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."
Saturday, December 31, 2011
"When we see the Old Year out, we do what many eminent men have done, and what all men desire to do; we die temporarily."
Death is a time limit; but differs in many ways from New Year's Day. The divisions of time which men have adopted are in a sort of way a mild mortality. When we see the Old Year out, we do what many eminent men have done, and what all men desire to do; we die temporarily. Whenever we admit that it is Tuesday we fulfil St. Paul, and die daily. I doubt if the strongest stoic that ever existed on earth could endure the idea of Tuesday following on a Tuesday, and a Tuesday on that, and a Tuesday on that, and all the days being Tuesdays till the Day of Judgment, which might be (by some strange and special mercy) a Wednesday.
-"January One" (Daily News, 1904)
Found in Lunacy and Letters (collection of essays published in 1958
Friday, December 30, 2011
-Twelve Types (1902)
Thursday, December 29, 2011
-Come To Think of It (1930)
"Mary, Mary," cried Rosamund, almost breaking down, "I'm so sorry about it, but the thing can't be at all. We -- we have found out all about Mr. Smith."
"All?" repeated Mary, with a low and curious intonation; "why, that must be awfully exciting."
There was no noise for an instant and no motion except that the silent Michael Moon, leaning on the gate, lifted his head, as it might be to listen. Then Rosamund remaining speechless, Dr. Pym came to her rescue in a definite way.
"To begin with," he said, "this man Smith is constantly attempting murder. The Warden of Brakespeare College --"
"I know," said Mary, with a vague but radiant smile. "Innocent told me."
"I can't say what he told you," replied Pym quickly, "but I'm very much afraid it wasn't true. The plain truth is that the man's stained with every known human crime. I assure you I have all the documents. I have evidence of his committing burglary, signed by a most eminent English curate. I have --"
"Oh, but there were two curates," cried Mary, with a certain gentle eagerness; "that was what made it so much funnier."
The darkened glass doors of the house opened once more, and Inglewood appeared for an instant, making a sort of signal. The American doctor bowed, the English doctor did not, but they both set out stolidly towards the house. No one else moved, not even Michael hanging on the gate; but the back of his head and shoulders had still an indescribable indication that he was listening to every word.
"But don't you understand, Mary," cried Rosamund in despair; "don't you know that awful things have happened even before our very eyes. I should have thought you would have heard the revolver shots upstairs."
"Yes, I heard the shots," said Mary almost brightly; "but I was busy packing just then. And Innocent had told me he was going to shoot at Dr. Warner; so it wasn't worth while to come down."
"Oh, I don't understand what you mean," cried Rosamund Hunt, stamping, "but you must and shall understand what I mean. I don't care how cruelly I put it, if only I can save you. I mean that your Innocent Smith is the most awfully wicked man in the world. He has sent bullets at lots of other men and gone off in cabs with lots of other women. And he seems to have killed the women too, for nobody can find them."
"He is really rather naughty sometimes," said Mary Gray, laughing softly as she buttoned her old gray gloves."
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
In one of his most famous essays, "On Fairy Stories," Tolkien himself described portions of Chesterton's study of Dickens that met with his approval. "We need recovery," Tokien observed.
We should look at green again, and be startled anew (but not blinded) by blue and yellow and red. We should meet the centaur and the dragon, and then perhaps suddenly behold, like the ancient shepherds, dogs, and horses- and wolves. This recovery fairy-stories help us to make...-Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life & Impact of G.K. Chesterton, Kevin Belmonte, pp. 102-103 (emphasis mine)
Recovery (which includes return and renewal of health) is a re-gaining- regaining of a clear view. I do not say "seeing things as they are" and involve myself with the philosophers, though I might venture to say "seeing things as we are (or were) meant to see them"- as things apart from ourselves. We need, in any case, to clean our windows; so that the things seen clearly may be freed from the drab blur of triteness or familiarity- from possessiveness...This triteness is really the penalty of "appropriation": the things that are tried, or (in a bad sense) familiar, are the things that we have appropriated, legally or mentally. We say we know them. They have become like the things which once attracted us by their glitter, or their colour, or their shape, and we laid hands on them, and then locked them in our hoard, acquired them, and acquiring ceased to look at them.
Of course, fairy-stories are not the only means of recovery, or prophylactic against loss. Humility is enough. And there is (especially for the humble) Mooreeffoc, or Chestertonian Fantasy. Mooreeffoc is a fantastic word, but it could be seen written up in every town in this land. It is Coffee-room, viewed from the inside through a glass door, as it was seen by Dickens on a dark London day; and it was used by Chesterton to denote the queerness of things that have become trite, when they are seen suddenly from a new angle. That kind of "fantasy" most people would allow to be wholesone enough; and it can never lack for material.
(That said, while Tolkien did indeed praise Chestertonian Fantasy, he did believe it had its limitations)
Another interesting tidbit:
Sayer's revived memory revealed that Tolkien knew a number of the poems from Chesterton's The Flying Inn by heart, including "The Song of the Quoodle," "The Song against Grocers," and the famous refrain, "The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road." Tolkien was also quite fond of reciting "The Battle of Lepanto," a fact which Tolkien's daughter Priscilla confirmed. [Source]
"As long as a corpse or two turns up in the second, the third, nay even the fourth or fifth chapter, I make allowance for human weakness..."
But I have another and more important quarrel about the sensational novel. There seems to be a very general idea that the romance of the tomahawk will be (or will run the risk of being) more immoral than the romance of the teapot. This I violently deny. And in this I have the support of practically all the old moral traditions of our civilization and of every civilization. High or low, good or bad, clever or stupid, a moral story almost always meant a murderous story. For the old Greeks a moral play was one full of madness and slaying. For the great medievals a moral play was one which exhibited the dancing of the devil and the open jaws of hell. For the great Protestant moralists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a moral story meant a story in which a parricide was struck by lightning or a boy was drowned for fishing on a Sunday. For the more rationalistic moralists of the eighteenth century, such as Hogarth, Richardson, and the author of Sandford and Merton, all agreed that shocking calamities could properly be indicated as the result of evil doing; that the more shocking those calamities were the more moral they were. It is only in our exhausted and agnostic age that the idea has been started that if one is moral one must not be melodramatic.
-Found in The Spice of Life and Other Essays, collection of essays published in 1964
Monday, December 26, 2011
"[Dickens] climbed towards the lower classes. He panted upwards on weary wings to reach the heaven of the poor."
Ordinary people dislike the delicate modern work, not because it is good or because it is bad, but because it is not the thing that they asked for. If, for instance, you find them pent in sterile streets and hungering for adventure and a violent secrecy, and if you then give them their choice between "A Study in Scarlet," a good detective story, and "The Autobiography of Mark Rutherford," a good psychological monologue, no doubt they will prefer "A Study in Scarlet." But they will not do so because "The Autobiography of Mark Rutherford" is a very good monologue, but because it is evidently a very poor detective story...
Dickens stands first as a defiant monument of what happens when a great literary genius has a literary taste akin to that of the community. For this kinship was deep and spiritual. Dickens was not like our ordinary demagogues and journalists. Dickens did not write what the people wanted. Dickens wanted what the people wanted. And with this was connected that other fact which must never be forgotten, and which I have more than once insisted on, that Dickens and his school had a hilarious faith in democracy and thought of the service of it as a sacred priesthood. Hence there was this vital point in his popularism, that there was no condescension in it. The belief that the rabble will only read rubbish can be read between the lines of all our contemporary writers, even of those writers whose rubbish the rabble reads. Mr. Fergus Hume has no more respect for the populace than Mr. George Moore. The only difference lies between those writers who will consent to talk down to the people, and those writers who will not consent to talk down to the people. But Dickens never talked down to the people. He talked up to the people. He approached the people like a deity and poured out his riches and his blood. This is what makes the immortal bond between him and the masses of men. He had not merely produced something they could understand, but he took it seriously, and toiled and agonised to produce it. They were not only enjoying one of the best writers, they were enjoying the best he could do. His raging and sleepless nights, his wild walks in the darkness, his note-books crowded, his nerves in rags, all this extraordinary output was but a fit sacrifice to the ordinary man. He climbed towards the lower classes. He panted upwards on weary wings to reach the heaven of the poor.
-Charles Dickens (1906)
Saturday, December 24, 2011
| All this popular and fraternal element in the story has been rightly attached by tradition to the episode of the Shepherds; the hinds who found themselves talking face to face with the princes of heaven. But there is another aspect of the popular element as represented by the shepherds which has not perhaps been so fully developed; and which is more directly relevant here. |
Men of the people, like the shepherds, men of the popular tradition, had everywhere been the makers of the mythologies...They had best understood that the soul of a landscape is a story and the soul of a story is a personality...Upon all such peasantries everywhere there was descending a dusk and twilight of disappointment, in the hour when these few men discovered what they sought. Everywhere else Arcadia was fading from the forest. Pan was dead and the shepherds were scattered like sheep. And though no man knew it, the hour was near which was to end and to fulfil all things; and though no man heard it, there was one far-off cry in an unknown tongue upon the heaving wilderness of the mountains. The shepherds had found their Shepherd.And the thing they found was of a kind with the things they sought. The populace had been wrong in many things; but they had not been wrong in believing that holy things could have a habitation and that divinity need not disdain the limits of time and space...the place that the shepherds found was not an academy or an abstract republic, it was not a place of myths allegorised or dissected or explained or explained away. It was a place of dreams come true. Since that hour no mythologies have been made in the world. Mythology is a search.
-The Everlasting Man (1925)
1 And it came to pass, that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled.
|2 This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria.|
|3 And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city.|
|4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David,|
|5 To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child.|
|6 And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered.|
|7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.|
|8 And there were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night watches over their flock.|
|9 And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear.|
|10 And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people:|
|11 For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.|
|12 And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.|
|13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying:|
|14 Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.|
|15 And it came to pass, after the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath shewed to us.|
|16 And they came with haste; and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.|
|17 And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child.|
|18 And all that heard, wondered; and at those things that were told them by the shepherds.|
|19 But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.|
|20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God, for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.|
I do not know if I will be posting on Christmas day, so in case I do not, let me say now...
Merry Christ Mass! :-)
Thursday, December 22, 2011
There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.
For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.
A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost - how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.
This world is wild as an old wives' tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.
To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Chesterton, in describing the Church:
In short, the whole world being divided about whether the stream was going slower or faster, became conscious of something vague but vast that was going against the stream. Both in fact and figure there is something deeply disturbing about this, and that for an essential reason. A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it. A dead dog can be lifted on the leaping water with all the swiftness of a leaping hound; but only a live dog can swim backwards. A paper boat can ride the rising deluge with all the airy arrogance of a fairy ship, but if the fairy ship sails up stream it is really rowed by the fairies. And among the things that merely went with the tide of apparent progress and enlargement there was many a demagogue or sophist whose wild gestures were in truth as lifeless as the movement of a dead dog's limbs wavering in the eddying water; and many a philosophy uncommonly like a paper boat, of the sort that it is not difficult to knock into a cocked hat. But even the truly living and even life-giving things that went with that stream did not thereby prove that they were living or life-giving. It was this other force that was unquestionably and unaccountably alive; the mysterious and unmeasured energy that was thrusting back the river. That was felt to be like the movement of some great monster; and it was none the less clearly a living monster because most people thought it a prehistoric monster. It was none the less an unnatural, an incongruous, and to some a comic upheaval; as if the Great Sea Serpent had suddenly risen out of the Round Pond--unless we consider the Sea Serpent as more likely to live in the Serpentine. This flippant element in the fantasy must not be missed, for it was one of the clearest testimonies to the unexpected nature of the reversal. That age did really feel that a preposterous quality in prehistoric animals belonged also to historic rituals; that mitres and tiaras were like the horns or crests of antediluvian creatures; and that appealing to a Primitive Church was like dressing up as a Primitive Man.
-The Everlasting Man (1925)
Monday, December 19, 2011
Sunday, December 18, 2011
"There is something defiant in [Christmas]...that makes the abrupt bells at midnight sound like the great guns of a battle that has just been won."
That is perhaps the mightiest of the mysteries of the cave. It is already apparent that though men are said to have looked for hell under the earth, in this case it is rather heaven that is under the earth. And there follows in this strange story the idea of an upheaval of heaven. That is the paradox of the whole position; that henceforth the highest thing can only work from below. Royalty can only return to its own by a sort of rebellion. Indeed the Church from its beginnings, and perhaps especially in its beginnings, was not so much a principality as a revolution against the prince of the world. This sense that the world had been conquered by the great usurper, and was in his possession, has been much deplored or derided by those optimists who identify enlightenment with ease. But it was responsible for all that thrill of defiance and a beautiful danger that made the good news seem to be really both good and new. It was in truth against a huge unconscious usurpation that it raised a revolt, and originally so obscure a revolt. Olympus still occupied the sky like a motionless cloud moulded into many mighty forms; philosophy still sat in the high places and even on the thrones of the kings, when Christ was born in the cave and Christianity in the catacombs. In both cases we may remark the same paradox of revolution; the sense of something despised and of something feared. The cave in one aspect is only a hole or corner into which the outcasts are swept like rubbish; yet in the other aspect it is a hiding-place of something valuable which the tyrants are seeking like treasure. In one sense they are there because the innkeeper would not even remember them, and in another because the king can never forget them. We have already noted that this paradox appeared also in the treatment of the early Church. It was important while it was still insignificant, and certainly while it was still impotent. It was important solely because it was intolerable; and in that sense it is true to say that it was intolerable because it was intolerant. It was resented, because, in its own still and almost secret way, it had declared war. It had risen out of the ground to wreck the heaven and earth of heathenism. It did not try to destroy all that creation of gold and marble; but it contemplated a world without it. It dared to look right through it as though the gold and marble had been glass...
-The Everlasting Man (1925)
Saturday, December 17, 2011
-The Common Man (collection of essays first published in 1950)
Friday, December 16, 2011
And indeed this is the last and not the least gracious of the casual works of magic wrought by rain: that while it decreases light, yet it doubles it. If it dims the sky, it brightens the earth. It gives the roads (to the sympathetic eye) something of the beauty of Venice. Shallow lakes of water reiterate every detail of earth and sky; we dwell in a double universe. Sometimes walking upon bare and lustrous pavements, wet under numerous lamps, a man seems a black blot on all that golden looking-glass, and could fancy he was flying in a yellow sky. But wherever trees and towns hang head downwards in a pigmy puddle, the sense of Celestial topsy-turvydom is the same. This bright, wet, dazzling confusion of shape and shadow, of reality and reflection, will appeal strongly to any one with the transcendental instinct about this dreamy and dual life of ours. It will always give a man the strange sense of looking down at the skies.-A Miscellany of Men (1912)
Thursday, December 15, 2011
"The highest and most valuable quality in Nature is not her beauty, but her generous and defiant ugliness."
-The Defendant (1901)
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
-A Miscellany of Men (1912)
Monday, December 12, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
"The question for brave men is not whether a certain thing is increasing; the question is whether we are increasing it."
A correspondent has written me an able and interesting letter in the matter of some allusions of mine to the subject of communal kitchens. He defends communal kitchens very lucidly from the standpoint of the calculating collectivist; but, like many of his school, he cannot apparently grasp that there is another test of the whole matter, with which such calculation has nothing at all to do. He knows it would be cheaper if a number of us ate at the same time, so as to use the same table. So it would. It would also be cheaper if a number of us slept at different times, so as to use the same pair of trousers. But the question is not how cheap are we buying a thing, but what are we buying? It is cheap to own a slave. And it is cheaper still to be a slave.My correspondent also says that the habit of dining out in restaurants, etc., is growing. So, I believe, is the habit of committing suicide. I do not desire to connect the two facts together. It seems fairly clear that a man could not dine at a restaurant because he had just committed suicide; and it would be extreme, perhaps, to suggest that he commits suicide because he has just dined at a restaurant. But the two cases, when put side by side, are enough to indicate the falsity and poltroonery of this eternal modern argument from what is in fashion. The question for brave men is not whether a certain thing is increasing; the question is whether we are increasing it.
-All Things Considered (1908)
Thursday, December 8, 2011
The above is a link to an online article from the July 20, 1909 edition (archived obviously) of the Otautau Standard and Wallace County Chronicle, but it had originally appeared in the May 29, 1909 edition of the Illustrated London News (named in the Ignatius Press collection of such articles in GKC's collected works: "Whitewashing the Philanthropists") Here is how it begins:
Philanthropy, as far as I can see, is rapidly becoming the recognisable mark of a wicked man. We have often sneered at the superstition and cowardice of the medieval barons who thought that giving lands to the Church would wipe out the memory of their raids or robberies; but modern capitalists seem to have exactly the same notion; with this not unimportant addition, that in the case of the capitalists the memory of the robberies is really wiped out. This, after all, seems to be the chief difference between the monks who took land and gave pardons and the charity organisers who take money and give praise: the difference is that the monks wrote down in their books and chronicles, "Received three hundred acres from a bad baron"; whereas the modern experts and editors record the three hundred acres and call him a good baron. (go to the link for the rest of the article):
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
-A Miscellany of Men (1912)
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Monday, December 5, 2011
"The definition of a prig, I suppose, is this: one who has pride in the possession of his brain rather than joy in the use of it."
-June 12, 1909, Illustrated London News
Sunday, December 4, 2011
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)
The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)
The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)
The Christ-child stood at Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown.
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.
-The Wild Knight (1900)
Saturday, December 3, 2011
For the quote (which comes from GKC's book Charles Dickens, go here
(H/T a post on the GK Chesterton community on Facebook)
For the mere desire to "make a protest," which merely means to enjoy an emotion, I have no respect whatever. The only object of telling a man to do something is to get him to do it. And if you tell him to do it when you know perfectly well that it will make him do the opposite, I will not only call your enthusiasm hysterical, I will take the liberty of calling it insincere.
-December 2, 1911, Illustrated London News
BTW, I apologize for not posting much lately...Been a little busy, but I figured I ought to update to explain why. Hope to get back to posting more soon...
Saturday, November 26, 2011
-What's Wrong With the World (1910)
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
-All Things Considered (1908)
(If you have seen "The Game," starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn, that movie is based on one of the stories in the collection [The Club of Queer Trades]: "The Tremendous Adventure of Major Brown.")
Monday, November 21, 2011
-Robert Browning (1903)
Sunday, November 20, 2011
"It is the root of all religion that a man knows that he is nothing to thank God that he is something."
-The Resurrection of Rome (1930)
"But I am an optimist, and I believe that evil is frequently victorious; a thought full of peace, comfort, and possibilities of human affection."
-November 16, 1907, Illustrated London News
Friday, November 18, 2011
"A citizen can hardly distinguish between a tax and a fine, except that the fine is generally much lighter."
-All I Survey (1933)
Thursday, November 17, 2011
"...which amounted to asserting that because humanity had never made anything but mistakes it was now quite certain to be right."
-Varied Types (1905)
Monday, November 14, 2011
"If a man is genuinely superior to his fellows the first thing that he believes in is the equality of man."
To very great minds the things on which men agree are so immeasurably more important than the things on which they differ, that the latter, for all practical purposes, disappear. They have too much in them of an ancient laughter even to endure to discuss the difference between the hats of two men who were both born of a woman, or between the subtly varied cultures of two men who have both to die. The first-rate great man is equal with other men, like Shakespeare. The second-rate great man is on his knees to other men, like Whitman. The third-rate great man is superior to other men, like Whistler.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
"But so long as grunts, snorts, curses, and cries of despair come over every garden wall we may be pretty certain that things are all right."
-October 1, 1910, Illustrated London News
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Here, in this dim picture, its trick is almost betrayed. No one can name this picture properly, but Watts who painted it, has named it Hope. But the point is that this title is not (as those think who call it " literary ") the reality behind the symbol, but another symbol for the same thing, or to speak yet more strictly, another symbol describing another part or aspect of the same complex reality. Two men felt a swift, violent, invisible thing in the world: one said the word "hope," the other painted a picture in blue and green paint. The picture is inadequate; the word "hope" is inadequate ; but between them, like two angles in the calculation of a distance, they almost locate a mystery, a mystery that for hundreds of ages has been hunted by men and evaded them. And the title is therefore not so much the substance of one of Watts' pictures, it is rather an epigram upon it. It is merely an approximate attempt to convey, by snatching up the tool of another craftsman, the direction attempted in the painter's own craft. He calls it Hope and that is perhaps the best title. It reminds us among other things of a fact which is too little remembered, that faith, hope and charity, the three mystical virtues of Christianity, are also the [happiest] of the virtues. Paganism, as I have suggested, is not [happy], but rather nobly sad ; the spirit of Watts, which is as a rule nobly sad also, here comes nearer perhaps than anywhere else to mysticism in the strict sense, the mysticism which is full of secret passion and belief, like that of Fra Angelico or Blake. But though Watts calls his tremendous reality Hope, we may call it many other things. Call it faith, call it vitality, call it the will to live, call it the religion of tomorrow morning, call it the immortality of man, call it self-love and vanity ; it is the thing that explains why man survives all things and why there is no such thing as a pessimist. It cannot be found in any dictionary or rewarded in any commonwealth : there is only one way in which it can even be noticed and recognised. If there be anywhere a man who has really lost it, his face out of a whole crowd of men will strike us like a blow. He may hang himself or become Prime Minister; it matters nothing. The man is dead.
-G.F. Watts (1904)
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
-George Bernard Shaw (1909)
Monday, November 7, 2011
"For it is only on those in the struggle for existence who hang on for ten minutes after all is hopeless, that hope begins to dawn."
-February 2, 1901, The Speaker
Sunday, November 6, 2011
-Introduction to Thackeray (1909)
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Nor did this combination of logic and fantasy, of mathematical madness, die with heraldry and the labyrinthine sciences of the later Middle Ages. There are many modern things in which the spirit of the dancing dragon, who is yet a disciplined dragon, reappears. There is more logic, for instance, in "Alice in Wonderland" than in the Statute Books or the Blue Books. The relations of logic to truth depend then, not upon its perfection as logic, but upon certain pre-logical faculties and certain pre-logical discoveries, upon the possession of those faculties, upon the power of making these discoveries. If a man start with certain assumptions he may be a good logician and a good citizen, a wise man, a successful figure. If he start with certain other assumptions he may be an equally good logician and a bankrupt, a criminal, a raving lunatic. Logic, then, is not necessarily an instrument for finding truth; on the contrary, truth is necessarily an instrument for using logic, for using it, that is, for the discovery of further truth and for the profit of humanity. Briefly, you can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it.
-February 25, 1905, Daily News, "The Maxims of Maxim"
(Found in the collection of essays In Defense of Sanity, published just this year by Ignatius Press)
Friday, November 4, 2011
Thursday, November 3, 2011
"...the one perfectly divine thing, the one glimpse of God's paradise given on earth, is to fight a losing battle- and not lose it. "
-Time's Abstract and Brief Chronicle (1904-1905)
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
"Now the mistake of critics is not that they criticise the world; it is that they never criticise themselves."
-The New Jerusalem (1920)
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
"Art is born when the temporary touches the eternal; the shock of beauty is when the irresistible force hits the immovable post."
The decadents used to say that things like the marriage vow might be very convenient for common-place public purposes, but had no place in the world of beauty and imagination. The truth is exactly the other way. The truth is that if marriage had not existed it would have been necessary for artists to invent it. The truth is that if constancy had never been needed as a social requirement, it would still have been created out of cloud and air as a poetical requirement. If ever monogamy is abandoned in practice, it will linger in legend and in literature. When society is haunted by the butterfly flitting from flower to flower, poetry will still be describing the desire of the moth for the star; and it will be a fixed star. Literature must always revolve round loyalties; for a rudimentary psychological reason, which is simply the nature of narrative. You cannot tell a story without the idea of pursuing a purpose and sticking to a point. You cannot tell a story without the idea of the Quest, the idea of the Vow; even if it be only the idea of the Wager.
Perhaps the most modern equivalent to the man who makes a vow is the man who makes a bet. But he must not hedge on a bet; still less must he welsh, or do a bolt when he has made a bet. Even if the story ends with his doing so, the dramatic emotion depends on our realizing the dishonesty of his doing so. That is, the drama depends on the keeping or breaking of a bond, if it be only a bet. A man wandering about a race-course, making bets that nobody took seriously, would be merely a bore. And so the hero wandering through a novel, making vows of love that nobody took seriously, is merely a bore. The point here is not so much that morally it cannot be a creditable story, but that artistically it cannot be a story at all. Art is born when the temporary touches the eternal; the shock of beauty is when the irresistible force hits the immovable post.
-Fancies Versus Fads (1923)
Monday, October 31, 2011
"As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is a mere flattery...it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength at all."
It was through this fatal paradox in the nature of things that all these modern adventurers come at last to a sort of tedium and acquiescence. They desired strength; and to them to desire strength was to admire strength; to admire strength was simply to admire the status quo. They thought that he who wished to be strong ought to respect the strong. They did not realize the obvious verity that he who wishes to be strong must despise the strong. They sought to be everything, to have the whole force of the cosmos behind them, to have an energy that would drive the stars. But they did not realize the two great facts--first, that in the attempt to be everything the first and most difficult step is to be something; second, that the moment a man is something, he is essentially defying everything. The lower animals, say the men of science, fought their way up with a blind selfishness. If this be so, the only real moral of it is that our unselfishness, if it is to triumph, must be equally blind. The mammoth did not put his head on one side and wonder whether mammoths were a little out of date. Mammoths were at least as much up to date as that individual mammoth could make them. The great elk did not say, "Cloven hoofs are very much worn now." He polished his own weapons for his own use. But in the reasoning animal there has arisen a more horrible danger, that he may fail through perceiving his own failure. When modern sociologists talk of the necessity of accommodating one's self to the trend of the time, they forget that the trend of the time at its best consists entirely of people who will not accommodate themselves to anything. At its worst it consists of many millions of frightened creatures all accommodating themselves to a trend that is not there. And that is becoming more and more the situation of modern England. Every man speaks of public opinion, and means by public opinion, public opinion minus his opinion. Every man makes his contribution negative under the erroneous impression that the next man's contribution is positive. Every man surrenders his fancy to a general tone which is itself a surrender. And over all the heartless and fatuous unity spreads this new and wearisome and platitudinous press, incapable of invention, incapable of audacity, capable only of a servility all the more contemptible because it is not even a servility to the strong. But all who begin with force and conquest will end in this.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
"The ideal was out of date almost from the first day; that is why it is eternal; for whatever is dated is doomed."
...we ought not to turn away in contempt from something antiquated, but rather recognise with respect and even alarm a sort of permanent man-trap in the idea of being modern. So that the moral of this matter is the same as that of the other; that these things should raise in us, not merely the question of whether we like them, but of whether there is anything very infallible or imperishable about what we like. At least the essentials of these things endure...
-The New Jerusalem (1920)
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
-Charles Dickens (1906)
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
-As I Was Saying (1936)
Monday, October 24, 2011
"But rebelling against Government is dangerous, so modern people (very characteristically) prefer to rebel against theology, which is safe."
-March 23, 1907, Illustrated London News
Sunday, October 23, 2011
-All Things Considered (1908)
Friday, October 21, 2011
"The most unpractical merit of ancient piety became the most practical merit of modern investigation."
This humility, as I say, was with Arnold a mental need. He was not naturally a humble man; he might even be called a supercilious one. But he was driven to preaching humility merely as a thing to clear the head. He found the virtue which was just then being flung in the mire as fit only for nuns and slaves: and he saw that it was essential to philosophers. The most unpractical merit of ancient piety became the most practical merit of modern investigation. I repeat, he did not understand that headlong and happy humility which belongs to the more beautiful souls of the simpler ages. He did not appreciate the force (nor perhaps the humour) of St. Francis of Assisi when he called his own body "my brother the donkey." That is to say, he did not realise a certain feeling deep in all mystics in the face of the dual destiny. He did not realise their feeling (full both of fear and laughter) that the body is an animal and a very comic animal. Matthew Arnold could never have felt any part of himself to be purely comic— not even his singular whiskers. He would never, like Father Juniper, have "played see-saw to abase himself." In a word, he had little sympathy with the old ecstasies of self-effacement. But for this very reason it is all the more important that his main work was an attempt to preach some kind of self-effacement even to his own self-assertive age. He realised that the saints had even understated the case for humility. They had always said that without humility we should never see the better world to come. He realised that without humility we could not even see this world.
-Excerpt from Chesterton's Introduction to Essays Literary and Criticial by Matthew Arnold (1906)
Thursday, October 20, 2011
"Then for one instant I understood what is meant by the agony of being satisfied, or as we used to say, sated."
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
-What's Wrong With the World (1910)
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
"...the chief idea of my life...is the idea of taking things with gratitude, and not taking things for granted."
...The thing that I was trying to say then is the same thing that I am trying to say now; and even the deepest revolution of religion has only confirmed me in the desire to say it. For indeed, I never saw the two sides of this single truth stated together anywhere, until I happened to open the Penny Catechism and read the words, "The two sins against Hope are presumption and despair."
I began in my boyhood to grope for it from quite the other end; the end of the earth most remote from purely supernatural hopes. But even about the dimmest earthly hope, or the smallest earthly happiness, I had from the first an almost violently vivid sense of those two dangers; the sense that the experience must not be spoilt by presumption or despair. To take a convenient tag out of my first juvenile book of rhymes, I asked through what incarnations or prenatal purgatories I must have passed, to earn the reward of looking at a dandelion....since I have owned a garden (for I cannot say since I have been a gardener) I have realised better than I did that there really is a case against weeds. But in substance what I said about the dandelion is exactly what I should say about the sunflower or the sun, or the glory which (as the poet said) is brighter than the sun. The only way to enjoy even a weed is to feel unworthy even of a weed. Now there are two ways of complaining of the weed or the flower; and one was the fashion in my youth and another is the fashion in my later days; but they are not only both wrong, but both wrong because the same thing is right. The pessimists of my boyhood, when confronted with the dandelion, said with Swinburne:
I am weary of all hours
Blown buds and barren flowers
Desires and dreams and powers
And everything but sleep.
And at this I cursed them and kicked at them and made an exhibition of myself; having made myself the champion of the Lion's Tooth, with a dandelion rampant on my crest. But there is a way of despising the dandelion which is not that of the dreary pessimist, but of the more offensive optimist. It can be done in various ways; one of which is saying, "You can get much better dandelions at Selfridge's," or "You can get much cheaper dandelions at Woolworth's." Another way is to observe with a casual drawl, "Of course nobody but Gamboli in Vienna really understands dandelions," or saying that nobody would put up with the old-fashioned dandelion since the super-dandelion has been grown in the Frankfurt Palm Garden; or merely sneering at the stinginess of providing dandelions, when all the best hostesses give you an orchid for your buttonhole and a bouquet of rare exotics to take away with you. These are all methods of undervaluing the thing by comparison; for it is not familiarity but comparison that breeds contempt. And all such captious comparisons are ultimately based on the strange and staggering heresy that a human being has a right to dandelions; that in some extraordinary fashion we can demand the very pick of all the dandelions in the garden of Paradise; that we owe no thanks for them at all and need feel no wonder at them at all; and above all no wonder at being thought worthy to receive them. Instead of saying, like the old religious poet, "What is man that Thou carest for him, or the son of man that Thou regardest him?" we are to say like the discontented cabman, "What's this?" or like the bad-tempered Major in the club, "Is this a chop fit for a gentleman?" Now I not only dislike this attitude quite as much as the Swinburnian pessimistic attitude, but I think it comes to very much the same thing; to the actual loss of appetite for the chop or the dish of dandelion-tea. And the name of it is Presumption and the name of its twin brother is Despair.
Monday, October 17, 2011
"...of a sane man there is only one safe definition. He is a man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head."
We hear of the stark sentimentalist, who talks as if there were no problem at all: as if physical kindness would cure everything: as if one need only pat Nero and stroke Ivan the Terrible. This mere belief in bodily humanitarianism is not sentimental; it is simply snobbish. For if comfort gives men virtue, the comfortable classes ought to be virtuous—which is absurd. Then, again, we do hear of the yet weaker and more watery type of sentimentalists: I mean the sentimentalist who says, with a sort of splutter, "Flog the brutes!" or who tells you with innocent obscenity "what he would do" with a certain man—always supposing the man's hands were tied.
This is the more effeminate type of the two; but both are weak and unbalanced. And it is only these two types, the sentimental humanitarian and the sentimental brutalitarian, whom one hears in the modern babel. Yet you very rarely meet either of them in a train. You never meet anyone else in a controversy. The man you meet in a train is like this man that I met: he is emotionally decent, only he is intellectually doubtful. So far from luxuriating in the loathsome things that could be "done" to criminals, he feels bitterly how much better it would be if nothing need be done. But something must be done. "I s'pose we 'ave to do it." In short, he is simply a sane man, and of a sane man there is only one safe definition. He is a man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head.
-Tremendous Trifles (1909)
Sunday, October 16, 2011
-The Well and the Shallows (1935)
Saturday, October 15, 2011
"Truth is regarded as treachery and a foul blow, as outside the ropes, as stabbing in the back or hitting below the belt."
-July 11, 1925, Illustrated London News
Friday, October 14, 2011
-St Francis of Assisi (1923)
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Apparently, a collection of childhood compositions Jane Austen had written, and which had been handed down in her family, ended up being turned over for publication by Austen's great-niece, and published for the very first time in 1922. It's title page read:
Love & freindship and other early works, now first printed from the original MS by Jane Austen with a preface by G.K. Chesterton
So, as you can see, the very first edition of this work by Jane Austen appeared to the world with a preface by GKC. (Obviously, it was published posthumously- indeed, about a hundred years after her death, but, hey- it is still true that GKC wrote the preface to the first edition of a previously unpublished work written by Jane Austen.)
As Chesterton himself explains in the preface, giving the history of the work:
Jane Austen left everything she possessed to her sister Cassandra, including these and other manuscripts; and the second volume of them containing these was left by Cassandra to her brother, Admiral Sir Francis Austen. He gave it to his daughter Fanny, who left it in turn to her brother Edward, who was the Rector of Barfrestone in Kent, and the father of Mrs Sanders, to whose wise decision we owe the publication of these first fancies of her great-aunt; whom it might be misleading here to call her great great-aunt. Everyone will judge for himself; but I myself think she has added something intrinsically important to literature and to literary history; and that there are cartloads of printed matter, regularly recognised and printed with the works of all great authors, which are far less characteristic and far less significant than these few nursery jests.
Moreover, here's a little more information from the Critical Companion to Jane Austen: A Literary Reference to Her Life and Work by William Baker (2008)
Love and friendship (LF) is the second of the three notebooks in Jane Austen's handwriting into which she copied her childhood compositions. The dating 1790-92, that is, when she was between 15 and 17 years of age, appears in the notebook. Following the author's death, the manuscript went to her sister, CASSANDRA, and remained in family hands. On July 6, 1977, it was sold at Sotheby's auction house in London and then purchased by the British Library.
Entitled "Love and Freindship. A novel in a series of Letters," with the inscription "Deceived in Freindship & Betrayed in Love," and completed on June 13, 1790, the work was dedicated to ELIZA DE FEULLIDE, Jane Austen's cousin. The spelling "Frendship" has been retained, as this was the author's own childhood spelling; however, she subsequently corrected this to "Friendship."
The 15 letters constituting LF were first published in 1922 in an edition containing a preface by the distinguished British man of letters G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) (emphasis mine)
And, just in case you wish to read it, including Chesterton's preface, you can do so here:
Love and Freindship and other Early Works
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
But there were in the play two great human ideas which the mediaeval mind never lost its grip on, through the heaviest nightmares of its dissolution. They were the two great jokes of mediaevalism, as they are the two eternal jokes of mankind. Wherever those two jokes exist there is a little health and hope; wherever they are absent, pride and insanity are present. The first is the idea that the poor man ought to get the better of the rich man. The other is the idea that the husband is afraid of the wife.
I have heard that there is a place under the knee which, when struck, should produce a sort of jump; and that if you do not jump, you are mad. I am sure that there are some such places in the soul. When the human spirit does not jump with joy at either of those two old jokes, the human spirit must be struck with incurable paralysis. There is hope for people who have gone down into the hells of greed and economic oppression (at least, I hope there is, for we are such a people ourselves), but there is no hope for a people that does not exult in the abstract idea of the peasant scoring off the prince. There is hope for the idle and the adulterous, for the men that desert their wives and the men that beat their wives. But there is no hope for men who do not boast that their wives bully them.
-Alarms and Discursions (1910)