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.

Monday, April 21, 2014

"Happiness in this den of oppression has to be rebuked like a mob riot. Misery, in this vale of misery, has to be preached like a curious piece of refinement."

Once there was a decadent who expressed all the views of his school about Dickens by waving his hands in the air lightly and saying, “a vulgar optimist.” The phrase is a common one, and he would no doubt have preferred an uncommon phrase. But though he did not know it, he was in truth uttering a paradox more brilliant than all those of his school, a paradox in two words and a paradox justifying and exalting all the things they both detested—the unwise, the ordinary life, the ignorant and the mob. For what a concentrated and startling notion is packed into the phrase “a vulgar optimist.” Of all queer things in a queer world this surely is the queerest, that "optimism" should be “vulgar.” In an old and sad and enigmatic world in which burdens lie heavy upon all and especially heavy upon the majority, in which only a few have ever attained to leisure or self-culture, in which the overwhelming mass has toiled desperately between the breast and the grave from the beginning of time—it is yet the sublime riddle that a cheerful philosophy is not derided as insane, but simply despised as common-place. A rich and elegant class look down at optimism, and what they have to complain of is that it is too widespread; they look down at the wretched toilers, and what they have to complain of is that they are too “jolly.” Happiness in this den of oppression has to be rebuked like a mob riot. Misery, in this vale of misery, has to be preached like a curious piece of refinement.

There is that about the human race that makes us feel that it has never done exactly as it should have done on rationalistic lines. There are instances of this too numerous to detail, but they keep strong that dark doubt of rationalism, that revolt below a revolt, which is so characteristic of this time. One would think, for instance, that primitive people would have been materialistic, would have sharpened and perfected the tools that conquer the earth and the foods that fill the belly. Instead of that we find that they were idiots at practical matters, but made themselves really remarkable by singing the most exquisite poems and starting the deepest arguments about metaphysics. One would think that early poems, however vigorous, would be coarse and lustful ; instead of that, barbaric literature, like the Iliad, is generally very pure, and civilised literature, like the Arabian Nights, full of a revolting candour. And whatever one might think would ever happen to be said against optimism, nobody could possibly have imagined, in the abstract, that it would be called vulgar. One would have imagined that whatever there was to say against the world would be said by the poor and the coerced; that whatever there was to say for it would be said by the prosperous and the free. But in this divine topsy-turvydom in which we live the very reverse has been the fact. Of the pessimists, the great majority have been aristocrats, like Byron or Swinburne. Of the optimists, the vast majority have risen, like Dickens, from the people.
-July 18, 1903, The Speaker

No comments: