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)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder."

I have my doubts about all this real value in mountaineering, in getting to the top of everything and overlooking everything. Satan was the most celebrated of Alpine guides, when he took Jesus to the top of an exceeding high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the earth. But the joy of Satan in standing on a peak is not a joy in largeness, but a joy in beholding smallness, in the fact that all men look like insects at his feet. It is from the valley that things look large; it is from the level that things look high; I am a child of the level and have no need of that celebrated Alpine guide. I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help; but I will not lift up my carcass to the hills, unless it is absolutely necessary. Everything is in an attitude of mind; and at this moment I am in a comfortable attitude. I will sit still and let the marvels and the adventures settle on me like flies. There are plenty of them, I assure you. The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.

-Tremendous Trifles (1909)

UPDATE: Ronald Reagan quoted the part of the quote that is in bold in his address to the nation on Christmas in 1981, which you can see here. (He quotes Chesterton about 41 seconds into the video):

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ray Bradbury on GKC

Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451) describes Chesterton as one of his literary heroes, and wrote a long story-poem about his heroes, mentioning Chesterton in the title itself, entitled: "The R.B., G.K.C., and G.B.S. Forever Orient Express." As he describes it in his book The Cat's Pajama's:

"The R.B., G.K.C., and G.B.S. Forever Orient Express" is not a story, per se, but more a story-poem, and it is a perfect demonstration of my complete love for the library and its authors from the time I was eight years old. I didn't make it to college, so the library became my meeting place with people like G.K. Chesterton and Shaw and the rest of that fabulous group who inhabited the stacks. My dream was to one day walk into the library and see one of my books leaning against one of theirs.I never was jealous of my heroes, nor did I envy them, I only wanted to trot along as lapdog to their fame. (p. xviii-xix)

Here are just the first eight lines (the poem runs around eight pages...)

And when I die, will this dream truly be
Entrained with Shaw and Chesterton and me?
O, glorious Lord, please make it so
That down along eternity we'll row
Atilted headlong, nattering the way
All mouth, no sleep, and endless be our day;
The Chesterton Night Tour, the Shaw Express
A picknicking of brains in London dress...

"A despotism may almost be defined as a tired democracy"

If there is one fact we really can prove, from the history that we really do know, it is that despotism can be a development, often a late development and very often indeed the end of societies that have been highly democratic. A despotism may almost be defined as a tired democracy. As fatigue falls on a community, the citizens are less inclined for that eternal vigilance which has truly been called the price of liberty; and they prefer to arm only one single sentinel to watch the city while they sleep...

...It is far more probable that a primitive society was something like a pure democracy. To this day the comparatively simple agricultural communities are by far the purest democracies. Democracy is a thing which is always breaking down through the complexity of civilisation. Anyone who likes may state it by saying that democracy is the foe of civilisation. But he must remember that some of us really prefer democracy to civilisation, in the sense of preferring democracy to complexity. Anyhow, peasants tilling patches of their own land in a rough equality, and meeting to vote directly under a village tree, are the most truly self-governing of men.

-The Everlasting Man (1925)

Monday, June 28, 2010

"The virtue of hope exists only in earthquake and eclipse."

Charity is the power of defending that which we know to be indefensible. Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances which we know to be desperate. It is true that there is a state of hope which belongs to bright prospects and the morning; but that is not the virtue of hope. The virtue of hope exists only in earthquake and eclipse. It is true that there is a thing crudely called charity, which means charity to the deserving poor; but charity to the deserving is not charity at all, but justice. It is the undeserving who require it, and the ideal either does not exist at all, or exists wholly for them. For practical purposes it is at the hopeless moment that we require the hopeful man, and the virtue either does not exist at all, or begins to exist at that moment. Exactly at the instant when hope ceases to be reasonable it begins to be useful.

-Heretics (1905)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The G.K. Chesterton Society of Ireland

The G.K. Chesterton Society of Ireland!

Awesome! :-)

It looks like a great blog!

"He did not always manage to make his characters men, but he always managed, at the least, to make them gods."

Dickens was a mythologist rather than a novelist; he was the last of the mythologists, and perhaps the greatest. He did not always manage to make his characters men, but he always managed, at the least, to make them gods. They are creatures like Punch or Father Christmas. They live statically, in a perpetual summer of being themselves. It was not the aim of Dickens to show the effect of time and circumstance upon a character; it was not even his aim to show the effect of a character on time and circumstance...it was his aim to show character hung in a kind of happy void, in a world apart from time

-Charles Dickens (1906)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

"It happens that most of my literary admirers live in aslums."

It happens that most of my literary admirers live in asylums. Every day or two I receive a warm and flattering letter beginning "Hanwell. Friday Morning. Dear Sir,- I am in full intellectual agreement with your admirable," etc., or "Colney Hatch. Tuesday. Sir,- We are evidently kindred spirits," or words to that effect.

-November 27, 1909, Illustrated London News

Friday, June 25, 2010

"He generally ends either in an asylum or on the throne of an Emperor."

When a man begins to think that the grass will not grow at night unless he lies awake to watch it, he generally ends either in an asylum or on the throne of an Emperor.

-Robert Browning (1903)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"I believe in getting into hot water. I think it keeps you clean"

I see that Mr. Bernard Shaw has again got into hot water, if indeed he can be said ever to get out of it. For my part, in a world so full of secrecies and corruption as this, I sympathise with the man who makes a row; making a row is certainly the essential prelude to making anything else. The man who kicks up a shindy will probably improve the morals of mankind; he will beyond any question improve his own. In short, I believe in getting into hot water. I think it keeps you clean

-March 10, 1906, Illustrated London News,

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A great article. :-)

Since I am from the St. Louis area, and I love GKC, of course, I especially liked this bit I found on stltoday.com. :-)

G.K. Chesterton: Happy St. Gilbert’s Day!

"If you look at a thing nine hundred and ninety-nine times, you are perfectly safe..."

Now, there is a law written in the darkest of the Books of Life, and it is this: If you look at a thing nine hundred and ninety-nine times, you are perfectly safe; if you look at it thousandth time, you are in frightful danger of seeing it for the first time.

-The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904)

"But anybody who holds it at all will hold it as a philosophy, not hung on one text but on a hundred truths."

Thus, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, an intelligent man in other matters, says that there is only a "theological" opposition to divorce, and that it is entirely founded on "certain texts" in the Bible about marriages. This is exactly as if he said that a belief in the brotherhood of men was only founded on certain texts in the Bible, about all men being the children of Adam and Eve. Millions of peasants and plain people all over the world assume marriage to be static, without having ever clapped eyes on any text. Numbers of more modern people, especially after the recent experiments in America, think divorce is a social disease, without having ever bothered about any text. It may be maintained that even in these, or in any one, the idea of marriage is ultimately mystical; and the same may be maintained about the idea of brotherhood. It is obvious that a husband and wife are not visibly one flesh, in the sense of being one quadruped. It is equally obvious that Paderewski and Jack Johnson are not twins, and probably have not played together at their mother's knee. There is indeed a very important admission, or addition, to be realised here. What is true is this: that if the nonsense of Nietzsche or some such sophist submerged current culture, so that it was the fashion to deny the duties of fraternity; then indeed it might be found that the group which still affirmed fraternity was the original group in whose sacred books was the text about Adam and Eve. Suppose some Prussian professor has opportunely discovered that Germans and lesser men are respectively descended from two such very different monkeys that they are in no sense brothers, but barely cousins (German) any number of times removed. And suppose he proceeds to remove them even further with a hatchet, suppose he bases on this a repetition of the conduct of Cain, saying not so much "Am I my brother's keeper?" as "Is he really my brother?" And suppose this higher philosophy of the hatchet becomes prevalent in colleges and cultivated circles, as even more foolish philosophies have done. Then I agree it probably will be the Christian, the man who preserves the text about Cain, who will continue to assert that he is still the professor's brother; that he is still the professor's keeper. He may possibly add that, in his opinion, the professor seems to require a keeper.

And that is doubtless the situation in the controversies about divorce and marriage to-day. It is the Christian church which continues to hold strongly, when the world for some reason has weakened on it, what many others hold at other times. But even then it is barely picking up the shreds and scraps of the subject to talk about a reliance on texts. The vital point in the comparison is this: that human brotherhood means a whole view of life, held in the light of life, and defended, rightly or wrongly, by constant appeals to every aspect of life. The religion that holds it most strongly will hold it when nobody else holds it; that is quite true, and that some of us may be so perverse as to think a point in favour of the religion. But anybody who holds it at all will hold it as a philosophy, not hung on one text but on a hundred truths. Fraternity may be a sentimental metaphor; I may be suffering a delusion when I hail a Montenegrin peasant as my long lost brother. As a fact, I have my own suspicions about which of us it is that has got lost. But my delusion is not a deduction from one text, or from twenty; it is the expression of a relation that to me at least seems a reality. And what I should say about the idea of a brother, I should say about the idea of a wife.

-The Superstition of Divorce (1920)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"For religion all men are equal, as all pennies are equal, because the only value in any of them is that they bear the image of the King."

And almost without exception all the great men have come out of this atmosphere of equality. Great men may make despotisms; but democracies make great men. The other main factory of heroes besides a revolution is a religion. And a religion again, is a thing which, by its nature, does not think men as more or less valuable, but of men as all intensely and painfully valuable, a democracy of eternal danger. For religion all men are equal, as all pennies are equal, because the only value in any of them is that they bear the image of the King. This fact has been quite insufficiently observed in the study of religious heroes. Piety produces intellectual greatness precisely because piety in itself is quite indifferent to intellectual greatness. The strength of Cromwell was that he cared for religion. But the strength of religion was that it did not care for Cromwell; did not care for him, that is, any more than for anybody else. He and his footman were equally welcomed to warm places in the hospitality of hell. It has often been said, very truly, that religion is the thing that makes the ordinary man feel extraordinary; it is an equally important truth that religion is the thing that makes the extraordinary man feel ordinary.

-Charles Dickens (1906)

Monday, June 21, 2010

"The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man"

A much longer quote today that usual (or rather quotes), admittedly, but very good nonetheless. They are some extracts from Chesterton's "Introduction to the Book of Job"

...Job does not in any sense look at life in a gloomy way. If wishing to be happy and being quite ready to be happy constitute an optimist, Job is an optimist. He is a perplexed optimist; he is an exasperated optimist; he is an outraged and insulted optimist. He wishes the universe to justify itself, not because he wishes it to be caught out, but because he really wishes it to be justified. He demands an explanation from God...in the spirit in which a wife might demand an explanation from her husband whom she really respected. He remonstrates with his Maker because he is proud of his Maker. He even speaks of the Almighty as his enemy, but he never doubts, at the back of his mind, that his enemy has some kind of a case which he does not understand. In a fine and famous blasphemy he says, "Oh, that mine adversary had written a book!" It never really occurs to him that it could possibly be a bad book. He is anxious to be convinced, that is, he thinks that God could convince him....

...When, at the end of the poem, God enters (somewhat abruptly), is struck the sudden and splendid note which makes the thing as great as it is. All the human beings through the story, and Job especially, have been asking questions of God. A more trivial poet would have made God enter in some sense or other in order to answer the questions. By a touch truly to be called inspired, when God enters, it is to ask a number more questions on His own account. In this drama of scepticism God Himself takes up the role of sceptic. He does what all the great voices defending religion have always done. He does, for instance, what Socrates did. He turns rationalism against itself. He seems to say that if it comes to asking questions, He can ask some questions which will fling down and flatten out all conceivable human questioners. The poet by an exquisite intuition has made God ironically accept a kind of controversial equality with His accusers. He is willing to regard it as if it were a fair intellectual duel: "Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me." The everlasting adopts an enormous and sardonic humility. He is quite willing to be prosecuted. He only asks for the right which every prosecuted person possesses; He asks to be allowed to cross-examine the witness for the prosecution. And He carries yet further the correctness of the legal parallel. For the first question, essentially speaking, which He asks of Job is the question that any criminal accused by Job would be most entitled to ask. He asks Job who he is. And Job, being a man of candid intellect, takes a little time to consider, and comes to the conclusion that he does not know.

This is the first great fact to notice about the speech of God, which is the culmination of the inquiry. It represents all human sceptics routed by a higher scepticism. It is this method, used sometimes by supreme and sometimes by mediocre minds, that has ever since been the logical weapon of the true mystic. Socrates, as I have said, used it when he showed that if you only allowed him enough sophistry he could destroy all the sophists. Jesus Christ used it when He reminded the Sadducees, who could not imagine the nature of marriage in heaven, that if it came to that they had not really imagined the nature of marriage at all. In the break up of Christian theology in the eighteenth century, Butler used it, when he pointed out that rationalistic arguments could be used as much against vague religion as against doctrinal religion, as much against rationalist ethics as against Christian ethics. It is the root and reason of the fact that men who have religious faith have also philosophic doubt, like Cardinal Newman, Mr. Balfour, or Mr. Mallock. These are the small streams of the delta; the Book of Job is the first great cataract that creates the river. In dealing with the arrogant asserter of doubt, it is not the right method to tell him to stop doubting. It is rather the right method to tell him to go on doubting, to doubt a little more, to doubt every day newer and wilder things in the universe, until at last, by some strange enlightenment, he may begin to doubt himself. This, I say, is the first fact touching the speech; the fine inspiration by which God comes in at the end, not to answer riddles, but to propound them. The other great fact which, taken together with this one, makes the whole work religious instead of merely philosophical, is that other great surprise which makes Job suddenly satisfied with the mere presentation of something impenetrable. Verbally speaking the enigmas of Jehovah seem darker and more desolate than the enigmas of Job; yet Job was comfortless before the speech of Jehovah and is comforted after it. He has been told nothing, but he feels the terrible and tingling atmosphere of something which is too good to be told. The refusal of God to explain His design is itself a burning hint of His design. The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man... The mechanical optimist endeavours to justify the universe avowedly upon the ground that it is a rational and consecutive pattern. He points out that the fine thing about the world is that it can all be explained. That is the one point, if I may put it so, on which God in return, is explicit to the point of violence. God says, in effect, that if there is one fine thing about the world, as far as men are concerned, it is that it cannot be explained. He insists on the inexplicableness of everything; "Hath the rain a father? . . . Out of whose womb came the ice?" He goes farther, and insists on the positive and palpable unreason of things; "Hast thou sent the rain upon the desert where no man is, and upon the wilderness wherein there is no man?" God will make man see things, if it is only against the black background of nonentity. God will make Job see a startling universe if He can only do it by making Job see an idiotic universe. To startle man God becomes for an instant a blasphemer; one might almost say that God becomes for an instant an atheist. He unrolls before Job a long panorama of created things, the horse, the eagle, the raven, the wild ass, the peacock, the ostrich, the crocodile. He so describes each of them that it sounds like a monster walking in the sun. The whole is a sort of psalm or rhapsody of the sense of wonder. The maker of all things is astonished at the things He has Himself made. This we may call the third point. Job puts forward a note of interrogation; God answers with a note of exclamation. Instead of proving to Job that it is an explicable world, He insists that it is a much stranger world than Job ever thought it was...

But in the prologue we see Job tormented not because he was the worst of men, but because he was the best. It is the lesson of the whole work that man is most comforted by paradoxes. Here is the very darkest and strangest of the paradoxes; and it is by all human testimony the most reassuring. I need not suggest what a high and strange history awaited this paradox of the best man in the worst fortune. I need not say that in the freest and most philosophical sense there is one Old Testament figure who is truly a type; or say what is prefigured in the wounds of Job

-G.K.C. as M.C. (1929), "Introduction to the Book of Job"

(This particular introduction to Job originally published in 1907)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"Faith exhibits itself in works, and above all in fireworks."

Fireworks are of the nature of many other human rites: for fire is the essence of nearly all ritual. To burn something, to make a blaze, is one of the most natural outcomes of strong conviction of any sort. Faith exhibits itself in works, and above all in fireworks.

-November 25, 1905, Illustrated London News

Saturday, June 19, 2010

"There is nothing that fails like success."

But assuredly there has been no ideal in practice so moonstruck and misleading as the ideal of practicality. Nothing has lost so many opportunities as the opportunism of Lord Rosebery. He is, indeed, a standing symbol of this epoch--the man who is theoretically a practical man, and practically more unpractical than any theorist. Nothing in this universe is so unwise as that kind of worship of worldly wisdom. A man who is perpetually thinking of whether this race or that race is strong, of whether this cause or that cause is promising, is the man who will never believe in anything long enough to make it succeed. The opportunist politician is like a man who should abandon billiards because he was beaten at billiards, and abandon golf because he was beaten at golf. There is nothing which is so weak for working purposes as this enormous importance attached to immediate victory. There is nothing that fails like success.

-Heretics (1905)

Friday, June 18, 2010

"Humility is so practical a virtue that men think it must be a vice"

And this [happy] humility, this holding of ourselves lightly and yet ready for an infinity of unmerited triumphs, this secret is so simple that every one has supposed that it must be something quite sinister and mysterious. Humility is so practical a virtue that men think it must be a vice. Humility is so successful that it is mistaken for pride. It is mistaken for it all the more easily because it generally goes with a certain simple love of splendour which amounts to vanity. Humility will always, by preference, go clad in scarlet and gold; pride is that which refuses to let gold and scarlet impress it or please it too much. In a word, the failure of this virtue actually lies in its success; it is too successful as an investment to be believed in as a virtue. Humility is not merely too good for this world; it is too practical for this world; I had almost said it is too worldly for this world.

-Heretics (1905)

"What a glorious garden of wonders this would be, to any one who was lucky enough to be unable to read."

When I had looked at the lights of Broadway by night, I made to my American friends an innocent remark that seemed for some reason to amuse them. I had looked, not without joy, at that long kaleidoscope of coloured lights arranged in large letters and sprawling trade-marks, advertising everything, from pork to pianos, through the agency of the two most vivid and most mystical of the gifts of God; colour and fire. I said to them, in my simplicity, 'What a glorious garden of wonders this would be, to any one who was lucky enough to be unable to read.'

[Another quote from the same book]

....They will not be affected by advertisements, any more than the priests and peasants of the Middle Ages would have been affected by advertisements. Only a very soft-headed, sentimental, and rather servile generation of men could possibly be affected by advertisements at all. People who are a little more hard-headed, humorous, and intellectually independent, see the rather simple joke; and are not impressed by this or any other form of self-praise. Almost any other men in almost any other age would have seen the joke. If you had said to a man in the Stone Age, 'Ugg says Ugg makes the best stone hatchets,' he would have perceived a lack of detachment and disinterestedness about the testimonial. If you had said to a medieval peasant, 'Robert the Bowyer proclaims, with three blasts of a horn, that he makes good bows,' the peasant would have said, 'Well, of course he does,' and thought about something more important. It is only among people whose minds have been weakened by a sort of mesmerism that so transparent a trick as that of advertisement could ever have been tried at all.

-What I Saw in America (1922)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"...all true joy expresses itself in terms of asceticism."

Here we have a perfect example of the main important fact, that all true joy expresses itself in terms of asceticism.

But if in any case it should happen that a class or a generation lose the sense of the peculiar kind of joy which is being celebrated, they immediately begin to call the enjoyers of that joy gloomy and self-destroying. The most formidable liberal philosophers have called the monks melancholy because they denied themselves the pleasures of liberty and marriage. They might as well call the trippers on a Bank Holiday melancholy because they deny themselves, as a rule, the pleasures of silence and meditation. A simpler and stronger example is, however, to hand. If ever it should happen that the system of English athletics should vanish from the public schools and the universities, if science should supply some new and non-competitive manner of perfecting the physique, if public ethics swung round to an attitude of absolute contempt and indifference towards the feeling called sport, then it is easy to see what would happen. Future historians would simply state that in the dark days of Queen Victoria young men at Oxford and Cambridge were subjected to a horrible sort of religious torture. They were forbidden, by fantastic monastic rules, to indulge in wine or tobacco during certain arbitrarily fixed periods of time, before certain brutal fights and festivals. Bigots insisted on their rising at unearthly hours and running violently around fields for no object. Many men ruined their health in these dens of superstition, many died there. All this is perfectly true and irrefutable. Athleticism in England is an asceticism, as much as the monastic rules. Men have over-strained themselves and killed themselves through English athleticism. There is one difference and one only: we do feel the love of sport; we do not feel the love of religious offices. We see only the price in the one case and only the purchase in the other.

-Twelve Types (1902)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Prince Charles Quotes GKC.

Hmmmm. Apparently Prince Charles quoted G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis in a speech, but also urged "population control"


May I suggest he ponder this quote by GKC instead (one which I've quoted on this site before):

Of all this anger, good or bad, Dickens is the voice of an accusing energy. When, in "The Christmas Carol," Scrooge refers to the surplus population, the Spirit tells him, very justly, not to speak till he knows what the surplus is and where it is. The implication is severe but sound. When a group of superciliously benevolent economists look down into the abyss for the surplus population, assuredly there is only one answer that should be given to them; and that is to say, "If there is a surplus, you are a surplus." And if anyone were ever cut off, they would be. If the barricades went up in our streets and the poor became masters, I think the priests would escape, I fear the gentlemen would; but I believe the gutters would be simply running with the blood of philanthropists.

-Charles Dickens (1906)

"It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it"

...I am rather used to being accused of mocking the thing that I set out to justify. My fate in most controversies is rather pathetic. It is an almost invariable rule that the man with whom I don't agree thinks I am making a fool of myself, and the man with whom I do agree thinks I am making a fool of him. There seems to be some sort of idea that you are not treating a subject properly if you eulogise it with fantastic terms or defend it by grotesque examples. Yet a truth is equally solemn whatever figure or example its exponent adopts. It is an equally awful truth that four and four make eight, whether you reckon the thing out in eight onions or eight angels, or eight bricks or eight bishops, or eight minor poets or eight pigs. Similarly, if it be true that God made all things, that grave fact can be asserted by pointing at a star or by waving an umbrella. But the case is stronger than this. There is a distinct philosophical advantage in using grotesque terms in a serious discussion.

I think seriously, on the whole, that the more serious is the discussion the more grotesque should be the terms. For this, as I say, there is an evident reason. For a subject is really solemn and important in so far as it applies to the whole cosmos, or to some great spheres and cycles of experience at least. So far as a thing is universal it is serious. And so far as a thing is universal it is full of comic things. If you take a small thing, it may be entirely serious: Napoleon, for instance, was a small thing, and he was serious: the same applies to microbes. If you isolate a thing, you may get the pure essence of gravity. But if you take a large thing (such as the Solar System) it must be comic, at least in parts. The germs are serious, because they kill you. But the stars are funny, because they give birth to life, and life gives birth to fun. If you have, let us say, a theory about man, and if you can only prove it by talking about Plato and George Washington, your theory may be a quite frivolous thing. But if you can prove it by talking about the butler or the postman, then it is serious, because it is universal. So far from it being irreverent to use silly metaphors on serious questions, it is one's duty to use silly metaphors on serious questions. It is the test of one's seriousness. It is the test of a responsible religion or theory whether it can take examples from pots and pans and boots and butter-tubs. It is the test of a good philosophy whether you can defend it grotesquely. It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.

-All Things Considered (1908)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"There will be so many hard cases that everything will go soft."

We are always near the breaking-point when we care only for what is legal and nothing for what is lawful. Unless we have a moral principle about such delicate matters as marriage and murder, the whole world will become a welter of exceptions with no rules. There will be so many hard cases that everything will go soft.

-September 21, 1929, Illustrated London News

"...the halo of hatred around the Church of God"

To men in that mood there was a reason for atheism that is in some sense reasonable. Mythology might fade and philosophy might stiffen; but if behind these things there was a reality, surely that reality might have sustained things as they sank. There was no God; if there had been a God, surely this was the very moment when He would have moved and saved the world.

The life of the great civilisation went on with dreary industry and even with dreary festivity. It was the end of the world, and the worst of it was that it need never end. A convenient compromise had been made between all the multitudinous myths and religions of the Empire; that each group should worship freely and merely live a sort of official flourish of thanks to the tolerant Emperor, by tossing a little incense to him under his official title of Divus. Naturally there was no difficulty about that; or rather it was a long time before the world realised that there ever had been even a trivial difficulty anywhere. The members of some Eastern sect or secret society or other seemed to have made a scene somewhere; nobody could imagine why. The incident occurred once or twice again and began to arouse irritation out of proportion to its insignificance. It was not exactly what these provincials said; though of course it sounded queer enough. They seemed to be saying that God was dead and that they themselves had seen him die. This might be one of the many manias produced by the despair of the age; only they did not seem particularly despairing. They seem quite unnaturally joyful about it, and gave the reason that the death of God had allowed them to eat him and drink his blood. According to other accounts God was not exactly dead after all; there trailed through the bewildered imagination some sort of fantastic procession of the funeral of God, at which the sun turned black, but which ended with the dead omnipotence breaking out of the tomb and rising again like the sun. But it was not the strange story to which anybody paid any particular attention; people in that world had seen queer religions enough to fill a madhouse. It was something in the tone of the madmen and their type of formation. They were a scratch company of barbarians and slaves and poor and unimportant people; but their formation was military; they moved together and were very absolute about who and what was really a part of their little system; and about what they said. However mildly, there was a ring like iron. Men used to many mythologies and moralities could make no analysis of the mystery, except the curious conjecture that they meant what they said. All attempts to make them see reason in the perfectly simple matter of the Emperor's statue seemed to be spoken to deaf men. It was as if a new meteoric metal had fallen on the earth; it was a difference of substance to the touch. Those who touched their foundation fancied they had struck a rock.

With a strange rapidity, like the changes of a dream, the proportions of things seemed to change in their presence. Before most men knew what had happened, these few men were palpably present. They were important enough to be ignored. People became suddenly silent about them and walked stiffly past them. We see a new scene, in which the world has drawn its skirts away from these men and women and they stand in the centre of a great space like lepers. The scene changes again and the great space where they stand is overhung on every side with a cloud of witnesses, interminable terraces full of faces looking down towards them intently; for strange things are happening to them. New tortures have been invented for the madmen who have brought good news. That sad and weary society seems almost to find a new energy in establishing its first religious persecution. Nobody yet knows very clearly why that level world has thus lost its balance about the people in its midst; but they stand unnaturally still while the arena and the world seem to revolve round them. And there shone on them in that dark hour a light that has never been darkened; a white fire clinging to that group like an unearthly phosphorescence, blazing its track through the twilights of history and confounding every effort to confound it with the mists of mythology and theory; that shaft of light or lightning by which the world itself has struck and isolated and crowned it; by which its own enemies have made it more illustrious and its own critics have made it more inexplicable; the halo of hatred around the Church of God.

-The Everlasting Man (1925)

Monday, June 14, 2010

"Do not be proud of the fact that your grandmother was shocked at something which you are accustomed to seeing or hearing without being shocked..."

Do not be proud of the fact that your grandmother was shocked at something which you are accustomed to seeing or hearing without being shocked. There are two meanings of the word “nervous”; and it is not even a physical superiority to be actually without nerves. It may mean that your grandmother was an extremely lively and vital animal; and that you are a paralytic.
-Avowals and Denials (1934)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

"Unconventionality is their convention."

"....You are the most original person I ever knew."

"My dear, my dear," he protested almost brokenly, "I fear you are making a mistake. Whatever else I am, I never set up to be original."

"You must remember," she replied, "that I have known a good many people who did set up to be original. An Art School swarms with them; and there are any number among those socialist and vegetarian friends of mine you were talking about. They would think nothing of wearing cabbages on their heads, of course. Any one of them would be capable of getting inside a pumpkin if he could. Any one of them might appear in public dressed entirely in watercress. But that's just it. They might well wear watercress for they are water-creatures; they go with the stream. They do those things because those things are done; because they are done in their own Bohemian set. Unconventionality is their convention. I don't mind it myself; I think it's great fun; but that doesn't mean that I don't know real strength or independence when I see it. All that is just molten and formless; but the really strong man is one who can make a mould and then break it. When a man like you can suddenly do a thing like that, after twenty years of habit, for the sake of his word, then somehow one really does feel that man is man and master of his fate."

-Tales of the Long Bow (1925)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Chesterton quotes in Dean Koontz novel "Relentless"

In Dean Koontz novel Relentless (2009), I came across five instances where he quotes Chesterton, so I just wanted to quote them in this post. (I don't know if there are any more or not in this particular novel). The page numbers will be for the paperback edition which I have.

First, the prescript to the novel contains three quotes, one from Dickens, but the other two are from Chesterton:

The issue is very clear. It is between light and darkness, and everyone must choose his side.

-G.K. Chesterton

All men are tragic...All men are comic...Every man is important if he loses his life; and every man is funny if he loses his hat.

-G.K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens

Then within the story itself, the following mentions of Chesterton occur:

First, on page 21:

"Let it go. Remember what Gilbert said."

She was an admirer of the late G.K. Chesterton, the English writer, and she made me an admirer of his, as well.

" 'Nothing,' she quoted, " 'can do a man harm unless he fears it' There's no reason to fear a weasel like Sherman Waxx.

Then on page 96:

She kissed me on the nose and quoted Chesterton: " A man and a woman cannot live together without having against each other a kind of everlasting joke. Each has discovered that the other is not only a fool, but a great fool' "

Finally, pages 128-129:

In 1933, G.K. Chesterton wrote, "The disintegration of rational society started in the drift from hearth and family; the solution must be a drift back."

I had a disturbing feeling that getting back to where we had been would require more than drifting.We would need to swim with all the strength and perseverance we possessed, and the journey was likely to be upstream all the way.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

"...we must say that he is a worm and a god..."

If we are to save the oppressed, we must have two apparently antagonistic emotions in us at the same time. We must think the oppressed man intensely miserable, and at the same time intensely attractive and important. We must insist with violence upon his degradation; we must insist with the same violence upon his dignity. For if we relax by one inch the one assertion, men will say he does not need saving. And if we relax by one inch the other assertion men will say he is not worth saving. The optimists will say that reform is needless. The pessimists will say that reform is hopeless. We must apply both simultaneously to the same oppressed man; we must say that he is a worm and a god; and we must thus lay ourselves open to the accusation (or the compliment) of transcendentalism.

-Charles Dickens (1906)

"St. Thomas did not reconcile Christ to Aristotle; he reconciled Aristotle to Christ. "

In short, it was what is technically called a Development in doctrine. But there seems to be a queer ignorance, not only about the technical, but the natural meaning of the word Development. The critics of Catholic theology seem to suppose that it is not so much an evolution as an evasion; that it is at best an adaptation. They fancy that its very success is the success of surrender. But that is not the natural meaning of the word Development. When we talk of a child being well-developed, we mean that he has grown bigger and stronger with his own strength; not that he is padded with borrowed pillows or walks on stilts to make him look taller. When we say that a puppy develops into a dog, we do not mean that his growth is a gradual compromise with a cat; we mean that he becomes more doggy and not less. Development is the expansion of all the possibilities and implications of a doctrine, as there is time to distinguish them and draw them out; and the point here is that the enlargement of medieval theology was simply the full comprehension of that theology. And it is of primary importance to realise this fact first, about the time of the great Dominican and the first Franciscan, because their tendency, humanistic and naturalistic in a hundred ways, was truly the development of the supreme doctrine, which was also the dogma of all dogmas. It is in this that the popular poetry of St. Francis and the almost rationalistic prose of St. Thomas appear most vividly as part of the same movement. There are both great growths of Catholic development, depending upon external things only as every living and growing thing depends on them; that is, it digests and transforms them, but continues in its own image and not in theirs...St. Francis was content to call himself the Troubadour of God; but not content with the God of the Troubadours. St. Thomas did not reconcile Christ to Aristotle; he reconciled Aristotle to Christ.

-St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox (1933)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Composure, resignation, and the most exquisite good manners are, so to speak, the strong points of corpses."

[I copied and pasted the following GKC quote from chesterton.wordpress.com, which site also contains many good passages from GKC's writings.]

The Christmas celebrations will certainly remain, and will certainly survive any attempt by modern artists, idealists, or neo-pagans to substitute anything else for them. For the truth is that there is an alliance between religion and real fun, of which the modern thinkers have never got the key, and which they are quite unable to criticize or to destroy. All Socialist Utopias, all new Pagan Paradises, promised in this age to mankind have all one horrible fault. They are all dignified. . . But being undignified is the essence of all real happiness, whether before God or man. Hilarity involves humility; nay, it involves humiliation. . . Religion is much nearer to riotous happiness than it is to the detached and temperate types of happiness in which gentlemen and philosophers find their peace. Religion and riot are very near, as the history of all religions proves. Riot means being a rotter; and religion means knowing you are a rotter. Somebody said, and it has often been quoted: “Be good and you will be happy; but you will not have a jolly time.” The epigram is witty, but it is profoundly mistaken in its estimate of the truth of human nature. I should be inclined to say that the truth is exactly the reverse. Be good and you will have a jolly time; but you will not be happy. If you have a good heart you will always have some lightness of heart; you will always have the power of enjoying special human feasts, and positive human good news. But the heart which is there to be lightened will also be there to be hurt; and really if you only want to be happy, to be steadily and stupidly happy like the animals, it may be well worth your while not to have a heart at all. Fortunately, however, being happy is not so important as having a jolly time. Philosophers are happy; saints have a jolly time. The important thing in life is not to keep a steady system of pleasure and composure (which can be done quite well by hardening one’s heart or thickening one’s head), but to keep alive in oneself the immortal power of astonishment and laughter, and a kind of young reverence. This is why religion always insists on special days like Christmas, while philosophy always tends to despise them. Religion is interested not in whether a man is happy, but whether he is still alive, whether he can still react in a normal way to new things, whether he blinks in a blinding light or laughs when he is tickled. That is the best of Christmas, that it is a startling and disturbing happiness; it is an uncomfortable comfort. The Christmas customs destroy the human habits. And while customs are generally unselfish, habits are nearly always selfish. The object of a religious festival is, as I have said, to find out if a happy man is still alive. A man can smile when he is dead. Composure, resignation, and the most exquisite good manners are, so to speak, the strong points of corpses. There is only one way in which you can test his real vitality, and that is by a special festival. Explode crackers in his ear, and see if he jumps. Prick him with holly, and see if he feels it. If not, he is dead, or, as he would put it, is “living the higher life.”

-January 11, 1908, Illustrated London News

Monday, June 7, 2010

"The test of a democracy is not whether the people vote, but whether the people rule"

[The following quote is taken from the newspaper article that inspired Gandhi so much, affecting the course of Indian history, as described in this post]

I have myself, for instance, been sternly rebuked of late for saying that what I wanted was not votes, but democracy. People spoke as if this were some sort of awful apostasy from the Liberal Position; whereas, it is a humble remark of exactly the same sort as saying that I want, not the Brighton express, but Brighton; not the Calais boat, but Calais; not a Polar Expedition, but the North Pole. The test of a democracy is not whether the people vote, but whether the people rule…Votes may be the most convenient way of achieving this effect; but votes are quite useless if they do not achieve it. And sometimes they do not.

-October 2, 1909, Illustrated London News

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Chesterton mentions football! :-)

A little background info on this passage...When it was written in 1906, football was played in a very dangerous manner...According to one book I have:
"Early football was a violent game, with few rules and much pushing, punching, and piling on. Serious injuries were common. Early in the 1900's, President Theodore Roosevelt threatened to ban the game unless the violence was lessened."
So that gives a little of the context of what was then a major controversy. In this passage, Chesterton simply uses the controversy as a springboard for another point of his, but I did want to give some information on the controversy so the first part of Chesterton's passage would be more intelligible
Of course, I do not off this as a judgment pro or con, on the question of American football. Like Mr. Carnegie, I have only seen American football in photographs. And, unlike Mr. Carnegie, I do not think that sufficient ground for forming an opinion. It may be, as some say, that American football passes the limits of legitimate risk of life; and that is a matter of morals. But in so far as it consists in people being rolled over and over, I think it is not merely harmless, but beneficent and beautiful. I think it would be a good thing if most of our great public men could at some great and public occasion of their career be solemnly and ceremonially rolled over and over. I think it would be a good thing if all philanthropists could be rolled over and over. I think it would be a good thing if Mr. Carnegie could be rolled over and over. I do not merely mean that I or others might enjoy the spectacle with an inhumane mirth; I mean that it would be a good thing for Mr. Carnegie, and would add what is lacking to his many fine qualities. For the two things that are lacking in nearly all philanthropists on earth are these two- laughter and humility. And these are such great springs of human happiness that I feel sure that Mr. Carnegie would thank me for having gradually awakened them in his soul, even if I did it by rolling him in a barrel down Primrose Hill.

-December 29,1906, Illustrated London News

"In the fiery alphabet of every sunset is written, 'to be continued in our next.'"

This colour as of a fantastic narrative ought to cling to the family and to our relations with it throughout life. Romance is the deepest thing in life; romance is deeper even than reality. For even if reality could be proved to be misleading, it still could not be proved to be unimportant or unimpressive. Even if the facts are false, they are still very strange. And this strangeness of life, this unexpected and even perverse element of things as they fall out, remains incurably interesting. The circumstances we can regulate may become tame or pessimistic; but the "circumstances over which we have no control" remain god-like to those who, like Mr. Micawber, can call on them and renew their strength. People wonder why the novel is the most popular form of literature; people wonder why it is read more than books of science or books of metaphysics. The reason is very simple; it is merely that the novel is more true than they are. Life may sometimes legitimately appear as a book of science. Life may sometimes appear, and with a much greater legitimacy, as a book of metaphysics. But life is always a novel. Our existence may cease to be a song; it may cease even to be a beautiful lament. Our existence may not be an intelligible justice, or even a recognizable wrong. But our existence is still a story. In the fiery alphabet of every sunset is written, "to be continued in our next." If we have sufficient intellect, we can finish a philosophical and exact deduction, and be certain that we are finishing it right. With the adequate brain-power we could finish any scientific discovery, and be certain that we were finishing it right. But not with the most gigantic intellect could we finish the simplest or silliest story, and be certain that we were finishing it right. That is because a story has behind it, not merely intellect which is partly mechanical, but will, which is in its essence divine.

-Heretics (1905)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

"They forget that as human institutions go, the Church was not peculiar in having evils, but peculiar in admitting them."

The one really strong case for Christianity is that even those who condemn sins have to confess them. It is a good principle for Pharisees that he who is without sin should cast the first stone. But it is the good principle for Christians that he who casts the first stone should declare that he is not without sin. The criminal may or may not plead guilty. But the judge should always plead guilty...

....They discredit the Church with these criticisms. They never credit the Church with criticising itself. They forget that as human institutions go, the Church was not peculiar in having evils, but peculiar in admitting them. We all remember the old story of the Irish pilot who took a gentleman's yacht into port, declaring that he knew every rock in the harbour. A few minutes afterwards the vessel crashed upon an enormous crag, and when the owner cried angrily to the pilot, "But I thought you knew every rock in the harbour!" the pilot replied with equal freshness and indignation, "And so I do; and this is one of them." When Christianity splits on the rock of original evil she has a right to say that the rock is not marked down on any chart except her own. The sins of Christians are a doctrine of Christianity. But it is by no means true that the sins of Imperialists are a doctrine of Imperialism, or that the sins of Socialists are a doctrine of Socialism, or that the sins of the Worshipful Company of Candlestick-Makers are a record dogma of that institution. We do not lack abuses in the strict sense of that word; what we sadly lack is abuse, in the popular sense of it. We have not enough people to abuse the abuses. We do not lack what corresponds to the corrupt monastery; we lack what corresponds to the courageous and denunciatory priest. It is not that we have not got enough scoundrels to curse, but that we have not got enough good men to curse them- to curse them with that violence and variety which we have a right to expect.

-March 14, 1908, Illustrated London News

"A man must love a thing very much if he not only practises it without any hope of fame or money, but even... without any hope of doing it well"

The word amateur has come by the thousand oddities of language to convey an idea of tepidity; whereas the word itself has the meaning of passion. Nor is this peculiarity confined to the mere form of the word; the actual characteristic of these nameless dilettanti is a genuine fire and reality. A man must love a thing very much if he not only practises it without any hope of fame or money, but even practises it without any hope of doing it well. Such a man must love the toils of the work more than any other man can love the rewards of it. Browning was in this strict sense a strenuous amateur. He tried and practised in the course of his life half a hundred things at which he can never have even for a moment expected to succeed.

-Robert Browning (1903)

Friday, June 4, 2010

"The human race, to which so many of my readers belong,.."

The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. And one of the games to which it is most attached is called, "Keep to-morrow dark," and which is also named (by the rustics in Shropshire, I have no doubt) "Cheat the Prophet." The players listen very carefully and respectfully to all that the clever men have to say about what is to happen in the next generation. The players then wait until all the clever men are dead, and bury them nicely. They then go and do something else. That is all. For a race of simple tastes, however, it is great fun.

For human beings, being children, have the childish wilfulness and the childish secrecy. And they never have from the beginning of the world done what the wise men have seen to be inevitable. They stoned the false prophets, it is said; but they could have stoned true prophets with a greater and juster enjoyment. Individually, men may present a more or less rational appearance, eating, sleeping, and scheming. But humanity as a whole is changeful, mystical, fickle, delightful. Men are men, but Man is a woman.

-The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Dean Koontz discusses Chesterton's influence on him

An excerpt from a three-page interview which bestselling author Dean Koontz gave to Gilbert Magazine (December 2009)

GM: You have talked elsewhere about Chesterton. What was the first Chesterton book you read and how did it influence you?

DK: Orthodoxy, and it had a powerful effect. Then I read The Everlasting Man, which I think was the better of the two. Together they were like a one-two punch.

GM: What role did Chesterton play in your decision to become Catholic?

DK: I actually converted early, when I was about nineteen or twenty. I found Chesterton a couple of decades later, and he had a profound role. There is a deep and rigorous intellectual community and background in the Church, and Chesterton was the ideal of that, following the initial appeal of faith.

GM: Has Chesterton's precision of language influenced your writing?

DK: The precision of his language, the clarity of his thought, his exuberant nature, and his delight in tweaking the humorless who are humorless because of their dour materialism- all of those things influenced my writing. I just finished a novel titled Breathless, which comes out in November and opens with a Chesterton quote.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbours, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people."

Unless people are near in soul they had better not be near in neighbourhood. The Bible tells us to love our neighbours, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people. And there is a real human reason for this. You think of a remote man merely as a man; that is, you think of him in the right way. Suppose I say to you suddenly-"Oblige me by brooding on the soul of the man who lives at 351, High Street, Islington." Perhaps (now I come to think of it) you are the man who lives at 351, High Street, Islington; for this journal has a wide circulation. In that case substitute some other unknown address and pursue the intellectual sport. Now you will probably be broadly right about the man in Islington whom you have never seen or heard of, because you will begin at the right end- the human end. The man is Islington is certainly a soul. He also has been bewildered and broadened by youth; he also has been tortured and intoxicated by love; he also is sublimely doubtful about death. You can think about the soul of that nameless man who is a mere number in Islington High Street. But you do not think about the soul of your next-door neighbour. He is not a man; he is an environment. He is the barking of a dog; he is the noise of a pianola; he is a dispute about a party wall; he is drains that are worse than yours, or roses that are better than yours. Now, all these are the wrong ends of a man; and a man, like many other things in this world, such as a cat-o'-nine-tails, has a large number of wrong ends, and only one right one. These adjuncts are all tails, so to speak.... But besides his twenty tails, every man has a head, a center of identity, a soul. And the head of a man is even harder to find than the head of a Skye terrier, for man has nine hundred and nine-nine wrong ends instead of one.

-July 16, 1910, Illustrated London News

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"..for this was the good wind that blows nobody harm"

[Today just posting the opening paragraph of Chesterton's novel Manalive, which rivals The Man Who Was Thursday as my favorite novel]

A wind sprang high in the west, like a wave of unreasonable happiness, and tore eastward across England, trailing with it the frosty scent of forests and the cold intoxication of the sea. In a million holes and corners it refreshed a man like a flagon, and astonished him like a blow. In the inmost chambers of intricate and embowered houses it woke like a domestic explosion, littering the floor with some professor's papers till they seemed as precious as fugitive, or blowing out the candle by which a boy read Treasure Island and wrapping him in roaring dark. But everywhere it bore drama into undramatic lives, and carried the trump of crisis across the world. Many a harassed mother in a mean backyard had looked at five dwarfish shirts on the clothes-line as at some small, sick tragedy; it was as if she had hanged her five children. The wind came, and they were full and kicking as if five fat imps had sprung into them; and far down in her oppressed subconscious she half-remembered those coarse comedies of her fathers when the elves still dwelt in the homes of men. Many an unnoticed girl in a dank walled garden had tossed herself into the hammock with the same intolerant gesture with which she might have tossed herself into the Thames; and that wind rent the waving wall of woods and lifted the hammock like a balloon, and showed her shapes of quaint clouds far beyond, and pictures of bright villages far below, as if she rode heaven in a fairy boat. Many a dusty clerk or cleric, plodding a telescopic road of poplars, thought for the hundredth time that they were like the plumes of a hearse; when this invisible energy caught and swung and clashed them round his head like a wreath or salutation of seraphic wings. There was in it something more inspired and authoritative even than the old wind of the proverb; for this was the good wind that blows nobody harm.

-Manalive (1912)