove triumphantly that the result had been a article sold for three guineas instead of two. If the official turned with some impatience to another item, it would be "Fare to Tunbridge Wells. It is here necessary to explain that I was in love at the time, and had a chance of marrying, if I could satisfy the Editor of the New Nonconformist with an article on 'Passion versus Platonic Love.' I was not deceived in my expectation that a renewed glimpse of Aglavaine would raise my literary powers to the highest purchasing point. By a contrast, which in any other woman might have seemed bizarre, her hair and eyes..." And so on, and so on.

I fancy those who are really in revolt against the Income-Tax Commissioners might cause them quite a lot of annoyance in that way. But I shall not join them, having other revolutions on hand.
-April 12, 1913, Illustrated London News

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The most important sort of knowledge is to know which things are worth knowing
-quoted in this article

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It is obvious enough that whitewashing a man is quite the opposite of washing him white.  The curious thing is that people often try to whitewash a man, and fail, when it might be possible to wash him, and to some limited extent, succeed.  The real story, if the culprit only had the courage to tell it, would often be much more human and pardonable than the stiff suspicious fiction that he tells instead.  Many a public man, I fancy, has tried to conceal the crime and only succeeded in concealing the excuse [. . .] If we had the key of their souls we might come upon virtues quite unexpected — or at least upon vices more generous.  In many a complex human scandal, I fancy, the first real slander is the acquittal.
-The Common Man (1950)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

It is plainer still in more popular problems like Free Will. If St. Thomas stands for one thing more than another, it is what may be called subordinate sovereignties or autonomies. He was, if the flippancy may be used, a strong Home Ruler. We might even say he was always defending the independence of dependent things. He insisted that such a thing could have its own rights in its own region. It was his attitude to the Home Rule of the reason and even the senses; "Daughter am I in my father's house; but mistress in my own." And in exactly this sense he emphasised a certain dignity in Man, which was sometimes rather swallowed up in the purely theistic generalisations about God. Nobody would say he wanted to divide Man from God; but he did want to distinguish Man from God. In this strong sense of human dignity and liberty there is much that can be and is appreciated now as a noble humanistic liberality. But let us not forget that its upshot was that very Free Will, or moral responsibility of Man, which so many modern liberals would deny. Upon this sublime and perilous liberty hang heaven and hell, and all the mysterious drama of the soul. It is distinction and not division; but a man can divide himself from God, which, in a certain aspect, is the greatest distinction of all.
-St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox (1933)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Kidnapping Chesterton

From an Interview with Neil Gaiman

"When you're 11, walking home from school through this strange little English landscape, running these weird, wonderful things through your head ... well, now this is one of those 'I've never told anybody this before' things," Gaiman says conspiratorially, "but here we go:

 "My worst fantasy was a really cool one. I got to kidnap all of the authors whose work I liked, living and dead -- I got to go 'round and round up G.K. Chesterton and Geoffrey Chaucer and all of these guys. Then I got to lock them in an enormous castle and make them collaborate on these huge-plot books. And I would tell them what the plots were.
"I was about 10 years old. And I plotted this 12-volume giant epic about these people going off to collect these rocks from all over the universe.
"As daydreams go, it says an awful lot about me as a young man: I wasn't confident enough about my ability to come up with stories. I was coming up with this huge, intricate story in order to justify in my daydreams of creating stories."

http://edition.cnn.com/2001/CAREER/jobenvy/10/04/author.neil.gaiman/index.html

Friday, May 30, 2014

Robert E. Howard on GKC

Interesting.

A while back, I found on the Wikiquote page dealing with Chesterton the following concerning Robert E. Howard (creator of Conan the Barbarian)
___________________

American author, poet, and widely-know pulp magazine "fictioneer" Robert E. Howard was much impressed by Chesterton's "The Ballad of the White Horse." In a letter to his friend Tevis Clyde Smith, dated 6 August 1926 [when Howard was 20], he writes: "

  • There is great poetry being written now. G.K. Chesterton, for instance.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The historian has a habit of saying of people in the past: "I think they may well be considered worthy of praise, allowing for the ideas of their time." There will never be really good history until the historian says, "I think they were worthy of praise, allowing for the ideas of my time...

...the historian ought to be made to understand that his day is only a day. He is apt to treat it as if it were a day of judgment. We all have a little weakness, which is very natural but rather misleading, for supposing that this epoch must be the end of the world because it will be the end of us. How future generations will get on without us is indeed, when we come to think of it, quite a puzzle. But I suppose they will get on somehow, and may possibly venture to revise our judgments as we have revised earlier judgments.
-August 15, 1925, Illustrated London News

Monday, May 26, 2014

The final objection to what is called "peace at any price" is simply that we should pay the price and not get the peace
-Chesterton's Introduction to Practical Pacifism and Its Adversaries: "Is it Peace, Jehu" (by Severin Nordentoft)
In a sense...war is a sacred thing. It is the ultimate, which should not even be named except in an atmosphere purified from every breath of frivolity or malice....A man has only one life, and he can do nothing so solemn as to stake it for an object he thinks worthy. The worst infamy of Jingoism is that it has encouraged an idle theatrical way of looking at this sacrifice, as if a man had nine lives, like a cat....Indeed, both the cross and the sword are in the same relation to mankind: they are horrible and ungainly tools, made beautiful by the vast and subversive power of human love. Nothing more intrinsically repulsive can be thought of than nailing a man to a wooden stake. Nothing more hideous can be conceived than violently disorganisjng his anatomy with an iron spike called a sword. But the transformation which pity and self-sacrifice has made even in the bodily aspect of these objects is one of the most gigantic of the triumphs of man’s moral imagination.... But these symbols are reverenced because they are rare; because they represent a terrible wager possible only in the last resort. The curse of Jingo poetry is that it makes an unreal and fashionable thing of the appeal by battle. Can anyone conceive a more appalling pantomime than a fashion of being crucified ?
-June 1, 1901, The Speaker

Sunday, May 25, 2014

"It is heroic poetry that is like life.."

It is a part of that pitiful modern notion, unknown to all the great literatures of the world, that a scrap or two of actual detail, the literal symptoms which appear in conversation or action, are the things that are “like life.”

Life is within: a mass of towering emotions and untranslatable secrets. It is heroic poetry that is like life, that attunes itself to this terrible orchestra, that lets our life rush out like the gas out of a balloon. An ordinary modern man shaking with righteous anger against a fool or a tyrant might, as a matter of fact, only stammer out some such fatuous and trivial protest....But that has nothing to do with his “life.” He would curse like Homer if he could.

There are few things, therefore, that we should more seriously protest against than an attempt to translate a monumental poem from the language of the passions which is song, to the vast system of verbal ritual which is called casual conversation. If this were done with some other piece of haunting simplicity, let us say the immortal vow of Ruth—if “thy people shall be my people ” were to become “I will try and get on with your set,” and “thy God my God,” “church or chapel, I don’t mind,” the effect would not be more human and familiar, but less so. The “realist” seems unable to grasp (being a person of no genial arrogance) that there are things that lose everything in merely losing size. It is as if a cockney put in his front garden a miniature model of St. Peter’s, all the proportions being correct.
-January 19, 1901, The Speaker