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)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"....that most uproarious of all things, humility..."

Now this is, I say deliberately, the only defect in the greatness of Mr. Shaw, the only answer to his claim to be a great man, that he is not easily pleased. He is an almost solitary exception to the general and essential maxim, that little things please great minds. And from this absence of that most uproarious of all things, humility, comes incidentally the peculiar insistence on the Superman. After belabouring a great many people for a great many years for being unprogressive, Mr. Shaw has discovered, with characteristic sense, that it is very doubtful whether any existing human being with two legs can be progressive at all. Having come to doubt whether humanity can be combined with progress, most people, easily pleased, would have elected to abandon progress and remain with humanity. Mr. Shaw, not being easily pleased, decides to throw over humanity with all its limitations and go in for progress for its own sake. If man, as we know him, is incapable of the philosophy of progress, Mr. Shaw asks, not for a new kind of philosophy, but for a new kind of man. It is rather as if a nurse had tried a rather bitter food for some years on a baby, and on discovering that it was not suitable, should not throw away the food and ask for a new food, but throw the baby out of window, and ask for a new baby. Mr. Shaw cannot understand that the thing which is valuable and lovable in our eyes is man--the old beer-drinking, creed-making, fighting, failing, sensual, respectable man. And the things that have been founded on this creature immortally remain; the things that have been founded on the fancy of the Superman have died with the dying civilizations which alone have given them birth. When Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society, He chose for its comer-stone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob a coward--in a word, a man. And upon this rock He has built His Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it. All the empires and the kingdoms have failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.

-Heretics (1905)

Monday, January 30, 2012

"The greater the book the more the average man feels himself capable of editing it."

It is certainly a singular fact that the more mysterious a matter is the more popular it is with the mass of humanity: this fact is perhaps the root of religions and is at any rate a very gratifying thing. Pure matters of fact which any one could find out who took the trouble, such as the number of Lord Roberts's proclamations or the number of lamp-posts in the Borough road, are treated with a semi-mystical terror and respect, as the prerogatives of a priesthood of specialists. But the things which are inscrutable and immeasurable in themselves...in these everybody feels at home. The cheapest, the most numerous, the most personal and frivolous class of books are probably those dealing with the Bible, the most tremendous of works on the most tremendous of subjects. The greater the book the more the average man feels himself capable of editing it. The man who turns out a little tract on David or Saul every month would be worried if asked to interpret Spenser, completely embarrassed if asked to interpret Maeterlinck, and struck with mere grovelling terror if asked to interpret Mr. Stephen Phillips.

-March 2, 1901, The Speaker

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Various quotes

 "The modern world may or may not recover a religion, but it is rapidly making a mythology"
 -The Century Magazine, May 1923

"[They] are in one sense very narrow indeed. They are progressive: that is, they deal in terms of time and not of eternity."
 -The Century Magazine, December 1922

"His greatest defect as a poet is a desire to scorn things, which means a desire to be ignorant of them. The true poet shuts nothing out; he looks upon nothing contemptuously, except perhaps upon contempt."
-The Pall Magazine, Volume XXV, September-December 1901

"He has...the fighting spirit, due not to the presence of courage, which is a spiritual virtue, but to the absence of fear, which is an animal defect"
--The Pall Magazine, Volume XXV, September-December 1901

"In the abstract the educated have, no doubt, an advantage over the uneducated; only it happens that we all have a gradual and growing conviction that those who have been educated have been educated wrong."
-The Reader, volume 9 (1907)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

President Woodrow Wilson on GKC

Although a member of the Presbyterian Church by birthright, and regular in his attendance, [Woodrow Wilson] does not talk on such subjects along denominational lines; but he is quick to assert his Christianity and to claim for its dogmas a perfectly secure basis in logic and philosophy. One of the reasons why he enjoys Chesterton's essays is the cleverness with which that writer exposes the narrowness and obtuseness of scepticism.

-"Woodrow Wilson: Character Sketch"
Evening Post, Volume LXXXIV, Issue 112, 7 November 1912, Page 7 

Mr. Wilson has the same unwearied delight in rereading his favorite authors, the speeches of Burke, the essays of Bagehot, Augustine Birrell, Gilbert K. Chesterton, poems of Wordsworth and Browning, and passages from his favorite Shaksperian play, "Henry the Fifth.

-"The Kind of Man Woodrow Wilson Is", W.G. McAdoo [vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee of 1912]
The Century Magazine, volume 85 (November, 1912, to April, 1913)

Minor Characters

"We must certainly be in a novel;
What I like about this novelist is that he takes such trouble about his minor characters."

-quoted in Gilbert Keith Chesterton by Maisie Ward (1943)

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Influence of G.K. Chesterton, Part Two

The Influence of G.K. Chesterton, Part Two

The Influence of G.K. Chesterton, Part One

The Influence of G.K. Chesterton, Part One

What do you think?

I just came across this quote tonight from a contribution Chesterton made to the Daily Telegraph in 1920 in answer to a question posed in that paper :

"There is something more peculiar and provocative in the Christian idea, and it was expressed in the words repentance and humility. Or, to put it in more topical terms, it means that when we face the facts of the age, the first facts we face should be the faults of ourselves; and that we should at least consider, concerning any fact, the possibility that it is our fault. Now, of course, the most important form of this is too individual for this public problem; indeed, it cannot in its nature be a criticism of anybody else."

-G.K. Chesterton

Is it a New World? A Series of Articles and Letters Contributed by Correspondents to the "Daily Telegraph" August-September, 1920 (published in 1921)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Various quotes

"It must be resolutely proclaimed that into the world of wonder there is no gate but the low gate of humility, through the arch of which the earth shines like elfland."
-March 23, 1901, The Speaker

"The very essence of friendship is in this intermixture, in those great midnight conversations in which the primary colours of separate personalities are mingled into incredible greens and purples, as rich and unrecoverable as a sunset."
-October 20, 1900, The Speaker 

"Undoubtedly looking down and speaking down and writing down to the human soul have been the sterilising curses of education. That everything should look up to everything else may be a little bewildering as geometry, but like many other impossibilities, it is simple and successful in morals."
-November 24, 1900, The Speaker

"He is one of the embodiments of that tendency, sound and useful originally, towards the poetry of the Savage, otherwise called the Bachelor..."
-November 10, 1900, The Speaker

"...the mystic is not...a man who reverences large things so much as a man who reverences small ones, who reduces himself to a point, without parts or magnitude, so that to him the grass is really a forest and the grasshopper a dragon. Little things please great minds."
-December 15, 1900, The Speaker

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"With the humility of true mystics we shall praise each other in such a manner that it shall be clear that we are only praising God."

I understand from my daily paper that William Shakespeare was born some time ago, and that people are celebrating his creditable conduct in this respect. It is a very deep and noble trait or mark...that, when we wish to give people presents or to light bonfires in their honor, we select for admiration an incident which they could not possibly help. With the humility of true mystics we shall praise each other in such a manner that it shall be clear that we are only praising God. If ever we should fall into a habit of giving a man presents on the day of some meritorious action of his own, on the day that he wrote a poem or shot a millionaire, we may be perfectly certain that we have become pagans with all the heartless arrogance of paganism.

-Christian World, quoted in The Unitarian Register, volume 84 (1905)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Charles Dicken's son "specially recommended" GKC's book on his father

I had in an earlier post mentioned how Charles Dicken's daughter was an enthusiastic admirer of GKC's book on her father , with her saying it was the best book on Dickens since Forster's biography of him written 32 years before.

But this morning, while reading from a publication from 1912, I also found out that one of Dicken's sons also highly recommended it.

From Ohio Educational Monthly, volume 61 (1912) [emphasis mine]:

We sincerely hope that many teachers will study [Dicken's] life more or less in detail. to all who are interested we commend the following Books of Reference:

"My Father as I Recall Him," by Mamie Dickens: "Charles Dickens as I Knew Him," By George Dolby; "The Life of Charles Dickens," by John Forster; "Childhood and Youth of Charles Dickens,'" by Robert Langton, and "Life of Charles Dickens," by Chesterton. The last named is specially recommended by Alfred Tennyson Dickens, who is not well pleased with the Forster Life.

Just wanted to share that, since I had been unaware of it before. :-)

"He could enjoy trifles because there was to him no such thing as a trifle."

Stevenson's enormous capacity for joy flowed directly out of his profoundly religious temperament. He conceived himself as an unimportant guest at one eternal and uproarious banquet, and instead of grumbling at the soup, he accepted it with that careless gratitude that marks the baby and the real man of the world. He rode on the great galloping gift-horse of existence, with the joy of a horseman at once dexterous and reckless, and did not, like many more ambitious philosophers, nearly fall off in his desperate efforts to look the gift-horse in the mouth. His gaiety was neither the gaiety of the pagan, nor the gaiety of the bon vivant. It was the greater gaiety of the mystic. He could enjoy trifles because there was to him no such thing as a trifle. He was a child who respected his dolls because they were the images of the image of God, portraits at only two removes. He was a boy who thought his fireworks were as splendid as the stars, but it was only because he thought the stars were as youthful and as festive as the fireworks.

-October 18, 1901, Daily News

Monday, January 23, 2012

"Whence came this extraordinary idea that laughing at a thing is hostile?"

To jeer at a child is contemptible...But to laugh at a child is simply the natural thing to do and a great compliment. Whence came this extraordinary idea that laughing at a thing is hostile? Friends laugh at each other, lovers laugh at each other, all people who love each other laugh at each other. If Mrs. Stetson Gilman can by any possibility help laughing at a child the moment he puts his preposterous nose into the door, she has a different sense of humour from ourselves. Does not Mrs. Gilman see that to suppress so essential a sentiment, to treat a baby painting his nose blue with portentous silence and solemnity is to create an atmosphere far more false, a cloud of lies a hundred times thicker, than all the conventions against which she protests? The lovable grotesqueness of children is a part of their essential poetry, it symbolises the foolish freshness of life itself, it goes down to the mysterious heart of man; the heart out of which came elves and fairies and gnomes. So far from wishing that children should be treated with the ridiculous and pompous gravity with which civilised men treat each other, we ourselves wish that civilised men were treated as children are, that their blundering utterances were always laughed at in kindness, that their futile amusements were relished as quaint and graceful instead of vulgar and eccentric, that their sins were punished without morbid exaggeration and their whole life frankly admitted to be a stumbling and groping and stammering after better things. If a stockbroker were gaily patted on the head when he had made a million, perhaps he would think less of his triumph; if a poet only had his hair pulled affectionately when he cursed God, it is probable that he would not do it again.

-March 9, 1901, The Speaker

Sunday, January 22, 2012

"In the whole range of human occupations, is it possible to imagine a poorer thing than an iconoclast?"

In the whole range of human occupations, is it possible to imagine a poorer thing than an iconoclast? It is the lowest of all the unskilled trades. And like many other unskilled trades it has no power of combination; the mere 'unconventional' moderns cannot agree upon which convention to destroy. An artist, at any rate, ought evidently to be not only something different from an iconoclast, but the opposite of an iconoclast. He ought to be a maker of images, not a breaker of them. He ought to be not a destroyer, but a creator of gods.

-The Daily News, as quoted in The Book Buyer: A Monthly Review of American and Foreign Literature (1905)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I know that most politicians are engaged in trying to imitate the other politicians, which cannot be considered as a school of virtue.

-July 9, 1910, Illustrated London News

"[His] work deals with the ancient writings....but...he ignores two small points- first that they are ancient, and, secondly, that they are writings."

....Mr. Baron's work deals with the ancient writings, on which he argues ingeniously enough, but about which he ignores two small points- first, that they are ancient, and, secondly, that they are writings. A man cannot comprehend even the form and language of the Psalms without a literary sense. For what are the essential facts? A great though rude and wandering people lived thousands of years ago who had, by what, from any point of view, may truly be called an inspiration, a sudden and startling glimpse of an enormous philosophical truth...the unity of creation. Opulent empires and brilliant republics all round them were still in the nets of polytheism, but this band...knew better. This is the immortality of the Jews. Them we can never dethrone: they discovered the one central thing no modern man can help believing...

This awful simplification of things they discovered, as it has since been discovered by innumerable sages. But their unique historic interest lies in this: that by a strange circumstance, that has every resemblance to a miracle, they discovered it in the morning of the world, in an age when men had and needed no philosophic language. Hence they threw it into poetical language. They spoke of this startling speculative theory with the same bold, brisk, plain-coloured imagery with which primitive ballads commonly speak of war and hunting, women and gold... But Mr Baron in attempting an estimate of the relation of the Jews to the Old Testament is merely interested in the theological and dogmatic side of the matter. He does not seem to be aware that the Bible is rather a fine book. He deals with the central interest of the whole matter the gradual emergence in Job and the Prophets of this sublime monism out of a tribal creed and still under the literary forms of a tribal poem but he does not seem to see it. He thinks like all conventional dogmatists that a sentence or two in the style of the Daily Telegraph will elucidate the style of Scripture which is as straightforward as a nursery rhyme. He really supposes that to say that God is not "under obligation" for an "animal sacrifice" contains all that is contained in such a daring simple unfathomable sentence as "If I were hungry I would not tell thee."

-March 2, 1901, The Speaker

"...whom some sages would strangle in pure compassion."

Professor Pearson, in his view of national life, is a well-meaning and vigorous upholder of the great principle of the survival of the nastiest. His remarks on the danger of allowing a physically "bad stock" to multiply, though not very precisely expressed, seems certainly to tend towards the idea of conducting the lives and loves of mankind on strict cattle-breeding principles. To our own simple minds it appears rather to depend on whether we wish to produce the same tone of thought and degree of culture in men and in cattle. The virtues which we demand from cows are at present few and simple, and, therefore, we pursue a certain physical régime: if ever we should particularity wish to see cows writing poetry, cows building hotels, and cows speaking in Parliament, we would probably adopt another régime. A random example of the unsuitability of a biological test of so intellectual a matter as civilization springs at once to the mind. There was born early in this century a man who scarcely had a day's complete health in his life, a perfect example of the "unfit" creature whom some sages would strangle in pure compassion. That man was Charles Darwin, on whose discovery the sages base their action. Their principle would never have been heard of if it had not been the custom to violate it. If this is not a reductio ad absurdum, we do not know what is.

-February 2, 1901, The Speaker

Monday, January 16, 2012

list of short GKC quotes

I just wished to provide a short list of GKC quotes (120 at the time that I first post this, though I may add to the list from time to time). It is by no means exhaustive, of course, but I had to stop somewhere. :-)

"Children need to be taught primarily the grandeur of the whole world. It is merely the whole world that needs to be taught the grandeur of children."

They have yielded to that singular delusion...that the child as such is interesting to children. This is a mistake which any hack-journalist would despise. Every one is interested in the local colour of foreign travel, but a book entitled Strange Adventures among the Aborigines of Clapham would not gratify the inhabitants of that suburb. Yet the customs of Clapham are, to the true philosophic traveler, weird and even terrifying. So the eternal value of children to maturity is that they are a palpable scientific elfland, but the essence of elves is unconsciousness and utter solemnity. The books that should be set before children are books of play and ceremonial, and pomp and war: the whole gloria mundi, the whole pageant of history, full of blood and pride, may safely be told them- everything but the secret of their own incomparable influence. Children need to be taught primarily the grandeur of the whole world. It is merely the whole world that needs to be taught the grandeur of children...The compilers have honourably rejected bad literature, but they seem to have had the idea that they had only to find a piece of good literature referring to children and submit it affectionately to the child...It is the glory of the child as the type of the celestial that his mind is a house of windows. To surround him with child poems and pictures is to paint the panes outside with silver and make his mind, like the mind of a maniac, a house of mirrors.

-November 24, 1900, The Speaker, "Literature and Childhood"

Sunday, January 15, 2012

"...we lose our bearings entirely by speaking of the "lower classes" when we mean humanity minus ourselves."

...we lose our bearings entirely by speaking of the "lower classes" when we mean humanity minus ourselves.

-The Defendant (1901)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"It is useless to object to man being made ridiculous. Man is born ridiculous, as can easily be seen if you look at him soon after he is born."

The primary respect in which Shaw has been a bad influence is that he has encouraged fastidiousness. He has made men dainty about their moral meals. This is indeed the root of his whole objection to romance. Many people have objected to romance for being too airy and exquisite. Shaw objects to romance for being too rank and coarse. Many have despised romance because it is unreal; Shaw really hates it because it is a great deal too real. Shaw dislikes romance as he dislikes beef and beer, raw brandy or raw beefsteaks. Romance is too masculine for his taste. You will find throughout his criticisms, amid all their truth, their wild justice or pungent impartiality, a curious undercurrent of prejudice upon one point: the preference for the refined rather than the rude or ugly. Thus he will dislike a joke because it is coarse without asking if it is really immoral. He objects to a man sitting down on his hat, whereas the austere moralist should only object to his sitting down on someone else's hat. This sensibility is barren because it is universal. It is useless to object to man being made ridiculous. Man is born ridiculous, as can easily be seen if you look at him soon after he is born. It is grotesque to drink beer, but it is equally grotesque to drink soda-water; the grotesqueness lies in the act of filling yourself like a bottle through a hole. It is undignified to walk with a drunken stagger; but it is fairly undignified to walk at all, for all walking is a sort of balancing, and there is always in the human being something of a quadruped on its hind legs. I do not say he would be more dignified if he went on all fours; I do not know that he ever is dignified except when he is dead. We shall not be refined till we are refined into dust. Of course it is only because he is not wholly an animal that man sees he is a rum animal; and if man on his hind legs is in an artificial attitude, it is only because, like a dog, he is begging or saying thank you.

-George Bernard Shaw (1909)

"Anybody can talk for ever about a non-existent religion which shall be free from all the evils of existence..."

There is a Church in active operation; and for that reason it exhibits all the dogmas and differences charged against the Church of Christ. But the philosophy expressed in the Usual Article avoids all these disadvantages by never coming into the world of reality at all. Its god is afraid to be born; its scripture is afraid to be written; it only manages to remain as the New Religion by always coming to-morrow and never to-day. It puffs itself out with spiritual pride, because it does not impose what it cannot even invent. It shines with Pharisaical self-satisfaction, because there are no crimes committed for its creed and no creed to be the motive of its crimes. This sort of critic is a surgeon who never performs an unsuccessful operation because he never operates; a soldier who never falls because he never fights. Anybody can talk for ever about a non-existent religion which shall be free from all the evils of existence. Anybody can dream of that entirely humane and harmonious Christianity, whose Christ is never born and never crucified. It is so easy to do, that half a hundred people in the papers and the public discussions have been doing nothing else for the last twenty or thirty years. But it is every bit as futile as applied to a spiritual ideal as it would be if applied to a scientific theory or a political programme...

-The Thing (1929)

Friday, January 13, 2012

"The truth is that the modern world has had a mental breakdown; much more than a moral breakdown."

The truth is that the modern world has had a mental breakdown; much more than a moral breakdown. Things are being settled by mere associations because there is a reluctance to settle them by arguments. Nearly all the talk about what is advanced and what is antiquated has become a sort of giggling excitement about fashions.

-The Thing (1929)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"...they always have an unconscious dogma; and an unconscious dogma is the definition of a prejudice."

The special mark of the modern world is not that it is sceptical, but that it is dogmatic without knowing it. It says, in mockery of the old devotees,that they believed without knowing why they believed. But the moderns believe without knowing what they believe- and without even knowing that they do believe it. Their freedom consists in first freely assuming a creed, and then freely forgetting that they are assuming it. In short, they always have an unconscious dogma; and an unconscious dogma is the definition of a prejudice. They are the dullest and deadest of ritualists who merely recite their creed in their subconsciousness, as if they repeated their creed in their sleep. A man who is awake should know what he is saying, and why he is saying it- that is, he should have a fixed creed and relate it to a first principle. This is what most moderns will never consent to do. Their thoughts will work out to most interesting conclusions; but they can never tell you anything about their beginnings. They have always taken away the number they first thought of. They have always forgotten the very fact or fancy on which their whole theory depends.

-March 15, 1919, Illustrated London News

"Milton does not merely beat them at his piety, he beats them at their own irreverence."

The theory of the unmorality of art has established itself firmly in the strictly artistic classes. They are free to produce anything they like. They are free to write a "Paradise Lost" in which Satan shall conquer God. They are free to write a "Divine Comedy" in which heaven shall be under the floor of hell. And what have they done? Have they produced in their universality anything grander or more beautiful than the things uttered by the fierce Ghibbeline Catholic, by the rigid Puritan schoolmaster? We know that they have produced only a few roundels. Milton does not merely beat them at his piety, he beats them at their own irreverence. In all their little books of verse you will not find a finer defiance of God than Satan's. Nor will you find the grandeur of paganism felt as that fiery Christian felt it who described Faranata lifting his head as in disdain of hell. And the reason is very obvious. Blasphemy is an artistic effect, because blasphemy depends upon a philosophical conviction. Blasphemy depends upon belief and is fading with it. If any one doubts this, let him sit down seriously and try to think blasphemous thoughts about Thor. I think his family will find him at the end of the day in a state of some exhaustion.

-Heretics (1905)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"...a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists."

There are those who deny with enthusiasm the existence of a God and are happy in a hobby which they call the Mistakes of Moses. I have not studied their labours in detail, but it seems that the chief mistake of Moses was that he neglected to write the Pentateuch. The lesser errors, apparently, were not made by Moses, but by another person equally unknown. These controversialists cover the very widest field, and their attacks upon Scripture are varied to the point of wildness. They range from the proposition that the unexpurgated Bible is almost as unfit for an American girls' school as is an unexpurgated Shakespeare; they descend to the proposition that kissing the Book is almost as hygienically dangerous as kissing the babies of the poor. A superficial critic might well imagine that there was not one single sentence left of the Hebrew or Christian Scriptures which this school had not marked with some ingenious and uneducated comment. But there is one passage at least upon which they have never pounced, at least to my knowledge; and in pointing it out to them I feel that I am, or ought to be, providing material for quite a multitude of Hyde Park orations. I mean that singular arrangement in the mystical account of the Creation by which light is created first and all the luminous bodies afterwards. One could not imagine a process more open to the elephantine logic of the Bible-smasher than this: that the sun should be created after the sunlight. The conception that lies at the back of the phrase is indeed profoundly antagonistic to much of the modern point of view. To many modern people it would sound like saying that foliage existed before the first leaf; it would sound like saying that childhood existed before a baby was born. The idea is, as I have said, alien to most modern thought, and like many other ideas which are alien to most modern thought, it is a very subtle and a very sound idea. Whatever be the meaning of the passage in the actual primeval poem, there is a very real metaphysical meaning in the idea that light existed before the sun and stars. It is not barbaric; it is rather Platonic. The idea existed before any of the machinery which made manifest the idea. Justice existed when there was no need of judges, and mercy existed before any man was oppressed.

However this may be in the matter of religion and philosophy, it can be said with little exaggeration that this truth is the very key of literature. The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists, as the mother can love the unborn child. In creative art the essence of a book exists before the book or before even the details or main features of the book; the author enjoys it and lives in it with a kind of prophetic rapture.

-Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens (1911)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"...the fearful misprints that make nonsense and the far, far more fearful misprints that make sense."

[Sadly, something I've had to deal with more times than I wish to think about when blogging. lol]

Most journalists abound in jokes on the subject of misprints- the fearful misprints that make nonsense and the far, far more fearful misprints that make sense. For only those which are reasonable can really be ruinous. If the printer alters, 'He parted from Chloe with a final kiss,' and presents it as, 'He parted from Chloe with a final kilb,' nothing worse will result than a mild mystification- a sort of delicate mist into which the figures of the two loves will fade away. But if the printer takes the phrase, 'He parted from Chloe with a final kiss,' and turns it into 'He parted from Chloe with a final kick,' a distinctly different note will be struck in the whole romance; a definite but diverse shade of meaning will be conveyed to the reader, and yet one which his experience of the relations of the sexes may lead him to accept as intelligible and intentional. The reader may regard it as merely a touch of the new realistic method; slightly stark; just a trifle Neo-Primitive; but obviously an authentic tranche de la vie. But the original romantic writer, who really intended Chloe to be kissed and not kicked, will be distinctly annoyed.

-November 3, 1928, Illustrated London News

"The word 'good' has many meanings..."

The word "good" has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of 500 yards I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.

-GKC as quoted in Chesterton as Seen by His Contemporaries (Cyril Clemens, 1939)

Monday, January 9, 2012

"I am a man...and therefore have all devils in my heart"

"How do you know all this?" he cried. "Are you a devil?"

"I am a man," answered Father Brown gravely; "and therefore have all devils in my heart.

-The Innocence of Father Brown (1911)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

"The literature of joy is infinitely more difficult, more rare and more triumphant than the black and white literature of pain."

Pain, it is said, is the dominant element of life; but this is true only in a very special sense. If pain were for one single instant literally the dominant element in life, every man would be found hanging dead from his own bed-post by the morning. Pain, as the black and catastrophic thing, attracts the youthful artist, just as the schoolboy draws devils and skeletons and men hanging. But joy is a far more elusive and elvish matter, since it is our reason for existing, and a very feminine reason; it mingles with every breath we draw and every cup of tea we drink. The literature of joy is infinitely more difficult, more rare and more triumphant than the black and white literature of pain.

-The Defendant (1901)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Black and White

It is morally impossible not to be moral. It is asking too much of human nature to ask it to be merely unrighteous when it has a chance of being self-righteous. There is an insupportable temptation to say the right thing when you are, for once, on the right side...

...A quarrel is always a mutual appeal to conscience. Under the shock of it the most fantastic paradox-mongers put their trust in the eternal truisms. The poet, when in an ecstasy, will cry out that nothing is forbidden, that everybody is justified. But the poet, when in a quarrel, will not so easily cry out that his publisher is justified. The artist may claim all colours in a rainbow subtlety, fading into each other; but the artist, when disputing an arrangement with the art-dealer, will develop an interest in black and white.

-January 8, 1916, Illustrated London News

"A city is...more poetic even than a countryside, for while Nature is a chaos of unconscious forces, a city is a chaos of conscious ones."

A city is, properly speaking, more poetic even than a countryside, for while Nature is a chaos of unconscious forces, a city is a chaos of conscious ones. The crest of the flower or the pattern of the lichen may or may not be significant symbols. But there is no stone in the street and no brick in the wall that is not actually a deliberate symbol—a message from some man, as much as if it were a telegram or a post-card. The narrowest street possesses, in every crook and twist of its intention, the soul of the man who built it, perhaps long in his grave. Every brick has as human a hieroglyph as if it were a graven brick of Babylon; every slate on the roof is as educational a document as if it were a slate covered with addition and subtraction sums. Anything which tends, even under the fantastic form of the minutiae of Sherlock Holmes, to assert this romance of detail in civilization, to emphasize this unfathomably human character in flints and tiles, is a good thing. It is good that the average man should fall into the habit of looking imaginatively at ten men in the street even if it is only on the chance that the eleventh might be a notorious thief. We may dream, perhaps, that it might be possible to have another and higher romance of London, that men's souls have stranger adventures than their bodies, and that it would be harder and more exciting to hunt their virtues than to hunt their crimes.

-The Defendant (1901)

Friday, January 6, 2012

"The chief feature of our time is the meekness of the mob and the madness of the government."

Government has become ungovernable; that is, it cannot leave off governing. Law has become lawless; that is, it cannot see where laws should stop. The chief feature of our time is the meekness of the mob and the madness of the government.

-Eugenics and Other Evils (1922)

"...they cried 'Stop!' And it did stop."

Our fathers had a plain sort of pity; if you will, a gross and coarse pity...All their interference was heroic interference. All their legislation was heroic legislation. All their remedies were heroic remedies. No doubt they were often narrow and often visionary. No doubt they often looked at a political formula when they should have looked at an elemental fact. No doubt they were pedantic in some of their principles and clumsy in some of their solutions. No doubt, in short, they were all very wrong; and no doubt we are the people, and wisdom shall die with us. But when they saw something which in their eyes, such as they were, really violated their morality, such as it was, then they did not cry "Investigate!" They did not cry "Educate!" They did not cry "Improve!" They did not cry "Evolve!" Like Nicholas Nickleby they cried "Stop!" And it did stop.

-Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens (1911)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"Men rush towards complexity; but they yearn towards simplicity. They try to be kings; but they dream of being shepherds."

It is only the obvious things that are never seen; and a thing is often counted stale merely because men have been staring at it so long without seeing it. There is nothing harder to bring within a small and clear compass than generalisations about history, or even about humanity. But there is one especially evident and yet elusive in this matter of happiness. When men pause in the pursuit of happiness, seriously to picture happiness, they have always made what may be called a "primitive" picture. Men rush towards complexity; but they yearn towards simplicity. They try to be kings; but they dream of being shepherds. This is equally true whether they look back to a Golden Age or look forward to the most modern Utopia. The Golden Age is always imagined as an age free from the curse of gold. The perfect civilisation of the future is always something which many would call the higher savagery; and is conceived in the spirit that spoke of "Civilisation, its Cause and Cure." Whether it is Arcadia of the past or Utopia of the future, it is always something simpler than the present. From the Greek or Roman poet yearning for the peace of pastoral life to the last sociologist explaining the ideal social life, this sense of a return and a resolution into elemental things is apparent. The pipe of the shepherd is always something rather plainer than the lyre of the poet; and the ideal social life is some more or less subtle form of the simple life.

-Robert Louis Stevenson (1927)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"The religion of Christ has, like many true things, been disproved an extraordinary number of times."

The religion of Christ has, like many true things, been disproved an extraordinary number of times. It was disproved by the Neo-Platonist philosophers at the very moment when it was first starting forth upon its startling and universal career. It was disproved again by many of the sceptics of the Renaissance only a few years before its second and supremely striking embodiment, the religion of Puritanism, was about to triumph over many kings, and civilise many continents. We all agree that these schools of negation were only interludes in its history; but we all believe naturally and inevitably that the negation of our own day is really a breaking up of the theological cosmos, an Armageddon, a Ragnorak, a twilight of the gods. The man of the nineteenth century, like a schoolboy of sixteen, believes that his doubt and depression are symbols of the end of the world.

-Twelve Types (1902)

Monday, January 2, 2012

"...it seeks within the four corners of a village love-story to tell the whole story of the world."

It is one of the strangest and silliest notions ever developed by man that fiction is a light matter, a thing less ambitious than the chronicles of knowledge. As if it were not clearly a task both heavier and more ambitious, to create things like a deity than to copy them like a parrot. Fiction is good precisely in so far as it is serious; the most exuberant old fictions, from The Frogs of Aristophanes to the Pickwick Papers of Dickens, were good because they were serious. Fiction attempts in the full sense of the terrible words to give a picture of life. It seeks to sum up many million phenomena in one mathematical symbol; it seeks within the four corners of a village love-story to tell the whole story of the world.

-quoted in The Pall Magazine, Volume 25 (1900)