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)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

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].


"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 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

"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

"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 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

" ...frivolity is, in the secretive sense, far more sacred than seriousness; it is more fragile, more personal, more occult. Any one can see St. Paul's Cathedral, but there may be only two people in the world who can see a particular joke...it is not possible, properly speaking, to laugh irreverently at time, death and judgment—for they laugh best who laugh last; but it is possible to laugh very irreverently at a joke."

-October 20, 1900

"...religion is a secret passion audaciously made public; it is not strange if its hymns have something of the splendid folly of love-letters."

 -October 27, 1900

"...the lies of fiction convey truth and the lies of history convey nothing. But there is obviously a distinction between romances in this matter: all good romances convey truth, but not always about the period they describe."

-December 8, 1900

"A poem may be written about everything, but not about things in general. To a poet who sings of the universe, the universe must be for the moment one thing—as much one thing as a daisy or a butterfly."

-January 5, 1901

"If the adults are useful in their way (as we may generously admit) in order to teach children to work, children are quite as much specialists in teaching the adult to play."

-December 8, 1900

" 'All is not gold that glitters,' he accepts, however, in all its infamy—as if, to the healthy soul of youth, glittering were not infinitely better than being common gold."

-December 8, 1900, The Speaker

"... 'Faint heart never won fair lady.' The existence of this saying, again, is a singular proof of the power of masculine concealment, for certainly if it had been true no fair lady would ever have been won in this world."

-December 8, 1900

"The words of Christ were like the lilies of which He spoke. They were doubtless not produced by any conscious artistic process, but they have unfathomable artistic value. They toiled not, neither did they spin. But Epipsychidion in all its glory is not arrayed like one of these."

-December 29, 1900

 "The truth is that we should have the greatest respect for Mr. Wynne's work, with all its crudities, if it bore the impress even of the vulgarest fanaticism. If he had one thing which could be called an opinion we could forgive him everything. But he seems to dawdle round all sides of a question, like a drunkard going continually round a house because he cannot find the door."

-January 5, 1901

"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

"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

"...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

"Mr. Lowes Dickinson states all the various points of view with conspicuous eloquence and justice. If there is one point that we should be inclined to criticise it is his stricture upon Walt Whitman, when he quotes him as an example of the untenable optimism which equalises all things. Walt Whitman has been singularly misunderstood on this point. Surely no one imagines that he really thought that all distinctions were unmeaning, that he drank coffee and arsenic in idle alternation, and went to bed on the kitchen fire as a change from his bedstead. What he did say and mean was that there was one plane on which all things were equal, one point from which everything was the same, the point of view of unfathomable wonder at the energy of Being, the power of God. There is no inconsistency in ranking things in ascending order on the practical plane and equalising them on the religious plane.'

"We may take a familiar parallel. There is nothing inconsistent in saying, 'For what we are about to receive the Lord make us truly thankful,' and then complaining that the champagne is corked or the mutton raw. There is such a thing as a bad dinner and such a thing as a good one, and criticism is quite justified in comparing one with the other: but it remains true that both become good the moment we compare them with the hypothesis of no dinner at all. So it was with Whitman, good and bad lives became equal to him in relation to the hypothesis of no life at all. A man, let us say a soldier of the Southern Confederacy, was considered as a man, a miracle that swallowed up all moral distinctions, in the realm of religion. But in the realm of criticism, otherwise called the Battle of Gettysburg, Whitman would strain every nerve to blow the man into a thousand pieces."

-February 16, 1901

"Schopenhauer, with that brilliant futility which made him so striking considered merely as a literary man, maintains that Christianity is akin to his own pessimism because it rejects the vanities of the world. The remark is a good instance of that class of ingenious observations against which we can say nothing except that they are obviously not true. Any one can see that a man floating in visions of certain felicity is not in the same state of mind as a man who believes all felicity impossible: and the two are not made essentially any more similar by the accident that they both take the same attitude towards something else. Schopenhauer and the most maniacal ascetic of the middle ages are no more like each other than a man who does not take an omnibus because he cannot afford it and a man who does not take an omnibus because he prefers his landau...the monkish felicity was full of the fieriest human images, and if he scoffed at non-religious pleasures it was as a lover might scoff at the mass of women or a patriot at the mass of nations."

-November 17, 1900

"The whole romance of life and all the romances of poetry lie in this motion of the utterly weak suddenly developing advantages over the strong. It is the curse of the modern philosophy of strength that it is ridden with the fallacy that there is only one kind of strength and one kind of weakness. It forgets that size is a weakness as well as littleness; that the camel is just as weak for the purpose of going through the eye of a needle as the microbe for carrying a load of hay."

-January 26, 1901

"In a sense this small matter expresses the whole of Job. Professor Dillon analyzes very well the main and obvious idea that it is a protest against that paltry optimism which sees in suffering a mark of sin. But he does not, I think, quite pierce to the further and ultimate point of 'Job,' which is that the true secret and hope of human life is something much more dark and beautiful than it would be if suffering were a mark of sin. A mere scheme of rewards and punishments would be something much meaner and more mechanical than this exasperating and inspiring life of ours. An automatic scheme of Karma, or 'reaping what we sow,' would be just as gross and material as sowing beans or reaping barley. It might satisfy mechanicians or modern monists, or theosophists, or cautious financiers, but not brave men. It is no paradox to say that the one thing which would make suffering intolerable would be the thought that it was systematically inflicted upon sinners. The one thing which would make our agony infamous would be the idea that it was deserved. On the other hand, the doctrine which makes it most endurable is exactly the opposite doctrine, that life is a battle in which the best put their bodies in the front, in which God sends only His holiest into the hail of the arrows of hell. In the book of Job is foreshadowed that better doctrine full of a dark chivalry that he that bore the worst that men can suffer was the best that bore the form of man."

-September 9, 1905

"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

"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

" ....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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"There is a shrewd secular truth hidden under a theological language in the old saying that man's extremity is God's opportunity. For it is only on those in the struggle for existence who hang on for ten minutes after all is hopeless, that hope begins to dawn. A man who loves his country for her power will always be as weak an adorer as a man who loves a woman for her money. A great appearance of national or imperial strength may be founded on this fair weather philosophy, but the crown of ultimate triumph and the real respect of Nature will always be reserved for the man for whom the fight is never finished, who disregards the omens and disdains the stars."

-February 2, 1901
"It is no disrespect to such able and interesting works as Professor Dillon's to say that they are only stages in an essentially endless process, the proper appreciation of one of the inexhaustible religious classics. None of them says the last word on Job, for the last word could only be said on the Last Day. For a great poem like Job is in this respect like life itself. The explanations are popular for a month or popular for a century. But they all fall. The unexplained thing is popular for ever. There are weaknesses in the Higher Criticism, as a general phenomenon, which are only gradually unfolding themselves. There are more defects or difficulties than would at first appear in the scientific treatment of Scripture. But after all the greatest defect in the scientific treatment of Scripture is simply that it is scientific. The professor of the Higher Criticism is never tired of declaring that he is detached, that he is disinterested, that he is concerned only with the facts, that he is applying to religious books the unbending methods which are employed by men of science towards the physical order. If what he says of himself is true, he must be totally unfitted to criticize any books whatever.'

"Books exist to produce emotions: if we are not moved by them we practically have not read them. If a real book has not touched us we might as well not have touched the book. In literature to be dispassionate is simply to be illiterate. To be disinterested is simply to be uninterested. The object of a book on comets, of course, is not to make us all feel like comets; but the object of a poem about warriors is to make us all feel like warriors. It is not merely true that the right method for one may be the wrong method for the other; it must be the wrong method for the other. A critic who takes a scientific view of the Book of Job is exactly like a surgeon who should take a poetical view of appendicitis: he is simply an old muddler.'

"It is said, of course, that this scientific quality is only applied to the actual facts, which are the department of science. But what are the actual facts? There are very few facts in connection with a work of literature which are really wholly apart from literary tact and grasp. That certain words are on a piece of parchment in a certain order science can say. Whether in that order they make sense or nonsense only literature can say. That in another place (say on a brick) the same words are in another order science can say. Whether it is a more likely order only literature can say. That on two bricks there is the same sentence science can say. Whether it is the sort of sentence one man would write on two bricks, or two men happen to write on their own respective bricks, only literature can say."

-September 9, 1905, The Speaker'

 "A series is issued entitled the 'How To' series. It teaches in one volume 'How to Choose Your Banker,'' in another 'How to Dine in Paris,' and in a third, which now lies before us, 'How to Write a Novel.' It never seems to strike the writers of this school that there is some difference between the psychological profundity and delicacy of choosing your banker and that of choosing your idea. An idea is a nameless thing; it melts into all other ideas, whereas a banker is detachable and does not melt into any one. The same is true, though in a lesser degree, of the comparison which the author makes in his first chapter. He says, with some apparent reason, that as painting and sculpture require training on fixed lines there is no reason why such training should not be given in fiction. Surely the answer is distinct. Fiction is more dark and chaotic than painting because, though both arts symbolise spiritual conditions, painting employs as its symbol the bodily form, which has been measured, while fiction employs as its symbol the thoughts and actions which have never been measured. Painting deals with what a man looks like, which we can all know; fiction deals with what he means, which he generally does not know himself. It is not possible to know how many thoughts a man has; it is possible to know, with reasonable industry, how many legs he has.

-March 23, 1901, The Speaker