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)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

"All women of any kind think all men of any kind mad"

It is true that all sensible women think all studious men mad. It is true, for the matter of that, all women of any kind think all men of any kind mad. But they do not put it in telegrams any more than they wire to you that grass is green or God all-merciful. These things are truisms and often private ones at that.

-The Club of Queer Trades (1905)

"But we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet."

We hear men speaking for us of new laws strong and sweet,
Yet is there no man speaketh as we speak in the street.
It may be we shall rise the last as Frenchmen rose the first,
Our wrath come after Russia's wrath and our wrath be the worst.
It may be we are meant to mark with our riot and our rest
God's scorn for all men governing. It may be beer is best.
But we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet.
Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget.

(Excerpt from "The Secret People")

Friday, February 26, 2010

"You forgive because there isn't anything to be forgiven"

“I wouldn’t touch him with a barge-pole myself,” said Mallow.

“There is a limit to human charity,” said Lady Outram, trembling all over.

“There is,” said Father Brown dryly; “and that is the real difference between human charity and Christian charity. You must forgive me if I was not altogether crushed by your contempt for my uncharitableness to-day; or by the lectures you read me about pardon for every sinner. For it seems to me that you only pardon the sins that you don’t really think sinful. You only forgive criminals when they commit what you don’t regard as crimes, but rather as conventions. So you tolerate a conventional duel, just as you tolerate a conventional divorce. You forgive because there isn’t anything to be forgiven.”

“But, hang it all,” cried Mallow, “you don’t expect us to be able to pardon a vile thing like this?”

“No,” said the priest; “but we have to be able to pardon it.”

He stood up abruptly and looked round at them.

“We have to touch such men, not with a bargepole, but with a benediction,” he said. “We have to say the word that will save them from hell. We alone are left to deliver them from despair when your human charity deserts them. Go on your own primrose path pardoning all your favourite vices and being generous to your fashionable crimes; and leave us in the darkness, vampires of the night, to console those who really need consolation; who do things really indefensible, things that neither the world nor they themselves can defend; and none but a priest will pardon. Leave us with the men who commit the mean and revolting and real crimes; mean as St. Peter when the cock crew, and yet the dawn came.”

“The dawn,” repeated Mallow doubtfully. “You mean hope — for him?”

“Yes,” replied the other. “Let me ask you one question. You are great ladies and men of honour and secure of yourselves; you would never, you can tell yourselves, stoop to such squalid reason as that. But tell me this. If any of you had so stooped, which of you, years afterwards, when you were old and rich and safe, would have been driven by conscience or confessor to tell such a story of yourself? You say you could not commit so base a crime. Could you confess so base a crime?”

-The Secret of Father Brown (1927)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"We do not know enough about the unknown to know that it is unknowable"

...Such dogmatism at least must be quite as impossible to anyone calling himself an agnostic as to anyone calling himself a spiritualist. You cannot take the region called the unknown and calmly say that though you know nothing about it, you know that all its gates are locked. You cannot say, "This island is not discovered yet; but I am sure that it has a wall of cliffs all round it and no harbour." That was the whole fallacy of Herbert Spencer and Huxley when they talked about the unknowable instead of the unknown. An agnostic like Huxley must concede the possibility of a gnostic like Blake. We do not know enough about the unknown to know that it is unknowable

-William Blake (1910)

Monday, February 22, 2010

"Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."

"I do not, in my private capacity, believe that a baby gets his best physical food by sucking his thumb; nor that a man gets his best moral food by sucking his soul, and denying its dependance on God or other good things. I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."

-A Short History of England (1917)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

"I wonder what real detectives are like"

I wonder what real detectives are like. It may be that my life has been abnormally placid, but I have never wanted a detective. Neither (I anticipate your thunderbolt of repartee) neither has a detective ever wanted me. If he did, that is, it was a private yearning, an ungovernable individual affection, distinct from his business, and he let his concealment feed on his damask cheek. And apart from these two positions, that of the patron and that of the material or subject matter (I mean the burglar), it is hard to get into spiritual relations with detectives. Other important people are more accessible. Anybody can see an editor, so long as he comes with a list of the urgent reforms that ought to be effected in some other country. It seems to be an axiom of our admirable and mysterious trade that if you want to make things better in Norway you begin an agitation in Vienna, and if you are dissatisfied with the management of Portugal you ask the inhabitants of Glasgow how long they are going to submit. Again, anyone can see statesmen- when there are any statesmen to see. As for crowned heads and great dukes and the Pope and people of that sort, we know from a hundred kindly journalistic anecdotes that they are to be seen by any small child who has a broken toy or a wounded kitten. So that you or I have only to procure a hurt kitten (I do not countenance hurting the kitten on purpose), a hurt kitten and a damaged doll and present ourselves with one in each hand at the gates of the Vatican or the steps of the White House at Washington, to be immediately ushered into the presence by bowing flunkies and reverently saluting guards. You can even know servants, by far the most remote, awful, and exclusive class in our community. I once knew a wild fellow who knew a butler. He saw the other side of that splendid moon; "silver lights and darks undreamed of," as Browning says. But you cannot very well know a detective, except by all the trouble of committing a crime; and when you have got as low as that you may as well go the whole hog and be a detective yourself; then you will know him intimately.

-November 4, 1905, Illustrated London News

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Mr. Chesterton can't write"

[From the book Chesterton as Seen by His Contemporaries, p. 28, written by Cyril Clemens, author of My Cousin Mark Twain]

[Chesterton] then told an amusing anecdote against himself. He had been much annoyed by the noise made by the local film studios quite close to his home, and after sending several ineffectual letters of protest, eventually asked his secretary to call upon the manager of the studios. Upon doing so, that lady made a strong protest saying emphatically, "The position is becoming impossible...Mr Chesterton can't write," to which the manager replied, "We were well aware of that." [Chesterton] relished the telling of this story immensely.

Friday, February 19, 2010




"the best things are silenced"

...I believe the editors who conduct newspaper controversies purposely select and print all the silliest letters and leave out the most sensible. As you truly say (with your lightning power of repartee) they commonly print mine. But in this, as almost everything else, modern England is turned inside out; the best things are silenced, the worst things well expressed; England is not half such a silly place as you would imagine from its most distinguished utterances. The England that is sane is silent. In the existing struggle imbecility has a sort of advantage, just as in certain forms of biological struggle there is an advantage in the smallness of the gnat or the shapelessness of the jellyfish. Competition does not merely mean the triumph of the worst; it actually means the triumph of the weakest. Private life is more patriotic than public life. Public life is meaner than private life. Nay, public life is more private than private life; common business is done in the street, but high politics is done in a corner.

-September 14, 1907, Illustrated London News

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"He paid it a compliment- with a hatchet."

Men of the school of Nietzsche or of Mr. Bernard Shaw often talk of self-sacrifice as if it meant the same as self-subordination or self-effacement. To sacrifice a thing is the Latin for making a thing holy. If you sacrifice yourself you make yourself something solemn and important. The old Pagan did not sacrifice his worst beast; he sacrificed his best beast to his gods. He paid it a compliment- with a hatchet. It would be an awful and stimulating thought to imagine this process of selection applied, for instance, to the human fauna of London. It is beautiful to think of the honest cabman being solemnly immolated because of his worthiness, and then of the stockbroker being spledidly and scornfully spared. But in any case, self-sacrifice is for this reason the opposite of self-effacement; and for this reason self-sacrifice is the very opposite of suicide. If you really think yourself a worm you have no right to practice self-sacrifice. Worms (unlike cabman) are not creatures fit for the altar.

-July 21, 1906, Illustrated London News

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"The fairies like me better than Mr. Yeats.."

Mr. Yeats himself has said a hundred times in that sad and splendid literary style which makes him the first of all poets now writing in English (I will not say of all English poets, for Irishmen are familiar with the practice of physical assault,) he has, I say, called up a hundred times the picture of the terrible freedom of the fairies, who typify the ultimate anarchy of art-

Ride on the crest of the dishevelled wave
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.

But, after all (it is a shocking thing to say), I doubt whether Mr. Yeats really knows his way about fairyland. He is not simple enough; he is not stupid enough. Though I say it who should not, in good sound human stupidity I would knock Mr. Yeats out any day. The fairies like me better than Mr. Yeats; they can take me in more. And I have my doubts whether this feeling of the free, wild spirits on the crest of hill or wave is really the central and simple spirit of folk-lore. I think the poets have made a mistake: because the world of the fairy-tales is a brighter and more varied world than ours, they have fancied it is less moral; really it is brighter and more varied because it is more moral.

-All Things Considered (1908)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Once abolish the God, and the Government becomes the God"

But the truth is that it is only by believing in God that we can ever criticise the Government. Once abolish the God, and the Government becomes the God. The fact is written all across human history; but it is written more plainly across that recent history of Russia; which was created by Lenin. There the Government is the God, and all the more the God, because it proclaims aloud in accents of thunder, like every other God worth worshipping, the one essential commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me."

...The truth is that Irreligion is the opium of the people. Wherever the people do not believe in something beyond the world, they will worship the world. But, above all, they will worship the strongest thing in the world. And, by the very nature of the Bolshevist and many other modern systems, as well as by the practical working of almost any system, the State will be strongest thing in the world. The whole tendency of men is to treat the solitary State as the solitary standard. That men may protest against law, it is necessary that they should believe in justice; that they may believe in justice beyond law, it is necessary that they should believe in a justice beyond the land of living men. You can impose the rule of the Bolshevist as you can impose the rule of the Bourbons; but it is equally an imposition. You can even make its subjects contented, as opium would make them contented. But if you are to have anything like divine discontent, then it must really be divine. Anything that really comes from below must really come from above.

-Christendom in Dublin (1932)

"If only I could find the door, If only I were born."

By the Babe Unborn

If trees were tall and grasses short,
As in some crazy tale,
If here and there a sea were blue
Beyond the breaking pale,

If a fixed fire hung in the air
To warm me one day through,
If deep green hair grew on great hills,
I know what I should do.

In dark I lie; dreaming that there
Are great eyes cold or kind,
And twisted streets and silent doors,
And living men behind.

Let storm clouds come: better an hour,
And leave to weep and fight,
Than all the ages I have ruled
The empires of the night.

I think that if they gave me leave
Within the world to stand,
I would be good through all the day
I spent in fairyland.

They should not hear a word from me
Of selfishness or scorn,
If only I could find the door,
If only I were born.

The Wild Night (1900)

Monday, February 15, 2010

"The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world"

It is not fashionable to say much nowadays of the advantages of the small community. We are told that we must go in for large empires and large ideas. There is one advantage, however, in the small state, the city, or the village, which only the wilfully blind can overlook. The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce varieties and uncompromising divergences of men. The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us. Thus in all extensive and highly civilized societies groups come into existence founded upon what is called sympathy, and shut out the real world more sharply than the gates of a monastery. There is nothing really narrow about the clan; the thing which is really narrow is the clique. The men of the clan live together because they all wear the same tartan or are all descended from the same sacred cow; but in their souls, by the divine luck of things, there will always be more colours than in any tartan. But the men of the clique live together because they have the same kind of soul, and their narrowness is a narrowness of spiritual coherence and contentment, like that which exists in hell. A big society exists in order to form cliques. A big society is a society for the promotion of narrowness. It is a machinery for the purpose of guarding the solitary and sensitive individual from all experience of the bitter and bracing human compromises. It is, in the most literal sense of the words, a society for the prevention of Christian knowledge.

-"On Certain Modern Writers and the Institution of the Family", Heretics (1905)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"A phrase that is a black and white contradiction in two words"

"The revolt against vows has been carried in our day even to the extent of a revolt against the typical vow of marriage. It is most amusing to listen to the opponents of marriage on this subject. They appear to imagine that the ideal of constancy was a yoke mysteriously imposed on mankind by the devil, instead of being, as it is, a yoke consistently imposed by all lovers on themselves. They have invented a phrase, a phrase that is a black and white contradiction in two words, free-love'—as if a lover ever had been, or ever could be, free. It is the nature of love to bind itself, and the institution of marriage merely paid the average man the compliment of taking him at his word. Modern sages offer to the lover, with an ill-flavoured grin, the largest liberties and the fullest irresponsibility; but they do not respect him as the old Church respected him; they do not write his oath upon the heavens, as the record of his highest moment. They give him every liberty except the liberty to sell his liberty, which is the only one that he wants."

"A Defence of Rash Vows", The Defendant (1901)

Friday, February 12, 2010

"I suppose you fancy crucifixion was a serious affair?"

"I suppose," said Adam, turning on him with a fierce suddenness, "I suppose you fancy crucifixion was a serious affair?"

"Well, I..." began Auberon, "I admit I have generally thought it had its graver side."

"Then you are wrong," said Wayne, with incredible violence. "Crucifixion is comic. It is exquisitely diverting. It was an absurd and obscene kind of impaling reserved for people who were made to be laughed at...for slaves and provincials...for dentists and small tradesmen, as you would say. I have seen the grotesque gallows-shape, which the little Roman gutter-boys scribbled on walls as a vulgar joke, blazing on the pinnacles of the temples of the world. And shall I turn back?"

The King made no answer.

Adam went on, his voice ringing in the roof.

"This laughter with which men tyrannize is not the great power you think it. Peter was crucified, and crucified head downwards. What could be funnier than the idea of a respectable old Apostle upside down? What could be more in the style of your modern humour? But what was the good of it? Upside down or right side up, Peter was Peter to mankind. Upside down he still hangs over Europe, and millions move and breathe only in the life of his church."

-The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"The sky grows darker yet..."

"I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.

"Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?"

-The Ballad of the White Horse (1911)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Abandon hopelessness, all ye who enter here"

First let us sympathise, if only for an instant, with the hopes of the Dickens period, with that cheerful trouble of change. If democracy has disappointed you, do not think of it as a burst bubble, but at least as a broken heart, an old love-affair. Do not sneer at the time when the creed of humanity was on its honeymoon; treat it with the dreadful reverence that is due to youth. For you, perhaps, a drearier philosophy has covered and eclipsed the earth. The fierce poet of the Middle Ages wrote, "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here," over the gates of the lower world. The emancipated poets of to-day have written it over the gates of this world. But if we are to understand the story which follows, we must erase that apocalyptic writing, if only for an hour. We must recreate the faith of our fathers, if only as an artistic atmosphere. If, then, you are a pessimist, in reading this story, forego for a little the pleasures of pessimism. Dream for one mad moment that the grass is green. Unlearn that sinister learning that you think so clear; deny that deadly knowledge that you think you know. Surrender the very flower of your culture; give up the very jewel of your pride; abandon hopelessness, all ye who enter here.

-Charles Dickens (1906)

"If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly."

Welcome! My name is Mike, and I have decided to start a blog dedicated to providing quotes and excerpts from the writings of G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), as well as from time to time other items related to him. There are, of course, many blogs already that are connected with "GKC" (as he was known), and so in that respect this one will not exactly be unique. Indeed, to be honest, the main reason I decided to start this blog was simply to be able to have all of the passages from his writing that I wished to have gathered together for my own personal use in one place. I realize that (apart from the actual excerpts of GKC's writing I provide), my blog will be sorely lacking in quality. However, I take comfort in Chesterton's saying that "If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly," and hope it may perhaps prove helpful for others in some small way as well.

If you do not know much about G.K. Chesterton, I suggest visiting the webpage of the American Chesterton Society , which provides much valuable information on one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century.

I also have created a list detailing examples of Chesterton's influence, if you are interested, that I work on from time to time.

I hope you have a wonderful day.