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)

Friday, September 30, 2011

"It may be...the whole meaning of death; that heaven, knowing how we tire of our toys, forces us to hold this life on a frail and romantic tenure."

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that a man were turned into a mackerel. His sentiments touching the change may not be a matter for urgent, but they cannot fail to be a matter for clarifying consideration. There are many things that he would lose by passing into the fishy state; such as the pleasure of being in the neighborhood of a Free Library, the pleasure of climbing the Alps, the pleasure of taking snuff, the pleasure of joining a heroic political minority, and also, I suppose and hope, the pleasure of having mackerel for breakfast. But there is one pleasure which the man made mackerel would, I think, lose more completely and finally than any of these pleasures: I allude to the pleasure of sea-bathing. To dip his head in cold water would not be something sacred and startling; it would not be to have all stars in his eyes and all song in his ears. For the sea-creature knows nothing of the sea, just as the earth-creature knows nothing of the earth. This forgetfulness of what we have is the real Fall of Man and the Fall of All Things. The evil which infects the immense goodness of existence does not embody itself in the fact that men are weary of woes and oppressions. It embodies itself in the shameful fact that they are often weary of joys and weary of generosities. Poetry, the highest form of literature, has here its immortal function; it is engaged continually in a desperate and divine battle against things being taken for granted. A fierce sense of the value of things lies at the heart, not merely of optimistic literature, but of much of the best literature which is called pessimistic. Assuredly it lies at the heart of tragedy; for if lives were not valuable tragedies would not be tragic. If life begins by taking things for granted, poetry answers by taking things away. It may be that this is indeed the whole meaning of death; that heaven, knowing how we tire of our toys, forces us to hold this life on a frail and romantic tenure.

-Found in an article reprinted in The Living Age, volume 244 (January, February, March 1905)

Read article here, starting near the bottom of the page

"If there are ghastly things to be faced the only thing we can do is to make it glorious to face them."

If there are ghastly things to be faced the only thing we can do is to make it glorious to face them.

-from an article in the New Age (and found in The Living Age, volume 298)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Love of humanity"

[From the essay "The Orthodox Barber"]

Those thinkers who cannot believe in any gods often assert that the love of humanity would be in itself sufficient for them; and so, perhaps, it would, if they had it. There is a very real thing which may be called the love of humanity; in our time it exists almost entirely among what are called uneducated people; and it does not exist at all among the people who talk about it.

A positive pleasure in being in the presence of any other human being is chiefly remarkable, for instance, in the masses on Bank Holiday; that is why they are so much nearer Heaven (despite appearances) than any other part of our population.

I remember seeing a crowd of factory girls getting into an empty train at a wayside country station. There were about twenty of them; they all got into one carriage; and they left all the rest of the train entirely empty. That is the real love of humanity. That is the definite pleasure in the immediate proximity of one's own kind. Only this coarse, rank, real love of men seems to be entirely lacking in those who propose the love of humanity as a substitute for all other love; honourable, rationalistic idealists.

I can well remember the explosion of human joy which marked the sudden starting of that train; all the factory girls who could not find seats (and they must have been the majority) relieving their feelings by jumping up and down. Now I have never seen any rationalistic idealists do this. I have never seen twenty modern philosophers crowd into one third-class carriage for the mere pleasure of being together. I have never seen twenty Mr. McCabes all in one carriage and all jumping up and down.

Some people express a fear that vulgar trippers will overrun all beautiful places, such as Hampstead or Burnham Beeches. But their fear is unreasonable; because trippers always prefer to trip together; they pack as close as they can; they have a suffocating passion of philanthropy.

But among the minor and milder aspects of the same principle, I have no hesitation in placing the problem of the colloquial barber. Before any modern man talks with authority about loving men, I insist (I insist with violence) that he shall always be very much pleased when his barber tries to talk to him. His barber is humanity: let him love that. If he is not pleased at this, I will not accept any substitute in the way of interest in the Congo or the future of Japan. If a man cannot love his barber whom he has seen, how shall he love the Japanese whom he has not seen?

It is urged against the barber that he begins by talking about the weather; so do all dukes and diplomatists, only that they talk about it with ostentatious fatigue and indifference, whereas the barber talks about it with an astonishing, nay incredible, freshness of interest. It is objected to him that he tells people that they are going bald. That is to say, his very virtues are cast up against him; he is blamed because, being a specialist, he is a sincere specialist, and because, being a tradesman, he is not entirely a slave.

-Tremendous Trifles (1909)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"For when you break the great laws, you do not get liberty; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws."

Herein lies indeed the darkest period of our ethical doubt and chaos. The fear is that as morals become less urgent, manners will become more so; and men who have forgotten the fear of God will retain the fear of Littimer. We shall merely sink into a much meaner bondage. For when you break the great laws, you do not get liberty; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws.

-Charles Dickens (1906)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


So it is august and dignified to be a juryman; for to be a juryman is to be a judge, but in nothing is the jury system more medieval (that is, more human) than in the fact that it takes for granted that every good man will primarily care more for his babies or his bullocks than for the codes and thrones of legality; and that, therefore, he must be summoned to a jury. That is perhaps what Christ meant when he described the Kingdom of Heaven as sending into the highways and byeways, and compelling them to come in; perhaps He meant that if you want the simple and modest mortal you must call him. However this may be with the Kingdom of Heaven, it is assuredly so with the Kingdom of Earth. The other method leaves us open to that offensive class which comes without being called, the vulgarly and basely ambitious, who are already destroying England.

-"The Comic Constable" (1910)

From The Spice of Life and Other Essays (collection of essays published in 1964)

Monday, September 26, 2011

"...it is necessary whether we wish the king's orders to be promptly executed or whether we only wish the king to be promptly executed."

A strict rule is not only necessary for ruling; it is also necessary for rebelling. This fixed and familiar ideal is necessary to any sort of revolution. Man will sometimes act slowly upon new ideas; but he will only act swiftly upon old ideas. If I am merely to float or fade or evolve, it may be towards something anarchic; but if I am to riot, it must be for something respectable....Thus we may say that a permanent ideal is as necessary to the innovator as to the conservative; it is necessary whether we wish the king's orders to be promptly executed or whether we only wish the king to be promptly executed...There must at any given moment be an abstract right and wrong if any blow is to be struck; there must be something eternal if there is to be anything sudden.

-Orthodoxy (1908)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

"You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution."

...The Englishman, among his million delightful virtues, really has this quality, which may strictly be called "hand to mouth," because under its influence a man's hand automatically seeks his own mouth, instead of seeking (as it sometimes should do) his oppressor's nose. And a man who says that the English inequality in land is due only to economic causes, or that the drunkenness of England is due only to economic causes, is saying something so absurd that he cannot really have thought what he was saying.

Yet things quite as preposterous as this are said and written under the influence of that great spectacle of babyish helplessness, the economic theory of history. We have people who represent that all great historic motives were economic, and then have to howl at the top of their voices in order to induce the modern democracy to act on economic motives. The extreme Marxian politicians in England exhibit themselves as a small, heroic minority, trying vainly to induce the world to do what, according to their theory, the world always does. The truth is, of course, that there will be a social revolution the moment the thing has ceased to be purely economic. You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution.

-Tremendous Trifles (1909)

"It lives, because it involves the staggering story of the Creator truly groaning and travailing with his Creation..."

In every century, in this century, in the next century, the Passion is what it was in the first century, when it occurred; a thing stared at by a crowd. It remains a tragedy of the people; a crime of the people; a consolation of the people; but never merely a thing of the period. And its vitality comes from the very things that its foes find a scandal and a stumbling block; from its dogmatism and from its dreadfulness. It lives, because it involves the staggering story of the Creator truly groaning and travailing with his Creation; and the highest thing thinkable passing through some nadir of the lowest curve of the cosmos. And it lives, because the very blast from this black cloud of death comes upon the world as a wind of everlasting life; by which all things wake and are alive.

-The Way of the Cross (1935)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"If there were no God, there would be no atheists."

We have had during the last few centuries a series of extremely simple religions; each indeed trying to be more simple than the last. And the manifest mark of all these simplifications was, not only that they were finally sterile, but that they were very rapidly stale. A man had said the last word about them when he had said the first. Atheism is, I suppose, the supreme example of a simple faith. The man says there is no God; if he really says it in his heart, he is a certain sort of man so designated in Scripture. But, anyhow, he has said it; and there seems to be no more to be said. The conversation seems likely to languish. The truth is that the atmosphere of excitement, by which the atheist lived, was an atmosphere of thrilled and shuddering theism, and not of atheism at all; it was an atmosphere of defiance and not of denial. Irreverence is a very servile parasite of reverence; and has starved with its starving lord. After this first fuss about the merely aesthetic effect of blasphemy, the whole thing vanishes into its own void. If there were no God, there would be no atheists.

-Where All Roads Lead (1922)

Friday, September 23, 2011

"This may be the new rule of Humanitarianism; and no tyranny like it has ever darkened the sky of men."

When the world next tries persecution seriously it will probably be under some new name or with some new excuse. There are many strictly modern things which could be used very easily as instruments for suppressing opinion. For instance- doctors. In these days we should not like to be so fanatical as to say that a man was wrong; but we should probably think nothing of saying that a man was mad, and treating him accordingly. If ever the Archbishop of Canterbury wishes to suppress General Booth, he will be very foolish if he used the cumbersome and antiquated language of intelligible philosophy or of historic Christianity. If he is wise he will take care to use, not the long words of Theology, but the long words of Science. He should not call him a Nestorian or Socinian; he should avoid all words in "ian"; he should pick carefully, if possible, words ending in "iac." If he only called him a Nestoriac or a Sociniac, there would be something in the words that would make our scientific blood run cold. But it would be safer for him to say that General Booth was an advanced case of Soteritis (or diseased desire to save people), or that he was a pure case of Tympanomania (which means a morbid craving to walk behind a big drum.) Considering what a vast amount of solemn nonsense is talked in our time about the advance of psychology and mental experiment, and considering with what a ravenous simplicity it is all absorbed by the reading public, there seems no reason at all why this immense engine of pathological argument and medical coercion should not be put at the service of all the tyrants in the future. Instead of sending a man to prison for blasphemy, they will send him to the hospital for brain fever. If they want to put down Socialism, they will call it Irresponsible Promiscuity; if they want to put down individiualism, they will call it the malady of the Exaggerated Ego. This may be the new rule of Humanitarianism; and no tyranny like it has ever darkened the sky of men.

-March 30, 1907, Illustrated London News


I apologize for not posting as much so often lately- something I will try to fix. Basically, as a Cardinals fan, I've been getting into the NL Wild Card race, and have been a little neglectful towards remembering to post here. Oops! Sorry about that.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"If the judges are not restrained by the law, what are they restrained by, which every autocrat on earth has not claimed to be restrained by?"

In praising the judgment in the Jackson Case, despite its technical irregularity, [Judge Parry] speaks of a fine example of our judgemade law, and says: "But that is one of the sane and healthy attributes of our judicial system. There comes a breaking-point where a great judge recognizes that the precedents in the books are obsolete, and what has to be stated is the justice of the case according to the now existing standard of human righteousness." Now it is surely as plain as a pikestaff that this doctrine makes a small number of very wealthy old gentlemen in wigs absolute despots over the whole commonwealth. The Emperor of China was supposed to state the justice of the case. The Sultan of the Indies was supposed to judge by the existing standard of human righteousness. If the judges are not restrained by the law, what are they restrained by, which every autocrat on earth has not claimed to be restrained by?

Now there is certainly a case for personal and arbitrary government; and as there are good sultans, so there are good judges. I should not be afraid to appear before Judge Parry (if I may presume to imagine myself innocent) though he were surrounded with janissaries in a secret divan, or delivering dooms under an oak tree in a wild, prehistoric forest. I should not mind his having the power to skin me or boil me in oil; for I feel sure he would "recognize that these precedents were obsolete" and not do it. But it is by no means true that the confidence I should feel in Judge Parry would be extended to any judge who talked about obsolete precedents and human righteousness. Quite the contrary, if anything. I trust him because he often takes the side of the under-dog. I should not trust a man who always took the side of the opinion which happened to be topdog....There is, let us suppose, an old statute that certain prisoners may be tortured for evidence; but the judges disregard it, and Judge Parry is satisfied. But there are three very vital reasons why he should not be satisfied. First, it encourages legislators to be lazy and leave a bad statute they ought to repeal. Second, they leave it so that it can be resharpened in some reaction or panic against particular people, who will be tortured. And third, and most important of all, the same judge who has said that prisoners must not be tortured for evidence may say some fine morning that prisoners may be vivisected for scientific inquiry; and he may have the same reason for saying the one as the other, the simple reason that such talk is fashionable in his set. And the set is very small and very rich; we are dealing strictly with fashion and not even, in any large sense, with public opinion. The standards of that world are often special and sometimes rather secretive. Judge Parry even quotes a "paradox" of Lord Reading to the effect that persons like himself should administer justice and not law. Law is narrow and national, and might possibly lead a British Minister to look no further than the British Parliament as an appropriate place for telling the truth. But justice, being international and surveying the world from China to Peru, perceives without difficulty the office of the one particular Parisian newspaper which has the right to insist on an explanation.

-The Uses of Diversity (1921)

Monday, September 19, 2011

"We are not altering the real to suit the ideal. We are altering the ideal: it is easier."

Progress should mean that we are always changing the world to suit the vision. Progress does mean (just now) that we are always changing the vision. It should mean that we are slow but sure in bringing justice and mercy among men: it does mean that we are very swift in doubting the desirability of justice and mercy: a wild page from any Prussian sophist makes men doubt it. Progress should mean that we are always walking towards the New Jerusalem. It does mean that the New Jerusalem is always walking away from us. We are not altering the real to suit the ideal. We are altering the ideal: it is easier.

-Orthodoxy (1908)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Examples of G.K. Chesterton's Influence

Yesterday, I finished revising my list of examples of GKC's influence (which is linked to in the info at the top of the blog, btw).

Basically, besides wishing to add some more examples (while pruning a little from what was there before), I also wished to make the presentation look better. The old list looked very cluttered, but hopefully now the new list looks only somewhat so. lol.

Anyway, here is the link

Examples of the influence of G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Men are not only rising against their oppressors, but against their representatives or, as they would say, their misrepresentatives."

The almost sacramental idea of representation, by which the few may incarnate the many, arose in the Middle Ages, and has done great things for justice and liberty. It has had its real hours of triumph, as when the States General met to renew France's youth like the eagle's; or when all the virtues of the Republic fought and ruled in the figure of Washington. It is not having one of its hours of triumph now. The real democratic unrest at this moment is not an extension of the representative process, but rather a revolt against it. It is no good giving those now in revolt more boards and committees and compulsory regulations. It is against these very things that they are revolting. Men are not only rising against their oppressors, but against their representatives or, as they would say, their misrepresentatives. The inner and actual spirit of workaday England is coming out not in applause, but in anger, as a god who should come out of his tabernacle to rebuke and confound his priests.

-A Miscellany of Men (1912)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Return to Nature

Properly speaking, of course, there is no such thing as a return to nature, because there is no such thing as a departure from it. The phrase reminds one of the slightly intoxicated gentleman who gets up in his own dining room and declares firmly that he must be getting home.

-quoted in Chesterton Review (August 1993)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"To wait till the holy horn is blown, And all poor men are free."

"People, if you have any prayers,
Say prayers for me:
And lay me under a Christian stone
In that lost land I thought my own,
To wait till the holy horn is blown,
And all poor men are free."

-The Ballad of the White Horse (1911)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

"...the one great use of newspapers is to suppress news."

It may or may not be true that man's great use for language is to conceal his thoughts; but I suppose that we should all agree to the somewhat analogous proposition that the one great use of newspapers is to suppress news. It is quite arguable that suppressing news is sometimes a good thing; and it is unquestionable that, whether it is good or bad, newspapers do it.

-March 2, 1907, Illustrated London News

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but the absence of self-criticism"

What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but the absence of self-criticism. It is comparatively of little consequence that you occasionally break out and abuse other people, so long as you do not absolve yourself. The former is a natural collapse of human weakness; the latter is a blasphemous assumption of divine power.

-Sidelights (1932)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"Take away the supernatural, and what remains is the unnatural."

It is hard to see at first sight why so human a thing as leisure and larkiness should always have a religious origin. Rationally there appears no reason why we should not sing and give each other presents in honour of anything--the birth of Michael Angelo or the opening of Euston Station. But it does not work. As a fact, men only become greedily and gloriously material about something spiritualistic. Take away the Nicene Creed and similar things, and you do some strange wrong to the sellers of sausages. Take away the strange beauty of the saints, and what has remained to us is the far stranger ugliness of Wandsworth. Take away the supernatural, and what remains is the unnatural.

-Heretics (1905)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Chuck it, Smith!"

Antichrist, or the Reunion of Christendom: An Ode
  "A Bill which has shocked the conscience of every Christian community
in Europe." -- Mr. F. E. Smith, on the Welsh Disestablishment Bill.

Are they clinging to their crosses,
F. E. Smith,
Where the Breton boat-fleet tosses,
Are they, Smith?
Do they, fasting, trembling, bleeding,
Wait the news from this our city?
Groaning "That's the Second Reading!"
Hissing "There is still Committee!"
If the voice of Cecil falters,
If McKenna's point has pith,
Do they tremble for their altars?
Do they, Smith?

Russian peasants round their pope
Huddled, Smith,
Hear about it all, I hope,
Don't they, Smith?
In the mountain hamlets clothing
Peaks beyond Caucasian pales,
Where Establishment means nothing
And they never heard of Wales,
Do they read it all in Hansard --
With a crib to read it with --
"Welsh Tithes: Dr. Clifford answered."
Really, Smith?

In the lands where Christians were,
F. E. Smith,
In the little lands laid bare,
Smith, O Smith!
Where the Turkish bands are busy
And the Tory name is blessed
Since they hailed the Cross of Dizzy
On the banners from the West!
Men don't think it half so hard if
Islam burns their kin and kith,
Since a curate lives in Cardiff
Saved by Smith.

It would greatly, I must own,
Soothe me, Smith!
If you left this theme alone,
Holy Smith!
For your legal cause or civil
You fight well and get your fee;
For your God or dream or devil
You will answer, not to me.
Talk about the pews and steeples
And the cash that goes therewith!
But the souls of Christian peoples...
Chuck it, Smith!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

"The Church had to be careful, if only that the world might be careless."

Last and most important, it is exactly this which explains what is so inexplicable to all the modern critics of the history of Christianity. I mean the monstrous wars about small points of theology, the earthquakes of emotion about a gesture or a word. It was only a matter of an inch; but an inch is everything when you are balancing. The Church could not afford to swerve a hair's breadth on some things if she was to continue her great and daring experiment of the irregular equilibrium. Once let one idea become less powerful and some other idea would become too powerful. It was no flock of sheep the Christian shepherd was leading, but a herd of bulls and tigers, of terrible ideals and devouring doctrines, each one of them strong enough to turn to a false religion and lay waste the world. Remember that the Church went in specifically for dangerous ideas; she was a lion tamer. The idea of birth through a Holy Spirit, of the death of a divine being, of the forgiveness of sins, or the fulfilment of prophecies, are ideas which, any one can see, need but a touch to turn them into something blasphemous or ferocious. The smallest link was let drop by the artificers of the Mediterranean, and the lion of ancestral pessimism burst his chain in the forgotten forests of the north. Of these theological equalisations I have to speak afterwards. Here it is enough to notice that if some small mistake were made in doctrine, huge blunders might be made in human happiness. A sentence phrased wrong about the nature of symbolism would have broken all the best statues in Europe. A slip in the definitions might stop all the dances; might wither all the Christmas trees or break all the Easter eggs. Doctrines had to be defined within strict limits, even in order that man might enjoy general human liberties. The Church had to be careful, if only that the world might be careless.

-Orthodoxy (1908)

"I think it absurd to make it an objection to brewers that they sell beer. My only objection to many brewers is that they don't."

I think it absurd to make it an objection to brewers that they sell beer. My only objection to many brewers is that they don't. Having sampled the stuff they do sell in a large number of their tied houses, I have come to the conclusion that the brewers must have an even more passionate and mystical objection to the substance called beer than the teetotalers. Perhaps it is a part of some secret religious scruple of theirs that whatever they have sold, at least they have not sold fermented hops; or, as some call it, 'the accursed thing.' I can imagine some modern brewers defending themselves with passion at some great bar of judgment, and saying, 'We defy you to find so much as a trace of the abominable thing called beer in the liquor which we have sold. Vinegar you may find, salt, methylated spirit, innocent mud, blameless backing, glue, gunpowder-a thousand other harmless things, but beer- no- it is a slander.' "

-October 12, 1907, Illustrated London News

The real case against drunkenness is not that it calls up the beast, but that it calls up the Devil. It does not call up the beast, and if it did it would not matter much, as a rule; the beast is a harmless and rather amiable creature, as anybody can see by watching cattle. There is nothing bestial about intoxication; and certainly there is nothing intoxicating or even particularly lively about beasts. Man is always something worse or something better than an animal; and a mere argument from animal perfection never touches him at all. Thus, in sex no animal is either chivalrous or obscene. And thus no animal ever invented anything so bad as drunkenness—or so good as drink.

-All Things Considered (1908)

Friday, September 2, 2011



There is one sin: to call a green leaf gray,
Whereat the sun in heaven shuddereth.
There is one blasphemy: for death to pray,
For God alone knoweth the praise of death.

There is one creed: ’’neath no world-terror’s wing
Apples forget to grow on apple-trees.
There is one thing is needful: everything
The rest is vanity of vanities.

-The Wild Knight (1900)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dion DiMucci on GKC

“Then I went to G.K. Chesterton…He was Catholic and I started looking at what he was saying about Catholicism, and I’m telling you… C.S. Lewis, [Chesterton] , these guys are my heroes. I love these guys.”

-Dion DiMucci


"We are to believe that mothers are inhuman; but not that officials are human."

Modern education is founded on the principle that a parent is more likely to be cruel than anybody else. It passes over the obvious fact that he is less likely to be cruel than anybody else. Anybody may happen to be cruel; but the first chances of cruelty come with the whole colourless and indifferent crowd of total strangers and mechanical mercenaries, whom it is now the custom to call in as infallible agents of improvement; policemen, doctors, detectives, inspectors, instructors, and so on. They are automatically given arbitrary power because there are here and there such things as criminal parents; as if there were no such things as criminal doctors or criminal school-masters. A mother is not always judicious about her child's diet, so it is given into the control of Dr. Crippen. A father is thought not to teach his sons the purest morality; so they are put under the tutorship of Eugene Aram. These celebrated criminals are no more rare in their respective professions than the cruel parents are in the profession of parenthood. But indeed the case is far stronger than this; and there is no need to rely on the case of such criminals at all. The ordinary weaknesses of human nature will explain all the weaknesses of bureaucracy and business government all over the world. The official need only be an ordinary man to be more indifferent to other people's children than to his own; and even to sacrifice other people's family prosperity to his own. He may be bored; he may be bribed; he may be brutal, for any one of the thousand reasons that ever made a man a brute. All this elementary common sense is entirely left out of account in our educational and social systems of today. It is assumed that the hireling will not flee, and that solely because he is a hireling. It is denied that the shepherd will lay down his life for the sheep; or for that matter, even that the she-wolf will fight for the cubs. We are to believe that mothers are inhuman; but not that officials are human. There are unnatural parents, but there are no natural passions; at least, there are none where the fury of King Lear dared to find them-- in the beadle.

-The Superstition of Divorce (1920)