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)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

...the mere fact of the size and plain purpose of the Gospels makes nonsense of the whole of Mr. Roberts's laments about things being absent from them. One might as well complain of some subjects being left out of a telegram or a triolet. Mr. Roberts's complaint that Jesus does not mention debtors and creditors or the slave system, is utterly absurd when taken in connection with the nature of the books. He might as well object that the Lord's Prayer is entirely silent on the subject of a Second Chamber, the duty of doctors in time of plague, the art of Botticelli, the advisability of reading novels, and the use of tobacco. The Lord's Prayer is, in shape and purpose, a short prayer. The Gospel of St. Luke is, in shape and purpose, a short account of such sayings and doings of Jesus as a particular person happened to remember. As I have already said, I agree that this leaves the Gospel Jesus too shadowy to be all-sufficient; that is the argument for a Church. But the same brevity and obscurity which make it a little difficult to define His doctrines make it mere impudent nonsense to talk of His limitations.

 But Mr. Roberts does something worse than complain of the omissions of Jesus: he supplies them. It is borne in upon me that he has pursued a course not uncommon among cultivated modern persons—a course which I pursued myself for many years of my life; I mean that he has read all the books about the New Testament and forgotten to read the book itself. His memories of it, at any rate, are singularly hazy and exaggerative.

-Hibbert Journal, April 1910

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Modern Martyr

The modern notion of impressing the public by a mere demonstration of unpopularity, by being thrown out of meetings or thrown into jail is largely a mistake. It rests on a fallacy touching the true popular value of martyrdom. People look at human history and see that it has often happened that persecutions have not only advertised but even advanced a persecuted creed, and given to its validity the public and dreadful witness of dying men....And because his martyrdom is thus a power to the martyr, modern people think that any one who makes himself slightly uncomfortable in public will immediately be uproariously popular....The assumption is that if you show your ordinary sincerity (or even your political ambition) by being a nuisance to yourself as well as to other people, you will have the strength of the great saints who passed through the fire. Any one who can be hustled in a hall for five minutes, or put in a cell for five days, has achieved what was meant by martyrdom, and has a halo in the Christian art of the future...

But there is a fallacy in this analogy of martyrdom. The truth is that the special impressiveness which does come from being persecuted only happens in the case of extreme persecution. For the fact that the modern enthusiast will undergo some inconvenience for the creed he holds only proves that he does hold it, which no one ever doubted....All our ordinary intellectual opinions are worth a bit of a row: I remember during the Boer War fighting an Imperialist clerk outside the Queen's Hall, and giving and receiving a bloody nose; but I did not think it one of the incidents that produce the psychological effect of the Roman amphitheatre or the stake at Smithfield. For in that impression there is something more than the mere fact that a man is sincere enough to give his time or his comfort. Pagans were not impressed by the torture of Christians merely because it showed that they honestly held their opinion; they knew that millions of people honestly held all sorts of opinions. The point of such extreme martyrdom is much more subtle. It is that it gives an appearance of a man having something quite specially strong to back him up, of his drawing upon some power. And this can only be proved when all his physical contentment is destroyed; when all the current of his bodily being is reversed and turned to pain. If a man is seen to be roaring with laughter all the time that he is skinned alive, it would not be unreasonable to deduce that somewhere in the recesses of his mind he had thought of a rather good joke. Similarly, if men smiled and sang (as they did) while they were being boiled or torn in pieces, the spectators felt the presence of something more than mere mental honesty: they felt the presence of some new and unintelligible kind of pleasure, which, presumably, came from somewhere. It might be a strength of madness, or a lying spirit from Hell; but it was something quite positive and extraordinary; as positive as brandy and as extraordinary as conjuring. The Pagan said to himself: "If Christianity makes a man happy while his legs are being eaten by a lion, might it not make me happy while my legs are still attached to me and walking down the street?" The Secularists laboriously explain that martyrdoms do not prove a faith to be true, as if anybody was ever such a fool as to suppose that they did. What they did prove, or, rather, strongly suggest, was that something had entered human psychology which was stronger than strong pain. If a young girl, scourged and bleeding to death, saw nothing but a crown descending on her from God, the first mental step was not that her philosophy was correct, but that she was certainly feeding on something. But this particular point of psychology does not arise at all in the modern cases of mere public discomfort or inconvenience....

 I should advise modern agitators, therefore, to give up this particular method: the method of making very big efforts to get a very small punishment. It does not really go down at all; the punishment is too small, and the efforts are too obvious. It has not any of the effectiveness of the old savage martyrdom, because it does not leave the victim absolutely alone with his cause, so that his cause alone can support him...

 Or, again, the matter might be put in this way. Modern martyrdoms fail even as demonstrations, because they do not prove even that the martyrs are completely serious. I think, as a fact, that the modern martyrs generally are serious, perhaps a trifle too serious. But their martyrdom does not prove it; and the public does not always believe it....A person might be chucked out of meetings just as young men are chucked out of music-halls—for fun. But no man has himself eaten by a lion as a personal advertisement. No woman is broiled on a gridiron for fun. That is where the testimony of St. Perpetua and St. Faith comes in. Doubtless it is no fault of these enthusiasts that they are not subjected to the old and searching penalties; very likely they would pass through them as triumphantly as St. Agatha. I am simply advising them upon a point of policy, things being as they are. And I say that the average man is not impressed with their sacrifices simply because they are not and cannot be more decisive than the sacrifices which the average man himself would make for mere fun if he were drunk. Drunkards would interrupt meetings and take the consequences. And as for selling a teapot, it is an act, I imagine, in which any properly constituted drunkard would take a positive pleasure. The advertisement is not good enough; it does not tell...Hence the British public, and especially the working classes, regard the whole demonstration with fundamental indifference; for, while it is a demonstration that probably is adopted from the most fanatical motives, it is a demonstration which might be adopted from the most frivolous.

-All Things Considered (1908)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Chesterton, Belloc, Wells, and Shaw

An anecdote that Lance Sieveking (a godchild of Chesterton's) remembered:

I was present in my godfather's house when those four giants- [H.G.] Wells, [George Bernard] Shaw, [Hilaire] Belloc, and Chesterton - were shouting, interrupting each other, arguing and laughing...

Once, I remember, they argued about the desirability or reverse of personal immortality. Chesterton remarked: "H.G. suffers from the disadvantage that if he's right he'll never know. He'll only know if he's wrong." Wells gave an exasperated exclamation, whereupon Belloc said: "There is something sublimely futile about discussing the desirability or undesirability of the inevitable." At which Shaw accused Belloc of habitually begging the question and then he trounced Chesterton for consistent evasion of all points at issue in any argument on any subject and then, without letting the other three get a word in, he proceeded to hold forth on immortality, personal, impersonal, metaphorical, mythological and so on and so on and so on. At last, after twenty minutes, he paused and [Chesterton] observed to the ceiling: "That, I suppose, is what is known as putting the whole thing in a nutshell.

[quoted in Wisdom and Innocence by Joseph Pearce, p. 133 (1996)]

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"The smaller our faith in doctrine, the larger is our faith in doctors."

It is typical of our time that the more doubtful we are about the value of philosophy the more certain we are about the value of education. That is to say, the more doubtful we are about whether we have any truth, the more certain we are (apparently) that we can teach it to children. The smaller our faith in doctrine, the larger is our faith in doctors.

-January 26, 1907, Illustrated London News

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Killing Time

All old and vigorous languages abound in images and metaphors, which, though lightly and casually used, are in truth poems in themselves, and poems of a high and striking order. Perhaps no phrase is so terribly significant as the phrase 'killing time.' It is a tremendous and poetical image, the image of a kind of cosmic parricide. There is on the earth a race of revellers who do, under all their exuberance, fundamentally regard time as an enemy. Of these were Charles II. and the men of the Restoration. Whatever may have been their merits, and as we have said we think that they had merits, they can never have a place among the great representatives of the joy of life, for they belonged to those lower epicureans who kill time, as opposed to those higher epicureans who make time live.

-Twelve Types (1902)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"It is this profound scepticism about the common man that is the common point in the most contradictory elements of modern thought."

The thing behind Bolshevism and many other modern things is a new doubt. It is not merely a doubt about God; it is rather specially a doubt about Man. The old morality, the Christian religion, the Catholic Church, differed from all this new mentality because it really believed in the rights of men. That is, it believed that ordinary men were clothed with powers and privileges and a kind of authority. Thus the ordinary man had a right to deal with dead matter, up to a given point; that is the right of property. Thus the ordinary man had a right to rule the other animals within reason; that is the objection to vegetarianism and many other things. The ordinary man had a right to judge about his own health, and what risks he would take with the ordinary things of his environment; that is the objection to Prohibition and many other things. The ordinary man had a right to judge of his children's health, and generally to bring up children to the best of his ability; that is the objection to many interpretations of modern State education. Now in these primary things in which the old religion trusted a man, the new philosophy utterly distrusts a man. It insists that he must be a very rare sort of man to have any rights in these matters; and when he is the rare sort, he has the right to rule others even more than himself. It is this profound scepticism about the common man that is the common point in the most contradictory elements of modern thought...They are not rebelling against an abnormal tyranny; they are rebelling against what they think is a normal tyranny-- the tyranny of the normal. They are not in revolt against the King. They are in revolt against the Citizen. The old revolutionist, when he stood on the roof (like the revolutionist in The Dynamiter) and looked over the city, used to say to himself, "Think how the princes and nobles revel in their palaces; think how the captains and cohorts ride the streets and trample on the people." But the new revolutionist is not brooding on that. He is saying, "Think of all those stupid men in vulgar villas or ignorant slums. Think how badly they teach their children; think how they do the wrong thing to the dog and offend the feelings of the parrot." In short, these sages, rightly or wrongly, cannot trust the normal man to rule in the home, and most certainly do not want him to rule in the State. They do not really want to give him any political power. They are willing to give him a vote, because they have long discovered that it need not give him any power.

-The Outline of Sanity (1926)

Monday, September 24, 2012

"The quicker goes the journalist the slower go his thoughts. The result is the newspaper of our time, which every day can be delivered earlier and earlier, and which, every day, is less worth delivering at all."

The tendency of all that is printed and much that is spoken to-day is to be, in the only true sense, behind the times. It is because it is always in a hurry that it is always too late. Give an ordinary man a day to write an article, and he will remember the things he has really heard latest; and may even, in the last glory of the sunset, begin to think of what he thinks himself. Give him an hour to write it, and he will think of the nearest text-book on the topic, and make the best mosaic he may out of classical quotations and old authorities. Give him ten minutes to write it and he will run screaming for refuge to the old nursery where he learnt his stalest proverbs, or the old school where he learnt his stalest politics. The quicker goes the journalist the slower go his thoughts. The result is the newspaper of our time, which every day can be delivered earlier and earlier, and which, every day, is less worth delivering at all.

-Eugenics and Other Evils (1922)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

If I take it for granted (as most modern people do) that Jesus of Nazareth was one of the ordinary teachers of men, then I find Him splendid and suggestive indeed, but full of riddles and outrageous demands, by no means so workable an every day adviser as many heathens and many Jesuits. But if I put myself hypothetically into the other attitude, the case becomes curiously arresting and even thrilling. If I say, "Suppose the Divine did really walk and talk upon the earth, what should we be likely to think of it?" then the foundations of my mind are moved. So far as I can form any conjecture, I think we should see in such a being exactly the perplexities that we see in the central figure of the Gospels: I think he would seem to us extreme and violent; because he would see some further development in virtue which would be for us untried. I think he would seem to us to contradict himself; because looking down on life like a map he would see a connection between things which to us are disconnected. I think, however, that he would always ring true to our own sense of right, but ring (so to speak) too loud and too clear. He would be too good, but never too bad for us: "Be ye perfect."

I think there would be, in the nature of things, some tragic collision between him and the humanity he had created, culminating in something that would be at once a crime and an expiation. I think he would be blamed as a hard prophet for dragging down the haughty, and blamed also as a weak sentimentalist for loving the things that cling in corners, children or beggars. I think, in short, that he would give us a sensation that he was turning all our standards upside down, and yet also a sensation that he had undeniably put them the right way up. So, if I had been a Greek sage or an Arab poet before Christ, I should have figured to myself, in a dream, what would actually happen if this earth bore secretly somewhere the father of gods and men. In the abstract, it may be that it is still only a dream. Between those who think it a dream and those who do not, is to be waged the great war of our future in which all these frivolities will be forgotten. But among those who call it a dream I have not met many who call it a small dream; and very few indeed who in reading its tremendous record have been chiefly struck by its limitations.

-Hibbert Journal, April 1910

Saturday, September 22, 2012

"...it is the mark of our time...that it goes by associations and not by arguments..."

...I note it as typical of the time that the indignation should fail on the side of intelligence. For it is the mark of our time, above almost everything else, that it goes by associations and not by arguments; that is why it has a hundred arts and no philosophy.

-Fancies Versus Fads (1923)

Friday, September 21, 2012

"...in everything worth having, even in every pleasure, there is a point of pain or tedium that must be survived, so that the pleasure may revive and endure."

Nevertheless, the overwhelming mass of mankind has not believed in freedom in this matter [of marriage], but rather in a more or less lasting tie. Tribes and civilizations differ about the occasions on which we may loosen the bond, but they all agree that there is a bond to be loosened, not a mere universal detachment. For the purposes of this book I am not concerned to discuss that mystical view of marriage in which I myself believe: the great European tradition which has made marriage a sacrament. It is enough to say here that heathen and Christian alike have regarded marriage as a tie; a thing not normally to be sundered. Briefly, this human belief in a sexual bond rests on a principle of which the modern mind has made a very inadequate study. It is, perhaps, most nearly paralleled by the principle of the second wind in walking.

 The principle is this: that in everything worth having, even in every pleasure, there is a point of pain or tedium that must be survived, so that the pleasure may revive and endure. The joy of battle comes after the first fear of death; the joy of reading Virgil comes after the bore of learning him; the glow of the sea-bather comes after the icy shock of the sea bath; and the success of the marriage comes after the failure of the honeymoon. All human vows, laws, and contracts are so many ways of surviving with success this breaking point, this instant of potential surrender.

In everything on this earth that is worth doing, there is a stage when no one would do it, except for necessity or honor. It is then that the Institution upholds a man and helps him on to the firmer ground ahead. Whether this solid fact of human nature is sufficient to justify the sublime dedication of Christian marriage is quite an other matter, it is amply sufficient to justify the general human feeling of marriage as a fixed thing, dissolution of which is a fault or, at least, an ignominy. The essential element is not so much duration as security. Two people must be tied together in order to do themselves justice; for twenty minutes at a dance, or for twenty years in a marriage In both cases the point is, that if a man is bored in the first five minutes he must go on and force himself to be happy. Coercion is a kind of encouragement; and anarchy (or what some call liberty) is essentially oppressive, because it is essentially discouraging. If we all floated in the air like bubbles, free to drift anywhere at any instant, the practical result would be that no one would have the courage to begin a conversation. It would be so embarrassing to start a sentence in a friendly whisper, and then have to shout the last half of it because the other party was floating away into the free and formless ether. The two must hold each other to do justice to each other. If Americans can be divorced for "incompatibility of temper" I cannot conceive why they are not all divorced. I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible.

-What's Wrong With the World (1910)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mark Twain and GKC

Chesterton attended a literary dinner in [Mark] Twain's honor when the famous American visited London in 1905, and so we can speculate that the two of them met and maybe even exchanged witticisms. A book by Chesterton was only recently discovered in Twain's library and Twain's marginalia are presently being authenticated, so we might soon discover what Twain thought of Chesterton.

-Gilbert Magazine, April-May 2010, p. 4

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Orthodoxy" on Chuck Norris's website

On Chuck Norris's official website one can find the entirety of Chesterton's book Orthodoxy:


Presumably, he is recommending that you read it. And, let's face it, do you really want to say no to Chuck Norris? :-)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"For the knife is only a short sword; and the pocket-knife is a secret sword."

A pocket-knife, I need hardly say, would require a thick book full of moral meditations all to itself. A knife typifies one of the most primary of those practical origins upon which as upon low, thick pillows all our human civilisation reposes. Metals, the mystery of the thing called iron and of the thing called steel, led me off half-dazed into a kind of dream. I saw into the intrails of dim, damp wood, where the first man among all the common stones found the strange stone. I saw a vague and violent battle, in which stone axes broke and stone knives were splintered against something shining and new in the hand of one desperate man. I heard all the hammers on all the anvils of the earth. I saw all the swords of Feudal and all the weals of Industrial war. For the knife is only a short sword; and the pocket-knife is a secret sword.

-Tremendous Trifles (1909)

"The fundamental fallacy remains the same; that we are beginning at the wrong end, because we have never troubled to consider at what end to begin."

I came across the following GKC quote that I enjoy. In context he is objecting to advocating contraception for dealing with poverty (and these days would be just as applicable to answering those who urge abortion for the same end). That said, it  has a much broader application as well to the general problem of how so many people these days try to solve so many problems by "beginning at the wrong end". It reminded me of the chapter in GKC's book Tremendous Trifles called In Topsy-Turvy Land 

Artificial birth control is one of the many quack remedies advertised for the cure of poverty, and G. K. Chesterton has given the final answer to the Malthusian assertion that some form of birth control is essential because houses are scarce : 

"Consider that simple sentence, and you will see what is the matter with the modern mind. I do not mean the growth of immorality; I mean the genesis of gibbering idiocy. There are ten little boys whom you wish to provide with ten top-hats; and you find there are only eight top-hats. To a simple mind it would seem not impossible to make two more hats ; to find out whose business it is to make hats, and induce him to make hats; to agitate against an absurd delay in delivering hats; to punish anybody who has promised hats and failed to provide hats. The modern mind is that which says that if we only cut off the heads of two of the little boys, they will not want hats; and then the hats will exactly go round. The suggestion that heads are rather more important than hats is dismissed as a piece of mystical metaphysics. The assertion that hats were made for heads, and not heads for hats savours of antiquated dogma. The musty text which says that the body is more than raiment; the popular prejudice which would prefer the lives of boys to the mathematical arrangement of hats,—all these things are alike to be ignored. The logic of enlightenment is merciless ; and we duly summon the headsman to disguise the deficiencies of the hatter. For it makes very little difference to the logic of the thing, that we are talking of houses and not of hats. . . . The fundamental fallacy remains the same; that we are beginning at the wrong end, because we have never troubled to consider at what end to begin."[1]

[1] Quoted from America, October 29, 1921, p. 31.

-Birth Control: A Statement of Christian Doctrine against the Neo-Malthusians by  Halliday G. Sutherland M.D. (Edin.) (1922)

Monday, September 17, 2012

"Good criticism...combines the subtle pleasure in a thing being done well with the simple pleasure in it being done at all."

A good critic should be like God in the great saying of a Scottish mystic. George Macdonald said that God was easy to please and hard to satisfy. That paradox is the poise of all good artistic appreciation. Without the first part of the paradox appreciation perishes, because it loses the power to appreciate. Good criticism, I repeat, combines the subtle pleasure in a thing being done well with the simple pleasure in it being done at all. It combines the pleasure of the scientific engineer in seeing how the wheels work together to a logical end with the pleasure of the baby in seeing the wheels go round. It combines the pleasure of the artistic draughtsman in the fact that his lines of charcoal, light and apparently loose, fall exactly right and in a perfect relation with the pleasure of the child in the fact that the charcoal makes marks of any kind on the paper. And in the same fashion it combines the critic's pleasure in a poem with the child's pleasure in a rhyme.

-Fancies Versus Fads (1923)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

"The experiences of the Founder of Christianity have perhaps left us in a vague doubt of the infallibility of courts of law."

The historic case against miracles is also rather simple. It consists of calling miracles impossible, then saying that no one but a fool believes impossibilities: then declaring that there is no wise evidence on behalf of the miraculous. The whole trick is done by means of leaning alternately on the philosophical and historical objection. If we say miracles are theoretically possible, they say, “Yes, but there is no evidence for them.” When we take all the records of the human race and say, “Here is your evidence,” they say, “But these people were superstitious, they believed in impossible things.”

The real question is whether our little Oxford Street civilisation is certain to be right and the rest of the world certain to be wrong. Mr. Blatchford thinks that the materialism of the nineteenth century Westerns is one of their noble discoveries. I think it is as dull as their coats, as dirty as their streets, as ugly as their trousers, and as stupid as their industrial system.

Mr. Blatchford himself, however, has summed up perfectly his pathetic faith in modern civilisation. He has written a very amusing description of how difficult it would be to persuade an English judge in a modern law court of the truth of the Resurrection. Of course he is quite right; it would be impossible. But it does not seem to occur to him that we Christians may not have such an extravagant reverence for English judges as is felt by Mr. Blatchford himself.

The experiences of the Founder of Christianity have perhaps left us in a vague doubt of the infallibility of courts of law. I know quite well that nothing would induce a British judge to believe that a man had risen from the dead. But then I know quite as well that a very little while ago nothing would have induced a British judge to believe that a Socialist could be a good man. A judge would refuse to believe in new spiritual wonders. But this would not be because he was a judge, but because he was, besides being a judge, an English gentleman, a modern Rationalist, and something of an old fool.

-The Blatchford Controversies (1904)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

For it is the point of all deprivation that it sharpens the idea of value; and, perhaps, this is, after all, the reason of the riddle of death. In a better world, perhaps, we may permanently possess, and permanently be astonished at possession. In some strange estate beyond the stars we may manage at once to have and to enjoy. But in this world, through some sickness at the root of psychology, we have to be reminded that a thing is ours by its power of disappearance. With us the prize of life is one great, glorious cry of the dying; it is always "morituri te salutant" ["We about to die salute you"].At the four corners of our human temple of happiness stand a lame man pointing to one road, and a blind man worshipping the sun, a deaf man listening for the birds, and a dead man thanking God for his creation.

-Lunacy and Letters (collection of essays published posthumously in 1958)

"If you throw one bomb you are only a murderer; but if you keep on persistently throwing bombs you are in awful danger of at last becoming a prig."

There were some of Blake's intellectual conceptions which I have not professed either to admire or to defend. Some of his views were really what the old medieval world called heresies and what the modern world (with an equally healthy instinct but with less scientific clarity) calls fads. In either case the definition of the fad or heresy is not so very difficult. A fad or heresy is the exaltation of something which, even if true, is secondary or temporary in its nature against those things which are essential and eternal, those things which always prove themselves true in the long run. In short, it is the setting up of the mood against the mind. For instance: it is a mood, a beautiful and lawful mood, to wonder how oysters really feel. But it is a fad, an ugly and unlawful fad, to starve human beings because you will not let them eat oysters. It is a beautiful mood to feel impelled to assassinate Mr. Carnegie; but it is a fad to maintain seriously that any private person has a right to do it. We all have emotional moments in which we should like to be indecent in a drawing-room; but it is faddist to turn all drawing-rooms into places in which one is indecent. We all have at times an almost holy temptation suddenly to scream out very loud; but it is heretical and pedantic really to go on screaming for the remainder of your natural life. If you throw one bomb you are only a murderer; but if you keep on persistently throwing bombs you are in awful danger of at last becoming a prig.

-William Blake (1910)

Friday, September 14, 2012


...a fashion is a custom without a cause. A fashion is a custom to which men cannot get accustomed; simply because it is without a cause. That is why our industrial societies, touching every topic from the cosmos to the coat-collars, are merely swept by a succession of modes which are merely moods. They are customs that fail to be customary.

-Irish Impressions (1919)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"What was wonderful about childhood is that anything in it was a wonder. It was not merely a world full of miracles; it was a miraculous world."

What was wonderful about childhood is that anything in it was a wonder. It was not merely a world full of miracles; it was a miraculous world. What gives me this shock is almost anything I really recall; not the things I should think most worth recalling. This is where it differs from the other great thrill of the past, all that is connected with first love and the romantic passion; for that, though equally poignant, comes always to a point; and is narrow like a rapier piercing the heart, whereas the other was more like a hundred windows opened on all sides of the head.

-Autobiography (1936)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"When we set the poor man free, it nearly always means that we set him free to learn from us. It ought to mean sometimes that we set him free to teach us."

Now there is about all ideas of emancipation or enlightenment, all preaching of freedom to the captive or giving sight to the blind, a certain recurrent perplexity or peril. And it is this: that the emancipator generally means one who brings his own special type of emancipation. The man bringing light brings his own special patent electric-light, and puts out all the previous candles. When we set the poor man free, it nearly always means that we set him free to learn from us. It ought to mean sometimes that we set him free to teach us. But we should be rather startled if he tried it on.

-August 1, 1908, Illustrated London News

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"Eternal human nature refuses to submit to a man who rules merely by right of birth. To rule by right of century is to rule by right of birth."

Such failure as has partially attended the idea of human equality is very largely due to the fact that no party in the modern state has heartily believed in it. Tories and Radicals have both assumed that one set of men were in essentials superior to mankind. The only difference was that the Tory superiority was a superiority of place; while the Radical superiority is a superiority of time. The great objection to Shaw being on Shakespeare's shoulders is a consideration for the sensations and personal dignity of Shakespeare. It is a democratic objection to anyone being on anyone else's shoulders. Eternal human nature refuses to submit to a man who rules merely by right of birth. To rule by right of century is to rule by right of birth. Shaw found his nearest kinsman in remote Athens, his remotest enemies in the closest historical proximity; and he began to see the enormous average and the vast level of mankind. If progress swung constantly between such extremes it could not be progress at all. The paradox was sharp but undeniable; if life had such continual ups and downs, it was upon the whole flat. With characteristic sincerity and love of sensation he had no sooner seen this than he hastened to declare it.

-George Bernard Shaw (1909)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Politicians have to be progressive; that is, they have to live in the future because they know that they have done nothing but evil in the past.

-Avowals and Denials (1934)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

On the difference between Christ and Satan

A god can be humble, a devil can only be humbled

-The Ball and the Cross (1909)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

"...the children of this world are in their generation infinitely more sensitive than the children of light."

Dickens was not a saintly child, after the style of Little Dorrit or Little Nell. He had not, at this time at any rate, set his heart wholly upon higher things, even upon things such as personal tenderness or loyalty. He had been, and was, unless I am very much mistaken, sincerely, stubbornly, bitterly ambitious. He had, I fancy, a fairly clear idea previous to the downfall of all his family's hopes of what he wanted to do in the world, and of the mark that he meant to make there. In no dishonourable sense, but still in a definite sense, he might, in early life, be called worldly; and the children of this world are in their generation infinitely more sensitive than the children of light. A saint after repentance will forgive himself for a sin; a man about town will never forgive himself for a faux pas. There are ways of getting absolved for murder; there are no ways of getting absolved for upsetting the soup. This thin-skinned quality in all very mundane people is a thing too little remembered; and it must not be wholly forgotten in connection with a clever, restless lad who dreamed of a destiny. That part of his distress which concerned himself and his social standing was among the other parts of it the least noble; but perhaps it was the most painful. For pride is not only, as the modern world fails to understand, a sin to be condemned; it is also (as it understands even less) a weakness to be very much commiserated.

-Charles Dickens (1906)

Friday, September 7, 2012

This is, indeed, the supreme absurdity of the modern world, that it imagines that it can introduce anarchy into the intellect without introducing anarchy into the commonwealth.

-August 4, 1906, Illustrated London News

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Being educated [means] reading the newspapers. Being properly educated means not believing newspapers after you have read them.

-quoted in The Boston Globe in 1921

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

When men have come to the edge of a precipice, it is the lover of life who has the spirit to leap backwards, and only the pessimist who continues to be a progressive.

-November 8, 1924, Illustrated London News

Monday, September 3, 2012

"...with the authority of a close student of the work, I assure the author of it that if he imagines that he understands the character of Candida he is quite mistaken."

How I wish I could go to Chicago and see this:

Shaw vs. Chesterton: The Debate

Speaking of Shaw, I came across this paragraph from an article on Chesterton from 1905 that I found very amusing, discussing and quoting from one of Chesterton's reviews on a play by Shaw. :-)

Perhaps, however, the most characteristic passage in Mr. Chesterton's critique is that in which he takes issue with Mr. Bernard Shaw in regard to the real character of Candida. One would suppose that Mr. Shaw's view of such a matter would be entitled to some weight—that the creator of a character in a play would be able to put his finger with some degree of certainty on the trait or traits which that character was intended to embody or illustrate. But Mr. Chesterton makes no such concession to the playright. With an effrontery as audacious as it is amusing he says that ''Mr. Shaw's mistakes about the meaning of his own plays arise from the same source as his Shakespearian errors—lack of warmth and poesy." Thus "Candida" always appeared to Mr. Chesterton ''not only as the noblest work of Mr. Shaw, but as one of the noblest, if not the noblest, of modern plays; a most square and manly piece of moral truth." And, he goes on, "with the authority of a close student of the work, I assure the author of it that if he imagines that he understands the character of Candida he is quite mistaken." Quoting then from Mr. Shaw's account, as given by Mr. Huneker, of Candida's character, Mr. Chesterton controverts with no little skill the dramatist's analysis of the lady's philosophy of life, maintaining that Candida knew, as all sane people know, that "convention" is a thing quite as real as "nature," perhaps much more real.

-The Book Buyer: A Monthly Review of American and Foreign Literature, Volumes 30-33 (1905)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

"...one advantage of a man ceasing to doubt about religion is that he is much more free to doubt about everything else."

...one advantage of a man ceasing to doubt about religion is that he is much more free to doubt about everything else. All the nineteenth-century sceptics about the other world were dupes about this world. They accepted everything that was fashionable as if it were final...

-As I Was Saying (1936)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The modern habit of saying "Every man has a different philosophy; this is my philosophy and its suits me"; the habit of saying this is mere weak-mindedness. A cosmic philosophy is not constructed to fit a man; a cosmic philosophy is constructed to fit a cosmos. A man can no more possess a private religion than he can possess a private sun and moon.

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

(This particular introduction to Job originally published in 1907)