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.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

"The question of miracles is not one of physical science; it is obviously, by its nature, purely one of philosophical belief."

The question of miracles is not one of physical science; it is obviously, by its nature, purely one of philosophical belief. There can be no such thing as a proof from physical science that the order of Nature is rigid, or necessarily recurrent; for obviously, the study of things in the order can prove nothing about whether there is anything out of the order. A man who says that he has learnt from science that water cannot be changed into wine might just as well say that he had learnt from Blackstone's commentaries on the Laws of England that a burglary cannot occur in Fulham. The mere repetition of anything cannot prove, however incessant, that the repetition is destined to go on. Only if we know the reason of the repetition can we know that.
-October 8, 1904, Daily News

Friday, April 21, 2017

"It was never allowed to be enough of a success to be properly called a failure."

[Chesterton, writing in the aftermath of WWI, but which seems applicable in a large degree a century later as well, and something for the Church to keep in mind...]

[...] any good movement will do most good not by embracing the world, but by attacking the world. If it is to end by converting everybody, it must not begin by including everybody.

The modern world was not made by its religion, but rather in spite of its religion. Religion has produced evils of its own; but the special evils which we now suffer began with its breakdown. Nor do I mean religion merely in an ideal, but strictly in a historical sense. The cruel competition of classes went with the abandonment of charity- not merely of the primitive theory of charity, but of the medieval practice of charity. The colossal evil of cosmopolitan finance came with a new toleration of usury. The Prussian superman, the supreme product of modern immoralism, arose through a denial not merely of the mystical humility of Christian saints, but of the ordinary modesty of Christian men. The wickedness that led up to the war may be called, if anyone likes to put it so, the failure of Christianity. But it was it's failure to rule, not its failure to rule well. It was never allowed to be enough of a success to be properly called a failure. All the actual causes- Colonial expansion, scientific warfare, industrial development, racial theories, even journalism- were all things which the modern mind has made in its reaction from the old religion [...] It has not made modernity- it has not that on its conscience. Its only spiritual justification, and its obvious social strategy, is to attack modernity. It ought to show, as it really could show, that social evils have not come from its presence, but rather from its absence. So far from insisting on its power, it ought rather to insist on its impotence. So far from claiming to be obeyed, it ought to claim to have been disobeyed. So far from assuming indefinite numbers of men as belonging to it, it ought to note the enormous numbers of men who fail by not belonging to it. In short, to recur to the original text, it ought not to be content with all the people who will consent or condescend to call themselves something. It ought to lead them into the way of truth. For any movement to do this, of course, is it necessary for it to have a truth to lead them to.
-July 12, 1919, Illustrated London News

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Inspector Morse

I know nothing about this series, but....
“Endeavour”:This series has a long literary bloodline. It’s based on the Inspector Morse novels by Colin Dexter, an Oxford classics scholar who, after moving into a career in educational testing, decided to entertain himself on a rainy day by writing novels.
Too bad for Oxford classics students, too good for the rest of us. Dexter’s Morse is an Oxford-educated detective with a love of beer and opera and a massive disdain for snooty and murderous professors.

Dexter’s novels turned into 33 Inspector Morse episodes, starring the great British actor John Thaw as Morse. Kevin Whately played his blue-collar Yorkshire sidekick Robbie Lewis. Then Morse died, both in the books and in the series, and an Inspector Lewis series was launched, also starring Whately and Laurence Fox as Lewis’ young, Cambridge-educated (here’s mud in your eye!) counterpart. That series is still going on KCTS 9 and through streaming services, and available through checkout at the libraries.

Still with me? Good. The series “Endeavour” goes back to Morse’s youth, as the incomparably dishy Shaun Evans plays the young Morse. All these shows feature complicated plots, atmospheric Oxford settings, terrible crimes and a gorgeous soundtrack by the composer Barrington Pheloung, who has hung on through all three series. Fun inside fact: the young Morse’s boss Fred Thursday is named after the book “The Man Who Was Thursday” by G.K. Chesterton, the creator of “Father Brown.”


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

"How to Help Our Fellows"

[Excerpts from an article called "How to Help Our Fellows" which was republished in the Kalgoorlie Miner, January 29, 1907]

If we want to help our fellows, there is one broad necessity which seems to come before anything else, and that is that we should recognise that they are our fellows. This is not recognised in the modern world; probably on the whole it is less recognised than it has ever been before; probably it is less recognised than it was in many slave holding States. That I recognise a man is my fellow does not mean that I recognise that he is to be pitied, or that his condition should be improved for the sake of posterity, or that in my particular politics it is arranged that he shall have a vote. It means that I have fellowship with him. It means that I can say to him naturally and with social sincerity "my dear fellow." Pity is not fellowship. Philanthropy is not fellowship. Social reform is not fellowship. I pity a wounded rabbit; but I have no fellowship with him. I should like to improve a mad elephant, but I am not so hypocritical as to pretend that I wish to drink and sing and talk through the night and tell all my secrets to a mad elephant. I feel philanthropic towards a wounded worm, but I never feel an impulse to slap him on the back and say "my dear fellow." Now the trouble with the whole modern world is that this fundamental faculty of fellowship, of being able to live with all kinds of men, and talk with all kinds of men, has probably never been at a lower ebb than it is to-day. It is quite possible that there is more compassion than there ever was. It is quite certain that there is less fellowship than there ever was. [...]

Before all discussion, therefore, on the right way of thinking about the poor, this is the first thing to be registered; that we are thinking about the poor. In a real democracy it would be the poor who would be thinking about us. That scientific solemnity with which we speak of the poor; that air of an abstract argument which is not likely to be interrupted; that secure and placid discussion of the poor  [...] all this means first and last, the entire absence of fellowship.[...]

Now public institutions are very righteous things upon this assumption always, that they are really public. The trouble with most of these things in the modern world is that they are not in the proper sense public: they do not represent the whole or the great preponderance of the community [...] And it must be remembered that the case is definitely worse than it was in times less formally democratic. Then the leaders of the people may have had an unjust preponderance, but they were leaders of the people in so far that they were like the people. The populace may have had a small part to play compared with the aristocrats, but what part they played was sincerely and spontaneously with the aristocrats. But the life and energy in our modern institutes is all definitely against the actual popular feeling.[...]

 I am not saying that [the poor man] is right, but I am saying that it is highly undemocratic to assume that he is wrong. And the modern world does assume that he is wrong; it assumes that he is wrong because he is ignorant. That is, it assumes that he is wrong because he is poor. That is, it assumes that he is wrong because he is the majority of mankind.

Therefore, while I, like everybody else, have my own notions of an ideal society, and what I should do for the poor, I am quite convinced that the first step of all is to cultivate fellowship, not as a political but as a psychological condition. Let the modern world get over its present violent and inexpugnable prejudice against all the opinions of the poor [...] let us take these views as the serious opinions of our fellows, of those who are our equals in essentials, our inferiors in certain forms of study, our superiors in many forms of experience. Let us consider whether it is really only they who are ignorant of science [...] Let us in a word, if we wish to do good to our fellows, cultivate intellectual fellowship, or if we cannot do this there is one further piece of advice I can offer. Let you and I and the rest of the idealistic middle-class suddenly stop talking. And in the awful silence which follows let us listen to what the charwoman in the Walworth-road really has to say.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Common sense and the higher mysteries lie very close together. It is the fact that they are frequently and even continually absent simultaneously from the same person.
-quoted in The Newsletter: An Australian Paper for Australian People June 11, 1904

Friday, April 7, 2017

[..] the modern editor regards himself far too much as a kind of original artist, who can select and suppress facts with the arbitrary ease of a poet or a caricaturist. He "makes up" the paper as man "makes up" a fairy tale, he considers his newspapers solely as a work of art, meant to give pleasure, not to give news.
-All Things Considered (1908)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A nice article concerning Chesterton's lectures at Notre Dame (including his experience of Notre Dame football)
October 1930 marked a big event on the Notre Dame campus: the opening of the new football stadium. Knute Rockne gave a speech. A Navy admiral gave a speech. The University president, Rev. Charles O’Donnell, CSC, gave a speech and told the emotional story about George Gipp.
Then a special guest was introduced, and an uproarious standing ovation welcomed G.K. Chesterton, who had just arrived from England and had never seen a football game. According to one report, thousands of “lusty voices shouted the name of one of the world’s leading literary lights.” The University considered it a good omen.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

St. Therse of Lisieux and the grandmother of Hilaire Belloc

This is an unusual post for this blog, insofar as it does not deal directly with Chesterton. However, it *does* deal with the other half of the "Chesterbelloc", and therefore for that reason still seems appropriate for this blog....

In any case, I don't know if this is something that is common knowledge (and I was just ignorant of it), or if perhaps I am making a mistake in my reasoning, but it appears that St. Therese of Lisieux was greatly affected by a story in a book put together by the grandmother of Hilaire Belloc


While reading through The Letters of St. Therese the other night, I came across a letter that her sister Pauline wrote to her when St. Therese was 12 years old (LC 41), in which in one part she wrote "If you see again the luminous trail on the waves of the sea, think of times past, of your old teacher, of Grandmother's Tirelire.." A footnote at this point in my volume states:
La Tirelire aux histoires by S.W. Belloc. One of the stories, entitled "The Golden Trail," was filled with memories for Pauline and Therese; see MS. A, pp. 48-49 [...]
There is one part in St. Therese's Story of a Soul  where Therese writes:
In the evening at that moment when the sun seems to bathe itself in the immensity of the waves, leaving a luminous trail behind, I went and sat down on the huge rock with Pauline. Then I recalled the touching story of the “Golden Trail.” I contemplated this luminous trail for a long time. It was to me the image of God’s grace shedding its light across the path the little white-sailed vessel had to travel. And near Pauline, I made the resolution never to wander far away from the glance of Jesus in order to travel peacefully toward the eternal shore!

Anyway, as you can imagine, the name "Belloc" in the footnote above caught my attention. So I did some Googling, and came across a footnote in an edition of The Story of a Soul on Google Books concerning this passage stating:
This story appears in a collection of readings called La Tirelire aux histoires by Madame Louise Belloc [...]

Doing some more Googling, I also came across this page:


Now, I don't know French, but...:
Titre La tirelire aux histoires. Lectures choisies / par Mme Louise Sw-Belloc...
Type document Livre
Auteur principal Belloc , Louise Swanton
It appears to me that "Mme Louise Sw-Belloc" is the same as "Louise Swanton Belloc".

And, of course, Louise Swanton Belloc, was the grandmother of Hilaire Belloc.


So the story that had such memories for St. Therese of Lisieux was from a book by Hilaire Belloc's grandmother!

Either that, or I made some mistake in my reasoning above (which is quite possible, I realize! lol.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"The whole point of education is that it should give a man abstract and eternal standards, by which he can judge material and fugitive conditions."

The whole point of education is that it should give a man abstract and eternal standards, by which he can judge material and fugitive conditions. If the citizen is to be a reformer, he must start with some ideal which he does not obtain merely by gazing reverently at the unreformed institutions. And if any one asks, as so many are asking: "What is the use of my son learning all about ancient Athens and remote China and medieval guilds and monasteries, and all sorts of dead or distant things, when he is going to be a superior scientific plumber in Pimlico?" the answer is obvious enough. "The use of it is that he may have some power of comparison, which will not only prevent him from supposing that Pimlico covers the whole planet, but also enable him, while doing full credit to the beauties and virtues of Pimlico, to point out that, here and there, as revealed by alternative experiments, even Pimlico may conceal somewhere a defect."
All is Grist (1931)
(H/T G.K. Chesterton Facebook page)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

"The answer to anyone who talks about the surplus population is to ask him whether he is the surplus population, or if he is not, how he knows he is not."

Scrooge is not only as modern as Gradgrind but more modern than Gradgrind. He belongs not only to the hard times of the middle of the nineteenth century, but to the harder times of the beginning of the twentieth century; the yet harder times in which we live. Many amiable sociologists will say, as he said, 'Let them die and decrease the surplus population.' The improved proposal is that they should die before they are born.

It is notable also that Dickens gives the right reply; and that with a deadly directness worthy of a much older and more subtle controversialist. The answer to anyone who talks about the surplus population is to ask him whether he is the surplus population, or if he is not, how he knows he is not. That is the answer which the Spirit of Christmas gives to Scrooge; and there is more than one fine element of irony involved in it. There is this very mordant moral truth, among others; that Scrooge is exactly the sort of man who would talk of the superfluous poor as of something dim and distant; and yet he is also exactly the kind of man whom others might regard as sufficiently dim,not to say dingy, to be himself superfluous. There is something of a higher sarcasm, even than that to be read on the surface, in the image of that wretched little rag of a man so confident that the rags and refuse of humanity can be safely swept away and burned; in the miser who himself looks so like a pauper, confidently ordering a massacre of paupers.
-G.K.C. as M.C. (1929)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

"To the Catholic every other daily act is dramatic dedication to the service of good or of evil."

When I wrote a little volume on my friend Mr. Bernard Shaw, it is needless to say that he reviewed it. I naturally felt tempted to answer and to criticise the book from the same disinterested and impartial standpoint from which Mr. Shaw had criticised the subject of it. I was not withheld by any feeling that the joke was getting a little obvious; for an obvious joke is only a successful joke; it is only the unsuccessful clowns who comfort themselves with being subtle. The real reason why I did not answer Mr. Shaw's amusing attack was this: that one simple phrase in it surrendered to me all that I have ever wanted, or could want from him to all eternity. I told Mr. Shaw (in substance) that he was a charming and clever fellow, but a common Calvinist. He admitted that this was true, and there (so far as I am concerned) is an end of the matter. He said that, of course, Calvin was quite right in holding that "if once a man is born it is too late to damn or save him." That is the fundamental and subterranean secret; that is the last lie in hell.

The difference between Puritanism and Catholicism is not about whether some priestly word or gesture is significant and sacred. It is about whether any word or gesture is significant and sacred. To the Catholic every other daily act is dramatic dedication to the service of good or of evil. To the Calvinist no act can have that sort of solemnity, because the person doing it has been dedicated from eternity, and is merely filling up his time until the crack of doom. The difference is something subtler than plum-puddings or private theatricals; the difference is that to a Christian of my kind this short earthly life is intensely thrilling and precious; to a Calvinist like Mr. Shaw it is confessedly automatic and uninteresting. To me these threescore years and ten are the battle. To the Fabian Calvinist (by his own confession) they are only a long procession of the victors in laurels and the vanquished in chains. To me earthly life is the drama; to him it is the epilogue. Shavians think about the embryo; Spiritualists about the ghost; Christians about the man. It is as well to have these things clear.

[...] These essential Calvinists have, indeed, abolished some of the more liberal and universal parts of Calvinism, such as the belief in an intellectual design or an everlasting happiness. But though Mr. Shaw and his friends admit it is a superstition that a man is judged after death, they stick to their central doctrine, that he is judged before he is born.
-What's Wrong With the World (1910)

Monday, March 13, 2017

[... ] the new philosophies and new religions and new social systems cannot draw up their own plans for emancipating mankind without still further enslaving mankind. They cannot carry out even what they regard as the most ordinary reforms without instantly imposing the most extraordinary restrictions.
-Avowals and Denials (1935)

Friday, March 10, 2017

[...] it is a bad economic sign in the State that masses of our fellow-citizens are too poor to be taxed [...]
-April 11, 1925, Illustrated London News

Monday, March 6, 2017

My own political philosophy is very plain and humble; I can trust the uneducated but not the badly educated.
-May 15, 1909, Daily News

Friday, March 3, 2017

" [...] whether the modern mind prefers its pretensions to popular breadth or its claims to creedless spirituality [...] it cannot have both at once;"

The truth is that the broad religion creates the narrow clique. It is what is called the religion of dogmas, that is of facts (or alleged facts), that creates a broader brotherhood and brings men of all kinds together. This is called a paradox; but it will be obvious to anyone who considers the nature of a fact. All men share in a fact, if they believe it to be a fact. Only a few men commonly share a feeling, when it is only a feeling. If there is a deep and delicate and intangible feeling, detached from all statements, but reaching to a wordless worship of beauty, wafted in a sweet savour from the woods of Kent or the spires of Canterbury, then we may be tolerably certain that the Miller will not have it. The Miller can only become the Pilgrim, if he recognizes that God is in the heavens as he recognizes that the sun is in the sky. If he does recognize it, he can share the dogma just as he can share the daylight. But he cannot be expected to share all the shades of fine intellectual mysticism that might exist in the mind of the Prioress or the Parson. I can understand that argument being turned in an anti-democratic as well as an anti-dogmatic direction; but anyhow the individualistic mystics must either do without the mysticism or do without the Miller. To some refined persons the loss of the latter would be no very insupportable laceration of the feelings. But I am not a refined person and I am not merely thinking about feelings. I am even so antiquated as to be thinking about rights; about the rights of men, which are extended even to millers. Among those rights is a certain rough working respect and consideration, which is at the basis of comradeship. And I say that if the comradeship is to include the Miller at all, it must be based on the recognition of something as really true, and not merely as ideally beautiful. It is easy to imagine the Knight and the Prioress riding to Canterbury and talking in the most elegant and cultivated strain, exchanging graceful fictions about knights and ladies for equally graceful legends about virgins and saints. But that sort of sympathy, especially when it reaches the point of subtlety, is not a way of uniting, or even collecting, all the Canterbury Pilgrims. The Knight and the Prioress would be the founders of a clique; as they probably were already the representatives of a class. I am not concerned here with whether the modern mind prefers its pretensions to popular breadth or its claims to creedless spirituality. I am only pointing out that it cannot have both at once; that if religion is an intuition, it must be an individual intuition and not a social institution; and that it is much easier to build a social institution on something that is regarded as a solid fact.
-Chaucer (1932)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

"There is only one thing which is generally secure from plagiarism- self-denial."

There will always be thousands of snobs and slaves to imitate all their gaieties and all their grandeurs. There is only one thing which is generally secure from plagiarism- self-denial.
-September 2, 1911, Illustrated London News

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

[...] whereas men in the earlier times said unscientific things with the vagueness of gossip and legend, they now say unscientific things with the plainness and the certainty of science.
-G.F. Watts (1904)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

All little boys, it may be noticed, like to possess a stick more almost than any other object, and in this, as in most things, little boys are very subtle sages. The stick is an abstraction; it is the straight line of Euclid; it is the primary principle of rigidity and direction. The stick is the backbone of the other structures; of the gun, the umbrella, the telescope, the spade, and the spear. Now the child, wishing for liberty and variety, wisely avoids realism, and clings to abstraction. If you have a telescope you cannot (without a violent effort) think it an umbrella. It were idle to look through a spade to find any of the emotions of a telescope. But if you have the plain bar or rod that is the rudimentary shape of all of them you can (if you are young enough) feel as if you possessed them all, and could take each of them in turn off its hook. A stick is a whole tool-box and a whole armoury. Nay, a stick is sometimes a stable. You can call it a horse and bestride it, and ride along country roads with the most mettlesome leaps and caracoles. I propose to do so in a few minutes.
-October 23, 1909, Daily News
Again, the other chief accusation against Dickens was that his characters and their actions were exaggerated and impossible. But this only meant that they were exaggerated and impossible as compared with the modern world and with certain writers (like Thackeray or Trollope) who were making a very exact copy of the manners of the modern world. Some people, oddly enough, have suggested that Dickens has suffered or will suffer from the change of manners. Surely this is irrational. It is not the creators of the impossible who will suffer from the process of time: Mr. Bunsby can never be any more impossible than he was when Dickens made him. The writers who will obviously suffer from time will be the careful and realistic writers, the writers who have observed every detail of the fashion of this world which passeth away. It is surely obvious that there is nothing so fragile as a fact, that a fact flies away quicker than a fancy. A fancy will endure for two thousand years. For instance, we all have fancy for an entirely fearless man, a hero; and the Achilles of Homer still remains. But exactly the thing we do not know about Achilles is how far he was possible. The realistic narrators of the time are all forgotten (thank God), so we cannot tell whether Homer slightly exaggerated or wildly exaggerated or did not exaggerate at all, the personal activity of a Mycenæan captain in battle; for the fancy has survived the facts. So the fancy of Podsnap may survive the facts of English commerce: and no one will know whether Podsnap was possible, but only know that he is desirable, like Achilles.
-Charles Dickens (1906)

Monday, February 20, 2017

It is is bosh to declare (or, rather, lifelessly to repeat) that schools of thought must be held sacred because good people belong to them [...] If truth is a good thing, I suppose error is a bad one; and if large numbers of nice people are held captive by error that is all the more reason for destroying the error and setting them free. The hero of a fairy tale would not hesitate to deliver a hundred princesses from an enchanter merely because they were very thoroughly enchanted.
-March 26, 1910, Daily News

Thursday, February 16, 2017

For [Dickens] to be involved in a calamity only meant to be cast for the first part in a tragedy.
-Charles Dickens (1906)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"Patriotism begins the praise of the world at the nearest thing, instead of beginning it at the most distant,.."

The fundamental spiritual advantage of patriotism and such sentiments is this: that by means of it all things are loved adequately, because all things are loved individually. Cosmopolitanism gives us one country, and it is good; nationalism gives us a hundred countries, and every one of them is the best. Cosmopolitanism offers a positive, patriotism a chorus of superlatives. Patriotism begins the praise of the world at the nearest thing, instead of beginning it at the most distant, and thus it insures what is, perhaps, the most essential of all earthly considerations, that nothing upon earth shall go without its due appreciation. Wherever there is a strangely-shaped mountain upon some lonely island, wherever there is a nameless kind of fruit growing in some obscure forest, patriotism insures that this shall not go into darkness without being remembered in a song.
-From the essay "The Patriotic Idea"(contributed to the book England: A Nation, 1904)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

"For many would say that marriage is an ideal..."

For many would say that marriage is an ideal as some would say that monasticism is an ideal, in the sense of a counsel of perfection. Now certainly we might preserve a conjugal ideal in this way. A man might be reverently pointed out in the street as a sort of saint, merely because he was married. A man might wear a medal for monogamy; or have letters after his name similar to V.C. or D.D.; let us say L.W. for "Lives With His Wife," or N.D.Y. for "Not Divorced Yet."

I take it, however, that the advocates of divorce do not mean that marriage is to remain ideal only in the sense of being almost impossible. They do not mean that a faithful husband is only to be admired as a fanatic. The reasonable men among them do really mean that a divorced person shall be tolerated as something unusually unfortunate, not merely that a married person shall be admired as some thing unusually blessed and inspired. But whatever they desire, it is as well that they should realise exactly what they do; and in this case I should like to hear their criticisms in the matter of what they see. They must surely see that [...] the new liberty is being taken in the spirit of licence as if the exception were to be the rule, or, rather, perhaps the absence of rule. This will especially be made manifest if we consider that the effect of the process is accumulative like a snowball, and returns on itself like a snowball.
The Superstition of Divorce (1920)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Anarchy cannot last, but anarchic communities cannot last either. Mere lawlessness cannot live, but it can destroy life. The nations of the earth always return to sanity and solidarity; but the nations which return to it first are the nations which survive.
The Superstition of Divorce (1920)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The redemption of reason in this modern age presents many difficulties, mainly because men have abandoned their belief in first principles. Not having principles on which to agree at the outset, our men of letters lack a common ground of argument. And so, in our popular controversies and debates we find, instead of calm, logical thought, merely abuse and ridicule and unreason.
-Troy (NY) Times, "December 4, 1930
H/T to the American Chesterton Society

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

[...] the chief difficulty with the contemporary world is that so many people are adopting very obvious and facile ideals in order that they may be very easily and obviously attained. And out of this arises [...] an even subtler and more poisonous delusion. We not only think that because the ideals are so easy to attain that they must be right; but we think that because the ideals are so easy to attain, we must have attained them. We think this even when, easy as the ideals may be, we have not. [...] It is not very easy to persuade ourselves that we do passionately and directly love all our fellow-men. But it is very easy to persuade ourselves that we are broad-minded, and have no bigotry, and of that, consequently, we do persuade ourselves.
-Daily News, August 6, 1904

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A horse is a horse, of course, of course...

I have some friends who love horses who will appreciate this passage, I'm sure. Coincidentally, GKC's father, Edward Chesterton (1841-1922) was known as..."Mister Ed"  :-) 

George Wyndham once told me that he had seen one of the first aeroplanes rise for the first time and it was very wonderful but not so wonderful as a horse allowing a man to ride on him. Somebody else has said that a fine man on a fine horse is the noblest bodily object in the world. Now, so long as people feel this in the right way, all is well. The first and best way of appreciating it is to come of people with a tradition of treating animals properly; of men in the right relation to horses. A boy who remembers his father who rode a horse, who rode it well and treated it well, will know that the relation can be satisfactory and will be satisfied. He will be all the more indignant at the ill-treatment of horses because he knows how they ought to be treated; but he will see nothing but what is normal in a man riding on a horse. He will not listen to the great modern philosopher who explains to him that the horse ought to be riding on the man. He will not pursue the pessimist fancy of Swift and say that men must be despised as monkeys and horses worshipped as gods. And horse and man together making an image that is to him human and civilised, it will be easy, as it were, to lift horse and man together into something heroic or symbolical; like a vision of St. George in the clouds. The fable of the winged horse will not be wholly unnatural to him: and he will know why Ariosto set many a Christian hero in such an airy saddle, and made him the rider of the sky. For the horse has really been lifted up along with the man in the wildest fashion in the very word we use when we speak 'chivalry.' The very name of the horse has been given to the highest mood and moment of the man; so that we might almost say that the handsomest compliment to a man is to call him a horse.

 But if a man has got into a mood in which he is not able to feel this sort of wonder, then his cure must begin right at the other end. We must now suppose that he has drifted into a dull mood, in which somebody sitting on a horse means no more than somebody sitting on a chair. The wonder of which Wyndham spoke, the beauty that made the thing seem an equestrian statue, the meaning of the more chivalric horseman, may have become to him merely a convention and a bore. Perhaps they have been merely a fashion; perhaps they have gone out of fashion; perhaps they have been talked about too much or talked about in the wrong way; perhaps it was then difficult to care for horses without the horrible risk of being horsy. Anyhow, he has got into a condition when he cares no more for a horse than for a towel-horse. His grandfather's charge at Balaclava seems to him as dull and dusty as the album containing such family portraits. Such a person has not really become enlightened about the album; on the contrary, he has only become blind with the dust. But when he has reached that degree of blindness, he will not be able to look at a horse or a horseman at all until he has seen the whole thing as a thing entirely unfamiliar and almost unearthly.

Out of some dark forest under some ancient dawn there must come towards us, with lumbering yet dancing motions, one of the very queerest of the prehistoric creatures. We must see for the first time the strangely small head set on a neck not only longer but thicker than itself, as the face of a gargoyle is thrust out upon a gutter-spout, the one disproportionate crest of hair running along the ridge of that heavy neck like a beard in the wrong place; the feet, each like a solid club of horn, alone amid the feet of so many cattle; so that the true fear is to be found in showing, not the cloven, but the uncloven hoof. Nor is it mere verbal fancy to see him thus as a unique monster; for in a sense a monster means what is unique, and he is really unique. But the point is that when we thus see him as the first man saw him, we begin once more to have some imaginative sense of what it meant when the first man rode him. In such a dream he may seem ugly, but he does not seem unimpressive; and certainly that two-legged dwarf who could get on top of him will not seem unimpressive. By a longer and more erratic road we shall come back to the same marvel of the man and the horse; and the marvel will be, if possible, even more marvellous. We shall have again a glimpse of St. George; the more glorious because St. George is not riding on the horse, but rather riding on the dragon.

In this example, which I have taken merely because it is an example, it will be noted that I do not say that the nightmare seen by the first man of the forest is either more true or more wonderful than the normal mare of the stable seen by the civilised person who can appreciate what is normal. Of the two extremes, I think on the whole that the traditional grasp of truth is the better. But I say that the truth is found at one or other of these two extremes, and is lost in the intermediate condition of mere fatigue and forgetfulness of tradition. In other words, I say it is better to see a horse as a monster than to see it only as a slow substitute for a motor-car. If we have got into that state of mind about a horse as something stale, it is far better to be frightened of a horse because it is a good deal too fresh.
-The Everlasting Man (1925)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

"I remember reading G.K. Chesterton...." -Mike Piazza

Mike Piazza, this past year inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame, and who holds the record for most career home runs by a catcher, reads GKC. :-)
Piazza credits his mother with giving him the gift of faith that has carried him throughout his life.

“My mother was such an influence on me,” he explained. “When I was in minor league baseball, there were times before the internet when we’d have to find churches in the Yellow Pages and look for Mass times, and I’d grab a friend on Sunday and go to Mass. If we had a day game, we’d to Mass Sunday evening.

 “I find it’s easy to talk about faith when it’s true and that’s how it’s been in my life. I know it’s a different time today, but I have no worries. I remember reading (Catholic philosopher and apologist) G.K. Chesterton and there was this whole movement of Atheism in the ‘20s and ‘30s. I mean, it comes and goes. But the rock that is the Church will always be there. So I feel confident. I’m parking my car here.”

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The only real object of all education is to teach people the proportion of things, that they may see what things are large and what small; we seem bent on teaching to prefer in everything what is small to what is great, what is doubtful to what is certain, and what is trivial to what is eternal.
-August 24, 1912, Illustrated London News

Sunday, January 15, 2017

From a letter by Stephen Vincent Benét to William Rose Benét (January 15, 1915)
Magic [a play by Chesterton] is fine too. The place where the red light turns blue is a great moment, great, GREAT. There certainly are devils.
-Selected Letters of Steven Vincent Benét, p. 9

[I know nothing about  Benét, but a quick trip to Google informs me that a short story he wrote was the basis for the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.]

Friday, January 13, 2017

"To be dogmatic and to be egotistic are not only not the same thing, they are opposite things."

To be dogmatic and to be egotistic are not only not the same thing, they are opposite things. Suppose, for instance, that a vague sceptic eventually joins the Catholic Church. In that act he has at the same moment become less egotistic and become more dogmatic. The dogmatist is by the nature of the case not egotistical, because he believes that there is some solid obvious and objective truth outside him which he has perceived and which he invites all men to perceive. And the egotist is in the majority of cases not dogmatic, because he has no need to isolate one of his notions as being related to truth; all his notions are equally interesting because they are related to him. The true egotist is as much interested in his own errors as in his own truth; the dogmatist is interested only in the truth, and only in the truth because it is true. At the most the dogmatist believes that he is in the truth; but the egotist believes that the truth, if there is such a thing, is in him.
-A Handful of Authors
(collection of essays published posthumously in 1953)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Some men say that Science says this or that; when they only mean scientists, and do not know or care which scientists.
-November 2, 1929, Illustrated London News

Friday, January 6, 2017

"..a fixed rule is the only protection of ordinary humanity against clever men"...

The whole point is, however, not that our Judges have a personal power, but that the whole world around them, the newspapers, the tone of opinion, encourage them to use it in a very personal way. In our legal method there is too much lawyer and too little law. For we must never forget one fact, which we tend to forget nevertheless: that a fixed rule is the only protection of ordinary humanity against clever men- who are the natural enemies of humanity. A dogma is the only safeguard of democracy. The law is our only barrier against lawyers.
-September 22, 1906, Illustrated London News