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.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Yes, I've been scarce lately...Since Lent has started, I have not been online as much. But I do hope to post more soon.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

"...when we are right, we are right by principle; and when [the world is] right, [it is] right by prejudice."

The world, especially the modern world, has reached a curious condition of ritual or routine; in which we might almost say that it is wrong even when it is right. It continues to a great extent to do the sensible things. It is rapidly ceasing to have any of the sensible reasons for doing them. It is always lecturing us on the deadness of tradition; and it is living entirely on the life of tradition. It is always denouncing us for superstition; and its own principal virtues are now almost entirely superstitions.

I mean that when we are right, we are right by principle; and when they are right, they are right by prejudice. We can say, if they prefer it so, that they are right by instinct. But anyhow, they are still restrained by healthy prejudice from many things into which they might be hurried by their own unhealthy logic.

-The Thing (1929)

Friday, February 17, 2012

When [a politician] is in opposition he is an expert on the means to some end; and when he is in office he is an expert on the obstacles to it."

It is obvious that a politician often passes the first half of his life in explaining that he can do something, and the second half of it in explaining that he cannot. When he is in opposition he is an expert on the means to some end; and when he is in office he is an expert on the obstacles to it. In short, when he is impotent he proves to us that the thing is easy; and when he is omnipotent he proves that it is impossible.

-March 30, 1918, Illustrated London News

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion."

Several years ago, when there was a small war going on in South Africa and a great fuss going on in England, when it was by no means so popular and convenient to be a Pro-Boer as it is now, I remember making a bright suggestion to my Pro-Boer friends and allies, which was not, I regret to say, received with the seriousness it deserved. I suggested that a band of devoted and noble youths, including ourselves, should express our sense of the pathos of the President's and the Republic's fate by growing Kruger beards under our chins. I imagined how abruptly this decoration would alter the appearance of Mr. John Morley; how startling it would be as it emerged from under the chin of Mr. Lloyd-George. But the younger men, my own friends, on whom I more particularly urged it, men whose names are in many cases familiar to the readers of this paper—Mr. Masterman's for instance, and Mr. Conrad Noel—they, I felt, being young and beautiful, would do even more justice to the Kruger beard, and when walking down the street with it could not fail to attract attention. The beard would have been a kind of counterblast to the Rhodes hat. An appropriate counterblast; for the Rhodesian power in Africa is only an external thing, placed upon the top like a hat; the Dutch power and tradition is a thing rooted and growing like a beard; we have shaved it, and it is growing again. The Kruger beard would represent time and the natural processes. You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion.

-Tremendous Trifles (1909)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"The Church cannot change quite so fast as the charges against her do."

In fundamentals, the Church rejoices in being unchangeable; but she is sometimes charged with being too stiff and stationary, even in those externals that are the legitimate sphere of change. And in one sense, I think this is, indeed, true; if we mean by the Church its mortal machinery. The Church cannot change quite so fast as the charges against her do. She is sometimes caught napping and still disproving what was said about her on Monday, to the neglect of the completely contrary thing that is said about her on Tuesday. She does sometimes live pathetically in the past, to the extent of innocently supposing that the modern thinker may think to-day what he thought yesterday. Modern thought does outstrip her, in the sense that it disappears, of itself, before she has done disproving it. She is slow and belated, in the sense that she studies a heresy more seriously than the heresiarch does.

-Where All Roads Lead (1922)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"The State has suddenly and quietly gone mad. It is talking nonsense and it can't stop."

A silent anarchy is eating out our society. I must pause upon the expression; because the true nature of anarchy is mostly misapprehended. It is not in the least necessary that anarchy should be violent; nor is it necessary that it should come from below. A government may grow anarchic as much as a people...

Anarchy is that condition of mind or methods in which you cannot stop yourself. It is the loss of that self-control which can return to the normal. It is not anarchy because men are permitted to begin uproar, extravagance, experiment, peril. It is anarchy when people cannot end these things. It is not anarchy in the home if the whole family sits up all night on New Year's Eve. It is anarchy in the home if members of the family sit up later and later for months afterwards. It was not anarchy in the Roman villa when, during the Saturnalia, the slaves turned masters or the masters slaves. It was (from the slave-owners' point of view) anarchy if, after the Saturnalia, the slaves continued to behave in a Saturnalian manner; but it is historically evident that they did not. It is not anarchy to have a picnic; but it is anarchy to lose all memory of mealtimes...It is this inability to return within rational limits after a legitimate extravagance that is the really dangerous disorder. The modern world is like Niagara. It is magnificent, but it is not strong. It is as weak as water --- like Niagara. The objection to a cataract is not that it is deafening or dangerous or even destructive, it is that it cannot stop. Now it is plain that this sort of chaos can possess the powers that rule a society as easily as the society so ruled. And in modern England it is the powers that rule who are chiefly possessed by it --- who are truly possessed by devils. The phrase, in its sound old psychological sense, is not too strong. The State has suddenly and quietly gone mad. It is talking nonsense and it can't stop.

Now it is perfectly plain that government ought to have, and must have, the same sort of right to use exceptional methods occasionally that the private householder has to have a picnic or to sit up all night on New Year's Eve. The State, like the householder, is sane if it can treat such exceptions as exceptions. Such desperate remedies may not even be right; but such remedies are endurable as long as they are admittedly desperate. Such cases, of course, are the communism of food in a besieged city; the official disavowal of an arrested spy; the subjection of a patch of civil life to martial law; the cutting of communication in a plague; or that deepest degradation of the commonwealth, the use of national soldiers not against foreign soldiers, but against their own brethren in revolt. Of these exceptions some are right and some wrong; but all are right in so far as they are taken as exceptions. The modern world is insane, not so much because it admits the abnormal as because it cannot recover the normal.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Hebdomadal Chesterton

I do not remember if I have recommended this blog before, but another Chesterton quote site you may be interested in is The Hebdomadal Chesterton

It provides quotes weekly, including many that are not on this site. It is very good.

Sunday, February 12, 2012



Refutation of the only too prevalent slander that parliamentary leaders are indifferent to the strict fulfillment of their promises and the preservation of their reputation for veracity.

They said (when they had dined at Ciro's)
The land would soon be fit for heroes;
And now they've managed to ensure it,
For only heroes could endure it.

"The words of Christ were like the lilies of which He spoke."

The words of Christ were like the lilies of which He spoke. They were doubtless not produced by any conscious artistic process, but they have unfathomable artistic value. They toiled not, neither did they spin. But Epipsychidion in all its glory is not arrayed like one of these.

-December 29, 1900, The Speaker

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Various quotes

"If the adults are useful in their way (as we may generously admit) in order to teach children to work, children are quite as much specialists in teaching the adult to play."
-December 8, 1900, The Speaker

" 'All is not gold that glitters,' he accepts, however, in all its infamy—as if, to the healthy soul of youth, glittering were not infinitely better than being common gold."
-December 8, 1900, The Speaker

"... 'Faint heart never won fair lady.' The existence of this saying, again, is a singular proof of the power of masculine concealment, for certainly if it had been true no fair lady would ever have been won in this world."
-December 8, 1900, The Speaker

"Anything that is deliberate, twisted, created as a trap and a mystery, must be discovered at last; everything that is done naturally remains mysterious."

On the subject of Browning's work innumerable things have been said and remain to be said; of his life, considered as a narrative of facts, there is little or nothing to say. It was a lucid and public and yet quiet life, which culminated in one great dramatic test of character, and then fell back again into this union of quietude and publicity. And yet, in spite of this, it is a great deal more difficult to speak finally about his life than about his work. His work has the mystery which belongs to the complex; his life the much greater mystery which belongs to the simple. He was clever enough to understand his own poetry; and if he understood it, we can understand it. But he was also entirely unconscious and impulsive, and he was never clever enough to understand his own character; consequently we may be excused if that part of him which was hidden from him is partly hidden from us. The subtle man is always immeasurably easier to understand than the natural man; for the subtle man keeps a diary of his moods, he practises the art of self-analysis and self-revelation, and can tell us how he came to feel this or to say that. But a man like Browning knows no more about the state of his emotions than about the state of his pulse; they are things greater than he, things growing at will, like forces of Nature. There is an old anecdote, probably apocryphal, which describes how a feminine admirer wrote to Browning asking him for the meaning of one of his darker poems, and received the following reply: "When that poem was written, two people knew what it meant—God and Robert Browning. And now God only knows what it means." This story gives, in all probability, an entirely false impression of Browning's attitude towards his work. He was a keen artist, a keen scholar, he could put his finger on anything, and he had a memory like the British Museum Library. But the story does, in all probability, give a tolerably accurate picture of Browning's attitude towards his own emotions and his psychological type. If a man had asked him what some particular allusion to a Persian hero meant he could in all probability have quoted half the epic; if a man had asked him which third cousin of Charlemagne was alluded to in Sordello, he could have given an account of the man and an account of his father and his grandfather. But if a man had asked him what he thought of himself, or what were his emotions an hour before his wedding, he would have replied with perfect sincerity that God alone knew.

This mystery of the unconscious man, far deeper than any mystery of the conscious one, existing as it does in all men, existed peculiarly in Browning, because he was a very ordinary and spontaneous man. The same thing exists to some extent in all history and all affairs. Anything that is deliberate, twisted, created as a trap and a mystery, must be discovered at last; everything that is done naturally remains mysterious. It may be difficult to discover the principles of the Rosicrucians, but it is much easier to discover the principles of the Rosicrucians than the principles of the United States: nor has any secret society kept its aims so quiet as humanity. The way to be inexplicable is to be chaotic, and on the surface this was the quality of Browning's life; there is the same difference between judging of his poetry and judging of his life, that there is between making a map of a labyrinth and making a map of a mist.

-Robert Browning (1903)

"The Pagans are Puritans; the enemies of Puritanism are Puritans; they prove it by the way in which they identify the last fads of Puritanism with the first principles of Christianity."

I have already remarked that all Americans are Puritans, excepting those that are Catholics, but not excepting those that are atheists or anarchists or, more dangerous still, artists. The Pagans are Puritans; the enemies of Puritanism are Puritans; they prove it by the way in which they identify the last fads of Puritanism with the first principles of Christianity. The very fact that they think they can defy religion by drinking and smoking shows precisely what is the only religion they have ever found to defy.

-Sidelights (1932)

Quite apart from the question of drinking or smoking, it's amazing how that on many subjects, many people who "rebel" against the "Christian" position on certain subjects are only rebelling against a position held by only a minority of Christians (and not the traditional one held by most Christians throughout history, either!). It reminds me of a quote by Mike Flynn (found in this link):

Atheists and other fundies often forget about the Orthodox Church, but it is the second largest Church in Christendom. Together with the largest, the Roman Catholic, they comprise better than 63% of all Christians. Throw in the third largest - the Anglican Communion - and we've got two-thirds of all Christians, well before we get down to the more exotic and idiosyncratic sects. If I want to know "what Christianity teaches," I would be inclined to ask the Orthodox or Catholic churches, as they have near 2000 years of noodling over it. Yet when the Coynes of the world want to tell us 'what Christians believe,' they agitate over the idiosyncratic beliefs of Bill and Ted's Excellent Bible Shack, whose teachings go back to last Tuesday. Go figure.

Friday, February 10, 2012

"If the child is free from the first to disregard the parent, why is not the parent free from the first to disregard the child?"

I have read hundreds and thousands of times, in all the novels and newspapers of our epoch, certain phrases about the just right of the young to liberty, about the unjust claim of the elders to control, about the conception that all souls must be free or all citizens equal, about the absurdity of authority or the degradation of obedience. I am not arguing those matters directly at the moment. But what strikes me as astounding, in a logical sense, is that not one of these myriad novelists and newspaper-men ever seems to think of asking the next and most obvious question. It never seems to occur to them to enquire what becomes of the opposite obligation. If the child is free from the first to disregard the parent, why is not the parent free from the first to disregard the child? If Mr. Jones, Senior, and Mr. Jones, Junior, are only two free and equal citizens, why should one citizen sponge on another citizen for the first fifteen years of his life? Why should the elder Mr. Jones be expected to feed, clothe and shelter out of his own pocket another person who is entirely free of any obligations to him? If the bright young thing cannot be asked to tolerate her grandmother, who has become something of a bore, why should the grandmother or the mother have tolerated the bright young thing at a period of her life when she was by no means bright? Why did they laboriously look after her at a time when her contributions to the conversation were seldom epigrammatic and not often intelligible? Why should Jones Senior stand drinks and free meals to anybody so unpleasant as Jones Junior, especially in the immature phases of his existence? Why should he not throw the baby out of the window; or at any rate, kick the boy out of doors? It is obvious that we are dealing with a real relation, which may be equality, but is certainly not similarity.

-The Thing (1929)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Will Rogers

From a book on Will Rogers written by his wife, an interesting fact:

One of the most entertaining things arranged for Will that summer was a stag dinner in the Pinafore Room of the Savoy Hotel. We saved a clipping of the event which said:

"Never before have so many wits sat around a table. Epigrams, jokes, jests, satire and a volley of witticism and repartee ought to have taken the shine off the silver and the bubbles out of the champagne, which, fortunately, they didn't. These were the guests who were invited to meet Mr. Rogers, and the list shows, it might be added, who are considered to be the wittiest, smartest, funniest men in England today. They included:
"George Bernard Shaw, G.K. Chesterton, Sir James Barrie, Lord Dewar , of whiskey fame, Lord Derby, Sir Harry Lauder, Sir Thomas Lipton and Michael Arlen- who came over especially from Paris."

-Will Rogers by Betty Rogers (1941)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"...It consisted in finding an opinion that had not a leg to stand on, and then giving it two legs to stand on."

Sadly, I did not realize until it was too late that yesterday was Charles Dickens's 200th birthday. To make up for it, I will include a quote about Dickens today, however. :-)

Dickens was among other things a satirist, a pure satirist...The essence of satire is that it perceives some absurdity inherent in the logic of some position, and that it draws that absurdity out and isolates it, so that all can see it...This is the great quality called satire; it is a kind of taunting reasonableness; and it is inseparable from a certain insane logic which is often called exaggeration. Dickens was more of a satirist than Thackeray for this simple reason: that Thackeray carried a man's principles as far as that man carried them; Dickens carried a man's principles as far as a man's principles would go. Dickens in short (as people put it) exaggerated the man and his principles; that is to say he emphasised them. Dickens drew a man's absurdity out of him; Thackeray left a man's absurdity in him...The novelist may be only an observer; the satirist must be a thinker. He must be a thinker, he must be a philosophical thinker for this simple reason; that he exercises his philosophical thought in deciding what part of his subject he is to satirise. You may have the dullest possible intelligence and be a portrait painter; but a man must have a serious intellect in order to be a caricaturist. He has to select what thing he will caricature. True satire is always of this intellectual kind; true satire is always, so to speak, a variation or fantasia upon the air of pure logic. The satirist is the man who carries men's enthusiasm further than they carry it themselves. He outstrips the most extravagant fanatic. He is years ahead of the most audacious prophet. He sees where men's detached intellect will eventually lead them, and he tells them the name of the place -- which is generally hell.

...To put it roughly, he is not describing characters, he is satirising fads. To put it more exactly, he is not describing characters; he is persecuting heresies. There is one thing really to be said against his American satire; it is a serious thing to be said: it is an argument, and it is true. This can be said of Martin's wanderings in America, that from the time he lands in America to the time he sets sail from it he never meets a living man. He has travelled in the land of Laputa. All the people he has met have been absurd opinions walking about. The whole art of Dickens in such passages as these consisted in one thing. It consisted in finding an opinion that had not a leg to stand on, and then giving it two legs to stand on.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Strength and Weakness

The whole romance of life and all the romances of poetry lie in this motion of the utterly weak suddenly developing advantages over the strong. It is the curse of the modern philosophy of strength that it is ridden with the fallacy that there is only one kind of strength and one kind of weakness. It forgets that size is a weakness as well as littleness; that the camel is just as weak for the purpose of going through the eye of a needle as the microbe for carrying a load of hay.

-January 26, 1901, The Speaker

Monday, February 6, 2012

"The more truly we can see life as a fairy-tale, the more clearly the tale resolves itself into war with the Dragon who is wasting fairyland."

...it is here that tradition has laid the tragedy of the mighty perversion of the imagination of man; the monstrous birth and death of abominable things. I say such things in no mood of spiritual pride; such things are hideous not because they are distant but because they are near to us; in all our brains, certainly in mine, were buried things as bad as any buried under that bitter sea, and if [Christ] did not come to do battle with them, even in the darkness of the brain of man, I know not why He came. Certainly it was not only to talk about flowers or to talk about Socialism. The more truly we can see life as a fairy-tale, the more clearly the tale resolves itself into war with the Dragon who is wasting fairyland.

-The New Jerusalem (1920)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

"A livid sky on London...And I knew the end was near."

In the novel Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (which novel the authors dedicated to Chesterton), there is the following passage:

A livid sky on London, Crowley thought, And I knew the end was near. Who had written that? Chesterton, wasn't it? The only poet in the twentieth century to even come close to the Truth.

The lines mentioned were from Chesterton's poem "The Old Song", which is included below:

"...life is a battle in which the best put their bodies in the front, in which God sends only His holiest into the hail of the arrows of hell."

In a sense this small matter expresses the whole of Job. Professor Dillon analyzes very well the main and obvious idea that it is a protest against that paltry optimism which sees in suffering a mark of sin. But he does not, I think, quite pierce to the further and ultimate point of "Job," which is that the true secret and hope of human life is something much more dark and beautiful than it would be if suffering were a mark of sin. A mere scheme of rewards and punishments would be something much meaner and more mechanical than this exasperating and inspiring life of ours. An automatic scheme of Karma, or "reaping what we sow," would be just as gross and material as sowing beans or reaping barley. It might satisfy mechanicians or modern monists, or theosophists, or cautious financiers, but not brave men. It is no paradox to say that the one thing which would make suffering intolerable would be the thought that it was systematically inflicted upon sinners. The one thing which would make our agony infamous would be the idea that it was deserved. On the other hand, the doctrine which makes it most endurable is exactly the opposite doctrine, that life is a battle in which the best put their bodies in the front, in which God sends only His holiest into the hail of the arrows of hell. In the book of Job is foreshadowed that better doctrine full of a dark chivalry that he that bore the worst that men can suffer was the best that bore the form of man.

-September 9, 1905, The Speaker,

Saturday, February 4, 2012

"How can we say that the Church wishes to bring us back into the Dark Ages? The Church was the only thing that ever brought us out of them."

I take in order the next instance offered: the idea that Christianity belongs to the Dark Ages. Here I did not satisfy myself with reading modern generalisations; I read a little history. And in history I found that Christianity, so far from belonging to the Dark Ages, was the one path across the Dark Ages that was not dark. It was a shining bridge connecting two shining civilizations. If any one says that the faith arose in ignorance and savagery the answer is simple: it didn't. It arose in the Mediterranean civilization in the full summer of the Roman Empire. The world was swarming with sceptics, and pantheism was as plain as the sun, when Constantine nailed the cross to the mast. It is perfectly true that afterwards the ship sank; but it is far more extraordinary that the ship came up again: repainted and glittering, with the cross still at the top. This is the amazing thing the religion did: it turned a sunken ship into a submarine. The ark lived under the load of waters; after being buried under the debris of dynasties and clans, we arose and remembered Rome. If our faith had been a mere fad of the fading empire, fad would have followed fad in the twilight, and if the civilization ever re-emerged (and many such have never re-emerged) it would have been under some new barbaric flag. But the Christian Church was the last life of the old society and was also the first life of the new. She took the people who were forgetting how to make an arch and she taught them to invent the Gothic arch. In a word, the most absurd thing that could be said of the Church is the thing we have all heard said of it. How can we say that the Church wishes to bring us back into the Dark Ages? The Church was the only thing that ever brought us out of them.

-Orthodoxy (1908)

Friday, February 3, 2012

"Misers get up early in the morning; and burglars, I am informed, get up the night before."

The tone now commonly taken toward the practice of lying in bed is hypocritical and unhealthy. Of all the marks of modernity that seem to mean a kind of decadence, there is none more menacing and dangerous than the exultation of very small and secondary matters of conduct at the expense of very great and primary ones, at the expense of eternal ties and tragic human morality. If there is one thing worse than the modern weakening of major morals, it is the modern strengthening of minor morals. Thus it is considered more withering to accuse a man of bad taste than of bad ethics. Cleanliness is not next to godliness nowadays, for cleanliness is made essential and godliness is regarded as an offence. A playwright can attack the institution of marriage so long as he does not misrepresent the manners of society, and I have met Ibsenite pessimists who thought it wrong to take beer but right to take prussic acid. Especially this is so in matters of hygiene; notably such matters as lying in bed. Instead of being regarded, as it ought to be, as a matter of personal convenience and adjustment, it has come to be regarded by many as if it were a part of essential morals to get up early in the morning. It is upon the whole part of practical wisdom; but there is nothing good about it or bad about its opposite.

Misers get up early in the morning; and burglars, I am informed, get up the night before. It is the great peril of our society that all its mechanisms may grow more fixed while its spirit grows more fickle. A man's minor actions and arrangements ought to be free, flexible, creative; the things that should be unchangeable are his principles, his ideals. But with us the reverse is true; our views change constantly; but our lunch does not change. Now, I should like men to have strong and rooted conceptions, but as for their lunch, let them have it sometimes in the garden, sometimes in bed, sometimes on the roof, sometimes in the top of a tree. Let them argue from the same first principles, but let them do it in a bed, or a boat, or a balloon. This alarming growth of good habits really means a too great emphasis on those virtues which mere custom can ensure, it means too little emphasis on those virtues which custom can never quite ensure, sudden and splendid virtues of inspired pity or of inspired candour. If ever that abrupt appeal is made to us we may fail. A man can get use to getting up at five o'clock in the morning. A man cannot very well get used to being burnt for his opinions; the first experiment is commonly fatal. Let us pay a little more attention to these possibilities of the heroic and unexpected. I dare say that when I get out of this bed I shall do some deed of an almost terrible virtue.

-Tremendous Trifles (1909)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A strange society

"It is a strange society; if private affairs are made public, it is only fair to say that public affairs are kept quite private."

-quoted in The Living Age (1934)

"The thing which has given life to all the superstitions is this ancient and mystic thing, agnosticism."

Nobody can possibly imagine what would happen if agnostics really became agnostic. No one can say, that is, what would happen if the modern skeptical mind ceased to be quite certain about everything. Genuine agnosticism would no doubt make a very great revolution in the tradition of our lives; but what would be the bold and general features of that great revolution it is very difficult to predict with certainty. One thing, however, may be considered as fairly certain. If agnosticism came properly into play, one thing or class of things would at any rate happen. We should have ghost stories in every street in London; we should have fairy stories in every village in England; we should have the cry of the witches in every high wind, and the grin of Robin Goodfellow in every act of the household, from the breakfast service to the pleasant taste of the supper. This is real agnosticism, to be attracted to elves and afraid of specters. For precisely the thing which has always made these notions important, precisely the thing which has always made fairies attractive and ghosts disquieting, has been the eternal attitude of man, the eternal attitude of agnosticism. Once admit that we do know that fairies are, and they are no more attractive than elves; once admit that we do know that a ghost can walk, and he becomes a good deal less dangerous than any harmless old vicar dawdling about in the moonlight. The thing which has given life to all the superstitions is this ancient and mystic thing, agnosticism. Peasants and old women can frighten us with their tales precisely because they are philosophically right; they do not know why such things should not be, but yet do not absolutely know that they are. Modern agnostics summarize the views of the peasants and old women by saying that they are beliefs born of ignorance. Ignorance is a Latin word, which means agnosticism.

-"Black and White"
[Reprinted in Current Opinion: A Magazine of Record and Review, volume XXXVI, January-June 1904]

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"Where Ought I to Be?"

From  T.P.'s Weekly, April 24, 1914

There is an old adage which declares that great men are absent-minded, while an equally hoary saying describes genius as "an infinite capacity for taking pains." Perhaps in no man who can lay claims to genius are these two opposite qualities of greatness better exemplified than in that modern perpetrator of paradox, G. K. Chesterton. For, infinite as are his capacities for taking pains in the literary sense, his wife, to a very large extent, acts as his "business conscience," and it is said that she accompanies him on almost every journey, performing such small but necessary duties as the getting of tickets and the consulting of "Bradshaw."

Where Ought I to Be?

It is recorded, however, that on one occasion visitors arrived, and Mrs. Chesterton being called upon to play the part of hostess, was unable to accompany her husband. With the words, "Now, Gilbert, you know where you are to lecture and what your subject is?" Chesterton went to the railway station. Arriving there, he banged down a sovereign at the booking office, and said, "A ticket."
 "Where for ? " asked the astonished clerk. 
 "Free Trade Hall," replied Chesterton. 
 "Oh, Glasgow then ?" said the clerk, and Gilbert, assenting, received a ticket for that station.
 Stepping into the street at Glasgow, he was hailed by a friend : "Hullo, Chesterton, what are you doing here?"
"Oh, I'm lecturing at the Free Trade Hall."
" Oh no, you're not," said the friend.
"Oh, yes, I am," protested Chesterton. " I booked the engagement some months ago."
" But you cannot be," maintained the friend, "for the place is being renovated and the painters are in."
It slowly dawned upon Chesterton that he was at the wrong place, and he, further to justify his claim to greatness, sent a telegram to his wife : " Am here. Where ought I to be?"

A 'Bus Story. 

It is always said that no one enjoys a joke more than Chesterton , and, even when the joke tells against himself, he never fails to be heard laughing above the whole company. It is related that a certain man told of an act of politeness he had witnessed. He had seen a man give up his seat in a tram-car to a lady. "That's nothing," said one of the company. " What about old Chesterton here? I saw him get up and give his seat to three ladies." The company roared, but louder than the others was heard the jovial laughter of Chesterton . It is in more respects than one that Chesterton lays claims to "greatness."