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.




Saturday, March 31, 2018

"...that terrible tree, which was the death of God and the life of man."

And it is very certain that whatever jest or sentiment or fancy first set [Samuel] Johnson touching the wooden posts, he never touched wood with any of the feeling with which he stretched out his hands to the timber of that terrible tree, which was the death of God and the life of man.
-The Everlasting Man (1925)

Friday, March 30, 2018

For nothing is more certain than that though this world is the only world that we have known, or of which we could even dream, the fact does remain that we have named it "a strange world." In other words, we have certainly felt that this world did not explain itself, that something in its complete and patent picture has been omitted. And Browning was right in saying that in a cosmos where incompleteness implies completeness, life implies immortality. This then was the first of the doctrines or opinions of Browning: the hope that lies in the imperfection of man. The second of the great Browning doctrines requires some audacity to express. It can only be properly stated as the hope that lies in the imperfection of God. That is to say, that Browning held that sorrow and self-denial, if they were the burdens of man, were also his privileges. He held that these stubborn sorrows and obscure valours might, to use a yet more strange expression, have provoked the envy of the Almighty. If man has self-sacrifice and God has none, then man has in the Universe a secret and blasphemous superiority. And this tremendous story of a Divine jealousy Browning reads into the story of the Crucifixion. If the Creator had not been crucified He would not have been as great as thousands of wretched fanatics among His own creatures. It is needless to insist upon this point; any one who wishes to read it splendidly expressed need only be referred to "Saul." But these are emphatically the two main doctrines or opinions of Browning which I have ventured to characterise roughly as the hope in the imperfection of man, and more boldly as the hope in the imperfection of God.
-Robert Browning (1903)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

[...] the word Eucharist is but a verbal symbol, we might say a vague verbal mask, for something so tremendous that the assertion and the denial of it have alike seemed a blasphemy: a blasphemy that has shaken the world with the earthquake of two thousand years.
-Christendom in Dublin (1932)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

It requires a very wise man indeed to teach fools. But he must be a very hopeless fool whom fools cannot teach.
-October 27, 1905, Illustrated London News

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

It is one of the deep jokes of existence that very wise people and very ignorant people frequently say the same thing; perhaps it is the basis of democracy. I think I have suggested about two hundred different bases of democracy in this column; and there are more coming. But in any case it is a curious truth that the first word said by the most superficial person is often the same as the last word said by the most profound. Thus, for instance, any hairdresser making futile conversation may say 'It is a strange world.' Really for one awful instant to feel it is a strange world is the last and highest peak of all poetry and philosophy; many prophets and righteous men have desired to see this thing, and have not seen it. The man who meets you in the morning and takes the wild responsibility of applying to the day the adjective 'good' is almost sharing in that strange and awful calm which applied it to all things on the first Sabbath. There is something singularly terrible about this vision of men walking about the world saying mighty things that they do not understand, crying out dreadful messages to which their own ears are deaf. Their words are the words of sages, while their faces are the faces of children. The streets are full of these dead men, talking with living tongues.
-Februar 23, 1907, Daily News

Monday, March 26, 2018

[...] if any of us or all of us are truly optimists, and believe as Browning did, that existence has a value wholly inexpressible, we are most truly compelled to that sentiment not by any argument or triumphant justification of the cosmos, but by a few of these momentary and immortal sights and sounds, a gesture, an old song, a portrait, a piano, an old door.
-Robert Browning (1903)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The only test that can be adequately suggested of a critic's work on a masterpiece is whether it freshens it or makes it stale, whether, like the inferior appreciation, it sends us to our hundredth reading of the work, or whether, like the higher appreciation, it sends us to our first reading of it. There is one kind of criticism which reminds us that we have read a book; there is another and better which convinces us that we have never read it.
-Chesterton on Shakespeare (1971)

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Now it was a mark [...] of mediaeval religion that it distrusted prophets. It preferred priests, because priests are not so arrogant. It disliked the man whose only message was himself; it always dreaded him as an egoist [...]
-Introduction to Past and Present by Thomas Carlyle (1909)

Friday, March 23, 2018

We're all really dependent in nearly everything, and we all make a fuss about being independent in something.
-The Man Who Knew Too Much (1922)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world.
-May 21, 1927, Illustrated London News

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The truth I think is this: that since the triumph of what was called rationalism, we have successfully cultivated everything except reason. Many modern minds, not only eminent but normal modern minds, have been trained to a quite exquisite appreciation of art or music or landscape; and can detect and even describe fine shades in these things, that would probably have been missed altogether by Aristotle or Dr. Johnson. But if it came to argument, to clear and connected argument, either Aristotle or Dr. Johnson would have thought he had got into an infant school. Dr. Johnson would probably have said an idiot school. But I do not say it; having no claim to emulate Dr. Johnson in his talents and virtues, I need not needlessly emulate him in his faults and exaggerations. The men with this mental disproportion are not fools; many of them are brilliant and subtle writers along literary lines, where I could never hope to follow them. But they seem somehow to have forgotten how to set about forming a reasonable conclusion about anything. They are masters in the art of appreciating, describing, and analysing impressions; but they do not seem to know how to make any deductions [...]  when he is asked to test the impression in relation to truth, he does not seem to know the technique of such a test.
-Avowals and Denials (1934)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

[...] marriage is like a splendid game of see-saw.
-George Bernard Shaw (1909)

Monday, March 19, 2018

Existence often ceases to be beautiful; but if we are men at all it never ceases to be interesting. This divine creation in the midst of which we live does commonly, in the words of the good books, combine amusement with instruction. But dark hours will come when the wisest man can hardly get instruction out of it; but a brave man can always get amusement out of it. When we have given up valuing life for every other reason, we can still value it, like the glass stick, as a curiosity. For the universe is like the glass stick in this, at any rate; it is unique.
-The Glass Walking Stick (1955)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Chesterton cheered at the dedication of Notre Dame Stadium

Chesterton, at the dedication of Notre Dame Stadium:
The Chesterton party arrived at Notre Dame on the evening of October 4th, 1930. The lectures began on the following Monday. On Friday, the 10th, in the evening, the stadium was solemnly dedicated. Navy had come on for the dedicatory game, and [University President] Father O'Donnell was busy with them. He had told Johnny Mangan, the University chauffeur, to look after the Chestertons, and to see that they got into the stadium and that Mr. Chesterton had a seat on the platform from which the speeches were to be made, There were about twenty thousand people present, and when the students saw the magnificent bulk of Chesterton going toward the platform, they cheered wildly: "He's a man! Who's a man? He's a Notre Dame man!" Chesterton turned nervously to Mangan, saying: "My, they're angry!" "Angry!" exclaimed Johnny, "golly man, they're cheerin' you!" Whereat Chesterton began such a fit of laughing and sputtering as almost to choke himself.
-"Notre Dame: One Hundred Years" (Arthur J. Hope, C.S.C.)[emphasis mine]

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Here is a long passage from Chesterton on socialism (from his "Notebook", I think?) that was never published during his lifetime, and written when he was in his early 20's, before he was even a committed Christian, much less a Catholic (and before his literary career had even begun).

He had supported socialism when he was a teenager, and while he was never a fan of capitalism, as he defined it, to the end of his life (especially given the circumstances of his own day with all the monopolies and poor and unsafe conditions for workers, etc, but also because of his distributist beliefs), he came to see socialism as a deeply flawed solution, even while recognizing the nobility of the motives of many of the people supporting it. (Recall this passage, for instance, was written long before the Russian revolution, and so many good people who detested the admittedly abominable conditions of laissez faire capitalism, at least relatively speaking, of that day looked to socialism as a remedy ). And in this passage, again written in his early 20's (in the mid-to-late 1890's)....he shows precisely where it differs from early Christian practice, which it was (and is) often said to imitate 

Something in the evil spirit of our time forces people always to pretend to have found some material and mechanical explanation [...] It never crosses the modern mind to fancy that perhaps a people is chiefly influenced by how that people has chosen to behave.
-George Bernard Shaw (1909)

Friday, March 16, 2018

[G.F. Watts] may not be certain that he is successful, or certain that he is great, or certain that he is good, or certain that he is capable; but he is certain that he is right. It is of course the very element of confidence which has in our day become least common and least possible. We know we are brilliant and distinguished, but we do not know we are right. We swagger in fantastic artistic costumes; we praise ourselves; we fling epigrams right and left; we have the courage to play the egoist and the courage to play the fool, but we have not the courage to preach.
-G.F. Watts (1904)

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The next best thing to really loving a fellow creature is really hating him: especially when he is a poorer man separated from you otherwise by mere social stiffness. The desire to murder him is at least an acknowledgment that he is alive. Many a man has owed the first white gleams of the dawn of Democracy in his soul to a desire to find a stick and beat the butler.
-The Flying Inn (1914)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Spanish people think Cervantes
Equal to half a dozen Dantes,
An opinion resented most bitterly
By the people of Italy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

She thought nothing should be wasted; and could not see that even a thing consumed is wasted if it is not wanted.
-Autobiography (1936)

Monday, March 12, 2018

The sin of sentimentalism only occurs when somebody indulges a feeling, sometimes even a real feeling, to the prejudice of something equally real, which also has it's rights.
-August 10, 1927, Illustrated London News

Sunday, March 11, 2018

"..the inevitable result of love, which is incarnation; and the inevitable result of incarnation, which is crucifixion..."

The final decision of Peter Pan was a bad example of having it both ways. What is really wrong with that delightful masterpiece is that the master asked a question and ought to have answered it. But he could not bring himself to answer it- or rather, he tried to say "yes" and "no" in one word. A very fine problem of poetic philosophy might be presented as the problem of Peter Pan. He is represented as a sort of everlasting elf, a child who never changes age after age, but who in this story falls in love with a little girl who is a normal person. He is given his choice between becoming normal with her or remaining immortal without her, and either choice might have been made a fine and effective thing. He might have said that he was a god- that he loved all, but could not live for any; that he belonged not to them but to multitudes of unborn babes. Or he might have chosen love, with the inevitable result of love, which is incarnation; and the inevitable result of incarnation, which is crucifixion- yes, if it were only crucifixion by becoming a clerk in a bank and growing old. But it was the fork of the road; and even in fairyland you cannot walk down two roads at once. The one real fault of sentimentalism in this fairy play is the compromise that is ultimately made, whereby he shall go free for ever, but meet his human friend once a year. Like most practical compromises, it is the most unpractical of all possible courses of action. Even the baby in that nursery could have seen that Wendy would be ninety in no time, after what would appear to her immortal lover a mere idle half-hour.
-August 20, 1927, Illustrated London News

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Chesterton in a letter to Mrs. John Lane, writing concerning a group called "The Peckham Ethical Fellowship":
Isn't it too beautiful? I'm sure they come out of a book. I only wish they'd go back into it.
[quoted in G.K. Chesterton: A Biography by Ian Ker, p. 139]

Sorry, but that made me laugh, so I had to share it for some light-hearted fun. :-)

Friday, March 9, 2018

[...] the basest of pleasures [is] the pleasure of being pained [...] the pleasure of being shocked, the pleasure of being censorious- in a word, the pleasure of scandal.
-August 18, 1923, Illustrated London News

Thursday, March 8, 2018

At its noblest [the humanitarian cause] meant a sort of mystical identification of our life with the whole life of nature. [...] Man might be a network of exquisite nerves running over the whole universe, a subtle spider’s web of pity.  This was a fine conception; though perhaps a somewhat severe enforcement of the theological conception of the special divinity of man.  For the humanitarians certainly asked of humanity what can be asked of no other creature; no man ever required a dog to understand a cat or expected the cow to cry for the sorrows of the nightingale.

Hence this sense has been strongest in saints of a very mystical sort; such as St. Francis who spoke of Sister Sparrow and Brother Wolf.
-George Bernard Shaw (1909)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

[...] Dickens had hold of one great truth, the neglect of which has, as it were, truncated and made meagre the work of many brilliant modern novelists. Modern novelists try to make long novels out of subtle characters. But a subtle character soon comes to an end, because it works in and in to its own centre and dies there. But a simple character goes on for ever in a fresh interest and energy, because it works out and out into the infinite universe.
-Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens (1911)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Lucifer made an angry movement and opened his mouth to speak, but Michael, with all his air of deliberation, was proceeding before he could bring out a word.

"I once knew a man like you, Lucifer," he said, with a maddening monotony and slowness of articulation. "He took this——"

"There is no man like me," cried Lucifer, with a violence that shook the ship.

"As I was observing," continued Michael, "this man also took the view that the symbol of Christianity was a symbol of savagery and all unreason. His history is rather amusing. It is also a perfect allegory of what happens to rationalists like yourself. He began, of course, by refusing to allow a crucifix in his house, or round his wife's neck, or even in a picture. He said, as you say, that it was an arbitrary and fantastic shape, that it was a monstrosity, loved because it was paradoxical. Then he began to grow fiercer and more eccentric; he would batter the crosses by the roadside; for he lived in a Roman Catholic country. Finally in a height of frenzy he climbed the steeple of the Parish Church and tore down the cross, waving it in the air, and uttering wild soliloquies up there under the stars. Then one still summer evening as he was wending his way homewards, along a lane, the devil of his madness came upon him with a violence and transfiguration which changes the world. He was standing smoking, for a moment, in the front of an interminable line of palings, when his eyes were opened. Not a light shifted, not a leaf stirred, but he saw as if by a sudden change in the eyesight that this paling was an army of innumerable crosses linked together over hill and dale. And he whirled up his heavy stick and went at it as if at an army. Mile after mile along his homeward path he broke it down and tore it up. For he hated the cross and every paling is a wall of crosses. When he returned to his house he was a literal madman. He sat upon a chair and then started up from it for the cross-bars of the carpentry repeated the intolerable image. He flung himself upon a bed only to remember that this, too, like all workmanlike things, was constructed on the accursed plan. He broke his furniture because it was made of crosses. He burnt his house because it was made of crosses. He was found in the river."

Lucifer was looking at him with a bitten lip.

"Is that story really true?" he asked.

"Oh, no," said Michael, airily. "It is a parable. It is a parable of you and all your rationalists. You begin by breaking up the Cross; but you end by breaking up the habitable world [...]"
-The Ball and the Cross (1909)
Incidentally, here is a link to Pope John Paul I commenting on this very passage

Monday, March 5, 2018

Indeed the vulgar rumour is nearly always much nearer the historical truth than the "educated" opinion of to-day; for tradition is truer than fashion.
-A Short History of England (1917)

Sunday, March 4, 2018

" [...] you never know the best about men till you know the worst about them."

"Did you think there was nothing but evil at the bottom of them?" he asked, gently. "Did you think I had found nothing but filth in the deep seas into which fate has thrown me? Believe me, you never know the best about men till you know the worst about them [...] I tell you it is as true of these rich fools and rascals as it is true of every poor footpad and pickpocket; that only God knows how good they have tried to be. God alone knows what the conscience can survive, or how a man who has lost his honor will still try to save his soul."
-The Man Who Knew Too Much (1922)

Saturday, March 3, 2018

A reactionary [...] means a conservative in revolt
-Introduction to Past and Present by Thomas Carlyle (1909)

Friday, March 2, 2018

Nothing is more striking (to anyone who feels the Bible as a live thing) than the contrast between the careless commonsense with which Christ and His Apostles admit the need of rulers and the mysterious and authoritative violence with which they declare that the mighty shall be plucked from their seat and the rich shut out of the Kingdom. There is mere light reasonableness in Christ's tone towards the tribute to Caesar. 'Look at a penny for yourself; after all, Caesar mints them; give the man the benefit of the work he does in the world.' There is the same practical tone in St. Paul about the magistrate; 'He beareth not the sword in vain.' That is exactly what a sane mystic does feel about the magistrate; 'After all, he's not there for nothing; there must be some sense in the human tradition of civil obedience.' It is in a very different tone, a tone of apocalyptic truth and terrible reality, that they speak of the spiritual state of rulers, damned in the purple and fine linen or eaten by their gold as by fire. It is arguably Christian to say that wealth and leisure are necessary for a State, but not that they are good for a soul. A Christian might say that the rich we have always with us. But it is not Christian to say that they are anything but a necessary evil. Put not your trust in princes even if you obey them.
-July 17, 1909, Daily News

Thursday, March 1, 2018

George Orwell, commenting on Chesterton and Belloc:
Many earlier writers have foreseen the emergence of a new kind of society, neither capitalist nor Socialist, and probably based upon Slavery...A good example is Hilaire Belloc's book, The Servile State, published in 1911 [sic]...The remedy he suggests, [a return to small-scale peasant ownership] is for many reasons impossible; still it does foretell with remarkable insight the kind of things that have been happening from about 1930 onwards. Chesterton, in a less methodical way, predicted the disappearance of democracy and private property, and the rise of a slave society which might be called either capitalist or Communist.'
[quoted by Fr. Ian Boyd in his book The Novels of G.K. Chesterton, p. 204. The quote is from Orwell's essay "James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution"]