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)

_____________________

"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.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

"Now most modern freedom is at root fear."

Now most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities.

-What's Wrong With the World (1910)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"The test of all happiness is gratitude..."

Here I am only trying to describe the enormous emotions which cannot be described. And the strongest emotion was that life was as precious as it was puzzling. It was an ecstacy because it was an adventure; it was an adventure because it was an opportunity. The goodness of the fairy tale was not affected by the fact that there might be more dragons than princesses; it was good to be in a fairy tale. The test of all happiness is gratitude; and I felt grateful, though I hardly knew to whom. Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their stockings gifts of toys or sweets. Could I not be grateful to Santa Claus when he put in my stockings the gift of two miraculous legs? We thank people for birthday presents of cigars and slippers. Can I thank no one for the birthday present of birth?

-Orthodoxy (1908)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"A turkey is more [secret] and awful than all the angels and archangels."

A turkey is more [secret] and awful than all the angels and archangels. In so far as God has partly revealed to us an angelic world, he has partly told us what an angel means. But God has never told us what a turkey means. And if you go and stare at a live turkey for an hour or two, you will find by the end of it that the enigma has rather increased than diminished.

-All Things Considered (1908)

Chesterton influence on the 1997 movie "The Game"?

I have never seen that movie, and this is something I came across that I need to do a little more checking up on. However, this quote is interesting nonetheless:

(If you have seen "The Game," starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn, that movie is based on one of the stories in the collection [The Club of Queer Trades]: "The Tremendous Adventure of Major Brown.")


http://www.thornwalker.com/ditch/ut017_lowry.htm

Monday, November 21, 2011

" There is beauty, not only in wisdom, but in this dazed and dramatic ignorance."

One of the deepest and strangest of all human moods is the mood which will suddenly strike us perhaps in a garden at night, or deep in sloping meadows, the feeling that every flower and leaf has just uttered something stupendously direct and important, and that we have by a prodigy of imbecility not heard or understood it. There is a certain poetic value, and that a genuine one, in this sense of having missed the full meaning of things. There is beauty, not only in wisdom, but in this dazed and dramatic ignorance.

-Robert Browning (1903)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"It is the root of all religion that a man knows that he is nothing to thank God that he is something."

It is the root of all religion that a man knows that he is nothing to thank God that he is something.

-The Resurrection of Rome (1930)

"But I am an optimist, and I believe that evil is frequently victorious; a thought full of peace, comfort, and possibilities of human affection."

You and I, it is to be hoped, do not hold the theory that the highest and most prominent figures in Society are the highest and best specimens of the human race. We are not such desolate pessimists as all that. For certainly if the people who rule England are the best people in England, England is going to the dogs, or, rather, has already gone there. The most gloomy of all possible theories is the theory that the best man wins. We know the man who wins, and if he is the best man we can only express our feelings in the words of a vulgar music-hall song about a wedding, which ran (if I remember right)- "I was the best man, the best man, the best man; Oh! Jerusalem, you ought to have seen the worst!" If Mr. Rockefeller really rose by superior merit, America must be a kind of hell. But I am an optimist, and I believe that evil is frequently victorious; a thought full of peace, comfort, and possibilities of human affection. We can all love mankind if we remember not to judge them by their leaders. There are some who say that England has lost its last chance, has carried on just too long its shapeless compromises and its cloudy pride. I do not believe it for a moment. England is a million times stronger nation that one would fancy from merely looking at its great men. Do not look at the faces in the illustrated papers; look at the faces in the street. See what a great and reasonable number of them are strong, humble faces, full of honour and hard work, faces with sad eyes and humorous mouths. There are plenty of good people about...True faith has its eye on the unsuccessful; it endures the small human output which is actually exhibited and admired; but it rejoices in the rich and dark treasures of human virtue and valour which have always been neglected. It is even slightly depressed when it thinks of the small good that we have used. But it sings for joy when it thinks of all the good that we have wasted.

-November 16, 1907, Illustrated London News

Friday, November 18, 2011

"A citizen can hardly distinguish between a tax and a fine, except that the fine is generally much lighter."

A citizen can hardly distinguish between a tax and a fine, except that the fine is generally much lighter.

-All I Survey (1933)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"...which amounted to asserting that because humanity had never made anything but mistakes it was now quite certain to be right."

Mrs. Browning and her husband were more liberal than most Liberals. Theirs was the hospitality of the intellect and the hospitality of the heart, which is the best definition of the term. They never fell into the habit of the idle revolutionists of supposing that the past was bad because the future was good, which amounted to asserting that because humanity had never made anything but mistakes it was now quite certain to be right. Browning possessed in a greater degree than any other man the power of realising that all conventions were only victorious revolutions. He could follow the mediƦval logicians in all their sowing of the wind and reaping of the whirlwind with all that generous ardour which is due to abstract ideas. He could study the ancients with the young eyes of the Renaissance and read a Greek grammar like a book of love lyrics. This immense and almost confounding Liberalism of Browning doubtless had some effect upon his wife. In her vision of New Italy she went back to the image of Ancient Italy like an honest and true revolutionist; for does not the very word "revolution" mean a rolling backward? All true revolutions are reversions to the natural and the normal. A revolutionist who breaks with the past is a notion fit for an idiot. For how could a man even wish for something which he had never heard of?

-Varied Types (1905)

Monday, November 14, 2011

"If a man is genuinely superior to his fellows the first thing that he believes in is the equality of man."

All very great teachers and leaders have had this habit of assuming their point of view to be one which was human and casual, one which would readily appeal to every passing man. If a man is genuinely superior to his fellows the first thing that he believes in is the equality of man. We can see this, for instance, in that strange and innocent rationality with which Christ addressed any motley crowd that happened to stand about Him. "What man of you having a hundred sheep, and losing one, would not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which was lost?" Or, again, "What man of you if his son ask for bread will he give him a stone, or if he ask for a fish will he give him a serpent?" This plainness, this almost prosaic camaraderie, is the note of all very great minds.

To very great minds the things on which men agree are so immeasurably more important than the things on which they differ, that the latter, for all practical purposes, disappear. They have too much in them of an ancient laughter even to endure to discuss the difference between the hats of two men who were both born of a woman, or between the subtly varied cultures of two men who have both to die. The first-rate great man is equal with other men, like Shakespeare. The second-rate great man is on his knees to other men, like Whitman. The third-rate great man is superior to other men, like Whistler.

-Heretics (1905)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"But so long as grunts, snorts, curses, and cries of despair come over every garden wall we may be pretty certain that things are all right."

The right and proper thing, of course, is that every good patriot should stop at home and curse his own country. So long as that is being done everywhere, we may be sure that things are fairly happy, and being kept up to a reasonably high standard. So long as we are discontented separately we may be well content as a whole. Each man is cultivating his garden; and you cannot cultivate a garden without digging it up or without stamping it down. And these gardens of the children of men are so strange and so different that each man is probably alone in knowing even which are the flowers and which the weeds. But so long as grunts, snorts, curses, and cries of despair come over every garden wall we may be pretty certain that things are all right, that the flowers will arise in splendour and the wilderness blossom like the rose.

-October 1, 1910, Illustrated London News

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Chesterton on G.F. Watts' Hope

Now let us suppose that...the spectator came before another picture. Suppose that he found himself in the presence of a dim canvas with a bowed and stricken and secretive figure cowering over a broken lyre in the twilight. What would he think ? His first thought, of course, would be that the picture was called Despair; his second (when he discovered his error in the catalogue), that it has been entered under the wrong number ; his third, that the painter was mad. But if we imagine that he overcame these preliminary feelings and that as he stared at that queer twilight picture, a dim and powerful sense of meaning began to grow upon him — what would he see ? He would see something for which there is neither speech nor language, which has been too vast for any eye to see and too secret for any religion to utter, even as an esoteric doctrine. Standing before that picture he finds himself in the presence of a great truth. He perceives that there is something in man which is always apparently on the eve of disappearing, but never disappears, an assurance which is always apparently saying farewell and yet illimitably lingers, a string which is always stretched to snapping and yet never snaps. He perceives that the queerest and most delicate thing in us, the most fragile, the most fantastic, is in truth the backbone and indestructible. He knows a great moral fact: that there never was an age of assurance, that there never was an age of faith. Faith is always at a disadvantage; it is a perpetually defeated thing which survives all its conquerors. The desperate modern talk about dark days and reeling altars, and the end of Gods and angels, is the oldest talk in the world: lamentations over the growth of agnosticism can be found in the monkish sermons of the dark ages ; horror at youthful impiety can be found in the Iliad. This is the thing that never deserts men and yet always, with daring diplomacy, threatens to desert them. It has indeed dwelt among and controlled all the kings and crowds, but only with the air of a pilgrim passing by. It has indeed warmed and lit men from the beginning of Eden with an unending glow, but it was the glow of an eternal sunset.

Here, in this dim picture, its trick is almost betrayed. No one can name this picture properly, but Watts who painted it, has named it Hope. But the point is that this title is not (as those think who call it " literary ") the reality behind the symbol, but another symbol for the same thing, or to speak yet more strictly, another symbol describing another part or aspect of the same complex reality. Two men felt a swift, violent, invisible thing in the world: one said the word "hope," the other painted a picture in blue and green paint. The picture is inadequate; the word "hope" is inadequate ; but between them, like two angles in the calculation of a distance, they almost locate a mystery, a mystery that for hundreds of ages has been hunted by men and evaded them. And the title is therefore not so much the substance of one of Watts' pictures, it is rather an epigram upon it. It is merely an approximate attempt to convey, by snatching up the tool of another craftsman, the direction attempted in the painter's own craft. He calls it Hope and that is perhaps the best title. It reminds us among other things of a fact which is too little remembered, that faith, hope and charity, the three mystical virtues of Christianity, are also the [happiest] of the virtues. Paganism, as I have suggested, is not [happy], but rather nobly sad ; the spirit of Watts, which is as a rule nobly sad also, here comes nearer perhaps than anywhere else to mysticism in the strict sense, the mysticism which is full of secret passion and belief, like that of Fra Angelico or Blake. But though Watts calls his tremendous reality Hope, we may call it many other things. Call it faith, call it vitality, call it the will to live, call it the religion of tomorrow morning, call it the immortality of man, call it self-love and vanity ; it is the thing that explains why man survives all things and why there is no such thing as a pessimist. It cannot be found in any dictionary or rewarded in any commonwealth : there is only one way in which it can even be noticed and recognised. If there be anywhere a man who has really lost it, his face out of a whole crowd of men will strike us like a blow. He may hang himself or become Prime Minister; it matters nothing. The man is dead.

-G.F. Watts (1904)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"It is now thought irreverent to be a believer."

[George Bernard Shaw's] latest play...has been forbidden by the Censor. As far as I can discover, it has been forbidden because one of the characters professes a belief in God and states his conviction that God has got him. This is wholesome; this is like one crack of thunder in a clear sky. Not so easily does the prince of this world forgive. Shaw's religious training and instinct is not mine, but in all honest religion there is something that is hateful to the prosperous compromise of our time. You are free in our time to say that God does not exist; you are free to say that He exists and is evil; you are free to say (like poor old Renan) that He would like to exist if He could. You may talk of God as a metaphor or a mystification; you may water Him down with gallons of long words, or boil Him to the rags of metaphysics; and it is not merely that nobody punishes, but nobody protests. But if you speak of God as a fact, as a thing like a tiger, as a reason for changing one's conduct, then the modern world will stop you somehow if it can. We are long past talking about whether an unbeliever should be punished for being irreverent. It is now thought irreverent to be a believer. I end where I began: it is the old Puritan in Shaw that jars the modern world like an electric shock.

-George Bernard Shaw (1909)

Monday, November 7, 2011

"For it is only on those in the struggle for existence who hang on for ten minutes after all is hopeless, that hope begins to dawn."

There is a shrewd secular truth hidden under a theological language in the old saying that man's extremity is God's opportunity. For it is only on those in the struggle for existence who hang on for ten minutes after all is hopeless, that hope begins to dawn. A man who loves his country for her power will always be as weak an adorer as a man who loves a woman for her money. A great appearance of national or imperial strength may be founded on this fair weather philosophy, but the crown of ultimate triumph and the real respect of Nature will always be reserved for the man for whom the fight is never finished, who disregards the omens and disdains the stars.

-February 2, 1901, The Speaker

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"If you want carelessness you must go to the martyrs."

In the character of Major Pendennis of course Thackeray did splendidly a work which wanted doing... for it vividly presents, in the person of a not unsuitable man, the fundamental truth that the worship of this world is a superstition, and has all the limitations of a superstition. Religious people speak of worldlings as [happy] and careless; but such religious people pay the worldlings far too high a compliment. Major Pendennis was not particularly [happy] ; and he certainly was the very reverse of careless. He had to walk more cautiously and seriously than the adherent of any elaborate theology. Worldliness and the worldlings are in their nature solemn and timid. If you want carelessness you must go to the martyrs.

-Introduction to Thackeray (1909)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"Briefly, you can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it."

Although Sir Hiram Maxim groups "truth" and "logic" together, it was not necessary that he should fail in both, nor would he, I think, have fallen into these separate disasters but for the excess of the romantic in his temperament. Logic and truth, as a matter of fact, have very little to do with each other. Logic is concerned merely with the fidelity and accuracy with which a certain process is performed, a process which can be performed with any materials, with any assumptions. You can be as logical about griffins and basilisks as about sheep and pigs. On the assumption that a man has two ears, it is good logic that three men have six ears; but on the assumption that a man has four ears it is equally good logic that three men have twelve. And the power of seeing how many ears the average man, as a fact, possesses, the power of counting a gentleman's ears accurately and without mathematical confusion is not a logical thing, but a primary and direct experience, like a physical sense, like a religious vision. The power of seeing ears may be limited by a blow on the head; it may be disturbed and even augmented by two bottles of champagne; but it cannot be affected by argument. Logic has again and again been exposed and expended most brilliantly and effectively on things that do not exist at all. There is far more logic, more sustained consistency of the mind, in the science of heraldry than in the science of biology. Heraldry has plenty of impossible creatures, but it has no unaccountable creature. It has dancing dragons and leopards made of gold; but it has no Missing Link.

Nor did this combination of logic and fantasy, of mathematical madness, die with heraldry and the labyrinthine sciences of the later Middle Ages. There are many modern things in which the spirit of the dancing dragon, who is yet a disciplined dragon, reappears. There is more logic, for instance, in "Alice in Wonderland" than in the Statute Books or the Blue Books. The relations of logic to truth depend then, not upon its perfection as logic, but upon certain pre-logical faculties and certain pre-logical discoveries, upon the possession of those faculties, upon the power of making these discoveries. If a man start with certain assumptions he may be a good logician and a good citizen, a wise man, a successful figure. If he start with certain other assumptions he may be an equally good logician and a bankrupt, a criminal, a raving lunatic. Logic, then, is not necessarily an instrument for finding truth; on the contrary, truth is necessarily an instrument for using logic, for using it, that is, for the discovery of further truth and for the profit of humanity. Briefly, you can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it.

-February 25, 1905, Daily News, "The Maxims of Maxim"

(Found in the collection of essays In Defense of Sanity, published just this year by Ignatius Press)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"...the one perfectly divine thing, the one glimpse of God's paradise given on earth, is to fight a losing battle- and not lose it. "

You cannot understand that brave men resist a strong opponent more than a weak one...You cannot grasp him, because he is fighting a losing battle...And in your muddy souls you can't see that the one perfectly divine thing, the one glimpse of God's paradise given on earth, is to fight a losing battle- and not lose it.

-Time's Abstract and Brief Chronicle (1904-1905)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"Now the mistake of critics is not that they criticise the world; it is that they never criticise themselves."

Now the mistake of critics is not that they criticise the world; it is that they never criticise themselves. They compare the alien with the ideal; but they do not at the same time compare themselves with the ideal; rather they identify themselves with the ideal.

-The New Jerusalem (1920)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Art is born when the temporary touches the eternal; the shock of beauty is when the irresistible force hits the immovable post."

All the most subtle truths of literature are to be found in legend. There is no better test of the truth of serious fiction than the simple truths to be found in a fairy tale or an old ballad. Now, in the whole of folk-lore there is no such thing as free love. There is such a thing as false love. There is also another thing, which the old ballads always talk of as true love. But the story always turns on the keeping of a bond or the breaking of it; and this quite apart from orthodox morality in the matter of the marriage bond. The love may be in the strict sense sinful, but it is never anarchical. There was quite as little freedom for Lancelot as for Arthur...It may have been unlawful love, but it certainly was not lawless love.... But there is neither triumph nor tragedy in the idea of avowedly transient love; and no literature will ever be made out of it, except the very lightest literature of satire. And even the satire must be a satire on fickleness, and therefore involve an indirect ideal of fidelity. But you cannot make any enduring literature out of love conscious that it will not endure. Even if this mutability were working as morality, it would still be unworkable as art.

The decadents used to say that things like the marriage vow might be very convenient for common-place public purposes, but had no place in the world of beauty and imagination. The truth is exactly the other way. The truth is that if marriage had not existed it would have been necessary for artists to invent it. The truth is that if constancy had never been needed as a social requirement, it would still have been created out of cloud and air as a poetical requirement. If ever monogamy is abandoned in practice, it will linger in legend and in literature. When society is haunted by the butterfly flitting from flower to flower, poetry will still be describing the desire of the moth for the star; and it will be a fixed star. Literature must always revolve round loyalties; for a rudimentary psychological reason, which is simply the nature of narrative. You cannot tell a story without the idea of pursuing a purpose and sticking to a point. You cannot tell a story without the idea of the Quest, the idea of the Vow; even if it be only the idea of the Wager.

Perhaps the most modern equivalent to the man who makes a vow is the man who makes a bet. But he must not hedge on a bet; still less must he welsh, or do a bolt when he has made a bet. Even if the story ends with his doing so, the dramatic emotion depends on our realizing the dishonesty of his doing so. That is, the drama depends on the keeping or breaking of a bond, if it be only a bet. A man wandering about a race-course, making bets that nobody took seriously, would be merely a bore. And so the hero wandering through a novel, making vows of love that nobody took seriously, is merely a bore. The point here is not so much that morally it cannot be a creditable story, but that artistically it cannot be a story at all. Art is born when the temporary touches the eternal; the shock of beauty is when the irresistible force hits the immovable post.

-Fancies Versus Fads (1923)