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)

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"The Speaker" Articles

A book I published containing 112 pieces Chesterton wrote for the newspaper "The Speaker" at the beginning of his career.

They are also available for free electronically on another blog of mine here, if you wish to read them that way.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

"I would argue with people about creeds; but I would kill them for catch words."

If I were grand Inquisitor, I would try to burn out of the world not so much certain beliefs as certain phrases. I would argue with people about creeds; but I would kill them for catch words. Short of this, much might be done by voluntary asceticism and self-denial. Journalists might take a vow not to say "a strong man" for eight months, after which time they might begin to have some faint adumbration of what, if anything, they mean by it

-June 5, 1915, Illustrated London News

[I'd say a war against catch words would be *very* appropriate in today's journalism, which practically seems to consist in nothing but such things...]

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"...but I would rather be hated for some....real reason than pursued with love on account of all kinds of qualities which I do not possess..."

...but I would rather be hated for some small but real reason than pursued with love on account of all kinds of qualities which I do not possess and which I do not desire.

-The Appetite of Tyranny (1915)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"The sin and sorrow of despotism is not that it does not love men, but that it loves them too much and trusts them too little."

They are in that most dreadful position, dreadful alike in personal and public affairs—the position of the man who has lost faith and not lost love. This belief that all would go right if we could only get the strings into our own hands is a fallacy almost without exception, but nobody can justly say that it is not public-spirited. The sin and sorrow of despotism is not that it does not love men, but that it loves them too much and trusts them too little.

-Robert Browning (1903)

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Our wisdom, whether expressed in private or public, belongs to the world, but our folly belongs to those we love."

Our wisdom, whether expressed in private or public, belongs to the world, but our folly belongs to those we love.

-Robert Browning (1903)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

"The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. "

But my belief that miracles have happened in human history is not a mystical belief at all; I believe in them upon human evidences as I do in the discovery of America. Upon this point there is a simple logical fact that only requires to be stated and cleared up. Somehow or other an extraordinary idea has arisen that the disbelievers in miracles consider them coldly and fairly, while believers in miracles accept them only in connection with some dogma. The fact is quite the other way. The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them. The open, obvious, democratic thing is to believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a miracle, just as you believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a murder. The plain, popular course is to trust the peasant's word about the ghost exactly as far as you trust the peasant's word about the landlord. Being a peasant he will probably have a great deal of healthy agnosticism about both. Still you could fill the British Museum with evidence uttered by the peasant, and given in favour of the ghost. If it comes to human testimony there is a choking cataract of human testimony in favour of the supernatural. If you reject it, you can only mean one of two things. You reject the peasant's story about the ghost either because the man is a peasant or because the story is a ghost story. That is, you either deny the main principle of democracy, or you affirm the main principle of materialism -- the abstract impossibility of miracle. You have a perfect right to do so; but in that case you are the dogmatist. It is we Christians who accept all actual evidence -- it is you rationalists who refuse actual evidence being constrained to do so by your creed. But I am not constrained by any creed in the matter, and looking impartially into certain miracles of mediaeval and modern times, I have come to the conclusion that they occurred. All argument against these plain facts is always argument in a circle. If I say, "Mediaeval documents attest certain miracles as much as they attest certain battles," they answer, "But mediaevals were superstitious"; if I want to know in what they were superstitious, the only ultimate answer is that they believed in the miracles. If I say "a peasant saw a ghost," I am told, "But peasants are so credulous." If I ask, "Why credulous?" the only answer is -- that they see ghosts. Iceland is impossible because only stupid sailors have seen it; and the sailors are only stupid because they say they have seen Iceland.

-Orthodoxy (1908)

Friday, July 23, 2010

"... the modern world will simply be given over as a spoil to anybody who can manage to do a nasty thing in a nice way."

If the modern world will not insist on having some sharp and definite moral law, capable of resisting the counter-attractions of art and humour, the modern world will simply be given over as a spoil to anybody who can manage to do a nasty thing in a nice way. Every murderer who can murder entertainingly will be allowed to murder. Every burglar who burgles in really humorous attitudes will burgle as much as he likes.

There is another case of the thing that I mean. Why on earth do the newspapers, in describing a dynamite outrage or any other political assassination, call it a "dastardly outrage" or a cowardly outrage? It is perfectly evident that it is not dastardly in the least. It is perfectly evident that it is about as cowardly as the Christians going to the lions. The man who does it exposes himself to the chance of being torn in pieces by two thousand people. What the thing is, is not cowardly, but profoundly and detestably wicked. The man who does it is very infamous and very brave. But, again, the explanation is that our modern Press would rather appeal to physical arrogance, or to anything, rather than appeal to right and wrong.

-All Things Considered (1908)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Most probably we are in Eden still. It is only our eyes that have changed."

For in our time the blasphemies are threadbare. Pessimism is now patently, as it always was essentially, more commonplace than piety. Profanity is now more than an affectation—it is a convention. The curse against God is Exercise I. in the primer of minor poetry. It was not, assuredly, for such babyish solemnities that our imaginary prophet was stoned in the morning of the world. If we weigh the matter in the faultless scales of imagination, if we see what is the real trend of humanity, we shall feel it most probable that he was stoned for saying that the grass was green and that the birds sang in spring; for the mission of all the prophets from the beginning has not been so much the pointing out of heavens or hells as primarily the pointing out of the earth.

Religion has had to provide that longest and strangest telescope—the telescope through which we could see the star upon which we dwelt. For the mind and eyes of the average man this world is as lost as Eden and as sunken as Atlantis. There runs a strange law through the length of human history—that men are continually tending to undervalue their environment, to undervalue their happiness, to undervalue themselves. The great sin of mankind, the sin typified by the fall of Adam, is the tendency, not towards pride, but towards this weird and horrible humility.

This is the great fall, the fall by which the fish forgets the sea, the ox forgets the meadow, the clerk forgets the city, every man forgets his environment and, in the fullest and most literal sense, forgets himself. This is the real fall of Adam, and it is a spiritual fall. It is a strange thing that many truly spiritual men, such as General Gordon, have actually spent some hours in speculating upon the precise location of the Garden of Eden. Most probably we are in Eden still. It is only our eyes that have changed.

-The Defendant (1901)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen, Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green."

The Rolling English Road

Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road,
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire,
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread,
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.

I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire,
And for to fight the Frenchman I did not much desire;
But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed
To straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard made,
Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our hands,
The night we went to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin Sands.

His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run
Behind him; and the hedges all strengthening in the sun?
The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which was which,
But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the ditch.
God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear
The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton Pier.

My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.

-The Flying Inn (1914)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"In short, he is close to the heavens because he is close to the earth."

The average autochthonous Irishman is close to patriotism because he is close to the earth; he is close to domesticity because he is close to the earth; he is close to doctrinal theology and elaborate ritual because he is close to the earth. In short, he is close to the heavens because he is close to the earth.

-George Bernard Shaw (1909)

Monday, July 19, 2010

"...the philosophy of facts is anterior to the facts themselves. In due time we come to the fact, the Incarnation; but in the beginning was the Word."

Most people either say that they agree with Bernard Shaw or that they do not understand him. I am the only person who understands him, and I do not agree with him.

G. K. C.

The Problem of a Preface

A peculiar difficulty arrests the writer of this rough study at the very start. Many people know Mr. Bernard Shaw chiefly as a man who would write a very long preface even to a very short play. And there is truth in the idea; he is indeed a very prefatory sort of person. He always gives the explanation before the incident; but so, for the matter of that, does the Gospel of St. John. For Bernard Shaw, as for the mystics, Christian and heathen (and Shaw is best described as a heathen mystic), the philosophy of facts is anterior to the facts themselves. In due time we come to the fact, the Incarnation; but in the beginning was the Word.

-George Bernard Shaw (1909)

Friday, July 16, 2010

In a generation or so [Marxism] will have gone into the limbo of most heresies...But meanwhile it will have poisoned the Russian Revolution"

The system of Marx is as logical as that of Calvin, and as limited as that of Calvin. In a generation or so it will have gone into the limbo of most heresies, along with the heresy of Calvin. But meanwhile it will have poisoned the Russian Revolution, just as the other poisoned the English Revolution. It will have had to cut across all the traditions of Holy Russia, exactly as the other had to cut across all the traditions of Merry England. It forces men to an unnatural war against the popular idea of Easter, just as the other forced them to an unnatural war against the popular idea of Christmas. The movement is forced, almost against its will, to take a superior tone towards the peasant glorified by Tolstoy, as the other movement did towards the play-actors made splendid by the tradition of Shakespeare. The moral is that the working classes ought to fight for freedom and not a formula, even if it happens to be held by the intellectuals who lead them in the fight. They should state their very real rights as rights, and their very real wrongs as wrongs; and not confuse them with something which some professor thinks right and the next professor will prove wrong. The great wrong of our history was that all property was taken from the people, and the human remedy for it is to make property a common experience among the people. Men want houses, they want land, they want leisure and liberty, they want the self-respect of independence, and men will always want these things. They will not always want books of Marxian economics, any more than they want books of Calvinistic theology. What they do want is something much more like the destruction of the proletariat than the dictatorship of the proletariat. For it is the destruction of the slave and the creation of the citizen.

-July 12, 1919, Illustrated London News

GKC on the subjects of the Eucharist and purgatory

G.K. Chesterton, commenting on the Eucharist in an article which appeared in Good Housekeeping in 1932:

If I am to answer the question, ‘How would Christ solve modern problems if He were on earth today’, I must answer it plainly; and for those of my faith there is only one answer. Christ is on earth today; alive on a thousand altars; and He does solve people’s problems exactly as He did when He was on earth in the more ordinary sense. That is, He solves the problems of the limited number of people who choose of their own free will to listen to Him.

Also, GKC humurously replying in G.K.'s Weekly (April 11, 1925) to an anti-Catholic attack by the Home Secretary, commenting on purgatory:

The Home Secretary is reported as saying, ‘We want no priestly interference, we ask for no purgatory, and we will submit to no compulsory confessional.’ The last clause of this declaration is especially a great relief to our minds. No longer shall we see a policeman seizing a man in the street by the scruff of the neck and dragging him to the nearest confessional-box. No longer will our love of liberty be outraged by the sinister bulk of the Black Maria taking its daily gang of compulsory penitents to Westminster Cathedral…But the passage that interests me…is the singular phrase that comes before it….the very remarkable phrase ‘We ask for no purgatory’…It seems to imply that when Sir William reaches the gates of another world, St Peter or some well-trained angel will say to him in a slightly lowered voice, in the manner of a well-trained butler, ‘Would you be requiring a purgatory?’

…it never occurs to Sir William Joynson-Hicks that…Purgatory may exist whether he likes it or not. If it be true, however incredible it may seem, that the powers ruling the universe think that a politician or a lawyer can reach the point of death, without being in that perfect ecstasy of purity that can see God and live- why then there may be cosmic conditions corresponding to that paradox, and there is an end of it. It may be obvious to us that the politician is already utterly sinless, at one with the saints. It may be evident to us that the lawyer is already utterly selfless, filled only with God and forgetful of the very meaning of gain. But if the cosmic power holds that there are still some strange finishing touches, beyond our fancy, to put to his perfection, then certainly there will be some cosmic provision for that mysterious completion of the seemingly complete. The stars are not clean in His sight and His angels He chargeth with folly; and if He should decide that even in a Home Secretary there is room for improvement, we can but admit that omniscience can heal the defect that we cannot even see.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"The first is the quack who cures you; the second is the highly qualified person who doesn't."

The truth is there are two kinds of charlatan: the man who is called a charlatan, and the man who really is one. The first is the quack who cures you; the second is the highly qualified person who doesn't. As I know nothing about the case of medical science, I will take the parallel case of the study I do slightly understand- the study of literature. There is one kind of writer who beats a drum, wears spangles, stands on his head until he has collected a crowd, and then tells them something quite sincere and generally quite true. There is the other man, who observes all the rules, exhibits all the dignities and decencies, and then says nothing at all in the most modest and gentlemanlike way. Mr. Bernard Shaw, for instance, is a case of the charlatan who has something to say- the cheapjack who has something to sell. He is the quack who can cure you. In the same way Doctor Emil Reich is the charlatan who has something to say- he is the quack who can cure you. I shall probably not be permitted to give examples of the other kind of charlatan, who has nothing to say; of the solemn and responsible quack who cannot cure you. There are plenty of them among Dons and Cabinet Ministers.

-February 15, 1908, Illustrated London News

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"...but we always contrive to forget the manhood of anybody who can contrive to get mentioned under any other special description."

Most of the modern controversies arise out of a complete inability to grasp the idea of human fraternity. We talk a huge amount of rhetoric about mankind and manhood and man as man; but we always contrive to forget the manhood of anybody who can contrive to get mentioned under any other special description. We constantly say, for instance, that So-and-So will certainly be exact, impartial, and veracious because he is a man of science. But we only remember the word "science" and forget the word "man." In so far as he is of science he will doubtless be exact, impartial, and veracious. In so far as he is a man of science he will be loose, partial, and a liar. So in the same way we speak of a military man, and say that if he is a military man he will be firm, masculine, and indomitable. In so far as he is military he is liable to have these merits. In so far as he is a man he liable to run away. So again we speak of a medical man, and do not adequately reflect that he is a man, however medical. Even of the more attractive word "gentleman" the same principle is true. The man is inside the gentleman as certainly as the word "man" is inside the word "gentleman." The gentleman means only the man who is gentle. And the man is not always gentle.

-January 27, 1906, Illustrated London News

Friday, July 9, 2010

"I have little doubt that when St. George had killed the dragon he was heartily afraid of the princess."

I have little doubt that when St. George had killed the dragon he was heartily afraid of the princess.

-The Victorian Age in Literature (1913)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"That is the sort of expression which it would be necessary for the happy crowd to cry with one voice, if it elected me to Parliament."

That is the sort of expression which it would be necessary for the happy crowd to cry with one voice, if it elected me to Parliament. I am a Radical Nationalist Anti-Imperialist Anti-Collectivist Distributivist Christian Social Democrat. I am all that; and there are about three more of me. But my party, though of a wisdom and virtue vastly superior to all others, has not reached the stage which distracts it with the temptations of power and patronage. And my revolutionary movement has at present no axe to grind, not even the axe of the guillotine.

-July 16, 1921, Illustrated London News

"Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard..."

Extract from the poem Lepanto (1911), which recalls the great naval victory in 1571, and the great hero of that battle, Don John of Austria, that helped turn back the Islamic forces "threatening to attack both Venice and Rome, which could have led to the collapse of Christian Europe" as Dale Ahlquist notes.

Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young.
In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
Don John of Austria is going to the war,
Stiff flags straining in the night-blasts cold
In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold,
Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
Don John laughing in the brave beard curled,
Spurning of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world,
Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.
Love-light of Spain--hurrah!
Death-light of Africa!
Don John of Austria
Is riding to the sea.

"Love is not blind; that is the last thing that it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind."

A man's friend likes him but leaves him as he is: his wife loves him and is always trying to turn him into somebody else. Women who are utter mystics in their creed are utter cynics in their criticism. Thackeray expressed this well when he made Pendennis' mother, who worshipped her son as a god, yet assume that he would go wrong as a man. She underrated his virtue, though she overrated his value. The devotee is entirely free to criticise; the fanatic can safely be a sceptic. Love is not blind; that is the last thing that it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.

-Orthodoxy (1908)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Missing the point is a very fine art; and has been carried to something like perfection by politicians and Pressmen to-day"

Missing the point is a very fine art; and has been carried to something like perfection by politicians and Pressmen to-day. For the point is generally a very sharp point; and is, moreover, sharp at both ends. That is to say that both parties would probably impale themselves in an uncomfortable manner if they did not manage to avoid it altogether.

-Utopia of Usurers and Other Essays (1917)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"As we have said, it is exactly this backdoor, this sense of having a retreat behind us, that is....the sterilizing spirit in modern pleasure."

As we have said, it is exactly this backdoor, this sense of having a retreat behind us, that is, to our minds, the sterilizing spirit in modern pleasure. Everywhere there is the persistent and insane attempt to obtain pleasure without paying for it. Thus, in politics the modern Jingoes practically say, 'Let us have the pleasures of conquerors without the pains of soldiers: let us sit on sofas and be a hardy race.' Thus, in religion and morals, the decadent mystics say: 'Let us have the fragrance of sacred purity without the sorrows of self-restraint; let us sing hymns alternately to the Virgin and Priapus.' Thus in love the free-lovers say: 'Let us have the splendour of offering ourselves without the peril of committing ourselves; let us see whether one cannot commit suicide an unlimited number of times.'

Emphatically it will not work. There are thrilling moments, doubtless, for the spectator, the amateur, and the aesthete; but there is one thrill that is known only to the soldier who fights for his own flag, to the ascetic who starves himself for his own illumination, to the lover who makes finally his own choice. And it is this transfiguring self-discipline that makes the vow a truly sane thing...All around us is the city of small sins, abounding in backways and retreats, but surely, sooner or later, the towering flame will rise from the harbour announcing that the reign of the cowards is over and a man is burning his ships.

-The Defendant (1901)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Gilbert/Fiddler's Green ("The Sandman")

GKC was the inspiration for the character "Fiddler's Green" ("Gilbert") in the series "The Sandman" by Neil Gaiman. Here you can see some panels from the series with "Gilbert" in them

Gilbert/Fiddler's Green

"Creation was the greatest of all Revolutions."

There is at the back of all our lives an abyss of light, more blinding and unfathomable than any abyss of darkness; and it is the abyss of actuality, of existence, of the fact that things truly are, and that we ourselves are incredibly and sometimes almost incredulously real. It is the fundamental fact of being, as against not being; it is unthinkable, yet we cannot unthink it, though we may sometimes be unthinking about it; unthinking and especially unthanking. For he who has realized this reality knows that it does outweigh, literally to infinity, all lesser regrets or arguments for negation, and that under all our “rumblings there is a subconscious substance of gratitude. That light of the positive is the business of the poets, because they see all things in the light of it more than do other men. Chaucer was a child of light and not merely of twilight, the mere red twilight of one passing dawn of revolution, or the grey twilight of one dying day of social decline. He was the immediate heir of something like what Catholics call the Primitive Revelation; that glimpse that was given of the world when God saw that it was good; and so long as the artist gives us glimpses of that, it matters nothing that they are fragmentary or even trivial; whether it be in the mere fact that a medieval Court poet could appreciate a daisy, or that he could write, in a sort of flash of blinding moonshine, of the lover who ‘slept no more than does the nightingale’. These things belong to the same world of wonder as the primary wonder at the very existence of the world; higher than any common pros and cons, or likes and dislikes, however legitimate. Creation was the greatest of all Revolutions. It was for that, as the ancient poet said, that the morning stars sang together; and the most modern poets, like the medieval poets, may descend very far from that height of realization and stray and stumble and seem distraught; but we shall know them for the Sons of God, when they are still shouting for joy. This is something much more mystical and absolute than any modern thing that is called optimism; for it is only rarely that we realize, like a vision of the heavens filled with a chorus of giants, the primeval duty of Praise.

-Chaucer (1932)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed."

America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence; perhaps the only piece of practical politics that is also theoretical politics and also great literature. It enunciates that all men are equal in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice, and that their authority is for that reason just. It certainly does condemn anarchism, and it does also by inference condemn atheism, since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom these equal rights are derived. Nobody expects a modern political system to proceed logically in the application of such dogmas, and in the matter of God and Government it is naturally God whose claim is taken more lightly. The point is that there is a creed, if not about divine, at least about human things.

-What I Saw in America (1922)

The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; and it is right; for if they were not created equal, they were certainly evolved unequal.

There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man. That is a perfectly simple fact which the modern world will find out more and more to be a fact. Every other basis is a sort of sentimental confusion, full of merely verbal echoes of the older creeds. Those verbal associations are always vain for the vital purpose of constraining the tyrant. An idealist may say to a capitalist, 'Don't you sometimes feel in the rich twilight, when the lights twinkle from the distant hamlet in the hills, that all humanity is a holy family?' But it is equally possible for the capitalist to reply with brevity and decision, 'No, I don't,' and there is no more disputing about it further than about the beauty of a fading cloud. And the modern world of moods is a world of clouds, even if some of them are thunderclouds.

What I Saw in America (1922)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

"For [St. Francis] treated the whole mob of men as a mob of kings."

For [St. Francis] treated the whole mob of men as a mob of kings. And this was really and truly the only attitude that will appeal to that part of man to which he wished to appeal. It cannot be done by giving gold or even bread; for it is a proverb that any reveller may fling largesse in mere scorn. It cannot even be done by giving time and attention; for any number of philanthropists and benevolent bureaucrats do such work with a scorn far more cold and horrible in their hearts. No plans or proposals or efficient rearrangements will give back to a broken man his self-respect and sense of speaking with an equal. One gesture will do it.

-St. Francis of Assisi (1923)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried."

...the great ideals of the past failed not by being outlived (which must mean over-lived), but by not being lived enough. Mankind has not passed through the Middle Ages. Rather mankind has retreated from the Middle Ages in reaction and rout. The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.

-What's Wrong With the World (1910)