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.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Most recent issue of Gilbert Magazine

Right now I am reading the latest issue of Gilbert Magazine and I am greatly enjoying it. (If you are interested in the magazine, you can subscribe to it at the American Chesterton Society's website above.) Given the recent post I had concerning Mumford and Sons and Chesterton's The Outline of Sanity (found here), it is perhaps a fortunate coincidence that the most recent issue is dedicated to the topic of distributism. :-)

"The philosopher may sometimes love the infinite; the poet always loves the finite."

The philosopher may sometimes love the infinite; the poet always loves the finite. For him the great moment is not the creation of light, but the creation of the sun and moon.

-The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare (1908)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

"And that is where the Founder of Christianity found the honest man; He found him on a gibbet and promised him Paradise."

We are then able to answer in some manner the question, "Why have we no great men?" We have no great men chiefly because we are always looking for them. We are connoisseurs of greatness, and connoisseurs can never be great; we are fastidious, that is, we are small. When Diogenes went about with a lantern looking for an honest man, I am afraid he had very little time to be honest himself. And when anybody goes about on his hands and knees looking for a great man to worship, he is making sure that one man at any rate shall not be great. Now, the error of Diogenes is evident. The error of Diogenes lay in the fact that he omitted to notice that every man is both an honest man and a dishonest man. Diogenes looked for his honest man inside every crypt and cavern; but he never thought of looking inside the thief. And that is where the Founder of Christianity found the honest man; He found him on a gibbet and promised him Paradise. Just as Christianity looked for the honest man inside the thief, democracy looked for the wise man inside the fool. It encouraged the fool to be wise. We can call this thing sometimes optimism, sometimes equality; the nearest name for it is encouragement. It had its exaggerations -- failure to understand original sin, notions that education would make all men good, the childlike yet pedantic philosophies of human perfectibility. But the whole was full of a faith in the infinity of human souls, which is in itself not only Christian but orthodox; and this we have lost amid the limitations of a pessimistic science. Christianity said that any man could be a saint if he chose; democracy, that any man could be a citizen if he chose...It was a world that expected everything of everybody. It was a world that encouraged anybody to be anything. And in England and literature its living expression was Dickens.

-Charles Dickens (1906)

Friday, January 28, 2011

"We shall never make anything of democracy until we make fools of ourselves."

There were in the French Revolution a class of people at whom everybody laughed, and at whom it was probably difficult, as a practical matter, to refrain from laughing. They attempted to erect, by means of huge wooden statues and brand-new festivals, the most extraordinary new religions. They adored the Goddess of Reason, who would appear, even when the fullest allowance has been made for their many virtues, to be the deity who had least smiled upon them. But these capering maniacs, disowned alike by the old world and the new, were men who had seen a great truth unknown alike to the new world and the old. They had seen the thing that was hidden from the wise and understanding, from the whole modern democratic civilization down to the present time. They realized that democracy must have a heraldry, that it must have a proud and high-coloured pageantry, if it is to keep always before its own mind its own sublime mission. Unfortunately for this ideal, the world has in this matter followed English democracy rather than French; and those who look back to the nineteenth century will assuredly look back to it as we look back to the reign of the Puritans, as the time of black coats and black tempers. From the strange life the men of that time led, they might be assisting at the funeral of liberty instead of at its christening. The moment we really believe in democracy, it will begin to blossom, as aristocracy blossomed, into symbolic colours and shapes. We shall never make anything of democracy until we make fools of ourselves. For if a man really cannot make a fool of himself, we may be quite certain that the effort is superfluous.

-The Defendant (1901)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"...God Himself will not help us to ignore evil, but only to defy and to defeat it."

"...God Himself will not help us to ignore evil, but only to defy and to defeat it."

-Aprl 14, 1917, Illustrated London News

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"If the world has some healthy balance other than God, let the world find it."

"...The world left to itself grows wilder than any creed. A few days ago you and I were the maddest people in England. Now, by God! I believe we are the sanest. That is the only real question—whether the Church is really madder than the world. Let the rationalists run their own race, and let us see where they end. If the world has some healthy balance other than God, let the world find it. Does the world find it? Cut the world loose," he cried with a savage gesture. "Does the world stand on its own end? Does it stand, or does it stagger?"

-The Ball and the Cross (1909)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mumford and Sons again

Another reference to Chesterton by Mumford and Sons! It is concerning his book The Outline of Sanity (written in 1926). I really need to learn more about this group. lol. :-)

http://www.mumfordandsons.com/blog/book-club-returns-book-3-the-outline-of-sanity-and-more?tag=marcus-book-club

Here is what "M" wrote:

I was slightly blown away by people's response to The Outline of Sanity. Partly just cos so many people successfully found it! I haven't recorded my reaction to it here, and I'm actually fine with that (this isn't just a cop out)... I feel this book, even more than any others, is so brilliantly written and explained, that any of my attempted commentary won't really add to it. It's also ridiculously dense, and so rich that there's just too much to talk about in a pretty limited blog.

Suffice to say it's changed my life; but I don't expect it to, or even feel that it must, have the same effect on everyone! I think even if you disagree vehemently with what GKC puts forward, it's still a really refreshing experience to read such well considered and intriguing lines of argument. Especially now, on pretty hot topics like 'big vs small business', 'private vs public ownership', 'the man-made vs the natural', etc. The actual political ideal of Distributism, I'm still getting my head around, if I'm honest. But his thinking and his writing are just plain [*******], in my very humble opinion!

Anecdote of GKC with William and Henry James, found in a wonderful review of Orthodoxy

A review of Orthodoxy I found which I particularly liked, which mentions an interesting anecdote about GKC involving Henry and William James (Here is the link to the review):

It began innocently enough. There's a story, in the last volume of Leon Edel's five volume biography of Henry James, about William James climbing the gardener's ladder, during a visit to Henry's Lamb House in Rye, and peeking over the wall to catch a glimpse of G. K. Chesterton walking down the street. Henry, apparently horrified at William's lack of decorum, begged him to come down. Afterward, he had the gardener hide the ladder. The story has a happy ending, as William and Henry were later introduced to Chesterton and "sat till midnight" drinking port with Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc.

That anecdote piqued my curiosity about Chesterton. I wanted to find out more about the man whose mere presence in the street could prompt William James to climb a ladder and peek over a wall in defiance of Henry's fussiness. I put Chesterton's Orthodoxy on my Christmas wish list, and I got my wish.

Well, now I know why William James climbed that ladder.

My first thought when I began reading ORTHODOXY was, "Is Chesterton's prose really as good as I think it is?" As I read further, and determined to my satisfaction that Chesterton's prose is indeed as good as I think it is, another thought -- less literary, but equally sincere -- began to form: "Gilbert Keith Chesterton, where have you been all my life?"

In a way, that's a serious question. Why, I wondered, had my discovery of Chesterton depended on my own wayward and desultory literary apetites? No one ever offered to introduce me to Chesterton. No good friend ever said, "You must meet my friend Gilbert. I think the two of you would really hit it off." Instead, we "met cute" at a party. A friend of mine had climbed a ladder to take a look at a mysterious stranger. I climbed up after him to see what all the fuss was about, and, in typically clumsy fashion, I lost my balance and toppled right into the stranger's arms.

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

"For those interested in revolt (as I am) I only say meekly that one cannot have a Revolution without revolving."

A wheel is the sublime paradox; one part of it is always going forward and the other part always going back. Now this, as it happens, is highly similar to the proper condition of any human soul or any political state. Every sane soul or state looks at once backwards and forwards; and even goes backwards to come on.

For those interested in revolt (as I am) I only say meekly that one cannot have a Revolution without revolving. The wheel, being a logical thing, has reference to what is behind as well as what is before. It has (as every society should have) a part that perpetually leaps helplessly at the sky and a part that perpetually bows down its head into the dust. Why should people be so scornful of us who stand on our heads? Bowing down one's head in the dust is a very good thing, the humble beginning of all happiness. When we have bowed our heads in the dust for a little time the happiness comes; and then (leaving our heads in the humble and reverent position) we kick up our heels behind in the air. That is the true origin of standing on one's head; and the ultimate defence of paradox. The wheel humbles itself to be exalted; only it does it a little quicker than I do.

-Alarms and Discursions (1910)

Also, the following is a quote from earlier in the same essay in that book:

Men, they say, are now imitating angels; in their flying-machines, that is: not in any other respect that I have heard of.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"But grubbing up the dust of an unsuccessful barbarian on the wrong side of the Dark Ages seems to them, I suppose, a most smart form of modernity."

I received the other day a circular from some people who wanted to revive in England the religion of the heathen Saxons- whatever it was. They said (with admirable cheerfulness) that they were "continuing the work of Penda, King of Mercia," who was killed in a tribal skirmish somewhere in the seventh century. I like the phrase "continuing the work." Seeing that poor Penda's work has certainly suffered a slight interruption, having been temporarily suspended for about twelve hundred years, one might have expected that his followers would at least have said "resume the work." But, no; they are in full continuity; they are vividly in touch with Penda; and they do not offically even admit the delay, any more than Charles II. would officially admit the interregnum of the Protectorate. Yet I hear of these people calling themselves Pantheists and talking in Hyde Park in a most modern style. And if you and I were to appeal to the Prayer Book or the Parish Church, or the Council of Trent or the principles of Rousseau's "Social Contract," I daresay they would think us old-fashioned. But grubbing up the dust of an unsuccessful barbarian on the wrong side of the Dark Ages seems to them, I suppose, a most smart form of modernity.

-January 21, 1911, Illustrated London News

Friday, January 21, 2011

"I regret...that I cannot do my duty as a true modern, by cursing everybody who made me whatever I am."

Such, so far as I know it, was the social landscape in which I first found myself; and such were the people among whom I was born. I am sorry if the landscape or the people appear disappointingly respectable and even reasonable, and deficient in all those unpleasant qualities that make a biography really popular. I regret that I have no gloomy and savage father to offer to the public gaze as the true cause of all my tragic heritage; no pale-faced and partially poisoned mother whose suicidal instincts have cursed me with the temptations of the artistic temperament. I regret that there was nothing in the range of our family much more racy than a remote and mildly impecunious uncle; and that I cannot do my duty as a true modern, by cursing everybody who made me whatever I am. I am not clear about what that is; but I am pretty sure that most of it is my own fault. And I am compelled to confess that I look back to that landscape of my first days with a pleasure that should doubtless be reserved for the Utopias of the Futurist.

-Autobiography (1936)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"They lived happily, although it is very likely that from time to time they threw the furniture at each other."

But the wise old fairy tales (which are the wisest things in the world, at any rate the wisest things of worldly origin), the wise old fairy tales never were so silly as to say that the prince and the princess lived peacefully ever afterwards. The fairy tales said that the prince and princess lived happily ever afterwards: and so they did. They lived happily, although it is very likely that from time to time they threw the furniture at each other. Most marriages, I think, are happy marriages; but there is no such thing as a contented marriage. The whole pleasure of marriage is that it is a perpetual crisis.

-Appreciations and Criticisms of Charles Dickens (1911)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it."

"Do you mean," asked Syme, "that there is really as much connection between crime and the modern intellect as all that?"

"You are not sufficiently democratic," answered the policeman, "but you were right when you said just now that our ordinary treatment of the poor criminal was a pretty brutal business. I tell you I am sometimes sick of my trade when I see how perpetually it means merely a war upon the ignorant and the desperate. But this new movement of ours is a very different affair. We deny the snobbish English assumption that the uneducated are the dangerous criminals. We remember the Roman Emperors. We remember the great poisoning princes of the Renaissance. We say that the dangerous criminal is the educated criminal. We say that the most dangerous criminal now is the entirely lawless modern philosopher. Compared to him, burglars and bigamists are essentially moral men; my heart goes out to them. They accept the essential ideal of man; they merely seek it wrongly. Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it. But philosophers dislike property as property; they wish to destroy the very idea of personal possession. Bigamists respect marriage, or they would not go through the highly ceremonial and even ritualistic formality of bigamy. But philosophers despise marriage as marriage. Murderers respect human life; they merely wish to attain a greater fulness of human life in themselves by the sacrifice of what seems to them to be lesser lives. But philosophers hate life itself, their own as much as other people's."

Syme struck his hands together.

"How true that is," he cried. "I have felt it from my boyhood, but never could state the verbal antithesis. The common criminal is a bad man, but at least he is, as it were, a conditional good man. He says that if only a certain obstacle be removed—say a wealthy uncle—he is then prepared to accept the universe and to praise God. He is a reformer, but not an anarchist. He wishes to cleanse the edifice, but not to destroy it. But the evil philosopher is not trying to alter things, but to annihilate them. Yes, the modern world has retained all those parts of police work which are really oppressive and ignominious, the harrying of the poor, the spying upon the unfortunate. It has given up its more dignified work, the punishment of powerful traitors in the State and powerful heresiarchs in the Church. The moderns say we must not punish heretics. My only doubt is whether we have a right to punish anybody else."

"But this is absurd!" cried the policeman, clasping his hands with an excitement uncommon in persons of his figure and costume, "but it is intolerable! I don't know what you're doing, but you're wasting your life. You must, you shall, join our special army against anarchy. Their armies are on our frontiers. Their bolt is ready to fall. A moment more, and you may lose the glory of working with us, perhaps the glory of dying with the last heroes of the world."

-The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare (1908)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"...contentment is a real and even an active virtue; it is not only affirmative, but creative."

"Content" ought to mean in English, as it does in French, being pleased; placidly, perhaps, but still positively pleased. Being contented with bread and cheese ought not to mean not caring what you eat. It ought to mean caring for bread and cheese; handling and enjoying the cubic content of the bread and cheese and adding it to your own. Being content with an attic ought not to mean being unable to move from it and resigned to living in it. It ought to mean appreciating what there is to appreciate in such a position; such as the quaint and elvish slope of the ceiling or the sublime aerial view of the opposite chimney-pots. And in this sense contentment is a real and even an active virtue; it is not only affirmative, but creative. The poet in the attic does not forget the attic in poetic musings; he remembers whatever the attic has of poetry; he realises how high, how starry, how cool, how unadorned and simple—in short, how Attic is the attic.

True contentment is a thing as active as agriculture. It is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it. It is arduous and it is rare. The absence of this digestive talent is what makes so cold and incredible the tales of so many people who say they have been "through" things; when it is evident that they have come out on the other side quite unchanged. A man might have gone "through" a plum pudding as a bullet might go through a plum pudding; it depends on the size of the pudding—and the man. But the awful and sacred question is "Has the pudding been through him?" Has he tasted, appreciated, and absorbed the solid pudding, with its three dimensions and its three thousand tastes and smells? Can he offer himself to the eyes of men as one who has cubically conquered and contained a pudding?

-A Miscellany of Men (1912)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"...it is generally the man who is not ready to argue, who is ready to sneer."

Anyhow, one of the real disadvantages of the great and glorious sport, that is called argument, is its inordinate length. If you argue honestly, as St. Thomas always did, you will find that the subject sometimes seems as if it would never end. He was strongly conscious of this fact, as appears in many places; for instance his argument that most men must have a revealed religion, because they have not time to argue. No time, that is, to argue fairly. There is always time to argue unfairly; not least in a time like ours. Being himself resolved to argue, to argue honestly, to answer everybody, to deal with everything, he produced books enough to sink a ship or stock a library; though he died in comparatively early middle age. Probably he could not have done it at all, if he had not been thinking even when he was not writing; but above all thinking combatively. This, in his case, certainly did not mean bitterly or spitefully or uncharitably; but it did mean combatively. As a matter of fact, it is generally the man who is not ready to argue, who is ready to sneer. That is why, in recent literature, there has been so little argument and so much sneering.

-St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox (1933)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"I do not like seriousness. I think it is irreligious."

I do not like seriousness. I think it is irreligious. Or, if you prefer the phrase, it is the fashion of all false religions. The man who takes everything seriously is the man who makes an idol of everything: he bows down to wood and stone until his limbs are as rooted as the roots of the tree or his head as fallen as the stone sunken by the roadsite. It has often been discussed whether animals can laugh. The hyena is said to laugh, but it is rather in the sense in which the M.P. is said to utter "an ironical cheer." At the best, the hyena utters an ironical laugh. Broadly, it is true that all animals except Man are serious.

-The Uses of Diversity (1921)

Friday, January 14, 2011

"I mean merely that short words startle them, while long words soothe them."

Most Eugenists are Euphemists. I mean merely that short words startle them, while long words soothe them. And they are utterly incapable of translating the one into the other, however obviously they mean the same thing. Say to them "The persuasive and even coercive powers of the citizen should enable him to make sure that the burden of longevity in the previous generations does not become disproportionate and intolerable, especially to the females?"; say this to them and they sway slightly to and fro like babies sent to sleep in cradles. Say to them "Murder your mother," and they sit up quite suddenly. Yet the two sentences, in cold logic, are exactly the same. Say to them "It is not improbable that a period may arrive when the narrow if once useful distinction between the anthropoid homo and the other animals, which has been modified on so many moral points, may be modified also even in regard to the important question of the extension of human diet"; say this to them, and beauty born of murmuring sound will pass into their faces. But say to them, in a simple, manly, hearty way "Let's eat a man!" and their surprise is quite surprising. Yet the sentences say just the same thing.

-Eugenics and Other Evils (1922)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"...those who worship the intellect and those who use it."

What we call the intellectual world is divided into two types of people- those who worship the intellect and those who use it. There are exceptions; but, broadly speaking, they are never the same people.

-The Thing (1929)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Short quotes

[I've decided to make another "short quotes list", consisting of fairly short quotes by GKC, to keep them all in one place, like I did once before with a list of 50 such quotes. However, instead of trying to come up with many at one time, like I did before, I have decided simply to include them in this post as I come across them. So expect this list to be updated from time to time].

"Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity."
-The Defendant (1901)

"It is a very good thing...to be frequently married again- always, of course, to the same person."
-Illustrated London News, October 9, 1909,

"The word 'good' has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of 500 yards I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man."
-Chesterton as Seen by His Contemporaries (quoted in)

"Brave men are vertebrates; they have their softness on the surface and their toughness in the middle."
-Tremendous Trifles (1909)

"When men really understand that they are brothers they instantly begin to fight"
-Utopia of Userers (1917)

"The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more."
-Orthodoxy (1908)

"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)

"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 )

"Lying in bed would be an altogether perfect and supreme experience if only one had a coloured pencil long enough to draw on the ceiling."
-Tremendous Trifles (1909)

"...there is no hope for men who do not boast that their wives bully them."
-Alarms and Discusions (1910)

"Greek heroes do not grin: but gargoyles do -- because they are Christian ."
-Orthodoxy (1908)

"The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all."
-The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of pleasure"
-Twelve Types (1902)

"...we lose our bearings entirely by speaking of the 'lower classes' when we mean humanity minus ourselves."
-The Defendant (1901)

"Have we really learnt to think more broadly? Or have we only learn to spread our thoughts thinner?"
-Twelve Types (1902)

"The Bible must be referring to wallpapers, I think, when it says, 'Use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do.' "
-Tremendous Trifles (1909)

"Being educated means reading the newspapers. Being properly educated means not believing newspapers after you have read them."
-Boston Globe (quoted in)

"Experts in poverty (by which I do not mean sociologists, but poor men)..."
-Illustrated London News, March 25, 1911

"A real soldier does not fight because he has something that he hates in front of him. He fights because he has something that he loves behind his back."
-Illustrated London News, January 14, 1911

"A lot of men....could go on saying for days that something ought to be done...But if you convey to a woman that something ought to be done, there is always a dreadful danger that she will suddenly do it."
-The Secret of Father Brown (1927)

"For the Devil is a gentleman, and doesn't keep his word"
-"The Aristocrat" (1912)

"My last American tour consisted of inflicting no less than ninety-nine lectures on people who never did me any harm"
-Autobiography (1936)

"Men, they say, are now imitating angels; in their flying-machines, that is: not in any other respect that I have heard of."
-Alarms and Discursions (1910)

"The honest poor can sometimes forget poverty. The honest rich can never forget it."
-All Things Considered (1908)

"...I use the word humanitarian in the ordinary sense, as meaning one who upholds the claims of all creatures against those of humanity."
-Orthodoxy (1908)

"Daybreak is a never-ending glory, getting out of bed is a never-ending nuisance."
-The Apostle and the Wild Ducks (book essays collected in 1975)

"...God Himself will not help us to ignore evil, but only to defy and to defeat it."
-Illustrated London News, April 14, 1917

"For religion all men are equal, as all pennies are equal, because the only value in any of them is that they bear the image of the King."
-Charles Dickens (1906)

-"Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously."
-Illustrated London News, December 2, 1905

"Simple and uneducated people have no horror of physical monstrosities; just as educated people have no horror of moral monstrosities"
-Illustrated London News, December 16, 1905

"I gravely doubt whether women were ever married by capture. I think they pretended to be; as they do still."
-What's Wrong With the World (1910)

"Common sense, that extinct branch of pyschology..."
-Sidelights on New London and Newer York (1932)

"If the characters are not wicked, the book is."
-All Things Considered (1908)

"To be wrong, and to be carefully wrong, that is the definition of decadence."
-A Miscellany of Men (1912)

P.G. Wodehouse references to GKC

P.G. Wodehouse introduced Chesterton into his fiction in a couple of humurous references. For instance, from Mr Mullner Speaking:

At that moment, however, the drowsy stillness of the summer afternoon was shattered by what sounded to his strained senses like G.K. Chesterton falling on a sheet of tin.

Another Wodehouse reference to Chesterton is found in The Clicking of Cuthbert.

"Flesho!" cried Mrs. Jane Jukes Jopp triumphantly. "I've been trying to remember the name all the afternoon. I saw about it one of the papers. The advertisements speak most highly of it. You take it before breakfast and again before retiring, and they guarantee it to produce firm, healthy flesh on the most sparsely-covered limbs in next to no time. Now, will you remember to get a bottle tonight? It comes in two sizes, the five-shilling (or large size) and the smaller at half-a-crown. G.K. Chesterton writes that he used it regularly for years."

Monday, January 10, 2011

"...I mean an ancient, healthy, capricious despot, not a miserable, modern official trembling in the middle of all the telephones of Europe..."

If I were a despot (I mean an ancient, healthy, capricious despot, not a miserable, modern official trembling in the middle of all the telephones of Europe) I should be strongly inclined not to suppress certain beliefs, but to suppress certain words. I do not mean terms of abuse; those I might even encourage. I mean certain phrases which are used as terms of abuse, but also convey the impression of having some precise ethical or scientific meaning, when, as a fact, they have practically no meaning at all. I would allow my Prime Minister to call the Leader of the Opposition a traitor. For that is a precise term with a fixed moral meaning, and the other man might bring an action or a big stick. But I would not allow the Prime Minister to call him a Pro-Boer; because that is a phrase meanly selected for its doubtfulness and double-meaning; it might imply anything from pitying a Dutch widow to living on Kruger's bank-notes. Similarly I would permit my Court Prophet to tell my Court Priest that he was telling blasphemous lies. But I could not permit him to tell the priest that he was enunciating out-worn dogmas; for that is trying to discredit a man without really saying anything intelligble about him. I should allow the people to call my Commander-in-chief a murderer, but not to call him a "militarist." I should permit (nay, encourage) a journalist to be called silly, but not to be called paradoxical. After a few years of my severe but beneficient reign words that have wholly lost any working meaning might almost have withered out of the land, and the English race might have begun to think once more.

-January 30, 1909, Illustrated London News

"They may continue to war with it, but it will be as they war with nature; as they war with the landscape, as they war with the skies."

This is the final fact, and it is the most extraordinary of all. The faith has not only often died but it has often died of old age. It has not only been often killed but it has often died a natural death; in the sense of coming to a natural and necessary end. It is obvious that it has survived the most savage and the most universal persecutions from the shock of the Diocletian fury to the shock of the French Revolution. But it has a more strange and even a more weird tenacity; it has survived not only war but peace. It has not only died often but degenerated often and decayed often; it has survived its own weakness and even its own surrender. We need not repeat what is so obvious about the beauty of the end of Christ in its wedding of youth and death. But this is almost as if Christ had lived to the last possible span, had been a white-haired sage of a hundred and died of natural decay, and then had risen again rejuvenated, with trumpets and the rending of the sky. It was said truly enough that human Christianity in its recurrent weakness was sometimes too much wedded to the powers of the world; but if it was wedded it has very often been widowed. It is a strangely immortal sort of widow. An enemy may have said at one moment that it was but an aspect of the power of the Caesars; and it sounds as strange to-day as to call it an aspect of the Pharaohs. An enemy might say that it was the official faith of feudalism; and it sounds as convincing now as to say that it was bound to perish with the ancient Roman villa. All these things did indeed run their course to its normal end; and there seemed no course for the religion but to end with them. It ended and it began again.

'Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.' The civilisation of antiquity was the whole world: and men no more dreamed of its ending than of the ending of daylight. They could not imagine another order unless it were in another world. The civilisation of the world has passed away and those words have not passed away. In the long night of the Dark Ages feudalism was so familiar a thing that no man could imagine himself without a lord: and religion was so woven into that network that no man would have believed they could be torn asunder. Feudalism itself was torn to rags and rotted away in the popular life of the true Middle Ages; and the first and freshest power in that new freedom was the old religion. Feudalism had passed away, and the words did not pass away. The whole medieval order, in many ways so complete and almost cosmic a home for man, wore out gradually in its turn and here at least it was thought that the words would die. They went forth across the radiant abyss of the Renaissance and in fifty years were using all its light and learning for new religious foundations, new apologetics, new saints. It was supposed to have been withered up at last in the dry light of the Age of Reason; it was supposed to have disappeared ultimately in the earthquake of the Age of Revolution. Science explained it away; and it was still there. History disinterred it in the past; and it appeared suddenly in the future. To-day it stands once more in our path; and even as we watch it, it grows.

If our social relations and records retain their continuity, if men really learn to apply reason to the accumulating facts of so crushing a story, it would seem that sooner or later even its enemies will learn from their incessant and interminable disappointments not to look for anything so simple as its death. They may continue to war with it, but it will be as they war with nature; as they war with the landscape, as they war with the skies. 'Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.' They will watch for it to stumble; they will watch for it to err; they will no longer watch for it to end. Insensibly, even unconsciously, they will in their own silent anticipations fulfil the relative terms of that astounding prophecy; they will forget to watch for the mere extinction of what has so often been vainly extinguished; and will learn instinctively to look first for the coming of the comet or the freezing of the star.

-The Everlasting Man (1925)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Clarence Darrow

Chesterton debated many people during his lifetime, including (of course) George Bernard Shaw, as well as H.G. Wells, Bertrand Russell, etc.

One of the people whom Chesterton debated a couple times was Clarence Darrow. Given their greatly different viewpoints, and the fact that (unlike Chesterton's relationship with Shaw and Wells), they were not close personal friends (Darrow living in America, of course), it is interesting to read Darrow's tribute to GKC.

"I was favorably impressed by, warmly attached to, G.K. Chesterton. I enjoyed my debates with him, and found him a man of culture and fine sensibilities. If he and I had lived where we could have become better acquainted, eventually we would have ceased to debate, I firmly believe."

[Source- Chesterton as Seen by His Contemporaries, Cyril Clemens (1939), p. 68]

Saturday, January 8, 2011

"The case against them simply is that when they legislate for all men, they always omit themselves."

The evil of aristocracy is not that it necessarily leads to the infliction of bad things or the suffering of sad ones; the evil of aristocracy is that it places everything in the hands of a class of people who can always inflict what they can never suffer. Whether what they inflict is, in their intention, good or bad, they become equally frivolous. The case against the governing class of modern England is not in the least that it is selfish; if you like, you may call the English oligarchs too fantastically unselfish. The case against them simply is that when they legislate for all men, they always omit themselves.

-Heretics (1905)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

"For this is the second death of the gods- a death after resurrection. And when a ghost dies, it dies eternally."

From a review for the Bookman (December 1899), describing the seventeenth-century French painter Nicolas Poussin.

It was one of Chesterton's earliest writings, written when he was 25.

When paganism was re-throned at the Renaissance, it proved itself for the first time a religion by the sign that only its own worshippers could slay it. It has taken them three centuries, but they have thrashed it threadbare. Just as poets invoked Mars and Venus, for every trivial flirtation, so Poussin and his school multiplied nymphs and satyrs with the recurrence of an endless wall-paper, till a bacchanal has become as respectable as a bishop and the god of love is too vulgar for a valentine...This is the root of the strange feeling of sadness evoked by the groups and landscapes of Poussin. We are looking at one of the dead loves of the world. Never were men born so much out of the time as the modern neo-pagans. For this is the second death of the gods- a death after resurrection. And when a ghost dies, it dies eternally.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Another GKC reference in a Dean Koontz novel

Another Chesterton reference in a Dean Koontz novel. From his novel What the Night Knows, this passage:

Across her desk spilled glossy magazines published for teenagers and, by way of implausible contrast, a paperback of The Everlasting Man, by G.K. Chesterton.

[BTW, I plan on getting back to quoting actual passages from GKC himself soon.]