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.




Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"People who prefer the mechanical pleasures, to such a miracle, are jaded and enslaved. They are preferring the very dregs of life to the first fountains of life."

...my contempt boils over into bad behaviour when I hear the common suggestion that a birth is avoided because people want to be "free" to go to the cinema or buy a gramophone or a loud-speaker. What makes me want to walk over such people like doormats is that they use the word "free." By every act of that sort they chain themselves to the most servile and mechanical system yet tolerated by men. The cinema is a machine for unrolling certain regular patterns called pictures; expressing the most vulgar millionaires' notion of the taste of the most vulgar millions. The gramophone is a machine for recording such tunes as certain shops and other organisations choose to sell. The wireless is better; but even that is marked by the modern mark of all three; the impotence of the receptive party. The amateur cannot challenge the actor; the householder will find it vain to go and shout into the gramophone; the mob cannot pelt the modern speaker, especially when he is a loud-speaker. It is all a central mechanism giving out to men exactly what their masters think they should have.

Now a child is the very sign and sacrament of personal freedom. He is a fresh free will added to the wills of the world; he is something that his parents have freely chosen to produce and which they freely agree to protect. They can feel that any amusement he gives (which is often considerable) really comes from him and from them, and from nobody else. He has been born without the intervention of any master or lord. He is a creation and a contribution; he is their own creative contribution to creation. He is also a much more beautiful, wonderful, amusing and astonishing thing than any of the stale stories or jingling jazz tunes turned out by the machines. When men no longer feel that he is so, they have lost the appreciation of primary things, and therefore all sense of proportion about the world. People who prefer the mechanical pleasures, to such a miracle, are jaded and enslaved. They are preferring the very dregs of life to the first fountains of life. They are preferring the last, crooked, indirect, borrowed, repeated and exhausted things of our dying Capitalist civilisation, to the reality which is the only rejuvenation of all civilisation. It is they who are hugging the chains of their old slavery; it is the child who is ready for the new world.
-The Wells and the Shallows (1935)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Chesterton's Poem "The House of Christmas", read at King's College, Cambridge (2013)



There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost - how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.

This world is wild as an old wives' tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Gratitude, being nearly the greatest of human duties, is also nearly the most difficult. And as grown-up people hardly ever think of being grateful for the sun and moon and their own souls and bodies, it is easy to excuse the immature for finding it difficult to say thank you for a bag of sweets.

-December 28, 1935, Illustrated London News
H/T to this G.K. Chesterton Facebook page

Friday, December 27, 2013

Al Capone takes Chesterton for a Ride

An interesting anecdote which I had never heard of before, related by Neville Braybrooke, son of Patrick Braybrooke (the latter a cousin and biographer of Chesterton.)
In a short memoir that my father published in 1938 after Chesterton's death, he refers to G.K.'s sense of fun and love of the ridiculous. His high-pitched laughter I can still recall. So, too, can my wife, who lived as a child in a flat in Westminster next to the Chesterton's. Her mother and Mrs. G.K. became close friends. The following story, which has never been published before, occurred in Assisi in the 1920s. Staying at the same hotel as the Chesterton's was a charming American-Italian called Mr. Capone; he had a large comfortable car and offered to drive the English couple to see the local shrines, including the Carceri and La Verna. Only in 1929 did Chesterton discover from a photograph in the newspapers, after the St. Valentine's Day massacre in Chicago, that their nice American friend- "our Mr. Capone" as G.K. called him- was none other than the famous American gangster, Al Capone.
-from the December 21-28 issue of The Tablet, and quoted in the August 1986 issue of The Chesterton Review (p. 400)

Update: Here's a link to the same article online in the archives of The Tablet

In any case, I'm not quite sure how a trip to Assisi would fit chronologically as far Chesterton is concerned, or if there is some confusion (as for Capone I know nothing at all). Perhaps the story is apocryphal, though given the closeness of the source, I hesitate to state that, either. But this was too good of an anecdote for me not to mention it.

"There never was an age so critical about authority.But there never was an age so entirely uncritical about anything without authority."

One of the most curious things we must all have noticed nowadays is that people will not accept a statement if it is made upon authority, but they will accept the same statement if it is made without any authority at all. If you say: "But you know it says in the Bible that palm-trees spread leprosy" (I hasten to add that it doesn't), most modern people will not only doubt it but dismiss it as some old Semitic superstition. But if you say, "Don't you know that palm-trees spread leprosy?" you will meet your most cultivated friends ostentatiously avoiding palm-trees for months afterwards.

If you say, "The Pope tells us that walking on our heels will promote virtue," your hearers will only regard it as another extravagance of a dying asceticism. But if you say, without any authority at all, "Virtue, you know, can be promoted by walking on the heels," you will detect numbers of your fashionable acquaintances making the attempt: those of them, I mean, who are in pursuit of virtue [...] This is owing to the great tyranny of our time, which is the tyranny of suggestion. There never was an age so critical about authority. But there never was an age so entirely uncritical about anything without authority.

-Hearst's International, volume 24 (1913)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Pope Francis quotes GKC

Recently Pope Francis quoted Chesterton, as reported in this link on the Vatican's website (Well, an allusion, as far as I can make out for sure, not a direct quote, but still...):

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/cotidie/2013/en/papa-francesco-cotidie_20131205_words-mad_en.html
Pope Francis then recalled the prophet Isaiah who, in the first Reading (26:1-6) says: “Trust in the Lord for ever, for the Lord is an everlasting rock”. “The rock is Jesus Christ, the rock is the Lord. Our word is forceful, it bestows life, it continues on, it can tolerate any attack if this word is rooted in Jesus Christ”. However, he said, “a Christian word whose life-giving roots are not grounded in a person, in Jesus Christ, is a Christian word without Christ. And Christian words without Christ deceive, they do harm”.

The Pontiff then quoted the English author G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936), when speaking about heresy once said that a heresy is a truth, a word, a truth gone mad. “When Christian words lack Christ, they begin to head down the road of madness”. The prophet Isaiah, he added, clearly describes the nature of this madness. He says: “The Lord is an everlasting rock. For he has brought low the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city” (26:4-5). “The inhabitants of the height. A Christian word without Christ leads to vanity, to self assuredness, to pride, and to power for power’s sake. And the Lord brings these people low”.
Presumably the Pope is making reference is to the third chapter of Orthodoxy:
The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful. For example, Mr. Blatchford attacks Christianity because he is mad on one Christian virtue: the merely mystical and almost irrational virtue of charity. He has a strange idea that he will make it easier to forgive sins by saying that there are no sins to forgive. Mr. Blatchford is not only an early Christian, he is the only early Christian who ought really to have been eaten by lions. For in his case the pagan accusation is really true: his mercy would mean mere anarchy. He really is the enemy of the human race -- because he is so human. At the other extreme, we may take the acrid realist, who has deliberately killed in himself all human pleasure in happy tales or in the healing of the heart. Torquemada tortured people physically for the sake of moral truth. Zola tortured people morally for the sake of physical truth. But in Torquemada's time there was at least a system that could to some extent make righteousness and peace kiss each other. Now they do not even bow.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

There were three things prefigured and promised by the gifts in the cave of Bethlehem concerning the Child who received them; that He should be crowned like a King: that He should be worshipped like a God; and that He should die like a man. And these things would sound like Eastern flattery, were it not for the third.

-G. K.’s Weekly, December 12th, 1931
quoted in  Quoted in The Man Who Was Orthodox: A Selection from the Uncollected Writings of G.  K. Chesterton, collected by A.L. Maycock (1963)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Thou Shalt Not Kill

Thou Shalt Not Kill

I had grown weary of him; of his breath
And hands and features I was sick to death.
Each day I heard the same dull voice and tread;
I did not hate him: but I wished him dead.
And he must with his blank face fill my life -
Then my brain blackened; and I snatched a knife.

But ere I struck, my soul's grey deserts through
A voice cried, 'Know at least what thing you do.'
'This is a common man: knowest thou, O soul,
What this thing is? somewhere where seasons roll
There is some living thing for whom this man
Is as seven heavens girt into a span,
For some one soul you take the world away -
Now know you well your deed and purpose. Slay!'

Then I cast down the knife upon the ground
And saw that mean man for one moment crowned.
I turned and laughed: for there was no one by -
The man that I had sought to slay was I.

-The Wild Knight and Other Poems (1900)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Chesterton's first essay published in The Debater, written when he was 16

DRAGONS: A SKETCH

The dragon is certainly the most cosmopolitan of impossibilities. His eccentric figure has walked through the romances of all ages and of all nations. It is a noticeable fact that many races, far separated by oceans and by ages and differing in language, customs, and surroundings, have nevertheless evolved similar creatures in the realm of the imagination. In nearly all legends, Greek, Norse, Celtic, Semetic, Mediaeval, and Japanese, this clay intruder has appeared from the earliest times, and appeared apparently with the sole object of being killed, whether by the lance of St. George, the club of Herakles, the sword of Siegfried, or the arrows of Hiawatha. We have even seen a dragon, together with some other dubious looking quadrupeds, in the arabesques of Mohammedans, who have usually, as the reader doubtless knows, a religious objection founded on the literal interpretation of the Second Commandment, against "making to themselves a graven image" of life in any form. The worthy Moslems had, however, doubtless something to say for themselves, for we will willingly acquit the quadrupeds thus represented from being "the likeness of anything that is in heaven above or in the earth beneath or in the waters under the earth."

As to the traditional exterior of this attractive creature, there are remarkably few discrepancies. The Darwinian theory of physical adaptation to surroundings may have acted to some extent in the fanciful as well as the natural world, and produced local varieties of the dragon suited to local scenery and tradition, but, on the whole, he remains the same when writhing under the red cross of St. Michael in a Gothic stained glass window as when he wriggles blue and complicated on the
golden banner of the celestial empire.

We will not attempt to explain the popularity of this strange conception. We will not undertake to say whether the Dragon is simply an exaggerated serpent, the Python and Hydra of Hellenic myth, or whether his widespread prominence be due to some dim, pre-historic recollection of those dragon-like ptero-dactyles and ichthisauri, who were the placid spectators of the creation of Adam; all these are questions for more abstruse discourses than this our humble contribution.

But whatever its origin, the dragon usually consists of the body of a lizard, the claws of an eagle, the wings of a bat, and a tail ending in that singular broad-arrow formation which seems to be reserved for the tails of dragons and the clothes of convicts. The head of this animal resembles to some extent that of an intoxicated crocodile. I do not mean to so far insult that excellent and respectable class of reptiles as to say that I ever saw a crocodile in an inebriate state. I simply mean that the few crocodiles I have seen were so inexpressibly wooden and dingy in appearance that I can imagine nothing but the cheerful glass that could excite them to the state of leering malignity which is the recognized expression of dragons under all circumstances.

But though we cannot give an explanation of the union of the external peculiarities of the dragon, the spirit and meaning of the conception is obvious. The idea of a huge, hideous, and powerful incarnation of evil, desolating countries and devouring
populations, is a conception that has been an important moral influence in poetical mythology, particularly in that of the earlier and purer Greeks, as is finely expressed in Charles Kingsley's poem-

"Heroes who dare, in the God-given might of their manhood,
Bravely to do and to suffer, and far in the fens and the forests
Smite the devours of men, heaven-hated brood of the giants,
Twy-formed, strange, without like, who obey not the golden-haired rulers;
Vainly rebelling they rage, till they die by the swords of the heroes.


Thus the archaic poet pictured, and thus the legendary hero sought him in the black depths of dark and mystic forests, in twilight fens, and on burning sands, lifting his horrible crest over dismal turrets, or lurking in gloomy caverns heaped with bleached bones.

He has grown more prudent now.

He doesn't see the good of going about as a roaring lion, but seeks what he may devour in a quiet and respectable way, behind many illustrious names and many imposing disguises. Behind the scarlet coat and epaulettes, behind the star and mantle of the garter, behind the ermine tippet and the counsellor's robe, behind, alas, the black coat and white tie, behind many a respectable exterior in public and in private life, we fear that the dragon's flaming eyes and grinning jaws, his tyrannous power, and his infernal cruelty, sometimes lurk.

Reader, when you or I meet him, under whatever disguise, may we face him boldly, and perhaps rescue a few captives from his black cavern; may we bear a brave lance and a spotless shield through the crashing mele'e of life's narrow lists, and may our wearied swords have struck fiercely on the painted crests of Imposture and Injustice when the Dark Herald comes to lead us to the pavilion of the King.

G.K.C.

THE DEBATER.
JOURNAL OF THE JUNIOR DEBATING SOCIETY.
EDITED BY THE SECRETARY.
VOL. I.
MARCH-APRIL, 1891.

LONDON:
PRINTED BY J.W. WAKEHAM, 4, BEDFORD TERRACE, KENSINGTON

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

...the essence of poetry is the fruitfulness of human limitations

-December 20, 1913, Illustrated London News

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Conjurer. [Seriously.] There was little pleasure in her life.

Patricia. There is little, a very little, in everybody's. The question is, what kind? We can't turn life into a pleasure. But we can choose such pleasures as are worthy of us and our immortal souls.

-Magic (1913)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Before the visit was concluded there came to that small house containing so large a man a serious-miened delegation...They had come, their spokesman said between four-syllable coughs, to request Mr. Chesterton to accept the honorary post of under-sheriff for Bucks-Buckinghimashire County. Mr. Chesterton's roll-top torso writhed nervously. He shrank, he said, from honorary appointments of whatever kind. He bore not title to which he did not deliver duty. And would they be so good as to tell him the principle duty of an under-sheriff? The spokesman coughed and defined:

"To suppress riots against His Majesty's peace."

"Quite impossible," chanted Mr. Chesterton, for his speaking voice was a rising rhythm, cadenced and lofty. "It wouldn't do at all." He beamed explanatorily. "If there is ever any riot around here," he added, "I couldn't conscientiously suppress it, for I should be the principle rioter."


John B. Kennedy, June 28, 1936, New York Times
(quoted in Defiant Joy by Kevin Belmonte, pp. 270-271, [2011])

Sunday, December 15, 2013

"A man who says the last word on a subject ought to be killed. He is a murderer; he has slain a topic."

It may, perhaps, be wondered whether one could possibly say a worse thing of anybody than that he has said ‘the last word’ on a subject. A man who says the last word on a subject ought to be killed. He is a murderer; he has slain a topic. The best kind of critic draws attention not to the finality of a thing, but to its infinity. Instead of closing a question, he opens a hundred.

-quoted in Return to Chesterton (by Maisie Ward)

(h/t gkcdaily.blogspot.com)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

"...only men to whom the family is sacred will ever have a standard or a status by which to criticise the state."

There is a real relation between this religion in private and this revolution in public life. Stories none the less heroic for being hackneyed remind us that the [Roman] Republic was founded on a tyrannicide that avenged an insult to a wife; that the Tribunes of the people were re-established after another which avenged an insult to a daughter. The truth is that only men to whom the family is sacred will ever have a standard or a status by which to criticise the state. They alone can appeal to something more holy than the gods of the city; the gods of the hearth.

-The Everlasting Man (1925)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The position we have now reached is this: starting from the State, we try to remedy the failures of all the families, all the nurseries, all the schools, all the workshops, all the secondary institutions that once had some authority of their own. Everything is ultimately brought into the Law Courts. We are trying to stop the leak at the other end.

-March 24, 1923, Illustrated London News (H/T  Hebdomadal Chesterton)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

When good citizens have at last settled down peacefully under a law, it generally means that they have found a good way of evading it.

-May 17, 1913, Illustrated London News

Too few have noticed that scandal-mongering is the most popular kind of conversation simply because the most amusing subject in the world is morality

-The Fortnightly Review, volume 80 (1903)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"As long as the vision of heaven is always changing, the vision of earth will be exactly the same."

...the man we see every day -- the worker in Mr. Gradgrind's factory, the little clerk in Mr. Gradgrind's office -- he is too mentally worried to believe in freedom. He is kept quiet with revolutionary literature. He is calmed and kept in his place by a constant succession of wild philosophies. He is a Marxian one day, a Nietzscheite the next day, a Superman (probably) the next day; and a slave every day. The only thing that remains after all the philosophies is the factory. The only man who gains by all the philosophies is Gradgrind. It would be worth his while to keep his commercial helotry supplied with sceptical literature. And now I come to think of it, of course, Gradgrind is famous for giving libraries. He shows his sense. All modern books are on his side. As long as the vision of heaven is always changing, the vision of earth will be exactly the same. No ideal will remain long enough to be realized, or even partly realized. The modern young man will never change his environment; for he will always change his mind.

This, therefore, is our first requirement about the ideal towards which progress is directed; it must be fixed. Whistler used to make many rapid studies of a sitter; it did not matter if he tore up twenty portraits. But it would matter if he looked up twenty times, and each time saw a new person sitting placidly for his portrait. So it does not matter (comparatively speaking) how often humanity fails to imitate its ideal; for then all its old failures are fruitful. But it does frightfully matter how often humanity changes its ideal; for then all its old failures are fruitless. The question therefore becomes this: How can we keep the artist discontented with his pictures while preventing him from being vitally discontented with his art? How can we make a man always dissatisfied with his work, yet always satisfied with working? How can we make sure that the portrait painter will throw the portrait out of window instead of taking the natural and more human course of throwing the sitter out of window?

-Orthodoxy (1908)

Monday, December 9, 2013

RUBBISH

This title, however true, is not a mere explosion of my literary modesty. It refers, not solely to the article itself, but also to a superb pile of wood, straw, tar, paper and every random substance which is erected in a field just beyond the end of my garden. It is, as you may guess, a Coronation bonfire; but we remote rustics have to write our articles months, so to speak, before the actual Coronation, and the pile is at present, unfinished and indeed deficient. I have ransacked house and garden for some time to find rubbish to assist the conflagration; and my eye has suddenly fallen on a pile of fine old quarterlies, works on agnosticism, etc. These I am carrying across to the bonfire. Do not fancy that when I speak of rubbish, I mean only the things that I dislike. I mean a particular kind of vagueness and verbiage which must be cut away and cleared before a man can deal with his real adversaries. I do not call Socialism rubbish; I call it a very powerful, plausible and dangerous drug. I do not call Imperialism rubbish; I call it poison. But I do call ‘true Imperialism’ rubbish and ‘true Socialism’ rubbish, for they amount to nothing more than a mild Pharisaism about one’s own marvellous merit in loving one’s country or being sorry for the poor. Nor would I treat as rubbish anything, however alien or fantastic, which had a positive significance of any sort. I would not throw into my bonfire the Crown of France or the Koran or the Lord’s Day Observance Act or the Stuart tartan. I should not see mere rubbish in things that meant something, even if we cannot now decipher what it was, as in obscure and perhaps frightful figures and legends that crumble on Assyrian bas-reliefs in Bloomsbury, or in that ring of rock that stands over Salisbury Plain like stones in the crown of some primordial king of giants. Nor again would I class as rubbish (in this sense) those other examples in which we can decipher the statements and see that they are untrue; as in the case of the Monument in Fish Street or the scientific works of Mr Haeckel.

But I mean things that never meant anything; I mean the statesmanlike pronouncements, the wide outlooks and the well-considered conclusions; I mean whole shelves of Hansard and whole stacks of the Higher Thought Review; all the leading articles that oscillate faintly between two unimportant opinions; all the public speakers who are ‘far from saying’ this or ‘the last to say’ that; all the servile compromises justified by ‘evolution’; all the things that ‘every thoughtful man’ is supposed to think; all the things ‘modern ideas’ are supposed somehow or other to involve; all the owlishly stupid ‘rebukes’ and ‘severe comments’ uttered by judges and statesmen in utterly artificial wrath against utterly insignificant things; all the streams of sentimentalism poured out when you turn the tap, in defence of the dirtiest convenience or the dullest hack politics; all the consciousness of the solemnity of the responsibility, all the realization of the reality of the tendency; in short, all that grows in that wilderness of pride and folly, where pomposity grows like tall grass and polysyllables crawl about like caterpillars...

But I must break off; because I have to carry all my modern problem novels and books of philosophy and high-class quarterly magazines across to the bonfire beyond the end of my garden.

-Daily News, June 24th, 1911
Quoted in The Man Who Was Orthodox" A Selection from the Uncollected Writings of G. K. Chesterton, collected by A.L. Maycock (1963

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Just wanted to link to a wonderful review of Orthodoxy which I happened to come across, and enjoyed greatly. :-)

"A Tribute to G.K. Chesterton"

Saturday, December 7, 2013

"...I would not exclude a story solely because it was true."

Tales of heroes are a part of religious education; they are meant to teach us that we have souls. But the inquiries of the historians into the eccentricities of every epoch are merely a part of political education; they are meant to teach us to avoid certain perils or solve certain problems in the complexity of practical affairs. It is the first duty of a boy to admire the glory of Trafalgar. It is the first duty of a grown man to question its utility. It is one question whether it was a good thing as an episode in the struggle between Pitt and the French Revolution. It is quite another matter that it was certainly a good thing in that immortal struggle between the son of man and all the unclean spirits of sloth and cowardice and despair. For the wisdom of man alters with every age; his prudence has to fit perpetually shifting shapes of inconvenience or dilemma. But his folly is immortal: a fire stolen from heaven.

Now, the little histories that we learnt as children were partly meant simply as inspiring stories. They largely consisted of tales like Alfred and the cakes or Eleanor and the poisoned wound. They ought to have consisted entirely of them. Little children ought to learn nothing but legends; they are the beginnings of all sound morals and manners. I would not be severe on the point: I would not exclude a story solely because it was true. But the essential on which I should insist would be, not that the tale must be true, but that the tale must be fine.

-October 8, 1910, Illustrated London News
(H/T Hebdomadal Chesterton)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"My Experiences with Santa Claus"

What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it. It happened in this way.

As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good – far from it.

And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me. What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still.

I have merely extended the idea.

Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.

Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dolls and crackers, now, I thank him for stars and street faces and wine and the great sea.

Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill

-excerpted from an article in Black and White written in 1903 called "My Experiences with Santa Claus", and reprinted in the London Tablet in 1974 

H/T to the St. Louis Chesterton Society