A blog dedicated to providing quotes by and posts relating to one of the most influential (and quotable!) authors of the twentieth century, G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936). If you do not know much about GKC, I suggest visiting the webpage of the American Chesterton Society as well as this wonderful Chesterton Facebook Page by a fellow Chestertonian

I also have created a list detailing examples of the influence of Chesterton if you are interested, that I work on from time to time.

(Moreover, for a list of short GKC quotes, I have created one here, citing the sources)

"...Stevenson had found that the secret of life lies in laughter and humility."

-Heretics (1905)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Jane Austen may have been protected from truth: but it was precious little of truth that was protected from her."

Jane Austen was born before those bonds which (we are told) protected woman from truth, were burst by the Brontës or elaborately untied by George Eliot. Yet the fact remains that Jane Austen knew much more about men than either of them. Jane Austen may have been protected from truth: but it was precious little of truth that was protected from her. When Darcy, in finally confessing his faults, says, "I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice though not in theory," he gets nearer to a complete confession of the intelligent male than ever was even hinted by the Byronic lapses of the Brontës' heroes or the elaborate exculpations of George Eliot's. Jane Austen, of course,  covered an infinitely smaller field than any of her later rivals; but I have always believed in the victory of small nationalities.

-The Victorian Age in Literature (1913)

Monday, April 29, 2013

"...sin is in a man's soul and not in his tools or his toys"

Compulsion is the highly modern mark of a great many modern things; compulsory education, compulsory insurance, compulsory temperance, and soon, perhaps, compulsory arbitration. What is not so often noted is that even where we may think it necessary, it is never vital, in the sense of dealing with the life and soul of the subject. ..[Many modern reforms] in this and other countries...are wide, but they are shallow. Prohibition is a wild and sweeping change; but it is the very reverse of a fundamental change. It is not a revolutionary or even a radical reform. It is by definition the opposite of radical, because it refuses to go to the root. It is like the wide sweep of a walking-stick which would knock off the heads of countless poppies or thistles, while leaving their roots in the ground to grow again. It is this combination of the sweeping with the superficial of which the soul is impatience, especially intellectual impatience...It would be easy to imagine an Arabian romance about a Sultan whose Grand Vizier had his throat cut by his barber; and who immediately forbade razors throughout the length and breadth of his empire. He would be doing something on a large, imperial scale worthy of the size of his empire. But he would hardly be attacking the deepest causes of the discontent of that empire. He would hardly be discovering, for instance, why the barber had killed the Grand Vizier. He would be unduly elated with the mere discovery of how the barber had killed him. Then when he has carefully excluded all razors, he will be very much surprised when the next Grand Vizier is killed with a red-hot poker. He will be still more surprised to find that an increasing number of his critics have passed from razors to red-hot pokers, as an increasing number of Americans are passing from drink to drugs. Thus slowly will that Sultan...begin to have a glimmering of the great first principle of practical politics; that the sin is in a man's soul and not in his tools or his toys; and that in so far as his soul is affected by them, it is affected by all of them, and not by one in unique and unearthly isolation.

-June 5, 1920, Illustrated London News

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Whatever else is true, it is emphatically not true that the ideas of Jesus of Nazareth were suitable to his time, but are no longer suitable to our time. Exactly how suitable they were to his time is perhaps suggested in the end of his story.

-The Everlasting Man (1925)

H/T Sean Dailey


It is not a stage of excellence in one of these crafts, but rather a sense of the existence of all of them, that is the true ground-work of education. In that sense it is idle to talk of a smattering of culture; for culture is a smattering, and must be a smattering, and ought to be a smattering. It ought to be a rough general grasp of the realities of human experience, and their different relations to each other. In that sense education cannot be knowing things; it can only be knowing of them. A man cannot know all there is to be known about either hawking or harping. But he can know a hawk from a hand-saw; and, similarly, a hawk from a harp. In short, he can know the general nature of a thousand things of which he cannot possibly know the thousand details. He can realise the existence of studies other than his own. He can know of the things he cannot know.

-November 6, 1920, Illustrated London News

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"That which is large enough for the rich to covet," said Wayne, drawing up his head, "is large enough for the poor to defend."

-The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904)

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Good Rich Man

Mr. Mandragon the Millionaire, he wouldn't have wine or wife,
He couldn't endure complexity; he lived the simple life;
He ordered his lunch by megaphone in manly, simple tones,
And used all his motors for canvassing voters, and twenty telephones;
Besides a dandy little machine,
Cunning and neat as ever was seen,
With a hundred pulleys and cranks between,
Made of iron and kept quite clean,
To hoist him out of his healthful bed on every day of his life,
And wash him and brush him and shave him and dress him to live the Simple Life.

Mr. Mandragon was most refined and quietly, neatly dressed,
Say all the American newspapers that know refinement best;
Quiet and neat the hair and hat, and the coat quiet and neat,
A trouser worn upon either leg, while boots adorned the feet;
And not, as anyone might expect,
A Tiger Skin, all striped and specked,
And a Peacock Hat with the tail erect,
A scarlet tunic with sunflowers decked--
That might have had a more marked effect,
And pleased the pride of a weaker man that yearned for wine or wife;
But fame and the flagon for Mr. Mandragon obscured the Simple Life.

Mr. Mandragon the Millionaire, I am happy to say, is dead.
He enjoyed a quiet funeral in a crematorium shed,
And he lies there fluffy and soft and grey and certainly quite refined,
When he might have rotted to flowers and fruit with Adam and all mankind.
Or been eaten by bears that fancy blood,
Or burnt on a big tall tower of wood,
In a towering flame as a heathen should,
Or even sat with us here at food,
Merrily taking twopenny rum and cheese with a pocket knife,
But these were luxuries lost for him that lived for the Simple Life.

-The Flying Inn (1914)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Meditation in Rhyme

Of Uncle Humphrey who can sing?
His name can't rhyme to anything,
How much superior is Aunt Harriet
Who rhymes correctly to Iscariot.

-Collected Nonsense and Light Verse (1987)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

For the true idealist and the real realist have at least the love of action in common. And the practical politician thrives by offering practical objections to any action. What the idealist does may be unworkable, and what the man of action does may be unscrupulous; but in neither trade can a man win a reputation by doing nothing.

-The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond (1937)

Monday, April 15, 2013

"The sentiment of the overpowering cosmos is a babyish and hysterical sentiment, though a very human and natural one."

No; that argument about man looking mean and trivial in the face of the physical universe has never terrified me at all, because it is a merely sentimental argument, and not a rational one in any sense or degree. I might be physically terrified of a man fifty feet high if I saw him walking about my garden, but even in my terror I should have no reason for supposing that he was vitally more important than I am, or higher in the scale of being, or nearer to God, or nearer to whatever is the truth. The sentiment of the overpowering cosmos is a babyish and hysterical sentiment, though a very human and natural one. But if we are seriously debating whether man is the moral center of this world, then he is no more morally dwarfed by the fact that his is not the largest star than by the fact that he is not the largest mammal. Unless it can be maintained a priori that Providence must put the largest soul in the largest body, and must make the physical and moral centre the same, "the vertigo of the infinite" has no more spiritual value than the vertigo of a ladder or the vertigo of a balloon.

-February 19, 1910, Illustrated London News

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Self-made men frequently betray the defects of their creator.

-quoted in The Business History Review, Vol 35, No. 3, Autumn, 1961

[Note: This is, I believe, the only quote on this blog in which I do not have either an original source showing where GKC wrote/stated it, or at the very least a source that is somebody who was a friend of GKC in which I can be extremely confident it is accurate. So it is the one quote on this blog that it is possible it may be falsely attributed to him (though, of course, it also may be rightly attributed to him as well; I don't know]. But after coming across it, I wished to record it, albeit adding this note.]

Friday, April 12, 2013

...representative government has many minor disadvantages, one of them being that it is never representative.

-Charles Dickens (1906)

H/T to the G.K. Chesterton Facebooak page

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"The centre of every man’s existence is a dream."

The whole modern theory arises from one fundamental mistake – the idea that romance is in some way a plaything with life, a figment, a conventionality, a thing upon the outside. No genuine criticism of romance will ever arise until we have grasped the fact that romance lies not upon the outside of life but absolutely in the centre of it. The centre of every man’s existence is a dream. Death, disease, insanity, are merely material accidents, like toothache or a twisted ankle. That these brutal forces always besiege and often capture the citadel does not prove that they are the citadel. The boast of the realist (applying what the reviewers call his scalpel) is that he cuts into the heart of life; but he makes a very shallow incision if he only reaches as deep as habits and calamities and sins. Deeper than all these lies a man’s vision of himself, as swaggering and sentimental as a penny novelette. The literature of candour unearths innumerable weaknesses and elements of lawlessness which is called romance. It perceives superficial habits like murder and dipsomania, but it does not perceive the deepest of sins – the sin of vanity – vanity which is the mother of all day-dreams and adventures, the one sin that is not shared with any boon companion, or whispered to any priest.

-Twelve Types (1902)

Monday, April 8, 2013

"...the serious conclusion of a sane man is very valuable- if you can get it."

Thus we may say that the whole case against democracy and for democracy is commonly stated wrong. It is not that the conclusion of a common man is worthless; the serious conclusion of a sane man is very valuable- if you can get it. The trouble is not that the ordinary sensible man is uninstructed. The trouble is that he is instructed- instructed out of his senses. The man calls himself Agnostic who would naturally have called himself ignorant; but ignorance is higher. The average man, even the modern man, has a great deal to teach us. But the nuisance is that he won't teach it; he will only repeat what he has been taught. We have almost to torture him till he says what he does think, just as men once tortured a heretic till he said what he didn't think. We have to dig up the modern man as if he were Paleolithic man.

-March 16, 1909, Illustrated London News

Sunday, April 7, 2013


There is no necessary connexion between wit and mirth. A man's wit overpowers his enemies; but his mirth overpowers him. As long as a man is merely witty he can be quite dignified; in other words, as long as he is witty he can be entirely solemn. But if he is mirthful he at once abandons dignity, which is another name for solemnity, which is another name for spiritual pride. A mere humorist is merely admirable; but a man laughing is laughable. He spreads the exquisite and desirable disease by which he is himself convulsed. But our recent comedians have distrusted laughter for exactly the same reason that they have distrusted religion or romantic love. A laugh is like a love affair in that it carries a man completely off his feet; a laugh is like a creed or a church in that it asks that a man should trust himself to it.

A man must sacrifice himself to the God of Laughter, who has stricken him with a sacred madness. As a woman can make a fool of a man, so a joke makes a fool of  a man. And a man must love a joke more than himself, or he will not surrender his pride for it. A man must take what is called a leap in the dark, as he does when he is married or when he dies, or when he is born, or when he does almost anything else that is important. 

-"W.W. Jacobs", an article which appeared in The Tribune in 1906
Collected in A Handful of Authors  (1953)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

"Christianity is always out of fashion because it is always sane; and all fashions are mild insanities."

"Catholic virtue is often invisible because it is the normal," answered MacIan. "Christianity is always out of fashion because it is always sane; and all fashions are mild insanities. When Italy is mad on art the Church seems too Puritanical; when England is mad on Puritanism the Church seems too artistic. When you quarrel with us now you class us with kingship and despotism; but when you quarrelled with us first it was because we would not accept the divine despotism of Henry VIII. The Church always seems to be behind the times, when it is really beyond the times; it is waiting till the last fad shall have seen its last summer. It keeps the key of a permanent virtue."

 "Oh, I have heard all that!" said Turnbull with genial contempt. "I have heard that Christianity keeps the key of virtue, and that if you read Tom Paine you will cut your throat at Monte Carlo. It is such rubbish that I am not even angry at it. You say that Christianity is the prop of morals; but what more do you do? When a doctor attends you and could poison you with a pinch of salt, do you ask whether he is a Christian? You ask whether he is a gentleman, whether he is an M.D.—anything but that. When a soldier enlists to die for his country or disgrace it, do you ask whether he is a Christian? You are more likely to ask whether he is Oxford or Cambridge at the boat race. If you think your creed essential to morals why do you not make it a test for these things?"

"We once did make it a test for these things," said MacIan smiling, "and then you told us that we were imposing by force a faith unsupported by argument. It seems rather hard that having first been told that our creed must be false because we did use tests, we should now be told that it must be false because we don't. But I notice that most anti-Christian arguments are in the same inconsistent style."

"That is all very well as a debating-club answer," replied Turnbull good-humouredly, "but the question still remains: Why don't you confine yourself more to Christians if Christians are the only really good men?"

"Who talked of such folly?" asked MacIan disdainfully. "Do you suppose that the Catholic Church ever held that Christians were the only good men? Why, the Catholics of the Catholic Middle Ages talked about the virtues of all the virtuous Pagans until humanity was sick of the subject. No, if you really want to know what we mean when we say that Christianity has a special power of virtue, I will tell you. The Church is the only thing on earth that can perpetuate a type of virtue and make it something more than a fashion. The thing is so plain and historical that I hardly think you will ever deny it. You cannot deny that it is perfectly possible that tomorrow morning, in Ireland or in Italy, there might appear a man not only as good but good in exactly the same way as St. Francis of Assisi. Very well, now take the other types of human virtue; many of them splendid. The English gentleman of Elizabeth was chivalrous and idealistic. But can you stand still here in this meadow and be an English gentleman of Elizabeth? The austere republican of the eighteenth century, with his stern patriotism and his simple life, was a fine fellow. But have you ever seen him? have you ever seen an austere republican? Only a hundred years have passed and that volcano of revolutionary truth and valour is as cold as the mountains of the moon. And so it is and so it will be with the ethics which are buzzing down Fleet Street at this instant as I speak. What phrase would inspire the London clerk or workman just now? Perhaps that he is a son of the British Empire on which the sun never sets; perhaps that he is a prop of his Trades Union, or a class-conscious proletarian something or other; perhaps merely that he is a gentleman when he obviously is not. Those names and notions are all honourable; but how long will they last? Empires break; industrial conditions change; the suburbs will not last for ever. What will remain? I will tell you. The Catholic Saint will remain."

-The Ball and the Cross (1910)

Friday, April 5, 2013

All unsophisticated human beings instinctively accept the sacramental principle that the particular thing is closest to the general, the tangible thing closest to the spiritual; the child with a doll, the priest with a relic, the girl with an engagement ring, the soldier with a medal, the modern agnostic with his little scarab for luck. One can recall the soul of boyhood better by smelling peppermint than by reading about adolescence; one could talk for hours about a person's identity and still jump on hearing his voice....I have heard modern people talk of the needlessness of all the old rituals and reliquaries and the need for a simple religion of the heart. But their demand is rather dangerous, especially to themselves. If we really had a simple religion of the heart we should all be loaded with relics, and rituals would be going on all day long. If our creed were only of the higher emotions, it would talk of nothing else but special shrines, sacred spots, indispensable gestures, and adorable rags and bones. In short, a religion of pure good feeling would be a positive orgy of superstition; I prefer a  little clean theology to keep the thing within bounds. But the thing itself is the essence of genuine religion; every genuine mystic, even the diabolist, adores something material. In short, both the mystic and the mere philosopher agree that the spiritual is more important that the material considered in itself. The philosopher thinks that the spiritual lies very far beyond the material, like a remote landmark behind a plain. The mystic thinks that the spiritual is very close behind the material, like a brigand hiding behind a  bush. Science is always saying that the other world, if it exists, is too distant to be seen. Religion is always saying that it is too close to be seen. The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

-"The Moral Philosophy of George Meredith", The Contemporary Review, 1909
Collected in A Handful of Authors (1953)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The second of the two points on which I think Shaw has done definite harm is this: that he has (not always or even as a rule intentionally) increased that anarchy of thought which is always the destruction of thought.  Much of his early writing has encouraged among the modern youth that most pestilent of all popular tricks and fallacies; what is called the argument of progress.  I mean this kind of thing. Previous ages were often, alas, aristocratic in politics or clericalist in religion; but they were always democratic in philosophy; they appealed to man, not to particular men.  And if most men were against an idea, that was so far against it.  But nowadays that most men are against a thing is thought to be in its favour; it is vaguely supposed to show that some day most men will be for it. If a man says that cows are reptiles, or that Bacon wrote Shakespeare, he can always quote the contempt of his contemporaries as in some mysterious way proving the complete conversion of posterity. The objections to this theory scarcely need any elaborate indication. The final objection to it is that it amounts to this: say anything, however idiotic, and you are in advance of your age. This kind of stuff must be stopped.  The sort of democrat who appeals to the babe unborn must be classed with the sort of aristocrat who appeals to his deceased great-grandfather. Both should be sharply reminded that they are appealing to individuals whom they well know to be at a disadvantage in the matter of prompt and witty reply.

-George Bernard Shaw (1909)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A waiter came swiftly along the room, and then stopped dead. His stoppage was as silent as his tread; but all those vague and kindly gentlemen were so used to the utter smoothness of the unseen machinery which surrounded and supported their lives, that a waiter doing anything unexpected was a start and a jar. They felt as you and I would feel if the inanimate world disobeyed-- if a chair ran away from us.

 The waiter stood staring a few seconds, while there deepened on every face at table a strange shame which is wholly the product of our time. It is the combination of modern humanitarianism with the horrible modern abyss between the souls of the rich and poor. A genuine historic aristocrat would have thrown things at the waiter, beginning with empty bottles, and very probably ending with money. A genuine democrat would have asked him, with comrade-like clearness of speech, what the devil he was doing. But these modern plutocrats could not bear a poor man near to them, either as a slave or as a friend. That something had gone wrong with the servants was merely a dull, hot embarrassment. They did not want to be brutal, and they dreaded the need to be benevolent. They wanted the thing, whatever it was, to be over. It was over. The waiter, after standing for some seconds rigid, like a cataleptic, turned round and ran madly out of the room.

-The Innocence of Father Brown (1911)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"No one can know what Stevenson's life was, except, perhaps, Stevenson, who no doubt had glimmerings from time to time."

When Robert Louis Stevenson was a little boy, he once made the following remark to his mother: "Mother, I've drawed a man. Shall I draw his soul now?" This remark bears some traces perhaps of that over-formalised Scottish religion in which a man's soul was not so much himself as a very delicate younger brother whom he had to save at all costs.

But the remark has, nevertheless,a great deal of cogency in the question of all biographies, and especially in the biography of a man like Stevenson. Even if Mr. Graham Balfour's Life be the best ever written of one man by another, we cannot escape from the reflection of how strange it is to call such a thing a man's life. A man's life is held to mean what he did, the whole external pantomine of his existence. But this is in fact the most lifeless part of him, being the furthest removed from the centre of life. No one can know what Stevenson's life was, except, perhaps, Stevenson, who no doubt had glimmerings from time to time. The only biography that is really possible is autobiography. To recount the actions of another man is not biography, it is zoology, the noting down of the habits of a new and outlandish animal. It is most valuable and interesting, but it does not deal with the spring and spirit of a man's existence. It may fill ten volumes with anecdotes without once touching upon his life. It has drawed a man, but it has not drawed his soul.

-from an article in the Daily News, written in 1901
Collected in A Handful of Authors (1953)

Monday, April 1, 2013

"...genuine democracy is based fundamentally on the existence of the citizen, and the best definition of a mob is a body of a thousand men in which there is no citizen."

If there be one thing more than another which is true of genuine democracy, it is that genuine democracy is opposed to the rule of the mob. For genuine democracy is based fundamentally on the existence of the citizen, and the best definition of a mob is a body of a thousand men in which there is no citizen.

[Victor] Hugo stood for the fact that democracy isolated the citizen fully as much as the ancient religions isolated the soul. He resisted the rule of the Third Napoleon because he saw that it had the supreme and final mark of the rule of the tyrant, the fact that it relied on the masses. As if a million of the images of God could by any possibility become a mass. He made his appeal to the individual, as every poet must do, and asked the solitary citizen to act as if he were really not only the only human being on the earth, but the only sentient being in the universe. He realised the obvious and simple truth, so often neglected, that if the individual is nothing, then the race is nothing- for the plain mathematical reason that a hundred times nought is nought. Therefore his sublimest figure, his type of humanity, was not either a king or a republican, but a man on a desert island.

-from an article in Pall Mall Magazine written in 1902;
collected in A Handful of Authors (1953)