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.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

"Pride...is the falsification of fact by the introduction of self"

The greatest of Christian doctors were the first to admit that most of the Christian virtues had really been heathen virtues. [...] It is unjust to say that no heathens were ever merciful; it is absurd to say that no heathens were ever just [...] Upon one point and one point only, was there really a moral revolution that broke the back of human history. And that was upon the point of Humility. There was this definite thing about the best Pagan; that in him dignity did mean pride. It was a change that stood alone; and was worthy to stand alone. For it was the greatest psychological discovery that man has made, since man has sought to know himself.

It was the stupendous truth that man does not know anything, until he can not only know himself but ignore himself. He must subtract himself from the study of any solid and objective thing [...]But Pride which is the falsification of fact, by the introduction of self, is the enduring blunder of mankind. Christianity would be justified if it had done nothing but begin by detecting that blunder.
-The End of the Armistice
(collection of essays published posthumously in 1940)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

...the worst tyrant is not the man who rules by fear; the worst tyrant is he who rules by love and plays on it as on a harp.
-Robert Browning (1903)

Monday, December 28, 2015

It is common talk in these days that we ought to be imaginative, if only in order to be charitable. If a man commits forgery we must try to understand his temptations and his original trend. But no such mercy is generally shown to the enthusiast for ideas. The sins of the intolerant are seldom considered with any intellectual tolerance.
-The Apostle and the Wild Ducks
(collection of essays published posthumously in 1975)

Friday, December 25, 2015

Richard III and GKC

OK, this is old news, but I just discovered it a few minutes ago, so that is why I hadn't posted it before.

The remains of Richard III (king of England from 1483-1485) were discovered in 2012, and earlier this year (in March) they were reburied Leicester Cathedral. But what I had not known till just today was an interesting bit of news in connection with GKC concerning the service of reburial:
The coffin remained shouldered as the eulogy was read, and the cathedral procession then led the bearer party to a plinth in front of the altar, where it was laid. The opening prayer, from the Dean of Leicester, the Very Revd David Monteith, was from the medieval rite of reburial, and the opening hymn, G. K. Chesterton's "O God of earth and altar", arranged by Vaughan Williams, contrasted the imperfections of earthly life ("not least as exemplified by our faltering rulers", an explanatory note suggested).
[Source] (emphasis mine)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

"The Man in the Street"

[The Man in the Street] is a myth, perhaps a beautiful myth, but still a myth. This Man in the Street, this being by whose arbitrament politics, literature, and ethics are now tested and decided, is as fabulous as the Hydra; he is a thing that does not exist. My friend the Pessimist, to whom I have alluded in a previous article, and who is naturally disposed to take a somewhat gloomy view of things, declares that the Man in the Street does exist. But then my friend the Pessimist does not exist himself, so, he cannot be held to be a sound judge of all the niceties of the question, and may even be considered as having a certain bias. The essential proof that the Man in the Street does not exist is very simple. No one ever met anyone who believed himself to be the Man in the Street. No one ever met anyone who believed anyone else whom he knew intimately to be the Man in the Street. The sage who goes on the hopeless hunt after the average man will be endlessly disappointed as his researches exhibit endless variety and individuality. It will be more and more discovered that the Man in the Street only happens to be in the street, just as we happen to be in the street. Beyond that he resolves himself variously into the Man in the Cathedral, the Man in the Public-House, the Man in the National Gallery, the Man in the Penitentiary, the Man in the Fabian Society, the Man in the Divorce Court, the Man in Khaki- and the Man in Holy Orders. Among all the millions whom we summarise as men in the street there is not one who bears the least resemblance to any other man the moment we really understand his private memories, hopes, and conceptions. If we had to advise one man in the street how he should conduct himself in a definite crisis towards definite persons, our advice would be quite different to that which we should offer to another man in the street. No doubt there is a common human basis for all these men, but that common human basis includes the cultivated and exceptional quite as much as it includes these people. The dilemma, therefore, is simply this: either there is no such thing as the Man in the Street or else Maeterlinck is the Man in the Street and Mr. W. B. Yeats is the Man in the Street.
-April 12, 1902, The Speaker

"To tell the priest to throw away theology and impress us with his personality, is exactly like telling the doctor to throw away physiology and merely hypnotize us with his glittering eye."

The preacher is told to cast aside all systems and speak out of his own heart, or (in favourable cases) out of his own head. It does not seem to occur to these critics that they are making the priest or preacher much more important than he was before. They are demanding from him a genius and originality which cannot be expected from all the individual members of any profession. The poor ordinary parson is not allowed to teach what he has learnt, a certain system of religious thought. But he is expected, all by himself, to be a sort of compound of Savonarola and Swedenborg and M. Coué. All men are not born mesmerists or prose poets or persons of magnetic personality. But all men can expound a rational scheme of religion and morals, if there is one to expound.

The truth is that creed and dogma are the only things that make preaching tolerable. A system of thought can be explained by any reasonably thinking man; but it does not follow that the thinking man is a thinker. The case is very much the same as that of the medical authority of the general practitioner. We do not expect every ordinary G.P. to be a person like Pasteur or Lister or some great medical discoverer. But we do expect him to know the system he has been taught; the creed and dogma of his profession. To tell the priest to throw away theology and impress us with his personality, is exactly like telling the doctor to throw away physiology and merely hypnotize us with his glittering eye. People are very fond of making unjust complaints about preachers, as they are of making equally unjust complaints about doctors. But they have not yet got so far as complaining of doctors because they know their business, and because they regard it as a science. And the preacher, even the very worst preacher, would be infinitely more empty and dreary than he is if he had never regarded theology as a science. What makes his preaching tolerable, at its worst, is that he is, after all, in some sense giving us the thoughts of great men like St. Paul or St. Augustine, or even Calvin, and not merely the thoughts of a small man unassisted by any tradition of greatness. I do not know what advice will be given to the preacher by most of the distinguished persons who will probably advise him. But a melancholy familiarity with most current thought, or thoughtlessness, leads me to advise him to listen to it, and then do the opposite.
-Come to Think of It (1930)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

I am entirely in favour of capital for labourers. I am also in favour of labour for capitalists. I am in favour of hard labour for some capitalists.
-May 28, 1927, G.K.'s Weekly
[H/T The Distributist Review]

Saturday, December 19, 2015

"...You laughed when I said that the sulky look of Mrs. Sands was a study in character; but not in the character of Mrs. Sands. But it was true. If you want to know what a lady is really like, don’t look at her; for she may be too clever for you. Don’t look at the men round her, for they may be too silly about her. But look at some other woman who is always near to her, and especially one who is under her. You will see in that mirror her real face, and the face mirrored in Mrs. Sands was very ugly..."
-The Secret of Father Brown (1927)

Friday, December 18, 2015

"I mean that a tree goes on growing, and therefore goes on changing; but always in the fringes surrounding something unchangeable."

[While written in a different context, the following passage is applicable, I believe, to many conflicts in the Church today as well...indeed, the word "tree" naturally reminds one of Christ's parable of the mustard seed]

Perhaps we might call the two antagonistic philosophies the philosophy of the The Tree and the philosophy of The Cloud. I mean that a tree goes on growing, and therefore goes on changing; but always in the fringes surrounding something unchangeable. The innermost rings of the tree are still the same as when it was a sapling; they have ceased to be seen, but they have not ceased to be central. When the tree grows a branch at the top, it does not break away from the roots at the bottom; on the contrary, it needs to hold more strongly by its roots the higher it rises with its branches. That is the true image of the vigorous and healthy progress of a man, a city, or a whole species. but when the evolutionists I speak of talk to us about change, they do not mean that. They do not mean something that produces external changes from a  permanent and organic centre, like a tree; they mean something that changes completely and entirely in every part, at every minute, like a cloud; there is no head or tail that cannot turn into something else; it not only changes, but it is itself only a prolonged change. While Hamlet and Polonius stood looking at the cloud, it will be remembered that, in those few minutes, the prince could persuade the courtier that the cloud had a hump like a camel, that it was a weasel, and that it was a whale. That is the cosmos as understood by these cosmic philosophers; the cosmos is a cloud. It changes in every part; nor is one part more permanent or even more essential than the other. For that matter, of course, the cosmic philosophers change as much as their cosmic cloud [...] Now, if this merely cloudy and boneless development be adopted as a philosophy, then there can be no place for the past and no possibility of a complete culture. Anything may be here today and gone tomorrow; even tomorrow. But I do not accept that everlasting evolution, which merely means everlasting chaos. As I only accept the organic and orderly development of a thing according to its own design and nature, there is for me such a thing as a human culture that is reasonably complete. Only the modern, advanced, progressive scientific culture is unreasonably incomplete [...] For its weakness is, according to the sacred philosophy of the tree, that it has no roots or its roots are very shallow; it is too recent to be rooted in the subconsciousness or to have anything of the dimension of depth, in the matter of memory and what is called "second nature." There is not enough of the momentum of mankind behind it, and it wavers and grows weary even before our eyes.
-Avowals and Denials (1935)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Now, in spite of the wildest claims to independence, the intellectual life of today still strikes me as being mainly symbolised by the train or the track or the groove.  There is any amount of fuss and vivacity about certain fixed fashions or directions of thought; just as there is any amount of rapidity along the fixed rails of the railway-track.  But if we begin to think about really getting off the track, we shall find that what is true of the train is equally true of the truth.  We shall find it is actually harder to get out of the groove, when the train is going fast, than when the train is going slowly.  We shall find that rapidity is rigidity; that the very fact of some social or political or artistic movement going quicker and quicker means that fewer people have the courage to move against it.  And at last perhaps nobody will make a leap for real intellectual liberty, just as nobody will jump out of a railway-train going at eighty miles an hour.  This seems to me the primary mark of what we call progressive thought in the modern world.  It is in the most exact sense of the term limited.  It is all in one dimension.  It is all in one direction.  It is limited by its progress.  It is limited by its speed.

 I have said that it has not the curiosity to stop.  If the train-dwellers were really travellers, exploring a strange country to make discoveries, they would always be stopping at little wayside stations.  For instance, they would always be stopping to consider the curious nature of their own conventional terms; a thing which they never do, by any chance.  Their catchwords are regarded solely as gadgets or appliances for getting them where they are going to; they never cast back a thought upon where the catchword comes from.  Yet that is exactly what they would do if they were really thinking, in any thorough and all-round sense.  Of course it will be understood, touching these intellectual fashions, that great masses, probably the mass of mankind, never travel on the train at all.  They remain in their villages and are much happier and better; but they are not regarded as the intellectual leaders of the time.  What I complain of is that the intellectual leaders can only lead along one narrow track; otherwise known as the ringing groove of change.
-The Common Man (collection of essays published posthumously in 1950)

"...to leave a child's mind empty does not mean that it will remain empty; it only means that it will be filled with silly things."

We have most of us realised, I suppose, that the only thing irritating about sceptisim is that it does not exist. A really open mind (which, as Mr. Chamberlain truly says, means an empty mind) would be a very charming thing; it is a very charming thing as it exists in babies in long clothes. But the trouble is that to leave a child's mind empty does not mean that it will remain empty; it only means that it will be filled with silly things. He will not be a sceptic; he will merely be a fanatic for fifth rate causes. Where the human mind is not fed with any doctrine at all, it is simply at the mercy of the first mean sophistry or two-penny cynical generalisation that it may hear from a fast schoolfellow or vulgar employer. Where there is nothing there is Satan. Where there is no concern for moral or religious offices there is ether a fussy and tyrannical concern for cuffs and collars or (what is almost worse) a fussy and tyrannical concern for Liberty ties and Jaeger shirts and all the heathen horrors of art and hygiene. When you break the big laws you do not get liberty: you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws.
-July 29, 1905, Daily News

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Perhaps under the shadow of the storm that menaced all Friars, Bonaventure, the Franciscan, grew into so great a friendship with Thomas the Dominican, that their contemporaries compared them to David and Jonathan. The point is of some interest; because it would be quite easy to represent the Franciscan and the Dominican as flatly contradicting each other. The Franciscan may be represented as the Father of all the Mystics; and the Mystics can be represented as men who maintain that the final fruition or joy of the soul is rather a sensation than a thought. The motto of the Mystics has always been, "Taste and see." Now St. Thomas also began by saying, "Taste and see;" but he said it of the first rudimentary impressions of the human animal. It might well be maintained that the Franciscan puts Taste last and the Dominican puts it first. It might be said that the Thomist begins with something solid like the taste of an apple, and afterwards deduces a divine life for the intellect; while the Mystic exhausts the intellect first, and says finally that the sense of God is something like the taste of an apple. A common enemy might claim that St. Thomas begins with the taste of fruit and St. Bonaventure ends with the taste of fruit. But they are both right; if I may say so, it is a privilege of people who contradict each other in their cosmos to be both right. The Mystic is right in saying that the relation of God and Man is essentially a love-story; the pattern and type of all love-stories. The Dominican rationalist is equally right in saying that the intellect is at home in the topmost heavens; and that the appetite for truth may outlast and even devour all the duller appetites of man.
-St Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox (1933)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Even those who can only regard the great story of Bethlehem as a fairy-tale told by the fire will yet agree that such narrowness is the first artistic necessity even of a good fairy-tale. But there are others who think, at least, that their thought strikes deeper and pierces to a more subtle truth in the mind. There are others for whom all our fairy-tales, and even all our appetite for fairy-tales, draw their fire from one central fairy-tale, as all forgeries draw their significance from a signature. They believe that this fable is a fact, and that the other fables cannot really be appreciated even as fables until we know it is a fact. For them, personality is a step beyond universality; one might almost call it an escape from universality. And what they follow is as much something more than Pantheism as a flame is something more than a temperature. For them, God is not bound down and limited by being merely everything; He is also at liberty to be something. And for them Christmas will always deal with a reality exactly as Shakespeare's poetry deals with an unreality; it will give, not to airy nothing, but to the enormous and overwhelming everything, a local habitation and a Name.
-The Uses of Diversity (1921)

Friday, November 27, 2015

"That marks the tremendous realism of our religion: its heroes had not heroic faults."

Cobbett was a particular human type; the very last to be fairly understood in those quiet times of which the virtue is sociability and the vice is snobbery. He was the imperfect martyr. The modern and popular way of putting it is to say that a man can really be a martyr without being by any means a saint. The more subtle truth is that he can even be a saint and still have that sort of imperfection. The first of Christian saints was in that sense a very imperfect martyr. He eventually suffered martyrdom for a Master whom he had cursed and denied. That marks the tremendous realism of our religion: its heroes had not heroic faults. They had not those Byronic vices that can pose almost as virtues. When they said they were miserable sinners, it was because they really dared to confess the miserable sins. Tradition says that the saint in question actually asked to be crucified upside-down, as if making himself a mere parody of a martyr. And there is something of the same sacred topsy-turvydom in the strange fancy by which he is haunted in all hagiological art and legend by the symbol of his failure. The crowing of a cock, which has become a phrase for insolence, has in this case actually become an emblem of meekness. Rome has lifted up the cock of Peter higher than the eagle of Caesar, not to preach pride to kings but to preach humility to pontiffs. The cock is crowing for ever that the saint may never crow.
-William Cobbett (1925)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

[Sir Arthur Keith] seemed to be setting out to show that man is entirely explained by his animal ancestry; and he then proceeded to say that the animal formation (including the brain formation) of an ape is exactly the same as that of a man. Whether this is true or not I have no sort of authority to discuss, and Sir Arthur Keith has a great deal. But if it is true, his own inference from it must be false. If he was arguing that Homo Sapiens must be an entirely natural or evolutionary product, he was arguing against himself. If he was trying to prove that man has a merely material origin like the ape, he was proving exactly the opposite. If there are two motor-cars, which a minute examination proves to be exactly alike in every mechanical detail, then we shall be rather more and not less surprised if one of them suddenly soars into the air like an aeroplane, while the other can only trundle along the road like a cart. The only way in which we can possibly explain it is to suppose that, at some time and in some way, some other more mysterious force came into play. But the more we prove that every cog and rivet in the two machines is identical, the more we are driven to the mystical explanation when their action is different. And the difference between a man and an ape does not need discussion; it does not allow of denial or even doubt. Man has stepped into a totally different world of imagination and invention; like a man turning into a god. If this startling and stupendous difference can co-exist with exactly the same material origins, the only possible deduction is that it does not come from the material origins. In other words, the only possible deduction is that by some special spiritual act, as in the ancient record, man became a living soul. So far as Sir Arthur Keith's argument can be said to prove anything, it proves the theological conception he was apparently trying to disprove. That is a perfectly simple and self-evident fact; and yet nobody seems to have seen it, either among his friends or foes.

-Illustrated London News, October 15, 1927

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"The question is not so much whether only a minority of the electorate votes. The point is that only a minority of the voter votes."

The average man votes below himself; he votes with half a mind or with a hundredth part of one. A man ought to vote with the whole of himself as he worships or gets married. A man ought to vote with his head and heart, his soul and stomach, his eye for faces and his ear for music; also (when sufficiently provoked) with his hands and feet. If he has ever seen a fine sunset, the crimson colour of it should creep into his vote. If he has ever heard splendid songs, they should be in his ears when he makes the mystical cross. But as it is, the difficulty with English democracy at all elections is that it is something less than itself. The question is not so much whether only a minority of the electorate votes. The point is that only a minority of the voter votes.
-Tremendous Trifles (1909)
Then I was responsible for the little-known institution which is called 'The New Chivalry'. I never could be very certain in my own mind whether the practice of the New Chivalry came before or after the theory of it; but the theory of it was this: It rested on the conception that a man is so overwhelmed and confounded by the superiority of woman in her works and graces that he is, so it were, paralyzed and glued to his seat, as wholly unable to offer her his clumsy assistance as he is unworthy to offer it. 'Who am I', he seems to say, 'that I should presume to open the door for one whose way of opening doors shows her to be a mistress of that subtle art? Shall I, in mere coarse patronage and condescension, pick up her pocket handkerchief, and thus rob the world of that sublime spectacle, that sweeping and seraphic gesture with which she picks it up?' This dream, however, also belongs to the past. Many ladies have told me that they prefer the crude obtrusiveness of the old chivalry; and one lady was even so cutting as to remark that she did not think the new chivalry was so very new. In the matter of courtesy I have come back to the most conventional views; and in theory I am quite well-bred. I think a man ought to take off his hat to a lady; he thinks he ought to take off his head to her. And I think he ought to pick up anything that she has dropped- unless, perhaps, it is an 'h'.
-August 4, 1906, Daily News

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

One can tell the divine origin of common sense by this simple test; that it is always crucified.
-March 16, 1907, Daily News

Monday, November 23, 2015

This is the greatest of our modern descents, that nowadays a man does not become more rhetorical as he becomes more sincere. An eighteenth-century speaker, when he got really and honestly furious, looked for big words with which to crush his adversary. The new speaker looks for small words to crush him with. He looks for little facts and little sneers.
-Tremendous Trifles (1909)
Historians seem to have completely forgotten the two facts: first, that men act from ideas; and second, that it might, therefore, be as well to discover which ideas.
-The Uses of Diversity (1921)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"Most of us, I suppose, discover the badness of a cause chiefly be hearing the arguments in favour of it."

Most of us, I suppose, discover the badness of a cause chiefly by hearing the arguments in favour of it. That, at least, is the quickest and most convenient way. About the actual facts at issue we are most of us, as a rule, very inadequately informed, and sometimes placed beyond any possibility of personal verification. But if we wait a little and hear, not only the thing that is to be done, but why it is to be done, we find ourselves among phenomena which are always familiar and frequently notorious [...] We may suspend judgment, perhaps, when a big man knocks down a little man and offers no explanation. But we know what to think if he does offer an explanation which behind many polysyllables amounts to the mere statement that he is bigger. We are seldom convinced by the facts; for we seldom are closely acquainted with the facts. We are converted by the arguments- on the other side.
-April 28, 1906, Daily News

Sunday, November 15, 2015

"Patiotism begins at home."

The city ought to be the most sacred word in politics. We imply this in the very fact that when we want a word to express a patriot who is not always thinking exclusively of other countries, a patriot who is sometimes thinking of his own country, we call him a citizen. When we want a universal word we go back to the old small area. Any man can be a citizen of the world; the most cowardly and profligate adventurers can be that. Any man can be a citizen of an Empire [...] Any man can, even in the modern atmosphere, be without much discomfort the citizen of a nation; even I am that. But our old civilization offers us the sterner and severer test. Can I be the citizen of the healthy, separate, self-governing city, without getting my head knocked off? There are times when I doubt it. In any case, all energy ought to come from the municipality. Political passion ought to begin in municipal politics and so boil up to Imperial politics. Patriotism begins at home.
-November 10, 1906, Daily News
[Coincidentally, just a couple hours after reading that passage, I discovered that Dion DiMucci (a fellow Chestertonian who has referred to GKC as one of his heroes) just released the other day a song that is itself a reflection of local patriotism, a duet with Paul Simon called "New York is My Home", about which he said
"When I wrote 'New York Is My Home,' I thought this is a way to have New Yorkers fall in love with their city all over again."]

Friday, November 13, 2015

...the poor [...] have the vast, beautiful, and incontestable superiority to the rich, that they do not think that their fellow creatures spoil the face of their mother earth.
-August 8, 1903, Daily News

Thursday, November 12, 2015

"...there is one thing that the world does; it wobbles."

The world is what the saints and the prophets saw it was; it is not merely getting better or merely getting worse; there is one thing that the world does; it wobbles. Left to itself, it does not get anywhere; though if helped by real reformers of the right religion and philosophy, it may get better in many respects, and sometimes for considerable periods. But in itself it is not a progress; it is not even a process; it is the fashion of this world that passeth away. Life in itself is not a ladder; it is a see-saw.
-The Well and the Shallows (1935)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A hundred tales of human history are there to show that tendencies can be turned back, and that one stumbling-block can be the turning-point. The sands of time are simply dotted with single stakes that have thus marked the turn of the tide. The first step towards ultimately winning is to make sure that the enemy does not win, if it be only that he does not win everywhere. Then, when we have halted his rush, and perhaps fought it to a standstill, we may begin a general counter-attack.
-The Outline of Sanity (1926)

"...what has really vanished from the world is not the ancient credulity; it is something that is more ancient than any credulity; it is the ancient agnosticism."

There never was a power so great as the power of the Press. There never was a belief so superstitious as the universal belief in the Press. It may be that future centuries will call these the Dark Ages, and see a vast mystical delusion spreading its black bats' wings over all our cities.

It is generally said that simple people, rustics, children, poor men, savages are very credulous. It is generally said that men in high and intense centers of civilization, like London and Paris, are sceptical and enquiring. I do not believe it. I believe there is far less credulity, far less blank, bald, half-witted gullibility and readiness to believe, in a Sussex village than there is in a third-class carriage on the Underground. I doubt whether people even swallowed giants and spectres as they swallow the views and fancies of modern journalism. For remember that there are at least two essential particulars about ancient popular credulity which made it far less seriously a danger. First, in all cases it was a thing of slower growth. People did not rush for the morning papers to tell them whether there was anything new in the way of headless cavaliers. People did not talk about one banshee on Monday and another and even more remarkable banshee on Tuesday. Special editions did not come out at seven o'clock to tell people that Titania was the Queen of the Fairies. Their superstitions were slower, and, therefore, their superstitions were fewer. Our superstitions are quicker, and, therefore, our superstitions are more numerous. Secondly, in a  large number of cases, at any rate, the tales which were believed, or half-believed, by simpler types of civilization were tales about things that did not very much matter. They believed, for instance, or half-believed, that there were in Southern Africa a race of men with dogs' heads. But they never exhibited so wild a simplicity as to believe that there were in Southern Africa a race of Englishmen treated as helots, and to rush across the sea to their rescue. It may or may not be a pleasant experience to have a dog's head; but, at least , no crusade was organized in England to deprive the dog-headed men of those burdens or adornments. They were not so credulous as all that. The men of the twentieth century wholly believed a wild tale about a country full of top hats and telegraphs like their own.

The truth is that what has really vanished from the world is not the ancient credulity; it is something that is more ancient than any credulity; it is the ancient agnosticism. The profound, healthy, living, real scepticism of sensible men in tribes and villages, the righteous and natural resistance offered by the mind to unsupported or unfamiliar things, this has never been so dead, as it is among the clerks on the underground railway.
-May 28, 1904, Daily News

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Dr. Who and G.K. Chesterton

I know nothing about "Dr. Who", and so cannot comment on the reliability of the information, but as I have some friends who are fans of it, I found this interesting:
Anthony Coburn wrote the first ever Doctor Who story, An Unearthly Child. His subsequent relationship with the show was a tad tempestuous but his influence was significant. It was Coburn who insisted on the TARDIS being a police box (and possibly even invented the acronym), and it was Coburn who made Susan the Doctor’s granddaughter. Coburn was also a committed Roman Catholic. He was even a street preacher. His faith shaped the naming of certain characters (Ian Chesterton after the famous Catholic author, G.K. Chesterton)

H/T/  G.K. and Frances Chesterton Facebook page
...every face in the street has the incredible unexpectedness of a fairy tale.
-Heretics (1905)
The supposition that a man has to know what he is talking about in the scholarly sense seems to me quite ridiculous. It is like saying that a man ought to be a meteorologist before he is allowed to say to his friends that it is a fine day. Whether he understands meteorology or not the day is fine to him; whether I understand political science or not 'The Times' leading articles are palpably ridiculous to me. About the really important things men have always claimed a common and general right to judge.
-October 17, 1903, Daily News

Monday, November 2, 2015

Self-government arose among men (probably among the primitive men, certainly among the ancients) out of an idea which seems now too simple to be understood. The notion of self-government was not (as many modern friends and foes of it seem to think) the notion that the ordinary citizen is to be consulted as one consults an Encyclopaedia. He is not there to be asked a lot of fancy questions, to see how he answers them. He and his fellows are to be, within reasonable human limits, masters of their own lives. They shall decide whether they shall be men of the oar or the wheel, of the spade or the spear. The men of the valley shall settle whether the valley shall be devastated for coal or covered with corn and vines; the men of the town shall decide whether it shall be hoary with thatches or splendid with spires [....] But in modern England neither the men nor the women have any influence at all. In this primary matter, the moulding of the landscape, the creation of a mode of life, the people are utterly impotent. They stand and stare at imperial and economic processes going on, as they might stare at the Lord Mayor's Show.
-A Miscellany of Men (1912)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

...there is this about such evil, that it opens door after door in hell, and always into smaller and smaller chambers. This is the real case against crime, that a man does not become wilder and wilder, but only meaner and meaner.
-The Innocence of Father Brown (1911)

Friday, October 30, 2015

A paradox is a fantastic thing that is said once: a fashion is a more fantastic thing that is said a sufficient number of times.
-The Crimes of England (1916)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it...
-Orthodoxy (1908)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

I've published all of the following quotes on this blog before, so nothing new; right now I'm just gathering them into one post for a specific purpose....

Monday, October 26, 2015

Nations may safely import whole philosophies and constitutions, like so much tea or tobacco; but it goes ill with a people that has to import its superstition.
-February 23, 1901, The Speaker

"Indecency is not wild and lawless. The danger of indecency is exactly that it is tame, dull, direct, inevitable; a mere law in the members."

A sophistry may affect the mind, but an obscenity must affect the mind; it is a violence. It may do one of two things equally direct and instinctive; it may shock purity or it may inflame impurity. But in both cases the process is brutal and irrational. A picture or a sentence which shocks sensibility or sharpens sensuality does not offer itself for discussion. It is no more open to argument than a squeaking slate pencil is open to argument, or the choking smell of ether is open to argument. The human victim is drugged — or he is sick.

Therefore (without carrying the parallel, of course, to any lengths of literalism), I think we may speak of indecorum as an assault. In the matter of violations of traditional public decency (however plausibly defended) I am entirely with the Puritans. The ordinary argument that sex can be treated calmly and freely like anything else is the most loathsome cant in this canting epoch. The parallels from other crimes are insolently fallacious. A man reading about a burglary is not any more likely to commit a burglary. A man who has seen a pocket picked is not in the least likely to become a pickpocket. But there is one evil which, by its hold on the imagination (the creative and reproductive part of man), can reproduce itself even by report. We have a right to protect ourselves and especially our top-heavy and groping children against startling and uncivilized appeals to this instinct. Heretics have a legal claim to persuade human souls to err and sin like human souls; they have no business to make them jump like monkeys on a stick. I have no more right to give an unwilling citizen a sexual shock than to give him an electric shock. I have no more right to come behind him and inflame his passions than to come behind him and inflame his coattails. …

The appeal to animal appetite may succeed by its very familiarity. Indecency is not wild and lawless. The danger of indecency is exactly that it is tame, dull, direct, inevitable; a mere law in the members. It is automatic evil. Pride makes a man a devil; but lust makes him a machine.

Daily News, February 19th, 1910

- quoted in The Man Who Was Orthodox (1963)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Religion is the only possible root of this idea of an invisible sanctity or dignity, belonging equally to all the different sorts of men. It is obvious that men have not got a mental or material equality. If they have a moral equality, it can only be a mystical equality.
-August 4, 1928, Illustrated London News

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The critic who is always talking about our modern enlightenment, ancient superstitions, and the stupidity and barbarism of the past- such a man is not a Progressive; he is not even a fanatical or vainglorious Progressive. He is simply an aristocrat. He is putting one class of men fantastically in the front of mankind; he is committing that sin which is called oligarchy, and which is the sin of forgetting the resemblances and remembering only the differences of men. And, indeed, if one had to select an oligarchy one would, I think, select any oligarchy but this. An aristocracy of the sword, and even an aristocracy of intellect (that disgusting thing) would be more human and rational than a mere aristocracy of chronology. It would be easier to believe in the superiority of peers to commoners than in the mere superiority of half-past two to half-past one.
-January 12, 1906, Daily News

Saturday, October 17, 2015

If a man wishes to remain in perfect mental breadth and freedom, he had better not think at all. Thinking is a narrowing process. It leads to what people call dogma. A man who thinks hard about any subject for several years is in a horrible danger of discovering the truth about it...It is a terrible thing when a man really finds that his mind was given him to use, and not to play with; or, in other words, that the gods gave him a great ugly mouth with which to answer questions, and not merely to ask them.
-September 16, 1909, Illustrated London News

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Jorge Luis Borges on Chesterton

Just making a post of some references to Chesterton by Jorge Luis Borges I have come across just doing a quick search on Google Books. I haven't included them all, and even among the ones I did include, some are more or less repetitive statements (being made on different occasions), but I still thought it would be interesting to note them. Even if no one else is interested in a list of them, I am at least. :-)

(1998) [a book of interviews]

"...Chesterton knew how to make the most of a detective story. Far more than Ellery Queen or Erle Stanley Gardner. Well, Ellery Queen's quite a good story." (p. 24)

"I also have a great affection for Chesterton" (p. 59)

 "I think that one of the charms of Chesterton...is the fact that when you read The Father Brown Saga or The Man Who Was Thursday or The Man Who Knew Too Much, you feel that all of those things that are happening in London are not in real London- if there be such a thing as real London- but in fairy London." (p. 152)

"I'm always citing Chesterton" (p. 169)

"And then there is another writer I greatly admire: Chesterton" (p. 197)

"Homer and Chesterton are really desirable goals. I wish I could. Really, I am unworthy. My writing is unworthy of my reading, eh"  (p. 206)

When you speak of Chesterton and Stevenson and other English writers, you seem most delighted by their styles.
"In the case of Chesterton, there are many other things, eh?" (p. 207)

Can you speak about your own style

"Well, when I was a young man, I did my best to be Chesterton, to be Lugones, to be Quevedo, to be Stevenson. Then after that, I said no, I'll just be Borges, and that's that. A very modest ambition. But after all, people like it." (p. 207)

Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature (2013)

"...perhaps the best book about [Robert] Browning, a delightful book to read, is a book that Chesterton published in the first decade of this century, in the year 1907 or 1909, I think, and it is part of that admirable series, English Men of Letters. Reading a biography of Chesterton, written by his secretary, Maisie Ward, I read that all of Chesterton's quotations of Browning in the book were wrong. But they were wrong because Chesterton had read Browning so much that he had not needed to consult Browning's work a single time. He was wrong precisely because he knew it. It is a pity that the editor of the series, English Men of Letters, Virginia Woolf's father, Leslie Stephen, reinstated the original text. It would have been interesting to compare Browning's original text to how they appear in Chesterton's text. Unfortunately they were corrected, and the printed book contains Browning's texts. It would have been lovely to know how Chesterton transformed in his memory Browning's verses- for memory is also made up of forgetting."

[There are some factual errors in the above quote, but I liked this quote especially.]

Twenty-Four Conversations with Borges (1984)

"Chesterton is one of my favorite authors"

Seven Nights  (2009)

"There is another author we must add: Chesterton, Stevenson's heir. The fantastic London in which occur the adventures of Father Brown and of The Man Who Was Thursday would not exist if he hadn't read Stevenson. " (p. 56)

Monday, October 12, 2015

The answer to the question, "What is Wrong?" is, or should be, "I am wrong." Until a man can give that answer his idealism is only a hobby."
Letter to the Daily News ("What is Wrong"), August 16, 1905
There is nothing so satisfactory as finding that some man is better than we thought; there is no sensation so pleasant to a generous spirit as being convicted of calumny.
-June 26, 1901, Daily News
Almost all the typical cries of our century are cries that give a great advantage to the rich and idle.
-May 5, 1906, Illustrated London News

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Not thinking is a disease, which will sometimes set in in a community, but when it does, it affects the upper a long time before the lower. There are a great many intellectual people, I believe, at the present day, who are engaged in attacking democracy, and they attack it largely, as far as I can make out, on the ground of the vulgarity and stupidity and vagueness which they find in a third-class carriage. To these, if their test be vulgarity and stupidity and vagueness, there is a very simple question to be set. Have they ever travelled in a first-class carriage?
-January 23, 1904, Daily News

Sunday, September 20, 2015

True humanitarianism is sympathy with all human beings; false humanitarianism is sympathy with those particular human beings whom you choose to regard as oppressed or deserving of sympathy
-February 4, 1902, Daily News

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The world of to-day attaches a large importance to mental independence, or thinking for oneself; yet the manner in which these things are cultivated is very partial. In some matters we are, perhaps too independent (for we need to think socially as well as to act socially); but in other matters we are not independent enough; we are hardly independent at all. For we always interpret mental independence as being independence of old things. But if the mind is to stand in a real loneliness and liberty, and judge mere time and mere circumstances, and all the wasting things of this world, if the mind is really a strong and emancipated judge of things unbribed and unbrowbeaten, it must assert its superiority, not merely to old things, but to new things.

It must forsee the old age of things still in a strenuous infancy. It must stand by the tombstone of the babe unborn. It must treat the twentieth century as it treats the twelfth, as something which by its own nature has already had an end. A free man must not only be free from the past; a free man must be free from the future. He must be ready to face the rising and increasing thing, and to judge it by immortal tests. It is a very poor mark of courage, in comparison, that we are ready to strike at ancient wrongs. Our courage shall be tested by whether we are ready to strike at youthful and full-blooded wrongs; wrongs that have all their life before them, wrongs that are as sanguine as the sunrise, and as fresh as the flowers.

We shall be asked whether we are ready to fight the boyish and boisterous tyrannies...That is the real test of our intellectual boldness and detachment; how many of the manifestly 'coming things' or 'coming men' are we criticising without fear or favour?
-September 30, 1905, Daily News

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A tribute to Msgr. Ronald Knox

Mary of Holyrood may smile indeed,
   Knowing what grim historic shade it shocks
To see wit, laughter and the Popish creed,
   Cluster and sparkle in the name of Knox

"Namesake" (1925)

[found in The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton. Volume X: Collected Poetry, Part I]

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Yes; it is true that to-day, for the first time, our newspapers and our new politicians have asked us to forget, not what happened a thousand years ago or a hundred years ago, but what happened twenty years ago. When it is a question of shifting a policy or rehabilitating a politician, they will ask us to forget what happened two years ago or two months ago. Here, indeed, we have the great Spengler System, of total separation of one historical episode from another. Here is the true trick of regarding ourselves as divided by aeons and abysses not only from our fathers, but from ourselves. Thus, by reading the daily paper every day, and forgetting everything that it said on the previous day, we can divide human history into self-contained cycles; each consisting, not of five hundred years, but of twenty-four hours. By this means we can consider the slogans and swaggering policies which we ourselves cheered only recently, as if they were hieroglyphics as unintelligible as the Cup and Ring of Stones."
-September 3, 1932, Illustrated London News

 (H/T to the G.K. Chesterton Facebook page )

Friday, August 7, 2015

"I left school at the age of 14, went into engineering drawing and from there by a succession of logical steps into the cinema. I was reading Buchan and Chesterton then (even as a child I never cared much for Sexton Blake and the lower orders), and all the real-life crime stories I could get a hold of, but it never occured to me as a practical possibility that my professional life might take that turn."

-Alfred Hitchcock

(Source: Hitchcock on Hitchcock, Volume 1: Selected Writings and Interviews, p. 60)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

People, in public or private life, who have some reason to suppose that they have wrongs always profess to desire to see their wrongs erased, but in truth to erase their wrongs would be to erase their sun from heaven [...] They cling to the minutest memories of a family quarrel [...] they still think of the quite unjustifiable letter which Aunt Maria wrote to Aunt Jane. To the vindictive man it is vain to offer reparation, for he does not desire reparation; he desires his wrongs [...] It is the truth that the idea of a war of revenge and reparation is at the very inception useless and vain, for these emotions will never be sated even by victory and glory. Vindictiveness is a disease, and when it is once generated it rages, not only until it has killed its enemies, but until it has killed its possessor.
-October 15, 1902, Daily News

Friday, July 24, 2015

"The Speaker" Articles [Book]

Just wanted to state that I have now updated my printed version of the book "The Speaker" Articles (formerly GKC Speaks), so that it includes all 112 of the pieces which GKC wrote for the newspaper "The Speaker" early in his career. (At least, I think that is all of them. When doing the Kindle version, I had accidentally forgot 3 pieces. Oops!). Anyway, just in case you are interested, here is the link to the printed version:

"The Speaker" Articles

And here is the description:


"It must be resolutely proclaimed that into the world of wonder there is no gate but the low gate of humility, through the arch of which the earth shines like elfland."

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), one of the most influential and quotable authors of the twentieth century, was first and foremost a journalist. Among his earliest articles were those which he contributed to the paper "The Speaker." This volume contains all 112 pieces which he wrote for that paper (ranging in dates from 1892 to 1905), some of which were reprinted in later books, such as "The Defendant" (1901), but most of which have not been. They contain many valuable nuggets of Chesterton's wit and wisdom, and will prove of great interest to devoted Chestertonians as well as newcomers to the "Prince of Paradox."

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

We read in the greatest of texts that God is Love, but we do not read anywhere that God is Sentimentalism [...] What the world needs to restore its youth is not only more reality in its joys, but more reality in its gifts, its perils, and its renunciations.
-July 19, 1901, Daily News

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Chesterton the athlete! :-)

GKC, in addition to his other talents, played cricket, on the team founded by J.M. Barrie (a close friend of his)!
JM Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan in 1904, was another enthusiastic cricketer. Between 1923 and 1932 Barrie rented Stanway House in Gloucestershire each summer from the Earl of Wemyss, whose daughter Lady Cynthia Asquith was a good friend of the author. During these stays, Barrie organised matches between his own team and others in the area. Barrie called his side the Allahahbarries, a pun on the Arabic phrase which he thought meant "Heaven help us", but in facts means "God is great". It must have caused great intrigue among the pre-Great War rural community in remote Stanway when members of the Allahahbarries, who included many of the foremost literary figures of the time, donned whites to play on the village strip. HG Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jerome K Jerome, GK Chesterton, AA Milne, PG Wodehouse, AEW Mason and EW Hornung were all players in the side. Barrie wrote a slim book about his celebrity team which was reprinted with a foreword by Don Bradman, the legendary Australian batsmen, in 1950. The thatched pavilion that JM Barrie built at Stanway's cricket ground is still in use by the way. [Source]
One is reminded of Chesterton's essay The Perfect Game when trying to assess his own attitude towards playing games....


But, anyhow, now that American citizens have begun to criticize American tea, I feel emancipated from any vow of silence and free to state that an English lady of my acquaintance, on first becoming acquainted with the local beverage, said, "Well, if that's the sort of tea we sent them, I don't wonder they threw it into Boston Harbor." [...]

[...] still, the truth was that tea was not a national drink. The tables, including the tea-tables, were turned very rapidly on us by a comparison of coffee. I once made a fanciful parallel between drinks and doctrinal systems calling Protestantism beer, Catholicism wine, Agnosticism water ( a good thing if you get it clean), and the philosophy of Bernard Shaw black coffee, "which awakens but does not stimulate."

Professor William Lyon Phelps had it back on me by remarking, "I think coffee does stimulate; but then, of course, Mr. Chesterton was thinking of English coffee."

-April 10, 1935, The New York American [found in May/June 2015 issue of Gilbert magazine]

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Sex is an instinct that produces an institution; and it is positive and not negative, noble and not base, creative and not destructive, because it produces this institution. That institution is the family; a small state or commonwealth which has hundreds of aspects, when it is once started, that are not sexual at all. It includes worship, justice, festivity, decoration, instruction, comradeship, repose. Sex is the gate of that house; and romantic and imaginative people naturally like looking through a gateway. But the house is very much larger than the gate. There are indeed a certain number of people who like to hang about the gate and never get any further.
-January 29, 1928, G.K.'s Weekly
H/T G.K. Chesterton Facebook page (via Eric Matthews)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Years ago, when Mr. Bernard Shaw wrote on drama in the Saturday Review, he was only prevented from saying of every play that it was the worst in the world by the desire to say that at any rate it was better than Shakespeare. The high-water mark of his extraordinary hatred was reached, I remember, when somebody (with singular innocence) asked him to contribute to the celebration of a Shakespeare anniversary. He said — “I no longer celebrate my own birthday, and I do not see why I should celebrate his.” And I remember that when I read the words — years ago, when I was very young — I leapt up in my seat (since I was more agile in those days), and cried out — “Now I understand why he does not appreciate Shakespeare. It is because he does not appreciate birthdays.” […] Shakespeare was very plausibly presented by Shaw as a mere sullen sentimentalist, weeping over his own weakness and hanging the world with black in anticipation of his own funeral. It was all very ingenious, and you can quote a great deal in support of it. But, all the same, I am pretty sure that Shakespeare celebrated his birthday — and celebrated it with the utmost regularity. That is to say, I am sure there was strict punctuality about the time when the festival should begin, though there may, perhaps, have been some degree of vagueness or irregularity about the time when it should end.

There are some modern optimists who announce that the universe is magnificent or that life is worth living, as if they had just discovered some ingenious and unexpected circumstance which the world had never heard of before. But, if people had not regarded this human life of ours as wonderful and worthy, they would never have celebrated their birthdays at all. If you give Mr. Jones a box of cigars on his birthday the act cannot be consistent with the statement that you wish he had never been born. If you give Mr. Smith a dozen of sherry it cannot mean in theory that you wish him dead, whatever effects it may have in practice. Birthdays are a glorification of the idea of life, and it exactly hits the weak point in the Shaw type of optimism (or vitalism, which would be the better word) that it does not instinctively side with such religious celebrations of life. Mr. Shaw is ready to praise the Life-force, but he is not willing to keep his birthday, which would be the best of all ways to praise it. And the reason is that the modern people will do anything whatever for their religion except play the fool for it. They will be martyred, but they will not be chaffed. Mr. Shaw is quite clearly aware that it is a very good thing for him and for everyone else that he is alive. But to be told so in the symbolic form of brown-paper parcels containing slippers or cigarettes makes him feel a fool; which is exactly what he ought to feel. On many high occasions of life it is the only alternative to being one. A birthday does not come merely to remind a man that he has been born. It comes that he may be born again. And if a man is born again he must be as clumsy and comic as a baby.
—November 28 1908, Illustrated London News
H/T to The Hebdomadal Chesterton

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

It was certainly in the Victorian Age, and after his passage to Rome, that Newman claimed his complete right to be in any book on modern English literature. This is no place for estimating his theology: but one point about it does clearly emerge. Whatever else is right, the theory that Newman went over to Rome to find peace and an end of argument, is quite unquestionably wrong. He had far more quarrels after he had gone over to Rome. But, though he had far more quarrels, he had far fewer compromises: and he was of that temper which is tortured more by compromise than by quarrel. He was a  man at once of abnormal energy and abnormal sensibility: nobody without that combination could have written the Apologia. If he sometimes seemed to skin his enemies alive, it was because he himself lacked a skin. In this sense his Apologia is a triumph far beyond the ephemeral charge on which it was founded; in this sense he does indeed (to use his own expression) vanquish not his accuser but his judges. Many men would shrink from recording all their cold fits and hesitations and prolonged inconsistencies: I am sure it was the breath of life to Newman to confess them, now that he had done with them for ever. His Lectures on the Present Position of English Catholics, practically preached against a raging mob, rise not only higher but happier, as his instant unpopularity increases. There is something grander than humour, there is fun, in the very first lecture about the British Constitution as explained to a meeting of Russians. But always his triumphs are the triumphs of a highly sensitive man: a man  must feel insults before he can so insultingly and splendidly avenge them. He is a naked man, who carries a naked sword. The quality of his literary style is so successful that it succeeds in escaping definition. The quality of his logic is that of a long but passionate patience, which waits until he has fixed all corners of an iron trap. But the quality of his moral comment on the age remains what I have said: a protest of the rationality of religion as against the increasing irrationality of mere Victorian comfort and compromise. So far as the present purpose is concerned, his protest died with him: he left few imitators and (it may easily be conceived) no successful imitators. The suggestion of him lingers on in the exquisite Elizabethan perversity of Coventry Patmore; and has later flamed out from the shy volcano of Francis Thompson. Otherwise (as we shall see in the parallel case of Ruskin's Socialism) he has no followers in his own age: but very many in ours.
-The Victorian Age in Literature (1913)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Chesterton on Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman

Literature. Causerie of the Week: Dr. Barry's Live of Newman 
The Speaker, September 24, 1904

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Another point very characteristic of the atmosphere to which [G.F.] Watts belonged is the quality of his moral indignation [...] He was really angry with the evils of the modern world. This still anger in Watts is closely connected with his simplicity, with his cheerfulness- nay, even with his optimism. Laughter has little or nothing to do with cheerfulness; some of the most cheerful people were the most unlaughing- Gladstone, for instance, and Watts. But it is, properly speaking, only the cheerful man, the optimist, who can be angry at all. It is the fashion nowadays for minor poets and minor philosophers to parade their enmity to the gods, to declare that their pessimism is a part of the immortal anger of Prometheus, the everlasting fury of protest against the baseness of the stars. But as a matter of fact they are not angry at all, as anyone knows who has heard their tired voices or seen them in a restaurant. The pessimist cannot be angry; for he has made up his mind to evil as the very stuff and colour of existence. It is only the optimist that can be really angry with the Serpent in Eden, for it is only he who is conscious of Eden. He alone can be furious, for he alone can be surprised.

-July 9, 1904, The Speaker

Friday, July 3, 2015

...the special joy of man is limited creation, the combination of creation with limits. Man's pleasure, therefore, is to possess conditions, but also to be partly possessed by them; to be half-controlled by the flute he plays or by the field he digs. The excitement is to get the utmost out of given conditions; the conditions will stretch, but not indefinitely... because he is not God, but only a graven image of God, his self-expression must deal with limits; properly with limits that are strict and even small.

-What's Wrong With the World (1910)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

About patriotism itself I will say one thing only, on behalf of those like myself who are Nationalists at home and abroad. We also have had to breathe in a stifling vulgarity; to see a thousand faces fixed in one fatuous sneer. We also have had all the temptations possible to intellectual rebellion or to intellectual pride. If we have remained steadfast in a monotonous candor, we cannot claim that we were strengthened by ethical subtlety or new-fangled emancipation. We have remained steadfast because voices older than the hills called us to this spot; here in this island was to be our glory or failure. We have eaten its bread and been made wise with all its works. And if we are indeed near the end, and the madness of cosmopolitan materialism […] be indeed dragging our country to destruction, we can only say that at the end we must be with her, to claim our portion in the wrath of God.
–May 18, 1901, The Speaker

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The great and important use (right or wrong) to which a modern royal house is put is that of supplying the vast mass of the nation with a sort of enduring romance- a romance not differing at all in proportions from their own romances, but only differing in scale, only differing in the fact that it is well known to all....Ten million readers can follow the life of King Alfonso and his wife exactly as ten million readers could follow the life of Sir Alured Fitzthunderbolt and his wife in the serial story of a popular magazine. In a word, what advantage there is in the method is a wholly emotional advantage. The public use of a royal family is not merely that it is royal, but that it is a family....the life of a royal family is not...a public life. It is only a private life- lived in public.
-June 23, 1906, Illustrated London News

Friday, May 22, 2015

...when you have lost your way quite hopelessly the quickest thing is to go back along the road you know to the place from which you started. You may call it reaction, you may call it repetition, you may call it a tiresome theory; but it is the quickest way out of a wood.
-July 28, 1906, Illustrated London News

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Just wanted to note that I will soon be moving, and so might not be able to make any posts during that process.
The sort of Evangelical who demands what he calls a Living Christ must surely find it difficult to reconcile with his religion an indifference to a Dying Christ; but anyhow one would think he would prefer it to a Dead Cross...If a man were ready to wreck every statue of Julius Caesar, but also ready to kiss the sword that killed him, he would be liable to be misunderstood as an ardent admirer of Caesar. If a man hated to have a portrait of Charles the First, but rubbed his hands with joy at the sight of the axe that beheaded him, he would have himself to blame if he were regarded rather as a Roundhead than a Royalist. And to permit a picture of the engine of execution, while forbidding a picture of the victim, is just as strange and sinister in the case of Christ as in that of Caesar.
-Autobiography (1936)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"...this was what made a public man; the power of being excited at the same moment as the public press."

It was a part of that quality in Julian Archer which fitted him so specially and supremely to be a public man. He could become suddenly and quite sincerely hot on any subject, so long as it was the subject filling the newspapers at the moment. If the King of Albania (whose private life, alas, leaves so much to be desired) were at that moment on bad terms with the sixth German princess who had married into his family, Mr. Julian Archer was instantly transformed into a knight-errant ready to cross Europe on her behalf, without any reference to the other five princesses who were not for the moment in the public eye. The type and the individual will be completely misunderstood, however, if we suppose that there was anything obviously unctuous or pharisaical in his way of urging these mutable enthusiasms. In each case in turn, Archer's handsome and heated face had always been thrust across the table with the same air of uncontrollable protest and gushing indignation. And Murrel would sit up opposite him and reflect that this was what made a public man; the power of being excited at the same moment as the public press.
-The Return of Don Quixote (1927)

Monday, May 18, 2015

"But the thing which is really required for the proper working of democracy is not merely the democratic system, or even the democratic philosophy, but the democratic emotion."

But the thing which is really required for the proper working of democracy is not merely the democratic system, or even the democratic philosophy, but the democratic emotion. The democratic emotion, like most elementary and indispensable things, is a thing difficult to describe at any time. But it is peculiarly difficult to describe it in our enlightened age, for the simple reason that it is peculiarly difficult to find it. It is a certain instinctive attitude which feels the things in which all men agree to be unspeakably important, and all the things in which they differ (such as mere brains) to be almost unspeakably unimportant. The nearest approach to it in our ordinary life would be the promptitude with which we should consider mere humanity in any circumstance of shock or death. We should say, after a somewhat disturbing discovery, "There is a dead man under the sofa." We should not be likely to say, "There is a dead man of considerable personal refinement under the sofa." We should say, "A woman has fallen into the water." We should not say, "A highly educated woman has fallen into the water." Nobody would say, "There are the remains of a clear thinker in your back garden." Nobody would say, "Unless you hurry up and stop him, a man with a very fine ear for music will have jumped off that cliff." But this emotion, which all of us have in connection with such things as birth and death, is to some people native and constant at all ordinary times and in all ordinary places. It was native to St. Francis of Assisi. It was native to Walt Whitman. In this strange and splendid degree it cannot be expected, perhaps, to pervade a whole commonwealth or a whole civilization; but one commonwealth may have it much more than another commonwealth, one civilization much more than another civilization. No community, perhaps, ever had it so much as the early Franciscans. No community, perhaps, ever had it so little as ours.
-Heretics (1905)

Friday, May 15, 2015

...it is in truth a mark of faith to joke about one’s convictions, to exaggerate them as a proof of their solidity and security; for nobody exaggerates unless he is feeling satisfied and safe. A man dances on a rock, not on a tightrope.
-Daily News, August 1, 1903
quoted in The Man Who Was Orthodox (1963)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

There is but a faint shade which turns grey into purple. There is but one nameless tint that is between the poorest of colours and the richest of colours. That grey turning purple is the nearest simile we can find for the poverty and pleasure of the Franciscans. But the thing is very fresh and delicate, like the dawning observation of infancy. The Franciscan monk is only conscious of his own unworthiness. He is not conscious of his hilarity. This paradox of a humiliation which is named creating an exultation which is not named is the whole poetry of this gray and silver daybreak of the medieval civilization; and it is the root of all the irony and fantasy which a modern feels in reading these tales. For example, there is one tale of how Brother Juniper "played see-saw to abase himself". The reader has a kind of subconscious conviction that he really played see-saw to amuse himself. But the real truth is somewhere between the two, and is a matter of more subtle psychology. The man did sincerely feel that in joining a grotesque game of children he was in some way breaking the back of his own natural pride. But there also entered into the operation involuntarily and invisibly a breath from the paradise of children. And, indeed, see-saw (besides being an excellent game) is a very good symbol of the principle that he that abaseth himself shall be exalted.
-Lunacy and Letters
(collection of essays published posthumously in 1958)

"It is only the last and wildest kind of courage that can stand on a tower before ten thousand people and tell them that twice two is four."

Now, this arresting, mental humility in Mr. H. G. Wells may be, like a great many other things that are vital and vivid, difficult to illustrate by examples, but if I were asked for an example of it, I should have no difficulty about which example to begin with. The most interesting thing about Mr. H. G. Wells is that he is the only one of his many brilliant contemporaries who has not stopped growing. One can lie awake at night and hear him grow. Of this growth the most evident manifestation is indeed a gradual change of opinions; but it is no mere change of opinions. It is not a perpetual leaping from one position to another like that of Mr. George Moore. It is a quite continuous advance along a quite solid road in a quite definable direction. But the chief proof that it is not a piece of fickleness and vanity is the fact that it has been upon the whole in advance from more startling opinions to more humdrum opinions. It has been even in some sense an advance from unconventional opinions to conventional opinions. This fact fixes Mr. Wells's honesty and proves him to be no poseur. Mr. Wells once held that the upper classes and the lower classes would be so much differentiated in the future that one class would eat the other. Certainly no paradoxical charlatan who had once found arguments for so startling a view would ever have deserted it except for something yet more startling. Mr. Wells has deserted it in favour of the blameless belief that both classes will be ultimately subordinated or assimilated to a sort of scientific middle class, a class of engineers. He has abandoned the sensational theory with the same honourable gravity and simplicity with which he adopted it. Then he thought it was true; now he thinks it is not true. He has come to the most dreadful conclusion a literary man can come to, the conclusion that the ordinary view is the right one. It is only the last and wildest kind of courage that can stand on a tower before ten thousand people and tell them that twice two is four.
-Heretics (1905)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A perfect description of how today's media covers any major news story...

From the "Some things never change" department....

Whatever accidentally happens during the reign of one party, is supposed to have happened either by the despotic order or the dark connivance of the party. If a whale is washed up at the mouth of the Thames during a Tory Government, all the Tory journalists must at once prove that the smell of decaying whale is wholesome and invigorating; while all the Radical journalists must prove that a whale is, in its chemical constitution, rather more poisonous than a viper. Every Conservative writer must think hard of whatever there is to be said in favour of whales: as that they are our own kindred, mammals, reared on the milk of human kindness. The Conservatives must found a Mammals' Club in Piccadilly, to which men and whales shall be equally welcome. On the other hand, the Liberals must think of all they can to the discredit of whales. They must remember the disrespectful treatment of Jonah the Prophet. They must start another club or league- a large popular movement with a banner inscribed, "Justice for Jonah." One party must end up by saying that the sight of the smallest whale on the dimmest horizon makes magnificent sea-captains sicken and fall down dead. The other party must end by maintaining that all furniture should be whale-bone and all food should be whale's blubber. All this happens because the dead whale has chanced to drift shorewards on one tide out of many tides. If it had tossed about for a week or two longer, it might have made all the Tories use the Radical arguments and all the Radicals the Tory ones.
-February 4, 1911, Illustrated London News

Monday, May 11, 2015

The highest use of the great masters of literature is not literary; it is apart from their superb style and even from their emotional inspiration.  The first use of good literature is that it prevents a man from being merely modern.  To be merely modern is to condemn oneself to an ultimate narrowness; just as to spend one’s last earthly money on the newest hat is to condemn oneself to the old-fashioned.  The road of the ancient centuries is strewn with dead moderns.  Literature, classic and enduring literature, does its best work in reminding us perpetually of the whole round of truth and balancing other and older ideas against the ideas to which we might for a moment be prone.
-The Common Man (1950)
(H/T G.K. Chesterton Facebook page

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Convert

After one moment when I bowed my head
And the whole world turned over and came upright,
And I came out where the old road shone white,
I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
Being not unlovable but strange and light;
Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
But softly, as men smile about the dead.

The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.
-The Ballad of St Barbara and Other Verses (1922)

Friday, May 8, 2015

"...all the noble necessities of man talk the language of eternity."

A man’s soul is as full of voices as a forest; there are ten thousand tongues there like all the tongues of the trees: fancies, follies, memories, madnesses, mysterious fears, and more mysterious hopes.  All the settlement and sane government of life consists in coming to the conclusion that some of those voices have authority and others not.  You may have an impulse to fight your enemy or an impulse to run away from him; a reason to serve your country or a reason to betray it; a good idea for making sweets or a better idea for poisoning them.  The only test I know by which to judge one argument or inspiration from another is ultimately this: that all the noble necessities of man talk the language of eternity.  When man is doing the three or four things that he was sent on this earth to do, then he speaks like one who shall live for ever.  A man dying for his country does not talk as if local preferences could change.  Leonidas does not say, “In my present mood, I prefer Sparta to Persia.” William Tell does not remark, “The Swiss civilization, so far as I can yet see, is superior to the Austrian.” When men are making commonwealths, they talk in terms of the absolute, and so they do when they are making (however unconsciously) those smaller commonwealths which are called families.  There are in life certain immortal moments, moments that have authority.
-The Uses of Diversity (1921)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

[There is] a considerable school of current thought that wants everything stereotyped. It wants all the pupils in the schools to be exactly the same, and all the schools in the country to be exactly the same. It admits that many little mistakes have been made in the past, and pointed out in the past. It wants to make the next mistake on a really large and magnificent scale, with nobody to point it out.
-May 28, 1921, Illustrated London News
H/T ACS Facebook page

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"...a mystic is one who holds that two worlds are better than one"

"Do you, perhaps," inquired Pym with austere irony, "maintain that your client was a bird of some sort- say, a flamingo?"

 "In the matter of his being a flamingo," said Moon with sudden severity, "my client reserves his defence."

No one quite knowing what to make of this, Mr. Moon resumed his seat and Inglewood resumed the reading of his document:-
" 'There is something pleasing to a mystic in such a land of mirrors. For a mystic is one who holds that two worlds are better than one. In the highest sense, indeed, all thought is reflection.

 "`This is the real truth, in the saying that second thoughts are best. Animals have no second thoughts; man alone is able to see his own thought double, as a drunkard sees a lamp-post; man alone is able to see his own thought upside down as one sees a house in a puddle. This duplication of mentality, as in a mirror, is (we repeat) the inmost thing of human philosophy. There is a mystical, even a monstrous truth, in the statement that two heads are better than one. But they ought both to grow on the same body."
-Manalive (1912)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

It may be that under a hundred badges and disguises there have never been but two parties in the world: those to whom life was a black figure on a white ground, and those to whom it was a white figure on a black ground; those to whom the background of the cosmos is so irradiated with some great hope and opportunity that the direst toils and macerations seem natural; and those to whom the background is black with so unfathomable a blackness that every pleasure must be hoarded like the flowers of Herrick.
-May 26, 1900, The Speaker

Monday, May 4, 2015

It is significant that in recent days every sort of public entertainment has been called "a show," with the implication that as much as possible must be shown.
-Avowals and Denials (1935)

Saturday, May 2, 2015

J.K. Rowling quotes Chesterton

OK, so the quote she attributes to Chesterton actually seems to be attributed incorrectly to him, but still...it is nevertheless cool to see her mention GKC.


Friday, May 1, 2015

I just noticed that there is now a Kindle edition of G.K. Chesterton, Theologian by Fr. Aidan Nichols for $3.49....
The evil sentimentalism which we all have reason to deplore from time to time as we pass through life is generally, I think, definable as a tame and cold or small and inadequate manner of speaking about certain matters which demand very large and beautiful expression. The sentimentalist's comment on death or first love, for instance, is offensive, not because his words are too big, but because they are not big enough. We all feel, for instance, that if a journalist having occasion to see the dead child of some poor woman, should in the depravity of his nature talk of it having "a little angel face"- we all feel, I say, that such a journalist is rather a nasty fellow. But the reason is because the thought is in the presence of a great tragedy, entirely trivial. the august and poignant fact about the child is not that it looks like an angel, or is pretty, or even good; the sacred thing about it is simply that it is dead. The tragedy is just the same if it happens at that moment to look like a baboon. The observation is therefore bad, not because it is emotional, but because it is not emotional. It is bad, not because it is soft,  but because it is really very hard and cruel. It is outside the atmosphere; it is strictly to be called "bad taste," because it has not tasted the bracing and bitter substance of calamity. It has drunk the dreadful wine from the same cup as the child's mother, but it has not felt the smack of the difference between this and the weak wine of mere humanitarianism.

-The Outlook, Volume LVVVI (September to December 1905), "The Eclipse of Sentiment"

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

 Let no man deceive himself; if by vulgarity we mean coarseness of speech, rowdiness of behaviour, gossip, horseplay, and some heavy drinking, vulgarity there always was wherever there was joy, wherever there was faith in the gods. Wherever you have belief you will have hilarity, wherever you have hilarity you will have some dangers. And as creed and mythology produce this gross and vigorous life, so in its turn this gross and vigorous life will always produce creed and mythology. If we ever get the English back on to the English land they will become again a religious people, if all goes well, a superstitious people. The absence from modern life of both the higher and lower forms of faith is largely due to a divorce from nature and the trees and clouds. If we have no more turnip ghosts it is chiefly from the lack of turnips.
-Heretics (1905)
For that is what is meant to-day by being broadminded: living on prejudices and never looking at them.
-May 5, 1928, Illustrated London News

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"Exaggeration is the definition of art."

Exaggeration is the definition of art. That both Dickens and the Moderns understood. Art is, in its inmost nature, fantastic. Time brings queer revenges, and while the realists were yet living, the art of Dickens was justified by Aubrey Beardsley. But men like Aubrey Beardsley were allowed to be fantastic, because the mood which they overstrained and overstated was a mood which their period understood. Dickens overstrains and overstates a mood our period does not understand. The truth he exaggerates is exactly this old Revolution sense of infinite opportunity and boisterous brotherhood. And we resent his undue sense of it, because we ourselves have not even a due sense of it. We feel troubled with too much where we have too little; we wish he would keep it within bounds. For we are all exact and scientific on the subjects we do not care about. We all immediately detect exaggeration in an exposition of Mormonism or a patriotic speech from Paraguay. We all require sobriety on the subject of the sea-serpent. But the moment we begin to believe a thing ourselves, that moment we begin easily to overstate it; and the moment our souls become serious, our words become a little wild. And certain moderns are thus placed towards exaggeration. They permit any writer to emphasise doubts for instance, for doubts are their religion, but they permit no man to emphasise dogmas. If a man be the mildest Christian, they smell "cant;" but he can be a raving windmill of pessimism, and they call it "temperament." If a moralist paints a wild picture of immorality, they doubt its truth, they say that devils are not so black as they are painted. But if a pessimist paints a wild picture of melancholy, they accept the whole horrible psychology, and they never ask if devils are as blue as they are painted.
-Charles Dickens (1906)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A prophecy about Youtube music video comments...

I am glad to say that I have to a great extent kept out of all those disputes about taste which are called arguments about art, though they are not arguments about anything. A true argument begins with a first principle and ends with a final proof- or a final failure to prove. An artistic argument begins with somebody disliking something, and ends with his disliking everybody who happens to like it. A dispute about taste is never in any sense settled. But, as a fact, men for the most part vastly prefer to dispute about taste, because they do not want their disputes settled. You cannot prove in black and white the superiority of blue and green, but you can bang each other about the head and pretend to prove it in black and blue. Hence we always find that these illogical disputes are the most pugnacious and provocative. They produce a prodigious race of people swaggering and laying down the law. And they lay down the law because there is no law to be laid down. There is no disputing about tastes, and therefore there is always bragging, brawling, and rioting about tastes.
-December 17, 1927, Illustrated London News
It is very good for a man to talk about what he does not understand; as long as he understands that he does not understand it. Agnosticism (which has, I am sorry to say, almost entirely disappeared from the modern world) is always an admirable thing, so long as it admits that the thing which it does not understand may be much superior to the mind which does not understand it. Thus if you say that the cosmos is incomprehensible, and really mean (as most moderns do) that it is not worth comprehending; then it would be much better for your Greek agnosticism if it were called by its Latin name of ignorance.
-A Handful of Authors (published posthumously in 1953)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The basis of the artistic as of the ethical virtues is courage, and of courage there is only one certain and splendid signal- failure.
-May 12, 1900, The Speaker

Friday, April 24, 2015

Art school

An art school is a place where about three people work with feverish energy and everybody else idles to a degree that I should have conceived unattainable by human nature.
-Autobiography (1936)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

"[Utopia] is generally called a Republic, and it always is a Monarchy."

I am not at all fond of regimentation or repression; that is why I have never written a novel about Utopia, as is the case with almost all of the sinful human race who have written anything in our time. Utopia always seems to me to mean regimentation rather than emancipation; repression rather than expansion. It is generally called a Republic, and it always is a Monarchy. It is a Monarchy in the old and exact sense of the term; because it is really ruled by one man, the author of the book. He may tell us that all the characters in the book spontaneously delight in the beautiful social condition, but somehow we never believe him. His ideal world is always the world that he wants, and not the world that the world wants. therefore, however democratic it may be in theory or in the book, it is always pretty despotic when it begins to be approached in practice through the law. The first modern moves towards any utopian condition are generally as coercive as Prohibition. All that we call Utopia is but the rather evasive and vague expression of the natural, boyish, and romantic sentiment: "If I were King."
-May 7, 1927, Illustrated London News

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated" - Mark Twain

Cyril Clemens (a relation of Mark Twain) wrote a book on Chesterton, called "Chesterton as Seen by His Contemporaries". It is a fascinating book and a source for many great sayings and anecdotes concerning GKC.  (For instance, it is here we learn Chesterton's famous reply concerning the book he would wish to have if he were stranded on a desert island: "Thomas's Guide to Practical Shipbuilding)

That being the case, it is interesting to read this concerning Cyril Clemens' own father, James Ross Clemens, a cousin of Mark Twain:

My father was James Ross Clemens whose illness in London was the innocent cause of Mark Twain's most famous saying, "The report of my death is greatly exaggerated." For the newsmen had confused the two Clemenses and had Mark not merely ill but actually dead!


Or, to give Mark Twain's version of the incident (from which the quote first originated)

"James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London but is well now. the report of my illness grew out of his illness. The report of my death was an exaggeration"


Of course, the saying took on a life of its own (with some tweaking later on by Twain himself, such as adding the word "greatly"), resulting in the more familiar version quoted today. 

Granted, this is only somewhat related to this blog, in that it deals with a famous Mark Twain quote, not a Chesterton quote. But given that the occasion for the Twain quote was when Twain was confused with the father of the author of a book on Chesterton, it was something I wished to share in this place, in that there is a Chesterton connection in that respect
Liberty is the very last idea that seems to occur to anybody, in considering any political or social proposal. It is only necessary for anybody for any reason to allege any evidence of any evil in any human practice, for people instantly to suggest that the practice should be suppressed by the police.
-June 5, 1920, Illustrated London News
[H/T Siris]

Monday, April 20, 2015

...when Conservatives, Liberals, and Socialists all agree, it is time for the larger and more harmless part of mankind to look after its pockets...
-April 5, 1913, Illustrated London News
H/T G.K. Chesterton Facebook page

Sunday, April 19, 2015

What is the matter with internationalism is that it is imperialism. It is the imposition of one ideal of one sect on the vital varieties of men.
-June 17, 1922, Illustrated London News

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Property is a more serious matter than marriage- in a plutocracy.
-October 24, 1925, Illustrated London News

Friday, April 17, 2015

...the modern world is a crowd of very rapid racing-cars all brought to a standstill and stuck in a block of traffic.
-May 29, 1926, Illustrated London News

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The religious prophets, the Elijahs and the Baptists, the Savonarolas and the Bunyans, were the only real democrats, the only real disbelievers in the efficacy of fashion and station and wealth. They did conceive that the problem par excellence was not the problem of the poor, but the problem of the rich. They did go into kings' palaces and rebuke them as if they were the scum of the earth. They did speak to princes as the modern philanthropist speaks to costermongers. They did hope that there might be some real possibilities in peers and plutocrats, as we hope that there may be some real possibilities in vagabonds and thieves. They, I repeat, were perhaps the only real democrats that the world has ever seen. For it is no democracy, but only a foolish masquerade of aristocracy, when it is only possible for the aristocrat to be genuinely interested in the welfare of the plebeian. The real democracy is found when the plebeian may be genuinely interested in the welfare of the aristocrat.
-December 7, 1901, The Speaker

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"The modern world is so broad that all its citizens are narrow."

The great curse of our civilisation is that it is so large that whole masses of its inhabitants never see any but one side of life, any but one phase of thought. The modern world is so broad that all its citizens are narrow. There were a great many advantages in living in a small State, one of them was that of living in a larger world. In Athens probably a man could not put his nose outside his door without hearing Mystics and Atheists talking at the top of their voices. Today there are whole tracts of country such as Brixton and Surbiton in which the householder might go out in perfect safety, in which great philosophers do not argue in the street, perhaps from one year's end to another. These vast herds of suburban citizens living perpetually among people like themselves, might, indeed, be rescued to some extent from ignorance of others and of current thought by the daily Press. But here again the party system frustrates us, and a man only reads in his daily paper his own prejudices embellished with other people’s arguments. Something must be done to shift and float these vast clogged and stagnant masses of human life. Unless this is done it will be no idle jest to say that our civilisation is melting away in an apocalypse which it has not even the sense to understand. We require, in short, first and foremost, a quicker circulation of the civic blood.
-November 2, 1901, The Speaker

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"....the key-word of the Old Testament from beginning to end is the word "joy.' "

Again, one may ask, why should Hebraism be regarded as the expression of a dark self-effacement; why should the Hebrews be regarded as a gloomy people? They danced openly with delight in the goodness of God; the key-word of the Old Testament from beginning to end is the word "joy." Their sacred books blaze with gold and jewels just as they blaze with elemental gratitude and pleasure. They believe, more openly and professedly than any people has believed, in the primal fertilities, in the fact that the corn and the orchard are the signals of the ultimate beneficence, in the fact that children and the fruit of the womb are a heritage and gift that cometh of the Lord. They declared that God called all things good, the most stupendously daring thing that any people has ever said. Yet they said one thing more daring still; they said that all things called God good, that the blessing of the Seventh Day was hurled back again upon the Giver, that all created things praised the Lord. If this be the situation, it is at least striking. God declares that the leper is good, and the leper praises God in reply. It would cause no astonishment if such a people was accused of extravagant optimism, of grotesque exuberance, of hysterical hilarity. But that they should be accused of being sombre, and allowing no place for exhilaration, is perhaps one of the darkest and most ancient riddles of human stupidity. It is absolutely and genuinely, for all intellectual purposes, like accusing the French of a slow and heavy materialism, or the Vikings of an over-subtle aestheticism.
-December 28, 1901, The Speaker