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)

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"The Speaker" Articles

A book I published containing 112 pieces Chesterton wrote for the newspaper "The Speaker" at the beginning of his career.

They are also available for free electronically on another blog of mine here, if you wish to read them that way.




Monday, December 31, 2018

During the last fortnight I have received a very unusual number of long letters from total strangers; some people profess to dislike receiving such long letters; I confess myself that I wallow in them. The only letters I dislike are short letters; they are generally so painfully practical. But long letters only come from two classes of men, and those two are the only interesting and admirable classes of men - our friends and our foes [...] Some of those numerous people who are ready to attack Christianity for anything or nothing have said somewhat more plausibly than usual that it is unreasonable to ask a man to love his enemies. I do not think many people have such lovable enemies as I have.

My controversial opponents treat me extraordinarily nicely; considering that through sheer laziness I always say what I think, and through extreme hurry always say it with unnecessary violence. My enemies and I understand each other; we know that it is not so very difficult to love your enemies so long as you are always hitting them.
-April 13, 1907, Daily News

Sunday, December 30, 2018

`My position is simple,' replied the priest. `I am here to look after the legitimate interests of my friend Halket. I think it will be in his interest, under the circumstances, if I tell you I think he will before long sever his connexion with this organization, and cease to be a Socialist in that sense. I have every reason to believe he will probably end as a Catholic.'

`Halket!' exploded the other incredulously. `Why he curses priests from morning till night!'

`I don't think you quite understand that kind of man,' said Father Brown mildly. 'He curses priests for failing (in his opinion) to defy the whole world for justice. Why should he expect them to defy the whole world for justice, unless he had already begun to assume they were--what they are?
-The Incredulity of Father Brown (1926)

Saturday, December 29, 2018

The real hero is not he who is bold enough to fulfill the predictions, but he who is bold enough to falsify them.
-Tales of the Long Bow (1925)

Friday, December 28, 2018

What is wrong with modern journalism is not the great mass that it reveals, but the great mass that it refuses to reveal [...] it [is] the secrecy of journalism, the sudden silences of journalism. The daily paper does not ruin the country by publishing dreadful revelations; it ruins the country by refusing to publish dreadful revelations, because they are really dreadful.
-October 28, 1905, Daily News

Thursday, December 27, 2018

[T]ruth is a living fact. A truth is a fact that can talk; a fact that is conscious of other facts; a fact that can explain itself.
-July 2, 1910, Daily News

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Arts die of a false emphasis, which is generally the effect of fatigue. The Byzantines hammered away at their hard and orthodox symbols, because they could not be in a mood to believe that men could take a hint. The moderns drag out into lengths and reels of extravagance their new orthodoxy of being unorthodox, because they also cannot give a hint-or take a hint. Yet all perfect and well-poised art is really a hint. I admit that sometimes, in Rubens or Rabelais, it might be called a broad hint; but it it is always a suggestion, even when it is an absurd suggestion. It always opens the vista of liberty that does not need to go all its own lengths. But there is a kind of dull exaggeration that is the very opposite of this light emphasis. And in this respect there is not much to choose between the large haloes of the old Crucifixion and the long hands of the modern Crucifixion. In both there is the weakness of stressing what strength would be content to suggest. In both a man who might have spoken to us, when he was alert and lively, is shouting at us because he is tired. And some of us may say, in the popular phrase, that it makes us tired to be shouted at. I can see what Michael Angelo means when he seems to make a limb unusually long; or what Giotto means when he seems to make a figure unusually stiff. And when an artist implies that I shall not see what he means unless he lengthens limbs in the manner of the modern Crucifixion, or stiffens them in the manner of the portrait of an Englishwoman, I feel as if a man two feet away were talking at the top of his voice on the assumption that I am stone deaf.
-March 10, 1923, Illustrated London News

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Now Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.
-The Thing (1929)

Monday, December 24, 2018

But I remember having in my mind in childhood a simple and logical question, which could not be answered then and cannot be answered now. It arose from my reading stories about shipwrecks and desert islands which contained accounts of starving men found floating on rafts or pining on rocks in mid-ocean. The horrors of their pain and loneliness were very vivid to me; but the moment that they saw a sail or came across a human foot-print I knew that all was well. Their fellow-men would receive them with prompt and reassuring assistance, boats would be lowered for them, brandy would be poured down their throats, food and fire and a voyage home were what they had to look forward to for the time with an equal mind. All this was right and simple to me, since men were a band of brothers sworn to fight the half-witted giants of seas and land. But the thing I could not understand then and cannot understand now was that this chivalrous fraternity that plucked its members out of the jaws of the sea and from the crevasses of the cruel mountains allowed people to stand about the London streets quite obviously in the condition of people requiring medical assistance and close to inanition and death. Why was there something so sacred about a raft and so unimportant about a street? Why did these rescuers who could find lost explorers at the Pole and half-drowned men in the wreck of 'The Princess Alice' not bring themselves to march to and discover and explore that wild and dark and far-off city in which I happen to be born? 
-December 12, 1902, Daily News

Sunday, December 23, 2018

When children ask inconvenient questions it is the custom to say to them, 'When you are older you will understand'; a reply, generally speaking, justifying parricide. But the answer is not merely irritating; it is generally, I am sorry to say, a lie. The questions asked by children, as a rule, are questions that do not depend upon any matter of age: they are simple and unanswerable questions. When we grow up we rise superior to them, not by answering them, but merely by giving them up. Logically, the parents ought only to say, 'When you are older you will not want to understand'; though it may certainly be said that if the first version of the reply would justify parricide on the part of the child the second version might justify suicide on his part.
-December 12, 1902, Daily News

Saturday, December 22, 2018

[M]ere knowledge as such does not bring one any nearer truth just as mere size has nothing to do with balance or lack of balance.
-January 6, 1903, Daily News

Friday, December 21, 2018

The life of man is a story; an adventure story; and in our vision the same is true even of the story of God.
-The Everlasting Man (1925)

Thursday, December 20, 2018

We must remember that the whole discovery of reading is new to great classes of the community [..] It is not strictly true to say that any of their reading is bad; for it is entirely good that there is an ingenious code of signals by which are conveyed to them the inmost thoughts and secrets of men long in their graves. It is not true, strictly speaking, that any of the fiction they read is bad for it is altogether a good thing that they should. in any shape or form, live that mystical double life that separates man from the beasts, one life in the daily duty of selfishness, the other in that strange and fantastic unselfishness which makes the fate of some non-existent hero, the creature of an idle brain, almost as important as our own [...] These things are not, in the proper meaning of the word, bad, any more than a man is bad for not being Shakespeare, or a hill bad for not being Mount Everest.
-June 8, 1901, The Speaker

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

[W]hen we hear a man insisting endlessly upon the superior character of his sanctity to the sanctity of the multitude, we feel tolerably certain that, whatever else he may be, he is not a saint. A saint [..] is one who has forgotten his own points of superiority, being immersed in more interesting things [...T]he ideal mystic and saint is he who prostrates himself and grovels in the public road before the stupidest farm labourer he can find. No doubt the farm labourer will be astonished at this conduct. But the astonishment which the farm labourer feels at the mystic will be nothing to the astonishment which the mystic will feel at the farm labourer.
-May 31, 1902, The Speaker

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

"[...] Is not bloodshed a great sin?"

"No," said MacIan, speaking for the first time.

"Well, really, really!" said the peacemaker.

"Murder is a sin," said the immovable Highlander. "There is no sin of bloodshed."

"Well, we won't quarrel about a word," said the other, pleasantly.

"Why on earth not?" said MacIan, with a sudden asperity. "Why shouldn't we quarrel about a word? What is the good of words if they aren't important enough to quarrel over? Why do we choose one word more than another if there isn't any difference between them? If you called a woman a chimpanzee instead of an angel, wouldn't there be a quarrel about a word? If you're not going to argue about words, what are you going to argue about? Are you going to convey your meaning to me by moving your ears? The Church and the heresies always used to fight about words, because they are the only things worth fighting about. I say that murder is a sin, and bloodshed is not, and that there is as much difference between those words as there is between the word 'yes' and the word 'no'; or rather more difference, for 'yes' and 'no', at least, belong to the same category. Murder is a spiritual incident. Bloodshed is a physical incident. A surgeon commits bloodshed.
-The Ball and the Cross (1910)

Monday, December 17, 2018

Being bad inside has very little to do with committing crimes outside. The worst criminals have committed no crimes.
-The Scandal of Father Brown (1935)

Sunday, December 16, 2018

"...it is as easy to tell lies in scientific language as in literary language."

So long as industry and independence and good faith and good temper are necessary to scientific truth, we shall know that scamping and sycophancy and humbug and spiteful vanity may prevent scientific statements from being true. And a good many people are already more awake to this fact that Mr. Wells may perhaps realize. We are always being asked to accept this or that as science; but we already know that it is as easy to tell lies in scientific language as in literary language [...] It is no good telling us that science will give us a world of honest men. It would need a world of honest men for science to be run honestly.
-February 23, 1924, Illustrated London News

Saturday, December 15, 2018

What is to be done with the dingy and inky little people who laboriously prove to us that Christianity (if they are atheists) or Catholicism (if they are Protestants) is "only" a rehash of Paganism or borrowed its ideas from the Pagans. A man standing here in Rome is reduced to silence; he can only answer that such stupidity is stupefying. It is rather as if somebody said that Science may pretend to be independent, but it has really stolen all its facts from Nature; or that Protestants professed to be Christians, and yet filched things from the sacred books of the Jews. Science boasts of being based on Nature; and Protestants, when they were Protestants, boasted of being based on the Bible [...] Science finds its facts in Nature, but Science is not Nature; because Science has co-ordinated ideas, interpretations and analyses; and can say of Nature what Nature cannot say for itself. The Faith finds its facts and problems in humanity, even heathen humanity; but the Faith is not merely humanity; because it brings to it principles of life and order and understanding, and comprehends humanity as humanity cannot comprehend itself [...]

The desire of all nations, the dream of all religions, the imaginative craving that in some way something heroic might save the sufferings that are human-that indeed existed everywhere and that was the need which the Gospel was sent to supply. But the need was not the same as the supply. And the supply was a supply of perfectly definite and even detailed moral and metaphysical ideas which nobody but a fool could possibly identify with myths. And the sceptic only makes a fool of himself, when he first complains that Catholic dogmas are dogmatic, that they are in their nature precise claims to a knowledge of unknowable things; and then pretends that he can find these very precise dogmas in the irresponsible and inconsistent fairyland of heathen mythology. If the Catholic doctrine of Christ is a hard, positive, inflexible, infallible dogma imposed on the intellect, then it most certainly is not like the Greek story of Hercules. Some may think theology a bad thing: but those believe in it naturally think it a good thing, and they are at least quite certain that the Pagans were never theologians. There never was a theology about Jupiter and Juno and Hercules. But if there was not a theology still less was there a theodicy, or any systematic attempt to justify the ways of gods to men.
-The Resurrection of Rome (1930)

Friday, December 14, 2018

For instance, if a man called Christmas Day a mere hypocritical excuse for drunkenness and gluttony that would be false, but it would have a fact hidden in it somewhere. But when Bernard Shaw says that Christmas Day is only a conspiracy kept up by poulterers and wine merchants from strictly business motives, then he says something which is not so much false as startlingly and arrestingly foolish. He might as well say that the two sexes were invented by jewellers who wanted to sell wedding rings.
-George Bernard Shaw (1909)

Thursday, December 13, 2018

"[T]he principal humour about a hippopotamus is that he exists."

[T]he only perfect pleasure in life is the pleasure of fighting for something in which one passionately believes, and [...] if that were left to me I would do without daylight and tobacco. I do think my own opinions very funny, but I also think them absolutely true. I think it very funny, for instance, that Mr. Kipling should be, as he is, psychologically incapable of a patriotic emotion and be, nevertheless, hailed everywhere as a patriotic poet. But I think it funny because I think it is the fact. The humour of it is like the humour of a hippopotamus; the principal humour about a hippopotamus is that he exists.
-October 10, 1903, Daily News

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

[T]he shortest cut to the practical is through the theoretical[.]
-July 28, 1906, Illustrated London News

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

In that paralysis of the commonwealth which is called plutocracy, we allow powers intrinsically anti-social not to attack society, but rather to control it.
-October 28, 1916, Illustrated London News

Monday, December 10, 2018

"Luxury has become almost another name for politics."

But there was another element in the old Republican ideal, thus so swiftly and strangely ruined. This was the fact that it did originally denounce Luxury as the great enemy of Liberty [...] I need not attempt to measure the huge and ghastly reversal of all that in modern politics; in which so many liberals have been so very liberal to themselves. Luxury has become almost another name for politics; there is no world where it is so insolently assumed that money must fly on the most flying pleasures [...]  I am not Puritanical about these things; and I do not mind the pothouse politician nor grudge him his pot of beer. But I do remark that professional politics has got itself mixed up with a plutocratic orgy at the very opposite extreme from its original ideals. That excessive exorbitant ever-encroaching Luxury is the cause of three-quarters of the corruption that has rotted out the vitals of Parliamentary government. And when next we hear poor old Robespierre, or some rather priggish Republican, jeered at as a sentimental bore for saying that the Republic is founded on Virtue, and that it cannot endure without the simple and laborious worth of the Virtuous Man-let us look a little at the sequel and salute him; and admit that he was not so far wrong.
-The Resurrection of Rome (1930)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

For so much still lingers of that great dream of Jefferson and the thing that men have called Democracy that in his country, while the rich rule like tyrants, the poor do not talk like slaves; but there is candour between the oppressor and the oppressed.
-The Incredulity of Father Brown (1926)

Saturday, December 8, 2018

[H]istory without tradition is dead.
-The Everlasting Man (1925)

Friday, December 7, 2018

[T]he sense of wonder is a virtue requiring religious cultivation. Astonishment is a tradition, like everything else. Cuttlefish never seem astonished. We require an ancient simplicity even in order to have a new surprise. And it is the traditional teaching of certain systematic duties, such as gratitude and humility, that makes all the difference even in the act of being startled. Certain moral ideas make all the difference between the boy who declares, with a shout, that a mountain is high and he who declares, with a sniff, it might have been higher.
-December 7, 1907, Daily News

Thursday, December 6, 2018

We can never conquer an evil influence till we have taken [account] of all its virtues.
-July 16, 1901, Daily News

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

[P]eople are losing the power to enjoy Christmas through identifying it with enjoyment. When once they lose sight of the old suggestion that it is all about something, they naturally fall into blank pauses of wondering what it is all about. To be told to rejoice on Christmas Day is reasonable and intelligible, if you understand the name, or even look at the word. To be told to rejoice on the twenty-fifth of December is like being told to rejoice at a quarter-past eleven on Thursday week. You cannot suddenly be frivolous unless you believe there is a serious reason for being frivolous. A man might make a feast if he had come into a fortune; and he might make a great many jokes about the fortune. But he would not do it if the fortune were a joke [..] You cannot even start a lark about a legacy you believe to be a sham legacy. You cannot even start a lark to celebrate a miracle you believe to be a sham miracle. The result of dismissing the divine side of Christmas and demanding only the human, is that you are demanding too much on human nature. You are asking men to illuminate the town for a victory that has not taken place [...] Our modern task therefore is to save festivity from frivolity. That is the only way in which it will ever again become festive.
-December 26, 1925, G.K.'s Weekly

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Art Garfunkel and GKC

I just discovered yesterday one person who has read a couple of GKC's books: Art Garfunkel.

Apparently he has read both "The Man Who Was Thursday"  as well as "The Club of Queer Trades."

Monday, December 3, 2018

For let it never be forgotten that a hypocrite is a very unhappy man; he is a man who has devoted himself to a most delicate and arduous intellectual art in which he may achieve masterpieces which he must keep secret, fight thrilling battles, and win hair's-breadth victories for which he cannot have a whisper of praise. A really accomplished impostor is the most wretched of geniuses; he is a Napoleon on a desert island.
-Robert Browning (1903)

Sunday, December 2, 2018

"...the right way to win the love of the world is to fight it."

[In light of the news that a second miracle has been approved, and consequently Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman will (hopefully) be canonized soon, perhaps next year, I think the following passage quite fitting to post.]

The life of Francis Newman is so well executed that one almost regrets that its lucidity was not employed on some more popular subject, as, for instance, Newman's brother, the great controversial Cardinal. And yet (when one comes to think of it) it is very odd that Francis Newman should be the unpopular subject and Cardinal Newman the popular one. Francis Newman flung himself into every modern cause; he was in the whole trend of his time; he was by grades a Puritan, a Unitarian, and an Agnostic; he was an anti-vivisectionist, a vegetarian, and an upholder of Female Suffrage; he was in the van of every recent progressive victory; and he is forgotten. John Henry Newman made everybody roar with laughter by proposing to rebuild the monasteries and do honour to St. Aidan and St. Edmund. But the result is that the Modernists and the whole modern world can hardly keep his name off their pens. I do not know what moral there is to this, except that the right way to win the love of the world is to fight it.
-September 22, 1909, Daily News

Also, from the same article, a bonus quote:
Cardinal Newman was a man who walked by truth as by the sun at noon; whose high reason and eloquence rang with sincerity like steel.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Dr. Alexis Carrel, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1912, commenting on GKC's book Heretics:
The extreme clarity and brilliance of his style impressed me greatly. The train of his thought appeared to me as strong, flexible, and shining as a steel blade, and as merciless. 
-Chesterton as Seen by His Contemporaries, Cyril Clemens (1939)

Friday, November 30, 2018

I think the errors arising from incautious speech are far less dangerous just now than the much larger errors arising from systematic suppression.
-March 24, 1922, New Witness
[H/T ACS]

Thursday, November 29, 2018

For the meaning of woods is the combination of energy with complexity. A forest is not in the least rude or barbarous; it is only dense with delicacy. Unique shapes that an artist would copy or a philosopher watch for years if he found them in an open plain are here mingled and confounded; but it is not a darkness of deformity. It is a darkness of life; a darkness of perfection. And I began to think how much of the highest human obscurity is like this, and how much men have misunderstood it. People will tell you, for instance, that theology became elaborate because it was dead. Believe me, if it had been dead it would never have become elaborate; it is only the live tree that grows too many branches.
-Tremendous Trifles (1909)

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Modern society [...] is far too wild a place for satirists to live in. They are perpetually seeing their satires fulfilled like prophecies, and what they meant to be impossible become not only possible but palpable.
-May 2, 1925, Illustrated London News

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

H.L. Mencken and G.K. Chesterton

I found this anecdote hilarious. :-)
Some time afterwards, G. K. Chesterton told me how his host in New York had written to [H.L.] Mencken, in the hope of bringing the two men together. Mencken had replied, "I am very sorry I cannot go to meet Chesterton. For I have long cherished an ambition to take him out and make him drunk, and then hand him over to the police while he was in that condition, to the shame of Holy Mother Church."

I told Mencken afterwards of Chesterton's comment: "Why, I could put Mencken under the table any day!" "Yes," said Mencken, "I suppose he could." [Source]
Of course,  I hasten to add that Chesterton in multiple places condemned drunkenness (as distinct from temperate drinking, which he praised). However, perhaps my favorite quote that includes such a denunciation of drunkenness (as an example in making a larger point) is this one

Monday, November 26, 2018

[I]t is the definition of a prejudice that it is an opinion held by somebody who has forgotten where it came from.
-Introduction to Letters on Polish Affairs by Charles Sarolea (1922)

Sunday, November 25, 2018

What we have to teach the young man of the future, is how to enjoy himself. Until he can enjoy himself, he will grow more and more tired of enjoying everything else. What we have to teach him is to amuse himself. At this moment he is more and more dependent upon anything which he thinks will amuse him. And, to judge by the expression of his face, it does not amuse him very much. When we consider what he receives, it is indeed a most magnificent wonder and wealth and concentration of amusement [..] you consider what are the things poured into him, what are the things he receives, then indeed they are colossal cataracts of things, cosmic Niagaras that have never before poured into any human being are pouring into him. But if you consider what comes out of him, as a result of all this absorption, the result we have to record is rather serious. In the vast majority of cases, nothing.
-The Spice of Life (1964)

Saturday, November 24, 2018

A Chesterton mention I found in a biography of Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, which mentions Doyle writing to Chesterton:
Since Conan Doyle seldom took more than a week to complete a Sherlock Holmes story, his fee was generous in the extreme. His technique was to map out the problem and its solution, draw up a rough outline and sketch in the characters before sitting down to write the finished story. He worked at a flat-topped desk in a corner of his study which overlooked the garden. The walls were hung with his father's watercolours and mementoes of his trip to the Arctic were all around- whaling harpoons, a stuffed Icelandic falcon and the skull of a polar bear. It was his habit to write from breakfast until lunch every morning, then from five to about eight o'clock in the evening, usually averaging 3,000 words a day- a prodigious output any writer would envy. Many of his ideas were dreamed up in the afternoons, walking or cycling with Touie, or playing tennis or cricket. Once he had finished a story he had no further interest in it. As he would explain in a letter to G.K. Chesterton, his work might be improved by editing, but not by him. He had given all in his first effort and any further tinkering would be 'gratuitous and a waste of time.

-The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle: A Biography, Russell Miller pp.145-146

Friday, November 23, 2018

Winnie the Pooh's creator and GKC

I found this *very* interesting:
Beyond the joke, the inventor of Winnie the Pooh, Alan Alexander Milne, was indeed a friend of Chesterton and a member of the Detection Club. A little influence will certainly have endured ... [Source]
I had a suspicion that such a friendship might have existed, as both GKC and AA Milne were members of JM Barrie's (of Peter Pan fame) literary cricket team the Allahakbarries.  (Speaking of which, can you imagine GKC the athlete? Heh.) Plus, I also noticed tonight that there were some letters from Milne written to Chesterton included in the G.K. Chesterton papers.  Finally, I see that (as indicated in the passage above), Milne was one of the writers to be a member of The Detection Club at the time when GKC was the president of the club.)

It is awesome to see that my suspicions were accurate, however, that GKC and AA Milne were indeed friends. (Especially since a very good friend of mine is a Winnie the Pooh fan!)
We have been told often enough that organisation means efficiency. It would be far truer to say that organisation always means inefficiency. This does not in the least mean that we should not organise. Sometimes the organisation is inevitable, and then the inefficiency is equally inevitable. Organisation necessarily creates a chain of human or living links on which everything hangs; the chain cannot be stronger than its weakest link, and it will have many weak links. To say that organisation means inefficiency is only to repeat, in the more pedantic modern language, the old proverb "If you want a thing done, do it yourself." If a peasant can grow a cabbage himself, cook it himself, and eat it himself, he has so far attained the maximum of efficiency and certainly the maximum of economy. Organisation means that he must trust the cabbage to strangers on a train, strangers on a trolley, strangers in a shop, until by infinite financial complications he can get it exchanged for a turnip or a cauliflower; and at every one of those stages it is in danger from every one of those strangers. I am not saying that he should not change his cabbage for a cauliflower, or that the exchange could be made without some organisation. What I say is that if there is some organisation there will be some inefficiency; and if there is more organisation there will be more inefficiency. The only faultless and final piece of efficiency, full and rounded like the turnip, is that in which the same turnip or cabbage passes from the peasant's kitchen-garden to the peasant's kitchen, and from the peasant's kitchen to the peasant's inside. With every man you add to that process you do, by inevitable logic, increase the chance of the cabbage being lost, of the cabbage being stolen, of the cabbage being sold at a loss, of the cabbage being kicked about in the dirt till it is no more than a cabbage-stalk. I do not object to the peasant purchasing and eating the cauliflower as a variant on too continuous a diet of cabbage; but I say he should all the more value and even venerate the cauliflower because of the dangers it has passed, the myriad chances of destruction it has evaded, in threading its way through the deadly jungle of organisation. It has had a hundred hairbreadth escapes, for it has passed through a hundred human hands. That luckless vegetable has been lost in a forest of men as trees walking; of men of the sort summarised as mostly fools; of human trees which are at least tolerably green. It is almost a wonder that the peasant does not preserve the vegetable in a shrine instead of putting it on a dish.
-May 28, 1921, Illustrated London News

Thursday, November 22, 2018

All goods look better when they look like gifts.
-St. Francis of Assisi (1923)

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A piece of peculiarly bad advice is constantly given to modern writers, especially to modern theologians: that they should adapt themselves to the spirit of the age. If there is one thing that has made shipwreck of mankind form the beginning it has been the spirit of the age, which always means exaggerating still further that is grossly exaggerated already.
-Lunacy and Letters (1958)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

"This fundamental sense of human fraternity can only exist in the presence of positive religion."

It may seem mere praise of the novel to say it is the art of sympathy and the study of human variations. But indeed, though this is a good thing, it is not universally good. We have gained in sympathy; but we have lost in brotherhood. Old quarrels had more equality than modern exonerations. Two peasants in the Middle Ages quarrelled about their two fields. But they went to the same church, served in the same semi-feudal militia, and had the same morality, which ever might happen to be breaking it at the moment. The very cause of their quarrel was the cause of their fraternity; they both liked land. But suppose one of them a teetotaler who desired the abolition of hops on both farms; suppose the other a vegetarian who desired the abolition of chickens on both farms: and it is at once apparent that a quarrel of quite a different kind would begin; and that in that quarrel it would not be a question of farmer against farmer, but of individual against individual. This fundamental sense of human fraternity can only exist in the presence of positive religion. Man is merely man only when he is seen against the sky. [..] Only where death and eternity are intensely present can human beings fully feel their fellowship. Once the divine darkness against which we stand is really dismissed from the mind [...] the differences between human beings become overpoweringly plain; whether they are expressed in the high caricatures of Dickens or the low lunacies of Zola.
-The Victorian Age in Literature (1913)

Monday, November 19, 2018

" [..] Yes, the poet will be discontented even in the streets of heaven. The poet is always in revolt."

"There again," said Syme irritably, "what is there poetical about being in revolt? You might as well say that it is poetical to be sea-sick. Being sick is a revolt. Both being sick and being rebellious may be the wholesome thing on certain desperate occasions; but I'm hanged if I can see why they are poetical. Revolt in the abstract is—revolting. It's mere vomiting."
-The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)

Sunday, November 18, 2018

"Humility is the only possible basis of enjoyment"

Toots [...] may be considered as being in some ways the master piece of Dickens. Nowhere else did Dickens express with such astonishing insight and truth his main contention, which is that to be good and idiotic is not a poor fate, but, on the contrary, an experience of primeval innocence, which wonders at all things. Dickens did not know, any more than any great man ever knows, what was the particular thing that he had to preach. He did not know it; he only preached it. But the particular thing that he had to preach was this: That humility is the only possible basis of enjoyment; that if one has no other way of being humble except being poor, then it is better to be poor, and to enjoy; that if one has no other way of being humble except being imbecile, then it is better to be imbecile, and to enjoy. That is the deep unconscious truth in the character of Toots -- that all his externals are flashy and false; all his internals unconscious, obscure, and true. He wears loud clothes, and he is silent inside them. His shirts and waistcoats are covered with bright spots of pink and purple, while his soul is always covered with the sacred shame. He always gets all the outside things of life wrong, and all the inside things right. 
-Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens (1911)

Saturday, November 17, 2018

[T]he object of all eloquence is to find the least common denominator of men's souls [.]
-Twelve Types

Friday, November 16, 2018

America has many faults, but it has the virtue of sensationalism. For it is only the trial or execution of a murderer that can be sensational. The murder itself is always a very delicate and domestic matter; and the murderer is generally very modest about his merits as an artist. [..] The real objection to having a skeleton in the cupboard is not that it may be found: that largely depends upon who has got the key [..] The danger is rather that it may not be found. The objection is that long before it can reach the comparatively elegant condition of a skeleton it has to pass through a process which will probably be put down to something being wrong with the drains. [...] On those occasions a little American sensationalism would have been much the most public-spirited thing we could have had. Prudence was very perilous, and recklessness would have been really wise.
-October 2, 1915, Illustrated London News

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Fall is a view of life. It is not only the only enlightening, but the only encouraging view of life. It holds, as against the only real alternative philosophies, those of the Buddhist or the Pessimist or the Promethean, that we have misused a good world, and not merely been entrapped into a bad one. It refers evil back to the wrong use of the will, and thus declares that it can eventually be righted by the right use of the will. Every other creed except that one is some form of surrender to fate. A man who holds this view of life will find it giving light on a thousand things; on which mere evolutionary ethics have not a word to say. For instance, on the colossal contrast between the completeness of man’s machines and the continued corruption of his motives; on the fact that no social progress really seems to leave self behind [.]
-The Thing (1929)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

[P]eople forget how to be grateful unless they learn how to be humble.
-December 15, 1906, Daily News

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Thinking in isolation and with pride ends in being an idiot. Every man who will not have softening of the heart must at last have softening of the brain.
-Orthodoxy (1908)

Monday, November 12, 2018

Charles Dicken's Daughter and GKC

Some interesting information concerning the relationship between Kate Perugini (the daughter of Charles Dickens) with GKC and his wife:
[She] kept in touch with the Chestertons, writing, for example, nearly four years later a letter to Francis in which she discusses the characters in her father's novels, and says that she was always glad to see them both. Even after they moved to Beaconsfield, she used to visit, according to Dorothy Collins, and talk about the Dickens family life.

-G.K. Chesterton: A Biography, p. 183, Ian Ker (2011)

Sunday, November 11, 2018

[Today marks the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1. Therefore, I thought it fitting to quote from the first article GKC wrote for the Illustrated London News after the conclusion of that conflict. ]

It is the curse of all our culture that it abounds in mechanical and materialistic terms, so that things do not seem to have been done by men [...] It may even be possible for some [...] people to regard the end of the war as such people regarded the beginning of the war- as an enormous accident.  [...] The war did not begin; it was begun, because there is in the heart of man the anarchic art that can begin such things. The war did not end; it was ended, because there is in the heart of man that cleaner creative hope that can endure and end them.
-November 23, 1918, Illustrated London News

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Many a modern critic called delicate, elusive, reticent, subtle, individual, has gained this praise by saying something once which any one could see to be rubbish if he had said it twice.
-G.K.C. as M.C. (1929)

Friday, November 9, 2018

Physical science has everything in the world to do with fancy, though not perhaps much in the highest sense to do with imagination. Imagination as we have it in great poetry is concerned with the things that fall naturally into an harmonious picture; but fancy is concerned with things which conceal an intellectual affinity under a total pictorial difference. Imagination celebrates the stars and clouds together, but fancy and physical science alike see that a squib or a pipe-light, or perhaps even a humming-top, are more akin to the stars than a cloud is. The whole fascination of science lies in this disguised fraternity. Nature in this aspect seems made of secret societies in the darkest and most misleading costumes. No elf-land of the human fancy can offer a kingdom so preposterous as that in which a whale is nearer to a bat than a whale to a shark, or a bat to a bird. This general consciousness that the most perfect similarities exist in the most diverse examples is a thing that much have haunted the minds of hundreds of good-working physicians [.]
-G.K.C. as M.C. (1929)

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Now along with this there was another argument used; the argument that government was paternal. It was said that just as parents control their children so should the more educated class control the less educated. Our answer was that there was no governing class, no State, that really stood in the same position toward grown men as they stand towards children. Every grown man has experience of some kind; a child has no experience at all. Every man of thirty has thirty years of something; every child of three has twenty-seven years less of anything. It is idle to talk of educated men. Every may is an educated man. He has been educate by something; by the Board schools or by the wilderness or by the workhouse or by the thieves' kitchen, or perhaps by Harrow.
-April 13, 1907, Daily News

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

And, like most things that are bad in a particular way, it can even appear as good, if we state it in a particular way. We might say with some real truth [...] that his conscience appears to be at rest. I will not disguise the suspicion that the rest of his conscience is partly due to the avoidance of any undue restlessness in his intellect [...]
-June 3, 1916, Illustrated London News

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

In freeing ourselves from Christianity we have only freed ourselves from freedom. We shall not now return to a merely heathen hilarity, for the new heathenism is anything but hilarious. If we do not recover Christmas, we shall never recover Yule.
-The Glass Walking Stick (1955)

Monday, November 5, 2018

Progress is superiority to oneself, and it is stopped dead by superiority to others.
-Irish Impressions (1919)

Sunday, November 4, 2018

It is [historians'] affair, not merely to remember that humanity has been wise and great, but to understand the special ways in which it has been weak and foolish. Historians have to explain the horrible mystery of how fashions were ever fashionable.
-October 8, 1910, Illustrated London News

Saturday, November 3, 2018

[E]ven when there really is progress, as there certainly is growth, the progress is not a progress in everything, perfectly simple and universal and all of a piece. Civilizations go forward in some things, while they go backward in others.
-Chaucer (1932)

Friday, November 2, 2018

[T]he good man of the Christian type is in certain cases readier to believe that others are wrong, than that he is right. He knows that there is folly in the world; he is by no means so certain that there is wisdom in himself.
-August 24, 1910, Daily News

Thursday, November 1, 2018

But the whole essence of art is that it contracts and reduces itself to scale. Those who talk of the artist nature swelling and expanding, those who talk of the outbreak, licence and overflowing of art are people with no sort of feeling of what art is. Art means diminution. If what you want is largeness, the universe as it is is large enough for anybody. Art exists solely in order to create a miniature universe, a working model of the universe, a toy universe which we can play with as a child plays with a toy theatre.
-A Handful of Authors (1953)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

What is wrong with [the new theological literature] is not that it professes to state the paradox of God, but that it professes to state the paradox of God as a truism. You may or may not be able to reveal the divine secret; but at least you cannot let it leak out. If ever it comes, it will be unmistakable, it will kill or cure. Judaism, with its dark sublimity, said that if a man saw God he would die. Christianity conjectures that (by an even more catastrophic fatality) if he sees God he will live for ever. But whatever happens will be something decisive and indubitable. A man after seeing God may die; but at least he will not be slightly unwell, and then have to take a little medicine and then have to call in a doctor. If any of us ever do read the riddle, we shall read it in brutal black and blazing white, exactly as we do read the riddle of some sixpenny mystery of murder. If we ever do find the solution, we shall know that it is the right solution.
-The Common Man (1950)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

[Mr. Blatchford said] that although people ought not to be blamed for their actions, yet they ought to be trained to do better. They ought, he said, to be given better conditions of heredity and environment, and then they would be good, and the problem would be solved. The primary answer is obvious. How can one say that a man ought not to be held responsible, but ought to be well trained? For if he "ought" to be well trained, there must be somebody who "ought" to train him. And that man must be held responsible for training him. The proposition has killed itself in three sentences. Mr. Blatchford has not removed the necessity for responsibility merely by saying that humanity, instead of being dealt with by the hangmen, ought to be dealt with by the doctors. For, upon the whole, and supposing I required the services of either, I think I would sooner be dealt with by an irresponsible hangman than by an irresponsible doctor.
-The Blatchford Controversies (1903)

Monday, October 29, 2018

It is easy to have the impartiality which can speak judicially of both parties, but it is not so easy to have that larger and higher impartiality which can speak passionately on behalf of both parties.
-Robert Browning (1903)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

I would rather a boy learnt in the roughest school the courage to hit a politician, or gained in the hardest school the learning to refute him - rather than that he should gain in the most enlightened school the cunning to copy him.
-August 31, 1912, Illustrated London News
[H/T ACS]

Saturday, October 27, 2018

"The only way to fight anything is to fight its ideal"

The only way to fight anything is to fight its ideal; which is its principle of life. I can only convey what I mean by instances [...] If I say (as I do) that I am against Buddhism, I mean that I am against ideal Buddhism. I do not mean that I am against real Buddhism; I am against real Christianity, if it comes to that. There may have been Grand Lamas more wicked than the worst Popes; I count that utterly frivolous and pointless in the attack on a religion. The worst of every creed is as bad as can be. But you do not attack a religion until you say sincerely that even its best is bad [...] I do not think even its ideal ideal.
-November 12, 1910, Daily News

Friday, October 26, 2018

When the soul really wakes it always deals directly with the nearest things. If, let us say, a man woke up in bed from a celestial dream which told him to go on painting till all was blue, he would begin by painting himself blue, then his bed blue, and so on. But he would be using all the machinery that came to hand; and that is exactly what always happens in real spiritual revolutions. They work by their environment even when they alter it.

Thus, when professors tell us that the Christians “borrowed” this or that fable or monster from the heathens, it is as if people said that a bricklayer had “borrowed” his bricks from clay, or a chemist had “borrowed” his explosives from chemicals; or that the Gothic builders of Lincoln or Beauvais had “borrowed” the pointed arch from the thin lattices of the Moors. Perhaps they did borrow it, but (by heaven!) they paid it back.
-The Common Man (1950)

Thursday, October 25, 2018

"For there is nothing so delightful as a nightmare - when you know it is a nightmare."

For there is nothing so delightful as a nightmare — when you know it is a nightmare.

That is the essential. That is the stern condition laid upon all artists touching this luxury of fear. The terror must be fundamentally frivolous. Sanity may play with insanity; but insanity must not be allowed to play with sanity. Let such poets as the one I was reading in the garden, by all means, be free to imagine what outrageous deities and violent landscapes they like. By all means let them wander freely amid their opium pinnacles and perspectives. But these huge gods, these high cities, are toys; they must never for an instant be allowed to be anything else. Man, a gigantic child, must play with Babylon and Nineveh, with Isis and with Ashtaroth. By all means let him dream of the Bondage of Egypt, so long as he is free from it. By all means let him take up the Burden of Tyre, so long as he can take it lightly. But the old gods must be his dolls, not his idols. His central sanctities, his true possessions, should be Christian and simple. And just as a child would cherish most a wooden horse or a sword that is a mere cross of wood, so man, the great child, must cherish most the old plain things of poetry and piety; that horse of wood that was the epic end of Ilium, or that cross of wood that redeemed and conquered the world.
-Alarms and Discursions (1910)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

"God is not a symbol of goodness. Goodness is a symbol of God."

An allegory nowadays means taking something that does not exist as a symbol of something that does exist. We believe, at least most of us do, that sin does exist. We believe (on highly insufficient grounds) that a dragon does not exist. So we make the unreal dragon an allegory of the real sin. But that is not what [Wiliam] Blake meant when he made the lamb the symbol of innocence. He meant that there really is behind the universe an eternal image called the Lamb, of which all living lambs are merely the copies or the approximation. He held that eternal innocence to be an actual and even an awful thing. He would not have seen anything comic, any more than the Christian Evangelist saw anything comic, in talking about the Wrath of the Lamb. If there were a lamb in one of Aesop's fables, Aesop would never be so silly as to represent him as angry. But Christianity is more daring than Aesop, and the wrath of the Lamb is its great paradox. If there is an immortal lamb, a being whose simplicity and freshness are for ever renewed, then it is truly and really a more creepy idea to horrify that being into hostility than to defy the flaming dragon or challenge darkness or the sea. No old wolf or world-worn lion is so awful as a creature that is always young—a creature that is always newly born. But the main point here is simpler. It is merely that Blake did not mean that meekness was true and the lamb only a pretty fable. If anything he meant that meekness was a mere shadow of the everlasting lamb. The distinction is essential to anyone at all concerned for this rooted spirituality which is the only enduring sanity of mankind. The personal is not a mere figure for the impersonal; rather the impersonal is a clumsy term for something more personal than common personality. God is not a symbol of goodness. Goodness is a symbol of God.
-William Blake (1910)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

An interesting story on the history of GKC's hymn "O God of Earth and Altar", including it's first verse being incorporated into the song "Revelations" by the heavy metal band Iron Maiden.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Men are progressive because they are a little behind the times. They are reactionary because they are a little in advance of the times. It sounds like a paradox; but it is really a very practical and even inevitable state of things, given certain conditions. Those behind will still cry “Forward!”; and only those far in front will cry “Back!”; when the vanguard of the army has come suddenly to the edge of a precipice.
-The Well and the Shallows (1935)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

For wit is always connected with the idea that truth is close and clear. Humour, on the other hand, is always connected with the idea that truth is tricky and mystical and easily mistaken.
-George Bernard Shaw (1909)

Saturday, October 20, 2018

There are [...] difficulties I feel in this glorification of world government. One is the very simple fact that the real difficulty of representative government is how to make it represent, even in the smallest of small nationalities, even in the nearest parish council. Why should we talk as if we should have more influence over rulers governing the whole earth from Geneva or Chicago, I have never been able to see. Mr. Wells can spread himself in describing how "world controls" would control us. He seems relatively vague about how we should control them.
June 16, 1928, Illustrated London News

Friday, October 19, 2018

The whole curse of the last century has been what is called the Swing of the Pendulum; that is, the idea that Man must go alternately from one extreme to the other. It is a shameful and even shocking fancy; it is the denial of the whole dignity of mankind. When Man is alive he stands still. It is only when he is dead that he swings. But whenever one meets modern thinkers (as one often does) progressing towards a madhouse, one always finds, on inquiry, that they have just had a splendid escape from another madhouse. Thus, hundreds of people become Socialists, not because they have tried Socialism and found it nice, but because they have tried Individualism and found it particularly nasty. Thus, many embrace Christian Science solely because they are quite sick of heathen science; they are so tired of believing that everything is matter that they will even take refuge in the revolting fable that everything is mind. Man ought to march somewhere. But modern man (in his sick reaction) is ready to march nowhere — so long as it is the Other End of Nowhere.
-Alarms and Discursions (1910)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Idleness

[...] idleness is not, as is idly supposed, an empty thing. Idleness can be, and should be, a particularly full thing. [...] Idleness, or leisure [...] is indeed our opportunity of seeing the vision of all things, our royal audience for hearing [...] the stories of all created things. In that hour, if we know how to use it, the [tree] tells its story to us, the stone in the road recites its memoirs, the lamp-post and the paling expatriate on their autobiographies. For as the most hideous nightmare in the world is an empty leisure, so the most enduring pleasure is a full leisure. We can defend ourselves, even on the Day of Judgment, if our work has been useless, with pleas of opportunity, competition, and inheritance. But we cannot look either God or devil in the face if our idleness has been useless.
-November 7, 1901, Daily News

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

I have chosen the subject of the slavery of the mind because I believe many worthy people imagine I am myself a slave. The nature of my supposed slavery I need not name and do not propose specially to discuss. It is shared by every sane man when he looks up a train in Bradshaw. That is, it consists in thinking a certain authority reliable; which is entirely reasonable. Indeed it would be rather difficult to travel in every train to find out where it went. It would be still more difficult to go to the destination in order to discover whether it was safe to begin the journey. Suppose a wild scare arose that Bradshaw was a conspiracy to produce railway accidents, a man might still believe the Guide to be a Guide and the scare to be only a scare; but he would know of the existence of the scare. What I mean by the slavery of the mind is that state in which men do not know of the alternative. It is something which clogs the imagination, like a drug or a mesmeric sleep, so that a person cannot possibly think of certain things at all. It is not the state in which he says, “I see what you mean; but I cannot think that because I sincerely think this” (which is simply rational): it is one in which he has never thought of the other view; and therefore does not even know that he has never thought of it. Though I am not discussing here my own religion, I think it only right to say that its authorities have never had this sort of narrowness. You may condemn their condemnations as oppressive; but not in this sense as obscurantist. St. Thomas Aquinas begins his enquiry by saying in effect, “Is there a God? It would seem not, for the following reasons”; and the most criticised of recent Encyclicals always stated a view before condemning it. The thing I mean is a man’s inability to state his opponent’s view; and often his inability even to state his own.
-The Thing (1929)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Why is it that for the last two or three centuries the educated have been generally wrong and the uneducated relatively right? It seems to me that the cultivated class has been actually more practically and pertinaciously mischievous than the ignorant whom they attempted to instruct. The ignorant would actually have been better off without them. They have been examples not only of the blind leading the blind, but of the blind leading the merely short-sighted. What the educated man has generally done was to ram down everybody's throat some premature and priggish theory which he himself afterwards discovered to be wrong; so wrong that he himself generally recoiled from it and went staggering to the opposite extreme. Meanwhile, the ignorant man reacted differently, as soon as the theory had been rammed down his throat, by practically demonstrating that it made him sick. Such a reaction is purely instinctive, but it indicates a condition of health.
-August 9, 1924, Illustrated London News

Monday, October 15, 2018

Then I suddenly saw, as in one obvious picture, that the modern world is an immense and tumultuous ocean, full of monstrous and living things. And I saw that across the top of it is spread a thin, a very thin, sheet of ice, of wicked wealth and of lying journalism.
-Tremendous Trifles (1909)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

This is the arresting and dominant fact about modern social discussion; that the quarrel is not merely about the difficulties, but about the aim. We agree about the evil; it is about the good that we should tear each other's eyes out. We all admit that a lazy aristocracy is a bad thing. We should not by any means all admit that an active aristocracy would be a good thing. We all feel angry with an irreligious priesthood; but some of us would go mad with disgust at a really religious one. Everyone is indignant if our army is weak, including the people who would be even more indignant if it were strong. The social case is exactly the opposite of the medical case. We do not disagree, like doctors, about the precise nature of the illness, while agreeing about the nature of health. On the contrary, we all agree that England is unhealthy, but half of us would not look at her in what the other half would call blooming health . Public abuses are so prominent and pestilent that they sweep all generous people into a sort of fictitious unanimity. We forget that, while we agree about the abuses of things, we should differ very much about the uses of them. Mr. Cadbury and I would agree about the bad public house. It would be precisely in front of the good public-house that our painful personal fracas would occur.

I maintain, therefore, that the common sociological method is quite useless: that of first dissecting abject poverty or cataloguing prostitution. We all dislike abject poverty; but it might be another business if we began to discuss independent and dignified poverty. We all disapprove of prostitution; but we do not all approve of purity. The only way to discuss the social evil is to get at once to the social ideal. We can all see the national madness; but what is national sanity? I have called this book "What Is Wrong with the World?" and the upshot of the title can be easily and clearly stated. What is wrong is that we do not ask what is right.
-What's Wrong With the World (1910)

Saturday, October 13, 2018

[...] public education has not produced an educated public.
-February 8, 1936, Illustrated London News-
[H/T to GKC Daily]

Friday, October 12, 2018

We are never oppressed by old things; it is recent things that can really oppress.
-George Bernard Shaw (1909)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

[...] it is one thing to believe in witches and quite another to believe in witch smellers.
-Eugenics and Other Evils (1917)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

To this age alone belongs a class [...] who deliberately aim at a low standard and often miss it.
-March 2, 1901, Daily News

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

"Yes, of course I know him. I don't think anybody knows him very well."

"Sort of book-worm, I suppose," observed Archer.

"Well, we're all worms," remarked Murrel cheerfully, "I suppose a book-worm shows a rather refined and superior taste in diet."
-The Return of Don Quixote (1927)

Monday, October 8, 2018

"They are not making a revolution: they are making a routine."

To be violent on every occasion is inartistic rather than immoral. Once in your life or mine, hardly more than once certainly, it may happen that it is really the right, holy, Christian, and proper thing to do to hit a man in the face. But the effect of this one most delightful episode would most certainly be diminished if I were in the habit of hitting in the face my doctor, solicitor, butcher, baker and tailor as a preliminary to all negotiations. So it seems to me that [they] are making their protests ineffectual. They are not making a revolution: they are making a routine.
-July 7, 1906, Illustrated London News

Sunday, October 7, 2018

For it is a principle of all truly scientific Higher Criticism that any text you do not happen to like is a later monkish interpolation.
-March 5, 1927, Illustrated London News

Saturday, October 6, 2018

I have been in many churches, chapels, and halls where a confident pride in having got beyond creeds was coupled with quite a paralysed incapacity to get beyond catchwords.
-A Miscellany of Men (1912)

Friday, October 5, 2018

The internationalist and the imperialist are not only similar men, but even the same men. There is no country which the Imperialist may not claim to conquer in order to convert. There is no country which the Internationalist may not claim to convert in order to conquer. Whether it is called international law or imperial law, it is the very soul and essence of all lawlessness. Against all such amorphous anarchy stands that great and positive creation of Christendom, the nation, with its standards of liberty and loyalty, with its limits of reason and proportion.
-October 5, 1918, Illustrated London News

Thursday, October 4, 2018

To teach people to believe in God may be in its highest sense a hard task even among Christians. But to prevent people from thinking about God will be an impossible task even among agnostics; or perhaps especially among agnostics.
-G.K.C. as M.C. (1929)

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

His is one of those who achieve the noblest and most difficult of all the triumphs of a fictitious character-the triumph of giving us the impression of having a great deal more in him than appears between the two boards of a story. Smaller characters give us the impression that the author has told the whole truth about them, greater characters give the impression that the author has given of them, not the truth, but merely a few hints and samples.
Varied Types (1905)

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

[...] the essential philosophy of romance [...] is an almost equal betting upon man and destiny.
-Twelve Types (1902)

Monday, October 1, 2018

Chesterton in 1907 writing about Photoshop :-)

There has been much discussion in the papers about the case of Miss Gertie Millar, who brought an action upon the ground that no one had a right to sell a realistic and apparently homogeneous photograph in which the head belonged to one person and the body to another. And the Court decided, it appears, that people have got a right to sell a realistic and apparently homogeneous photograph of which the head belongs to one person and the body to another. The decision certainly sounds very queer. Sketches, dawings, coloured pictures, would not, of course, come into the question; they are obviously fictitious, and therefore cannot be anything more than insults. But a photograph can be made to look as if it were the complete representation of an actual person who at some time stood as though before the camera. That is the whole point of a photograph; it is the only reason that anybody wants a photograph. And it certainly seems alarming to say that this thing which professes to be realistic can be made up lawfully of any combination of heads and arms and legs. There is nothing to prevent my drawing a picture of Dr. Clifford with a devil's tail, or Mr. Blatchford with donkey's ears, or the late Sir Wilfrid Lawson as a crawling serpent, after the simple manner of the more popular valentines-that is, there is nothing to prevent me, except my own feelings of respect for all those three persons. But is it also true that I can exhibit in my shop-window a row of ordinary photographs of ordinary bishops, putting among them a convincing photograph of Dr. Clifford in full Roman canonicals and inscribed with the words, "The Growth of Ritual among Non-Conformists"? Can I really exhibit a photograph headed in large letters "The Conversion of a Sceptic," exhibiting a fine view of the interior of Westminster Abbey, with a figure kneeling with clasped hands, upon which figure I have arbitrarily placed the head of Mr. Blatchford? Should I have been within my rights if in the lifetime of Sir Wilfrid Lawson I had exhibited a photograph of him sprawling across the bar of a pot-house and drinking the health of the barmaid in hot Scotch? In all these cases it seems to me that a photograph would come under something of the nature of libel, because a photograph, by its own photographic nature, claims to be a real scene.
-February 23, 1907, Illustrated London News

Sunday, September 30, 2018

"...the best blasphemy is in the Bible."

[Chesterton commenting on the part of the book of Job in which Job curses the day he was born]

The Book of Job is certainly among "the best that has been written"," etc., and there is something compact and contained in the thought that the best blasphemy is in the Bible [...] Now what can we really pit against a poem like that of Job to express a saner statement about a man's birthday? [...] The best answer to it is not any individual composition; it is a universal custom. It is the simple fact that men do keep birthdays and keep them as feast-days. The answer is in all the birthdays of men and even in the celestial paradox of the birthday of God. Christmas Day is the real answer to the Book of Job. The nativity even of a true Man of Sorrows is itself a day of joys, and even of jokes [..] It is perhaps a less sublime literary achievement to say "Many happy returns of the day" than "May the day perish wherein I was born." But the whole point of it is that, apart from the many happy returns of the day, there will certainly be many happy returns of the remark. The birthday is a dogma no normal men deny, a formula of fundamental confession; and it thanks Heaven by implication for our creation, preservation and all the blessings of this life [...] If men really thought a baby unlucky for being born, they would have behaved otherwise from the beginning; they would have black-edged cards instead of birthday cards, black bread instead of birthday cake, readings from Schopenhauer instead of Birthday Odes or the more delicate of a man's friends might avoid alluding to his father's son having been born, as they would to his father having been hanged.
-July 5, 1917, The New Witness, "The Pessimist and the Birthday Book"
Found in Brave New Family, ed. Alvaro de Silva (1990)

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Men observe the gaps in previous periods; but the corresponding gaps in their own period are literally too large to see.

-April 20, 1906, Daily News

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Jews, with their wonderful instinct for practical religion, swore that he who looked upon Jehovah died; but in a large number of transcendental schools and sages the sentence of death has been commuted to a doom of gibbering idiotcy.
-November 17, 1900, The Speaker

Thursday, September 27, 2018

One broad characteristic belongs to all the schools of thought that are called broad-minded, and that is that their eloquence ends in a sort of silence not very far removed from sleep. One mark distinguishes all the wild innovations and insurrections of modern intellectualism; one note is apparent in all the new and revolutionary religions that have recently swept the world; and that note is dullness. They are too simple to be true. And meanwhile any one Catholic peasant, while holding one small bead of the rosary in his fingers, can be conscious, not of one eternity, but of a complex and almost a conflict of eternities; as, for example, in the relations of Our Lord and Our Lady, of the fatherhood and childhood of God, of the motherhood and childhood of Mary. Thoughts of that kind have in a supernatural sense something analogous to sex; they breed. They are fruitful and multiply; and there is no end to them. They have innumerable aspects; but the aspect that concerns the argument here is this: that a religion which is rich in this sense always has a number of ideas in reserve. Besides the ideas that are being applied to a particular problem of a particular period, there are a number of rich fields of thought which are in that sense lying fallow. Where a new theory, invented to meet a new problem, rapidly perishes with that problem, the old things are always waiting for other problems when they shall in their turn become new. A new Catholic movement is generally a movement to emphasize some Catholic idea that was only neglected in the sense that it was not till then specially needed; but when it was needed, nothing else can meet the need. In other words, the only way really to meet all the human needs of the future is to pass into the possession of all the Catholic thoughts of the past; and the only way to do that is really to become a Catholic.
-Where All Roads Lead (1961)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

One of my friends on Facebook wrote an article on the current situation in the Church which appeared in The Catholic World Report. As the title of the article itself indicates, it builds on Chesterton's chapter in The Everlasting Man, "The Five Deaths of the Faith", which it quotes quite a bit from, with her own commentary as to how it applies to today's crisis. It is an encouraging article, and one I highly recommend reading!

"The Sixth Death of the Church"

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A journalist, describing in the Daily News an interview with Chesterton, includes this delightful tidbit:
At this [Chesterton] drew his basket chair menacingly nearer to me, and I drew my chair nearer to him, while for an hour or more we hurled defiance at each other's creeds. I continued the struggle with indomitable perseverance until he had proved, to my satisfaction and his own exuberant delight, that my Protestantism was merely undeveloped Vaticanism. When, however, he proceeded to disprove my existence, which I value, I ventured to change the subject.
-December 13, 1907, Daily News, "'G.K.C.' at Home"

Monday, September 24, 2018

British author Terry Deary, on being asked which book "would you take to a desert island", replied
I never tire of The Napoleon Of Notting Hill by G.K. Chesterton. A book written in technicolour. [Source]

Sunday, September 23, 2018

While reading through the Bible the other day, I came across a verse that seems to me to perfectly describe Chesterton, What I mean is that Chesterton's humility and charity was such that so many people who were his greatest enemies on an intellectual level (such as H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, for instance, whom he often debated), nevertheless greatly loved Chesterton and were close friends with him on a personal level. And such seems to me to be an example of this proverb:
"When a man's ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him." (Proverbs 16:7)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

"I reckon you'll be shocked," replied Greywood Usher, "as I know you don't cotton to the march of science in these matters. I am given a good deal of discretion here, and perhaps take a little more than I'm given; and I thought it was an excellent opportunity to test that Psychometric Machine I told you about. Now, in my opinion that machine can't lie."

"No machine can lie," said Father Brown, "nor can it tell the truth."

"It did in this case, as I'll show you," went on Usher positively. "I sat the man in the ill-fitting clothes in a comfortable chair, and simply wrote words on a blackboard; and the machine simply recorded the variations of his pulse; and I simply observed his manner. The trick is to introduce some word connected with the supposed crime in a list of words connected with something quite different, yet a list in which it occurs quite naturally. Thus I wrote 'heron' and 'eagle' and 'owl,' and when I wrote 'falcon' he was tremendously agitated; and when I began to make an 'r' at the end of the word, that machine just bounded. Who else in this republic has any reason to jump at the name of a newly arrived Englishman like Falconroy except the man who's shot him? Isn't that better evidence than a lot of gabble from witnesses: the evidence of a reliable machine?"

"You always forget," observed his companion, "that the reliable machine always has to be worked by an unreliable machine."

"Why, what do you mean?" asked the detective.

"I mean Man," said Father Brown, "the most unreliable machine I know of. I don't want to be rude; and I don't think you will consider Man to be an offensive or inaccurate description of yourself. You say you observed his manner; but how do you know you observed it right? You say the words have to come in a natural way; but how do you know that you did it naturally? How do you know, if you come to that, that he did not observe your manner? Who is to prove that you were not tremendously agitated? There was no machine tied on to your pulse."

"I tell you," cried the American in the utmost excitement, "I was as cool as a cucumber."

"Criminals also can be as cool as cucumbers," said Brown with a smile. "And almost as cool as you."

"Well, this one wasn't," said Usher, throwing the papers about. "Oh, you make me tired!"

"I'm sorry," said the other. "I only point out what seems a reasonable possibility. If you could tell by his manner when the word that might hang him had come, why shouldn't he tell from your manner that the word that might hang him was coming? I should ask for more than words myself before I hanged anybody."

-The Wisdom of Father Brown (1914)

Friday, September 21, 2018

Thus the Sacrament of Penance gives a new life, and reconciles a man to all living, but it does not do it as the optimists and the hedonists and the heathen preachers of happiness do it. The gift is given at a price, and is conditioned by a confession. In other words, the name of the price is Truth, which may also be called Reality; but it is facing the reality about oneself. When the process is only applied to other people, it is called Realism.
-Autobiography (1936)

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Imperialism is not an insanity of patriotism; it is merely an illusion of cosmopolitanism.
-Irish Impressions (1919)

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

"...they are not submitting a variety of actions to one test; they are applying a variety of tests to one action,"

People will make attempts at despotism, or demands for freedom, successively or even simultaneously, according to a quite arbitrary program of opportunism. And we feel that they are not submitting a variety of actions to one test; they are applying a variety of tests to one action, which is for them already a fixed and settled action. They do what they want, and make up reasons for it afterwards; but even the reasons are rather too cunning to be reasonable. In a word, it is this chaos, in the creed and code of conduct, that prevents a man from finding in it any sort of guide, even a guide to progress.
-All I Survey (1933)

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A friend has sent me a sort of guide or prospectus of the food eaten by vegetarians, or, to speak more strictly, I believe, by fruitarians. It has given me more solid pleasure than any book of poetry or philosophy I have read for years. Not that I want to eat the fruitarian foods; Heaven forbid. A man may be interested in the ingenuity and picturesqueness of a scheme of advertisement without having the desperate design of sampling any of the wares. Suppose I had lived in Renaissance Italy, I might have received some pleasant little pamphlet such as this, advertising "Borgia Biscuits; the best for Bishops"; or, "Try Lucrezia, the Latest Soporific; Invariably Ends an Illness"; or, "Pope Alexander's Painless Chianti: the late Cardinal Colonna writes 'Since then I have used no other.' "

In such a case I should order tones of the entertaining prospectus, but none of the food. I feel almost an equal degree of fastidiousness about the Fruit Foods, some of which sound to me as ominous as Borgia Biscuits.
-December 4, 1909, Illustrated London News

Monday, September 17, 2018

Heathenism held the individual as a mere muscle of the State; scepticism is restoring the conception. Therefore the modern sociologists are already beginning to dabble in that dreadful idea of which the old pagans drank deep. I mean Infanticide. Christianity stands in history between them, demanding justice though the heavens fall; and he that is not with her is against her.
-April 9, 1910, Daily News

Sunday, September 16, 2018

No one worth calling a man allows his moods to change his convictions; but it is by moods that we understand other men’s convictions. The bigot is not he who knows he is right; every sane man knows he is right. The bigot is he whose emotions and imagination are too cold and weak to feel how it is that other men go wrong.
-Alarms and Discursions (1910)

Saturday, September 15, 2018

When we really wish to know how the world is going, it is no bad test to take some tag or current phrase of the press and reverse it, substituting the precise contrary, and see whether it makes more sense that way. It generally does; such a mass of outworn conventions has our daily commentary become.
-The Well and the Shallows (1935)
But when we are quite sure that we rejoice in a nation's strength, then and not before we are justified in judging its weakness.
-What I Saw in America (1922)

Thursday, September 13, 2018

If there exist plausible reasons for supposing that an innovation is an improvement, then, of course, it is a valid argument to say that many real improvements have been denounced as mere innovations. If I think a man honest, and it is answered that he has been in prison, then it is rational for me to reply that St. Paul or Cervantes was in prison. But it is not rational of me to say that all the people in prison must be like Cervantes or St. Paul. There must be a prima facie case for the new thing; otherwise it is obvious that nothing is being asked of it but newness.
-December 23, 1911, Illustrated London News

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

It is utterly useless to talk about enlarging one's mind with visions of the future. The future does not enlarge one's mind in the least. The future is a blank wall on which I paint my own portrait as large as I like... We are attracted to the future because it is what is called a soft job. In front of us lies an unknown or unreal world which we can mould according to every cowardice or triviality in our temperaments.
-The Man Who Was Orthodox (1963)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

For it is always wiser to consider not so much why a thing is not enjoyable, as why we ourselves do not enjoy it.
-All Is Grist (1931)

Monday, September 10, 2018

There is only one thing in human psychology that deserves to be called courage. That is the power of loving a hopeless cause so much that it becomes a hopeful cause. All courage is the courage of the forlorn hope; you must first accept the forlornness; you must yourself create the hope.
-February 17, 1906, Daily News

Sunday, September 9, 2018

This is what explains the paradox that must still puzzle many of those who have the sense to see it. I mean that the same age which tends to economic slavery tends to social anarchy; and especially to sexual anarchy. So long as men can be driven in droves like sheep, they can be as promiscuous as sheep; so long they are yoked together like cattle, they can, in one sense, breed as casually as cattle. What is lost in both cases is the sense of distinction; first the master's sense of the difference between man and man and then the man's sense of the difference between woman and woman. Plutocracy does not specially fear the natural appetites, because they also, like industrial organization, bring all men to one level; not unlike the level of the beast of the field. Plutocracy only objects to the artificial appetites, such as those for liberty, honour, decency, and private property. So long as it can make sure that a man's work is adequately monotonous and material, it will allow him the sort of pleasure that is really equally material and even monotonous. It offers the bribe of free love to ensure the loss of free labour.
-March 9, 1929, G.K.'s Weekly

Saturday, September 8, 2018

There is no better test of a man's ultimate chivalry and integrity than how he behaves when he is wrong.
-The Common Man (1950)

Friday, September 7, 2018

If there is one point on which the spirit of the poets and the poetic soul in all peoples is on the side of Christianity, it is exactly this one point on which Blake is against Christianity- "was crucified, dead and buried." The spectacle of a God dying is much more grandiose than the spectacle of a man living for ever. The former suggests that awful changes have really entered the alchemy of the universe; the latter is only vaguely reminiscent of hygienic octogenarians and Eno's Fruit Salts.
-William Blake (1910)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Poetry is not a selection of the images which will express a particular thought; it is rather an analysis of the thoughts which are evoked by a certain image.
-A Handful of Authors (1953)

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

But my concern is not with open and direct opponents [...] but with all to whom I might once have looked to defend the country of the Christian altars. They ought surely to know that the foe now on the frontiers offers no terms of compromise; but threatens a compete destruction. And they have sold the pass.
-The Well and the Shallows (1935)

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The fatal metaphor of progress, which means leaving things behind us, has utterly obscured the real idea of growth, which means leaving things inside us. The heart of the tree remains the same, however many rings are added to it; and a man cannot leave his heart behind by running hard with his legs.
-Fancies Versus Fads (1923)

Monday, September 3, 2018

But I am sure it is a sound principle to have one luxury accompanied by plainer things, like a jewel in a simple setting. This is not identical- indeed, it is inconsistent- with what is commonly called the Simple Life, which generally means a monotonous mediocrity of experience, without either luxury or austerity. The real pleasure-seeking is the combination of luxury and austerity in such a way that the luxury can really be felt. And any sort of crowding together of more or less contradictory pleasures, in contempt of this principle, is not so much pleasure-seeking as pleasure-spoiling. Those who allow the colours of enjoyment thus to kill each other can with strict propriety be called kill-joys.
-August 18, 1923, Illustrated London News

Sunday, September 2, 2018

There is a certain solid use in fools. It is not so much that they rush in where angels fear to tread, but rather that they let out what devils intend to do.
-Alarms and Discursions (1910)

Saturday, September 1, 2018

[...] it is especially awkward, when the young man who has never learned anything except how to hate his own father and grandfather, is suddenly called upon to love all men like brothers.
-November 24, 1934, Illustrated London News

Friday, August 31, 2018

From George Bernard Shaw's review of GKC"s book A Short History of England (the review being printed in The Observer, November 4, 1917):
For Mr. Chesterton knows his epochs, and can tell you when the temple became a den of thieves, though he leaves out half the kings and gives never a date at all. Far from being discursive, as the critics are saying, he is at once the most concise and the fullest historian this distressful country has yet found.
[found in G.K. Chesterton: The Critical Judgments, Part I: 1900-1937 ed. by Denis Conlon, p. 352]

Thursday, August 30, 2018

A religion should not only be instinctively absorbent of whatever is consonant with its ideal; it should also be instinctively resistant to anything that is against that ideal. Men look to a faith to purge them of all native poisons, as well as to develop all native functions and pleasures. A church should have drainage as well as ventilation. It should drive bad smells out as well as let good smells in; it should not only cast out devils, but keep them out.
-March 19, 1910, Daily News

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

[...] truth exists whether we like it or not, and [...] it is for us to accommodate ourselves to it.
-Chesterton on Shakespeare (1971)

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Anti-clericalism is a healthy Catholic habit, spoilt by the Reformation.
-October 22, 1909, Daily News
[This quote, written while GKC was still an Anglican, is one that struck me when I first read it, but one I'm coming to understand better these days, unfortunately.] 

Monday, August 27, 2018

"The high tide!" King Alfred cried.
"The high tide and the turn!
As a tide turns on the tall grey seas,
See how they waver in the trees,
How stray their spears, how knock their knees,
How wild their watchfires burn!
-The Ballad of the White Horse (1911)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

It isn't that they can't see the solution. It is that they can't see the problem.
-The Scandal of Father Brown (1935)

Saturday, August 25, 2018

And the fact which has created (I am sorry to say) a general impression that [they...] are a pack of shuffling humbugs, is exactly the fact that they do [...] give way to merely instinctive tastes and passions at the expense of the first principle which they are supposed to hold [...] They will upset their whole philosophy to upset one person whom they dislike [...] And they think that they can give to reform all its original energy merely because when they see something that they very much want to do, they do it with a great deal of gusto. But the old acts of justice were not most powerful when they were performed with gusto. Rather they were more powerful when they were performed with reluctance. Men thought more of the strength of the creed when they saw the creed compelling the man [...] Political consistency of this kind people felt had something of the naked dignity of the great dogmatic religions which it seemed to ignore. A political faith ought to have, like a religious faith, a slight element of mortification: it ought either to mortify the flesh or, what is (in the case of prigs) much more important and valuable, to mortify the spirit.
-October 12, 1907, Illustrated London News

Friday, August 24, 2018

"She hasn't got any intellect to speak of; but you don't need any intellect to be an intellectual."
-The Scandal of Father Brown (1935)

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Democracy is never quite democratic except when it is quite direct; and it is never quite direct except when it is quite small. So soon as a mob has grown large enough to have delegates it has grown large enough to have despots; indeed the despots are often much the more representative of the two.
-The New Jerusalem (1920)

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

But any man of moral experience will know that there is no pride so wholesome as the pride in something that does him no credit. That is why love is the parent of the highest pride, because it is pride in a happiness which cannot be anything but undeserved. Similarly it cannot fail to be elevating to a man to boast of great battles that he never saw, and to plume himself with a certain agreeable vanity upon splendid actions that he did not perform. In this kind of exaltation a man is proud at the same moment that he is humble. He feels the profound philosophic truth that his own greatest merits are as much dependent upon nature as the merits of his remotest ancestors. to him his own most dazzling impromptu is as much a gift as the grass in the meadow. He will not therefore resent being called upon to exult in the wonders of other ages or the deeds of other men. No one can have failed to notice that the only kind of conceit which is really vulgar and pitiful is the conceit of the man who has himself something of which to be conceited.
-July 10, 1901, Daily News

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

"A taste for low company doesn't make people thieves," said Murrel, "it's generally a taste for high company that does that."
-The Return of Don Quixote (1927)

Monday, August 20, 2018

A poet may be vague, and a mystic hates vagueness. A poet is a man who mixes up heaven and earth unconsciously. A mystic is a man who separates heaven and earth even if he enjoys them both.
-William Blake (1910)

Sunday, August 19, 2018

From an interview with Fr. Paul Scalia (the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia):
Q: What writers influence you and why?

A: Probably the writer who has influenced me the most is G.K. Chesterton because he can turn a phrase. His writing is fun. Ronald Knox, his writing is excellent. I think with both of them there is both a down-to-earthness about them. There is a levity and there is a precision.
"Fr. Paul Scalia Talks New Book"

Saturday, August 18, 2018

[...] the fundamental things in a man are not the things he explains, but rather the things he forgets to explain.
-The Superstition of Divorce (1920)

Friday, August 17, 2018

A dream can commonly be described as possessing an utter discordance of incident combined with a curious unity of mood; everything changes but the dreamer. It may begin with anything and end with anything, but if the dreamer is sad at the end he will be sad as if by prescience at the beginning; if he is cheerful at the beginning he will be cheerful if the stars fail. A Midsummer Night's Dream has in a most singular degree effected this difficult, this almost desperate subtlety. The events in the wandering wood are in themselves, and regarded as in broad daylight, not merely melancholy but bitterly cruel and ignominious. But yet by the spreading of an atmosphere as magic as the fog of Puck, Shakespeare contrives to make the whole matter mysteriously hilarious while it is palpably tragic, and mysteriously charitable, while it is in itself cynical [...] The creation of a brooding sentiment like this, a sentiment not merely independent of but actually opposed to the events, is a much greater triumph of art than the creation of the character of Othello.
-Chesterton on Shakespeare (1971)

Thursday, August 16, 2018

[..] men like Chaucer and Langland may have supported Wycliffe to some extent in practice, and then repudiated him more completely in theory, for a particular reason of their own. The reason was (odd as it will sound in modern ears) that they supported him when he was right and repudiated him when he was wrong.

Wycliffe was only one example of a man who yields to a temptation, which few reformers have been sufficiently clear-headed to resist. He became so irritated with the fact that the Idea was badly carried out in practice, that at last he was weak enough to turn and attack the Idea in theory. [...] But there is here some haunting temptation which perpetually betrays reformers. It betrays the reformers of modern as of medieval times [...] The logical, or rather illogical, process is perfectly simple and perfectly familiar. A man sets out to distribute Milk to mothers or families or the whole community. He very soon discovers that distribution is not so easy as it looks. Before long he is perfectly familiar with the fact of people intercepting milk, stealing milk, making a corner in milk, adulterating milk, poisoning milk. He is very naturally in a rage, which verges on a revolutionary rage; nor is he wrong in proposing even precipitate and violent action against those who swindle about milk or poison milk. But there always comes a time when he is tempted to turn, in a towering passion, and say, 'There shall be no Milk.' That is what happened at the Reformation. That is what happens in nearly every revolution.
-Chaucer (1932)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

But civilisation is to be tested not so much by the dexterity of inventions as by the worth of what is invented. Many of the instruments of torture in the Tower of London display great dexterity of invention. Civilisation is not to be judged by the rapidity of communication, but by the value of what is communicated. I can send to my next-door neighbour the message- "You are an ass." I have not greatly advanced in civilisation merely because I can send the same intelligent message to a man in Australia.
-February 16, 1907, Illustrated London News

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Our need for rules does not arise from the smallness of our intellects, but from the greatness of our task. Discipline is not necessary for things that are slow and safe; but discipline is necessary for things that are swift and dangerous. We do not need a map for a stroll; but we do need a map for a raid. Now Western democracy is certainly engaged in a raid, a raid on the New Jerusalem. We are trying to do right: one of the wildest perils. We are trying to bring political equity on earth; to materialise an almost incredible justice [...] The thing has nothing to do with the freedom of the mind. Cervantes at Lepanto would have obeyed orders; surely not because he wore blinkers, but because Cervantes knew that there are twenty ways of criticising a battle, but only one way of winning it. And I do not believe for a moment that the ordinary man only obeys social rules because he is too stupid to see the alternative; I believe he obeys them because he feels, though he cannot perhaps express the fact, that they are the only way of having a rapid and reasonable human activity.
-September 28, 1907, Daily News

Monday, August 13, 2018

Pride consists in a man making his personality the only test, instead of making the truth the test.  It is not pride to wish to do well, or even to look well, according to a real test.  It is pride to think that a thing looks ill, because it does not look like something characteristic of oneself.  Now in the general clouding of clear and abstract standards, there is a real tendency today for a young man (and even possibly a young woman) to fall back on that personal test, simply for lack of any trustworthy impersonal test.  No standard being sufficiently secure for the self to be moulded to suit it, all standards may be moulded to suit the self.  But the self as a self is a very small thing and something very like an accident.  Hence arises a new kind of narrowness; which exists especially in those who boast of breadth.  The sceptic feels himself too large to measure life by the largest things; and ends by measuring it by the smallest thing of all. 
-The Common Man (1950)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

"...ambition narrows as the mind expands."

But youth is always ambitious and universal; mature work exhibits more of individuality, more of the special type and colour of work which a man is destined to do. Youth is universal, but not individual. The genius who begins life with a very genuine and sincere doubt whether he is meant to be an exquisite and idolised violinist, or the most powerful and eloquent Prime Minister of modern times, does at last end by making the discovery that there is, after all, one thing, possibly a certain style of illustrating Nursery Rhymes, which he can really do better than any one else. This was what happened to Browning; like every one else, he had to discover first the universe, and then humanity, and at last himself. With him, as with all others, the great paradox and the great definition of life was this, that the ambition narrows as the mind expands.
-Robert Browning (1903)

Saturday, August 11, 2018

We are all somewhat wearily aware that some Modern Churchman call such continuous change progress;  as when we remark that a corpse crawling with worms has an increased vitality; or that a snow-man, slowly turning into a puddle, is purifying itself of its accretions.
-The Well and the Shallows (1935)