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)

Thursday, February 28, 2013

"[The democratic ideal] strikes men down from the high places of their human fads and callings, and lays them all level upon a dull plane of the divine."

Democracy must always be severe. Without either desire or dread of paradox, we may go even further. Democracy must always be unpopular. It is a religion, and the essence of a religion is that it constrains. Like every other religion, it asks men to do what they cannot do; to think steadily about the important things. Like every other religion, it asks men to consider the dark, fugitive, erratic realities, to ignore the gigantic, glaring and overpowering trivialites. It rests upon the fact that the things which men have in common, such as a soul and a stomach, such as the love of children or the fear of death, are to infinity more important than the things in which they differ, such as a landed estate or an ear for music, the capacity to found an empire or to make a bow. And it has, like any other religion, to deal with the immense primary difficulty that the unimportant things are by far the most graphic and arresting, that millions see how a man founds an empire, and only a few how he faces death, and that a man may make several thousand bows in a year and go on improving in them, while in the art of being born he is only allowed one somewhat private experiment. In politics, in philosophy, in everything, it is sufficiently obvious that the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal. And the thing which is most undiscoverable in all human affairs, the thing which is most elusive, most secret, most hopelessly sealed from our sight is, and always must be, the thing which is most common to us all. Every little variety we have we gossip and boast of eagerly; it is upon uniformity that we preserve the silence of terrified conspirators. There are only two things that are absolutely common to all of us, more common than bread or sunlight, death and birth. And it is considered morbid to talk about the one and indecent to talk about the other. It is the nature of man to talk, so to speak, largely and eagerly about every new feather he sticks in his hair, but to conceal like a deformity the fact that he has a head. This is the secret of the permanent austerity of the democratic idea, of its eternal failure and its eternal recurrence, of the fact that it can never be popular and can never be killed. It withers into nothingness in the light of a naked spirituality those special badges and uniforms which we all love so much, since they mark us out as kings or schoolmasters, or gentlemen or philanthropists. It declares with a brutal benignity that all men are brothers just at the very moment that every one feels himself to be the good grandfather of every one else. To our human nature it commonly seems quite a pitiful exchange to cease from being poets or vestrymen, and be put off with being the images of the everlasting. That is the secret, as I say, of the austerity of republicanism, of its continual historic association with the stoical philosophy, of its continual defeat at the hands of heated mobs. It strikes men down from the high places of their human fads and callings, and lays them all level upon a dull plane of the divine.

The Fortnightly Review, Vol. LXXIV., July to December, 1903

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

It is far better for the intellect to be ruled by recognised conventions than to be ruled, as the modernists are, by vague associations. For you can break a convention. But from an association you will never be free.

-August 9, 1913, Illustrated London News

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"Revolution is in its nature a revolt from circumstances to ideals; it is an appeal from Time to Eternity."

Men in this kind of position do not concern themselves with the current trend of the times. They do not profess that their triumph is inevitable, but only that their truth is unalterable. They said simply that no conceivable load of living tyranny on earth could alter the philosophic fact that all men were brothers; just as a Christian would say that the conversion of the whole world to Shintoism would make no difference to the fact that Christ was in Heaven with God. They did not insist on the fact that their Revolution was assured. In one sense they did not even insist on the fact that it was opportune. Using the word in that meaning, indeed, a Revolution is not, and never can be, opportune. If it were opportune, it would be an evolution. Revolution is in its nature a revolt from circumstances to ideals; it is an appeal from Time to Eternity.

-The Independent Review, Volume 5, February-April. 1905

Monday, February 25, 2013

"...this age is much more influenced by art than by thought."

...this age is much more influenced by art than by thought. True thought, like the sword in some Eastern story, because of its very sharpness is to us as invisible as a hair.

-The Dublin Review [Reprinted in The Living Age, voume 272, January, February, March 1912]

Sunday, February 24, 2013

"There is something charming about this man who is so dogmatic that he can do without dogma."

An element of confusion is introduced into many modern arguments...by a refusal to recognise the real scope and significance of the word "dogma." People constantly put the argument in the form of saying: "Shall we teach the child dogma?" Of course we shall. A teacher who is not dogmatic is simply a teacher who is not teaching. This leaves quite untouched, of course, the question of what dogmas he shall teach, large or small, universal or sectional. And it also leaves on one side another important question. Those who say that we should not teach dogma to children really have an intelligent meaning, though they do not know what it is. What they really mean is this, that one does not commonly, in dealing with children, state the dogma in its elaborate metaphysical form. We do not, perhaps, even define the dogma. But, if we do not define the dogma, it is only because we do assume the dogma. Take, for instance, the case of ethics. It is true that we do not say to a child: "All men are morally equal and have reciprocal obligations." We do say to a child: "Why shouldn't Tommy have a piece of cake too?" In short, one does not recite the dogma of equality; we assume the dogma of equality. We do not say to a child: "There is a human sentiment of property, which is the impress of personality upon matter." We do say to a child: "You have taken Eliza's doll." That is, we do not recite the dogma of property; we assume the dogma of property. We do not say to a child: "Man has a will and is therefore responsible." We do say to a child: "Why did you do this?" We do not recite the dogma of Free Will; we assume the dogma of Free Will. This is the real meaning, an intelligent and respectable meaning, which exists in the mind of those who call themselves undenominationalists in education. The denominationalists say in effect: "What dogmas can we teach?" The undenominationalists say in effect: "What dogmas can we take for granted?"

Now there is something that is really wholesome and attractive in this latter point of view. There is something pleasing about the man who has certain verities sunk so deep into his mind that he hardly even knows that they are there. There is something charming about this man who is so dogmatic that he can do without dogma. This man, the sub-conscious dogmatist, is sometimes a positive pillar of sanity; and it is just in so far as non-dogmatism and undenominationalism, and modern rationalism generally, do represent this type of man, that they really have the power to make men do the two things most worth doing: to live good lives and fight. The French Revolution, for instance, was made of these men. They believed that their service to mankind lay in the things that they questioned. We look back at them now, and see that their service to mankind really lay in the things they did not question: the equality of men, for instance. They praised themselves for doubting the authority of the King. We praise them for not doubting the authority of the State. Exactly that equality of man which they regarded as a truism, they have bequeathed as an eternal challenge. In the noonday of their intellectual summer, they regarded themselves as merely expressing common sense. But, against their sunset, they appear dark and mystical, and take on all the colours of a cloud of martyrs.

 The Independent Review, volume IX, April-June 1906

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Treasure Chester(ton): Forgotten Gems from the Prince of Paradox

I have made another book consisting of a collection of Chesterton writings, called Treasure Chest(erton): Forgotten Gems from the Prince of Paradox for anybody interested in reading more GKC. As the title suggests, it consists of some of Chesterton's more obscure writings I have come across, and which I wished to provide

Here is the printed version:

And here is the kindle version:

Here is the preface:

Having previously published a book containing 24 articles that G.K. Chesterton had written for the magazine The Speaker near the beginning of his career, I wished to publish another volume containing some additional pieces of his more obscure writings. While no doubt it is possible that portions of the following have been found quoted in other books and magazines (a couple of quotes I know off hand have been) in the intervening century or so since they were published, not all necessarily have been. At the very least, they are not as easy to obtain as some of Chesterton’s more well-known writings. That being the case, I wished to make them more readily available. I begin by providing various quotes of his that I have been able to locate from various pieces of his journalism, followed by some longer passages from the same. These are followed by the main body of the work, a series of six articles by Chesterton that I found very instructive and entertaining. They range from the clearly playful article “Live Furniture” to the extraordinary “The Poetic Quality of Liberalism.” Finally, I have included two of the earliest articles written by Chesterton, short book reviews which he wrote for The Academy in 1895 when he was 21, mainly because they were two of the earliest of Chesterton’s writings to appear in print (outside of the pages of The Debater).
I hope all Chestertonians may greatly benefit from this volume.
And here is the table of contents:


Shorter Quotes
Longer Passages


Humanitarianism: True and False (1903)
Live Furniture (1904)
The Poetic Quality in Liberalism (1905)
The New Humility (1906)
"Jesus" or "Christ" (1910)
An Agnostic Defeat (1912) 

Short Book Reviews  

The Ruskin Reader (1895)
Suppressed Chapters. By Robert Bridges (1895)

Monday, February 18, 2013

The merely educated can scarcely ever be brought to believe that this world is itself an interesting place. When they look at a work of art, good or bad, they expect to be interested, but when they look at a newspaper advertisement or a group in the street, they do not, properly and literally speaking, expect to be interested. But to common and simple people this world is a work of art, though it is, like many great works of art, anonymous. They look to life for interest with the same kind of cheerful and uneradicable assurance with which we look for interest at a comedy for which we have paid money at the door.

-The Defendant (1901)

Friday, February 15, 2013

"Parody might indeed be defined as the worshipper's halfholiday."

The supreme proof of the fact that Bret Harte had the instinct of reverence may be found in the fact that he was a really great parodist. This may have the appearance of being a paradox, but, as in the case of many other paradoxes, it is not so important whether it is a paradox as whether it is not obviously true. Mere derision, mere contempt, never produced or could produce parody. A man who simply despises Paderewski for having long hair is not necessarily fitted to give an admirable imitation of his particular touch on the piano. If a man wishes to parody Paderewski's style of execution, he must emphatically go through one process first: he must admire it, and even reverence it. Bret Harte had a real power of imitating great authors, as in his parodies on Dumas, on Victor Hugo, on Charlotte Bronte. This means and can only mean that he had perceived the real beauty, the real ambition of Dumas and Victor Hugo and Charlotte Bronte.

...The wild sky-breaking humor of America has its fine qualities, but it must in the nature of things be deficient in two qualities of supreme importance—reverence and sympathy. Can any one imagine Mark Twain, that admirable author, writing even a tolerable imitation of authors so intellectually individual as Hugo or Charlotte Bronte? Mark Twain would yield to the spirit of contempt which destroys parody. All those who hate authors fail to satirize them, for they always accuse them of the wrong faults. The enemies of Thackeray call him a worldling, instead of what he was, a man too ready to believe in the goodness of the unworldly. The enemies of Meredith call his gospel too subtle, instead of what it is, a gospel, if anything, too robust. And it is this vulgar misunderstanding which we find in most parody—which we find in all American parody—but which we never find in the parodies of Bret Harte.

...This could only be written by a genuine admirer...who permitted himself for a moment to see the fun of the thing. Parody might indeed be defined as the worshipper's halfholiday

-Varied Types (1905)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"Art isolates a thing from everything, that it may be unexpected, that it may be supernatural."

For the whole meaning of the strange thing called Art is merely this, that by copying a thing, by making it over again, and above all by making it over again with a slight difference, we can see something of the primary wonder of it, a spasm, as it were, of the enduring astonishment of God. Anyone, for instance, who has ever looked with certain feelings at a child's dolls'-house, knows the thing of which I speak. The very fact that the dolls'-house is small, makes us realise with surprise that houses can be so large. The very fact that it is not real makes us remember, with a sort of shock, that houses are real. We see the thing at second hand; and then only we realise it at first hand. In this the dolls'-house is the symbol and seed of the whole of art. Art, as I have said, has exactly the opposite aim to the aim of science. Science connects a thing with everything, that it may be natural and expected. Art isolates a thing from everything, that it may be unexpected, that it may be supernatural.

 -The Independent Review, Volume 5, February-April 1905

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"For from the highest and most spiritual standpoint it is worth while to go many days in the desert, if by that desolation one may win the god-like pleasure of being surprised at a man."

Literature at its best, then, is essentially a liberation of types, persons, and things; a permission to them to be themselves in safety and to the glory of God. It offers a fuller consideration of a man's case than the world can give him; it offers, to all, noble possibilities of fuller growth than is practicable upon earth; it offers to the meanest soul whom it studies the divine emptiness of an uncreated world. It gives a man what he often longs for more than houses or gardens—deserts. For from the highest and most spiritual standpoint it is worth while to go many days in the desert, if by that desolation one may win the god-like pleasure of being surprised at a man. It is in this setting of a thing in freedom, and ringing it with sanctity, it is in this snatching it out of the tedium of law and the inevitable, that literature is nearest to faith and divine things.

-The Independent Review, Volume 5, February-April 1905

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Supreme among the lost arts of mankind, larger and more completely lost than those connected with pottery or stained glass, is the lost art of mythology. Races in early times invented cosmic systems with the fancy and independence of a set of architects submitting to the Deity the plans of a prospective universe. One thought the world could be best arranged in the form of a huge tree; another that it could be placed on an elephant and the elephant on a tortoise. Great as is our gain from science, we have lost something in losing this gigantesque scope of the human fancy; there must have been no little education in audacity and magnanimity in thus juggling with the stars. We have lost something in being tied to the solar system like a treadmill. It is especially hard upon those, like ourselves, whose peculiar talents, entirely useless in a civilised age, would have been, we are convinced, a great success in a time of impenetrable ignorance. In early childhood we manufactured many excellent mythologies. The best...was one in which the whole world was a giant with the sun for one eye and the moon for the other, which he opened alternately in an everlasting wink. This prose idyll would have made us head medicine man in a happier age. But we fear that the Royal Society, even if informed of the hypothesis, would remain cold.

-February 9, 1901, The Speaker

Monday, February 11, 2013

"Byron was magnanimous because he was self-deceptive."

But by a confusion natural enough from a superficial point of view, he joins on to this a claim that Byron was "sincere"--that is to say, that he was not affected or self-deceiving. Now we are perfectly ready to maintain that if Byron was sincere in this sense he was one of the most despicable curs born. His heroes certainly boast of being blase and there is nothing in the least magnanimous about being blase. Men's souls do not expand in the cold any more than water-pipes. If we are to take Byron on his own estimate, if his heart was really withered and his power of joy gone, he cannot possibly be called a teacher of magnanimity. We might have infinite pity for his loss of freshness as we might have infinite pity for his club foot. But to ask mankind to bow down to an aristocracy of club feet would be a little unreasonable.

We believe, however, that the author's literary and ethical instinct does not mislead him in telling him that Byron was a teacher of magnanimity. The real explanation, as it appears to us, does not seem to have struck him. Byron was magnanimous because he was self-deceptive. While he imagined that he was feeling and preaching a desolate creed of premature old age, he was really feeling and preaching the fierce joy of youth in dark and lonely and elemental things. It is the joyful spirit that loves the wilderness and the tempest: the man who is really forlorn and bitter generally takes refuge in the nearest restaurant. Byron dressed up his profound poetic pleasure in a vile dress, the funeral trappings of a vulgar stage conspirator, but the real power and charm in his work lies in the splendid affectation of a boy, which is merely the expression of that primal "delight of the eyes" to which the fiercest flames are golden and darkness itself is only too dense a purple.

-January 12, 1901, The Speaker
[Chesterton, writing concerning the papacy and in response to those in his day would turn the Church into a "democracy"]

It is true that as yet large numbers of such social reformers would shrink from the idea of the institution being an individual. But even that prejudice is weakening under the wear and tear of real political experience. We may be attached, as many of us are, to the democratic ideal; but most of us have already realized that direct democracy, the only true democracy which satisfies a true democrat, is a thing applicable to some things and not others; and not at all to a question such as this. The actual speaking voice of a vast international civilization, or of a vast international religion, will not in any case be the actual articulate distinguishable voices or cries of all the millions of the faithful. It is not the people who would be the heirs of a dethroned Pope; it is some synod or bench of bishops. It is not an alternative between monarchy and democracy, but an alternative between monarchy and oligarchy. And, being myself one of the democratic idealists, I have not the faintest hesitation in my choice between the two latter forms of privilege. A monarch is a man; but an oligarchy is not men; it is a few men forming a group small enough to be insolent and large enough to be irresponsible. A man in the position of a Pope, unless he is literally mad, must be responsible. But aristocrats can always throw the responsibility on each other; and yet create a common and corporate society from which is shut out the very vision of the rest of the world.

-The Thing (1929)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"That a man can give no reason for the faith that is in him is not necessarily the fault of the faith; it may be the fault of the tongue he speaks."

Human language has been wrought by centuries of poets and orators into so fluid and searching a medium that we are apt to forget that it is only a code of signs and a crude one at that. That a man can give no reason for the faith that is in him is not necessarily the fault of the faith; it may be the fault of the tongue he speaks. We talk of our language, but we forget that we have many languages in various stages of advance. For example, railway signals constitute a language; but it is a language at so primitive a stage that it has not yet got beyond the two primal ideas—good and evil, yes and no, safe and unsafe. Any one who chooses may imagine the language of railway signals developed into delicacy and variety as the language of the tongue has developed. A particular tint of peacock green in the night signals might mean "The chairman of the board is recovering from influenza," a certain tinge of purple in the red light might convey "An old gentleman wearing white spats has just fallen out of the train." But to whatever extent the language of signals might be amplified, it is obvious, from their nature, that sooner or later a crisis might arise, an unprecedented event might happen, such, let us say, as the engine-driver going mad and thinking he was the Archbishop of Canterbury, the symbols for which were not down in the code, and which, therefore, however obvious it might be, it would be impossible to signal down the line. Now it is surely equally possible that something might happen in the human soul which was simply not down in the old code of language: to ask a man to tell you what had happened would simply be absurd; to ask him to think it had not happened, much more so. Unless we are very much mistaken, Mr. Lowes Dickinson and every other man has precisely such a dumb certainty in his soul and the only name we can give to it is "the universal good."

 -February 16, 1901, The Speaker

Saturday, February 9, 2013

"...death is precisely the breakdown of our mortal powers of praise: that when we cease to wonder we die; that we have to be dipped once more in darkness, before we can see the sun once more."

Melancholy, in the sound old Miltonic sense, had nothing to do with pessimism. Sorrow, indeed, is always the opposite of pessimism; for sorrow is based on the value of something, pessimism on the value of nothing. Men have never believed genuinely in that idle and fluent philosophy (a theme for the devil's copybooks) which declares that earthly things are worthless because they are fleeting. Men do not fling their cigars into the fire at the thought that they will only last fifteen minutes, or shoot their favourite aunts through the head on the reflection that they can only live fifteen years. Nor is it from such thankless railing at this world that men have gained the best hopes for another. It is strange that sages and saints should have sought so often to prove the splendour of the house from the darkness of its porch. If we could really believe in the meanness of the meanest dust-bin, there would be no reason for not believing in the utter meanness of the stars. Surely it is far more credible that death is precisely the breakdown of our mortal powers of praise: that when we cease to wonder we die; that we have to be dipped once more in darkness, before we can see the sun once more.

-March 16, 1901, The Speaker

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

GKC Speaks: Articles from the Speaker

I recently self-published a book of GKC articles which he wrote for The Speaker, both in print form (via CreateSpace) and a Kindle version, in case anybody is interested. (Moreover, I also sent  to the G.K. Chesterton's Works on the Webpage, the best place for online Chesterton texts.  So now they are posted on that website as well, which I greatly appreciate)

It is the first time I have published a book, so no doubt there may be problems, but in case anyone is interested in reading more GKC, there you go.

GKC Speaks: Articles from the Speaker

And for the Kindle edition, you can use this link

Here is the description:

"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." 

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), one of the most influential and quotable authors of the twentieth century, began his career as a book reviewer. Among his earliest pieces were those which he contributed to the paper "The Speaker." Many of those pieces were later collected into his book "The Defendant" (1901), but most of the others have been out of print for over a century. This volume contains 24 of those other reviews. While ephemeral in nature in many respects, they nevertheless contain many valubale nuggets of Chesterton's wit and wisdom, and will prove of great interest to devoted Chestertonians.
I am just making a post a list of all of the "Speaker" quotes that I have quoted before on this blog, so I can refer to it more easily. :-)

There are more that I wish to post later on (and so this list may have updates itself as a consequence), but these are the ones that I have already posted in the past.

[UPDATE: They are all from articles found in the book GKC Speaks: Articles from the Speaker].

"Poets commonly say something with their style vastly different and vastly superior to what they say with their mere meaning."

With Professor Dowden's forcible study of Bunyan no fault can be found, but in his long and able treatment of Milton we do not by any means always find ourselves in agreement with him. Especially we fail to follow his attempt to prove the spirit and theories of Paradise Lost to be mainly Hebraic and Scriptural. To our mind Lecky's European Morals and Dante's Divine Comedy are vastly more similar than the beauty of the Old Testament and the beauty of Paradise Lost. There are no theories in the Old Testament. The conception that gives a grand artistic unity to the Hebrew books, the conception of a great and mysterious protagonist toiling amid cloud and darkness towards an end of which only fragments are revealed to his agents, has no counterpart in Milton. The "With whom hath he taken counsel?" of the prophet is not there: the God of the Old Testament never explains himself intellectually; the God of Milton never does anything else. The much-quoted object "to justify the ways of God to men" would have appeared mere ridiculous blasphemy to Isaiah. This sublime Jewish sentiment of the loneliness of God ("I have trodden the wine-press alone and of the peoples there was no man with me") is perpetually violated in Milton, whose Deity is always clearing Himself from charges as if He were at the Old Bailey. The least superstitious of us can feel the thrill of the elemental faith of the Jews, can imagine a voice thundering out of the sky in mysterious wrath or more mysterious benediction. But who can help laughing at the idea of a voice out of the midnight sky suddenly beginning to explain itself and set right an unfortunate misunderstanding?

We wish that Professor Dowden had given the large space which he has devoted to defending the frigid and repellent Miltonic religion to a more exhaustive study of the towering and intoxicating Miltonic style. Poets commonly say something with their style vastly different and vastly superior to what they say with their mere meaning.

-December 15, 1900, The Speaker

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"What a supreme genius Chesterton is! I never met a man who could talk so brilliantly and interestingly." -President Theodore Roosevelt

An interesting article I came across last night, only a little of which I knew about previously.

TR and GKC
They were instantly recognizable by their initials alone—men of outsized personalities. In the Edwardian era, it would be hard to imagine two more intelligent and gifted conversationalists than Theodore Roosevelt and G.K. Chesterton. Indeed, America’s 26th president greatly admired this British man of letters—particularly Chesterton’s literary study of Charles Dickens (first published in 1906).[3] And for Christmas 1908, TR had given one of Chesterton’s most memorable collections of essays, Heretics, as a gift to his friend Captain Archibald Butt.[4]

TR and GKC first met during a dinner in London two years later—at Roosevelt’s request. One evening in the spring of 1910 they dined together in London. It is easy to imagine their maĆ®tre d’ would have seen instantly there was little need to renew the candlelight at their table. Resplendent conversation supplied everything needed by way of spark and fire.

Given TR’s famously powerful presence—he was called “T. Vesuvius Roosevelt”—and people left his company needing to “wring the personality out of their clothes”—his tribute to Chesterton after their meeting was all the more telling.[5] Speaking with a friend after their dinner had concluded, the former president said Chesterton was a man of undeniable genius—a peerless font of brilliant conversation.[6]
Fast-forward to November 1919, and we learn more details of TR’s dinner with GKC. They were supplied by journalist Strickland Gillian in an article for The Lyceum Magazine. Confirming Slosson’s account, Gillian began: “When Colonel Roosevelt returned from his African expedition, and was given a dinner by the London journalists and authors, he was asked whom he would like to have by his side to talk with during the evening. He promptly replied, ‘Gilbert Chesterton.’” Gillian then added, “afterwards, in speaking with a friend, [Colonel Roosevelt] exclaimed, ‘What a supreme genius Chesterton is! I never met a man who could talk so brilliantly and interestingly.’”[12]
Another interesting tidbit:
Nor was TR the only Roosevelt who relished Chesterton’s writing. The long poem, “Lepanto,” was a favourite of TR’s eldest daughter Alice, who could (and often did) “recite all nine stanzas at a rapid clip.” In later years, reciting this poem with her granddaughter Joanna was a source of particular delight for Alice Roosevelt Longworth—something that drew them together.

Kermit Roosevelt, the son who had accompanied TR on his celebrated African safari, also had a great appreciation for Chesterton. Years later, this led to something of a social and literary coup, for Kermit and his wife succeeded in enticing the famously reticent poet Edwin Arlington Robinson to accept a dinner invitation—something he rarely did. The occasion: a gathering in honour of GKC. The bright company of those in attendance also included Alice Roosevelt Longworth. Robinson, who was also known by his initials, EAR, was said to have become quite talkative that evening. Indeed, he told a friend afterwards that he had “talked incessantly.”[8]

Monday, February 4, 2013

"The world caught its breath for a moment at the one genuine novelty of a man who did not try to be new."

...It is possible for originality to be so popular that it becomes vulgar. It is possible that the whole ground of obvious invention may be rapidly covered; that every kind of new thing should be brought sharply to the attention of everybody. The last man of science has declared not only that the moon is made of green cheese, but that he has eaten it. The last poet has declared, on the authority of a vision, that devils have halos and angels horns. It seems that there is nothing further that anyone can say that will make anyone else jump. The extravagance of what has gone before has made all extravagance tame. People are not merely at ease in Zion; they are at ease in limbo. Blood and thunder is so victorious that it cannot succeed; men are too blinded with blood to see blood. Men are too deafened with thunder to hear the thunder. It seems as if the universe had shown to men its most startling, and they are not startled. It seems that nothing will startle them.

But there is something which will startle them. Sanity will startle them, quietness will startle them, classical moderation will startle them. Any man walking easily and coolly in the conventional paths will touch with an explosion the deep conventions of the unconventional. Any contented man will seem to these discontented ones a sort of Anarchist. And this is one of the fundamental fascinations of the position of Mr. William Watson, both as a poet and as a philosopher. In a time when everyone was original, the only truly original thing left to do was not to be original at all. The still small voice of sanity came with a sort of hissing stab to remind us that the Lord was not in the thunder. The world caught its breath for a moment at the one genuine novelty of a man who did not try to be new.

-January 14, 1905, The Speaker

Sunday, February 3, 2013

"It was an artfully expurgated Universe."

There is one mistake made about books to read. The mistakes made by poets and theorists have not been, upon the whole, so numerous and so disastrous as the mistakes which are systematically made by those who are called practical men. A fanatic at least goes mad with the glimpse of a truth. A business man very often lives and works and goes bankrupt with a handful of seedy prejudices. One of these accepted fallacies of business is the idea that the ordinary man naturally prefers works of fiction to works of fact. As matters stand, of course he does, because the novels are written to please him and the books on history and science to please somebody else. But there is more material for popular reading in Tacitus or Darwin than there is in most novels, and one proof of this is obvious. Romance had been written for centuries, the noblest and wildest romance conceived by the most magnificent of human minds; but it was never popular. Then there suddenly descended upon earth a being called a journalist, who, in the very insolence of simplicity, positively made a printed book out of the things that had happened during one day: all the church spires that were struck by lightning, and all the stockbrokers who had fallen off tramcars. And this epic of the actual became the cheapest, the most wide-spread, and the most popular of tales. It did this merely because it knew what to select and had the largest possible area to select from. It was an artfully expurgated Universe. Now, this fascinating collection which the daily journalist made from the chaos of an incalculable world could easily be made, by any one who had the instinct of the picturesque, out of the study of anything, from the habits of beetles to the Lives of the Saints; and in periods like the present, when novel-writing is at a low ebb, the wise reader will more and more feel the continual pleasure of reading a work of history or science, so long as he takes care not to read it systematically.

A novel is a great spiritual truth, a parable of the soul, or it is nothing. But a fact that actually exists is always a fact.

-The Pall Mall Magazine, Volume 25 (1900)
And Democracy is being criticized just now for exactly the same reason that Romance is being criticized just now. It is that all the sense there ever was in either of them rested on a religious idea. The nineteenth century took away the religious idea and left a sense that rapidly turned into nonsense. All men are equal because God loves all equally; and nothing can compare with that equality. But in what other way are men equal? The vague Liberals of the nineteenth century cut away the divine ground from under Democracy, and Democracy was left to stand by itself. In other words, it is left to fall by itself. Jefferson said that men were given equal rights by their Creator. Ingersoll said they had no Creator, but had received equal rights from nowhere. Even in the democratic atmosphere of America, it began to dawn on a great many people that it is very difficult to prove that men ever received the equal rights at all. In short, the Republican theory will turn out to be another form of Romance; and will be classed with the illusion of the too idealistic lover, unless it can be reconnected with the positive beliefs from which it was originally borrowed. The Red Cap will follow the Red Waistcoat into the old clothes' shop, unless it can be made something more than a fashion, or dipped in that enduring dye that coloured the red roses of St. Dorothy or the red cross of St. George.

-All I Survey (1933)

Friday, February 1, 2013

...It would at one time have been called a book without which no gentleman's library is complete. It is to be hoped that in our day people may have begun to realise the somewhat obvious and elementary fact that a gentleman's library is never complete. We might as well speak of a man having a complete set of personal friends.

-Pall Mall Magazine, Volume 25 (1900)