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)

Monday, January 27, 2014

In practical politics the survival of the fittest frequently means only the survival of the fussiest.
-August 8, 1925, Illustrated London News

Friday, January 24, 2014

It is by this time a convention of journalism that the most trivial things should be printed in the largest letters, while anything at all significant or suggestive should be printed in very small letters, or, by a more frequent accident, not printed at all.
-November 6, 1920, Illustrated London News

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The highest outcome of an interest in literature is a finer interest in life...
-October 9, 1920, Illustrated London News

Monday, January 20, 2014

"All this being stated....to the credit of Mr. Brooks, I hope there will be no ill-feeling if I state...that he ought to be shot as a traitor.

I know nothing of Mr. Sydney Brooks, except that he has written one article which was good, and two novels that are possibly better. He is certainly a sincere observer and sometimes a true one—though it is not at all the same thing.- I am practically certain (reading between the lines) that he had no motive lower than the just love and laudation of the country to which he and I belong. His patriotism is sound and even his jingoism is sincere. All this being stated, and stated seriously, to the credit of Mr. Brooks, I hope there will be no ill-feeling if I state, equally seriously, that he ought to be shot as a traitor.

Let me explain. The great and real fun of growing old is that the world grows young. Especially in this: that the truisms all begin to come true. And this again is especially true of a thing we have all known ad nauseam: that excess in any indulgence is suicidal and destroys itself. Thus we have all heard that the drunkard is a nuisance to the moderate drinker: that the fanatic troubles true religion: and, in the same way, that the Jingo or Chauvinist or Spread-Eagle Patriot is really the worst enemy of patriotism. But in our youth we always fancied it was merely a matter of degree. We were under the delusion that a drunkard was a man who drank too much. We fancied a fanatic was one who believed in heaven too much. And in the same way we thought a swaggering patriot was one who cared rather too much for his country.

It is not so. There is much more than this in the conception of mortal sin; of the excess that turns and strikes and kills the very soul that is driving it on. Drunkenness is not only the enemy of‘sobriety. Drunkenness is quite literally the enemy of drink. The sole meaning, the sole justification, of festive fermented liquor is that it is meant for feasts; for certain hours of the day or occasions of the national custom. To extend it over all hours of the day is to abolish it. You veto a luxury by making it a necessity as much as by making it a crime. It was the pleasure of the Deity, at a high feast, to turn water into wine. It is the daily business of the dipsomaniac to turn wine into water...

I have taken these cases, the drunkard who destroys drink, the fanatic who destroys faith, merely to show that I do solidly and universally mean what I say, when I say that such English Jingoes as Mr. Sydney Brooks may very soon destroy England. He is not belauding or belittling his country; he is simply betraying her. By writing an article like “The Conquering English,” he is, quite literally, preparing the earliest possible opportunity for writing a second article called “The Conquered English.” Patriotism cannot afford jingoism just now: it is a luxury for times of peace; and this is a time of peril...
-extracted from an article by Chesterton that appeared in The World To-Day, volume 23 (January 1913-June 1913)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

"...the pure Conservative and the pure Progressive; two figures which would have been overwhelmed with laughter by any other intellectual commonwealth of history."

Towards the end of the nineteenth century there appeared...the pure Conservative and the pure Progressive; two figures which would have been overwhelmed with laughter by any other intellectual commonwealth of history.  There was hardly a human generation which could not have seen the folly of merely going forward or merely standing still; of mere progressing or mere conserving. In the coarsest Greek Comedy we might have a joke about a man who wanted to keep what he had, whether it was yellow gold or yellow fever. In the dullest mediaeval morality we might have a joke about a progressive gentleman who, having passed heaven and come to purgatory, decided to go further and fare worse...The old reformers and the old despots alike desired definite things, powers, licenses, payments, vetoes, and permissions. Only the modern progressive and the modern conservative have been content with two words.
-George Bernard Shaw (1909)
...we are not getting the best out of men. We are certainly not getting the most individual or the most interesting qualities out of men. And it is doubtful whether we ever shall, until we shut off this deafening din of megaphones that drowns their voices, this deathly glare of limelight which kills the colours of their complexions, this plangent yell of platitudes which stuns and stops their minds. All this sort of thing is killing thoughts as they grow, as a great white death-ray might kill plants as they grow.
-The Outline of Sanity (1926)
History says nothing; and legends all say that the earth was kinder in its earliest time. There is no tradition of progress; but the whole human race has a tradition of the Fall. Amusingly enough, indeed, the very dissemination of this idea is used against its authenticity. Learned men literally say that this pre-historic calamity cannot be true because every race of mankind remembers it. I cannot keep pace with these paradoxes.
-Orthodoxy (1908)

Friday, January 17, 2014

From The Oxford Companion to Charles Dickens:
The greatest of all Dickens critics, G.K. Chesterton, emerged just after the turn of the century, in a number of writings, most notably in Charles Dickens (1906) and introductions to the Everyman edition of the novels, collected as Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens (1911). Responsive to the humour, humanity, and fecundity of Dickens, Chesterton's exhilarating (and sometimes maddening) reliance on paradox sheds light on innumerable complexities of Dicken's art. Celebrating his characters as 'timeless gods' who inhabit not novels but a 'mythology', Chesterton overturns the narrow strictures of realism by insisting that Dicken's art makes things 'seem more actual than things really are'.
That is what is meant by publicity- a voice loud enough to drown any remarks made by the public.
The Outline of Sanity (1926)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

"There is a great deal of difference between the eager man who wants to read a book, and the tired man who wants a book to read."

There is one aspect of Charles Dickens which must be of interest even to that subterranean race which does not admire his books. Even if we are not interested in Dickens as a great event in English literature, we must still be interested in him as a great event in English history. If he had not his place with Fielding and Thackeray, he would still have his place with Wat Tyler and Wilkes; for the man led a mob. He did what no English statesman, perhaps, has really done; he called out the people. He was popular in a sense of which we moderns have not even a notion. In that sense there is no popularity now. There are no popular authors to-day. We call such authors as Mr. Guy Boothby or Mr. William Le Queux popular authors. But this is popularity altogether in a weaker sense; not only in quantity, but in quality. The old popularity was positive; the new is negative. There is a great deal of difference between the eager man who wants to read a book, and the tired man who wants a book to read. A man reading a Le Queux mystery wants to get to the end of it. A man reading the Dickens novel wished that it might never end. Men read a Dickens story six times because they knew it so well. If a man can read a Le Queux story six times it is only because he can forget it six times. In short, the Dickens novel was popular not because it was an unreal world, but because it was a real world; a world in which the soul could live. The modern "shocker" at its very best is an interlude in life. But in the days when Dickens's work was coming out in serial, people talked as if real life were itself the interlude between one issue of "Pickwick" and another.
-Charles Dickens (1906)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

William James, after reading Chesterton's book Charles Dickens:
O, Chesterton, but you're a darling! I've just read your Dickens—it's as good as Rabelais. Thanks!
(quoted in Gilbert Keith Chesterton by Maisie Ward

Monday, January 13, 2014

"...this is only one example out of many of the fallacy I mean- that an argument is supposed to become grotesque merely because it comes to grips with its subject."

December 4, 1920, Illustrated London News

There is a funny little fallacy on the subject of being funny. A man is supposed to be making a fool of himself when he is rather making a fool of his opponent upon his opponent's own principles. Those of us who have learned geometry in the old textbook of Euclid are familiar with the idea of a reductio ad absurdum; but many of us are quite surprised to find it is absurd. And we often do not seem to realise that what is absurd is the absurdity, and not the argument that points out the absurdity.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

"...if we build our palace on some unknown wrong it turns very slowly into our prison. Macbeth at the end of the play is not merely a wild beast; he is a caged wild beast."

Before we talk then of the lesson of a great work of art, let us realize that it has a different lesson for different ages, because it is itself eternal. And let us realize that such a lesson will be in our own day not absolute but suited to the particular vices or particular misfortunes of that day. We are not in any danger at the moment of the positive and concrete actions which correspond to those of Macbeth. The good old habit of murdering kings (which was the salvation of so many commonwealths in the past) has fallen into desuetude. The idea of such a play must be for us (and for our sins) more subtle. The idea is more subtle but it is almost inexpressibly great. Let us before reading the play consider if only for a moment what is the main idea of Macbeth for modern men.

One great idea on which all tragedy builds is the idea of the continuity of human life. The one thing a man cannot do is exactly what all modern artists and free lovers are always trying to do. He cannot cut his life up into separate sections. The case of the modern claim for freedom in love is the first and most obvious that occurs to the mind; therefore I use it for this purpose of illustration. You cannot have an idyll with Maria and an episode with Jane; there is no such thing as an episode. There is no such thing as an idyll. It is idle to talk about abolishing the tragedy of marriage when you cannot abolish the tragedy of sex. Every flirtation is a marriage; it is a marriage in this frightful sense; that it is irrevocable. I have taken this case of sexual relations as one out of a hundred; but of any case in human life the thing is true. The basis of all tragedy is that man lives a coherent and continuous life. It is only a worm that you can cut in two and leave the severed parts still alive. You can cut a worm up into episodes and they are still living episodes. You can cut a worm up into idylls and they are quite brisk and lively idylls. You can do all this to him precisely because he is a worm. You cannot cut a man up and leave him kicking, precisely because he is a man. We know this because man even in his lowest and darkest manifestation has always this characteristic of physical and psychological unity. His identity continues long enough to see the end of many of his own acts; he cannot be cut off from his past with a hatchet; as he sows so shall he reap.

This then is the basis of all tragedy, this living and perilous continuity which does not exist in the lower creatures. This is the basis of all tragedy, and this is certainly the basis of Macbeth. The great ideas of Macbeth, uttered in the first few scenes with a tragic energy which has never been equalled perhaps in Shakespeare or out of him, is the idea of the enormous mistake a man makes if he supposes that one decisive act will clear his way. Macbeth's ambition, though selfish and someway sullen, is not in itself criminal or morbid. He wins the title of Glamis in honourable war; he deserves and gets the title of Cawdor; he is rising in the world and has a not ignoble exhilaration in doing so. Suddenly a new ambition is presented to him (of the agency and atmosphere which presents it I shall speak in a moment) and he realizes that nothing lies across his path to the Crown of Scotland except the sleeping body of Duncan. If he does that one cruel thing, he can be infinitely kind and happy.

Here, I say, is the first and most formidable of the great actualities of Macbeth. You cannot do a mad thing in order to reach sanity. Macbeth's mad resolve is not a cure even for his own irresolution. He was indecisive before his decision. He is, if possible, more indecisive after he has decided. The crime does not get rid of the problem. Its effect is so bewildering that one may say that the crime does not get rid of the temptation. Make a morbid decision and you will only become more morbid; do a lawlesss thing and you will only get into an atmosphere much more suffocating than that of law. Indeed, it is a mistake to speak of a man as `breaking out.' The lawless man never breaks out; he breaks in. He smashes a door and finds himself in another room, he smashes a wall and finds himself in a yet smaller one. The more he shatters the more his habitation shrinks. Where he ends you may read in the end of Macbeth.

For us moderns, therefore, the first philosophical significance of the play is this; that our life is one thing and that our lawless acts limit us; every time we break a law we make a limitation. In some strange way hidden in the deeps of human psychology, if we build our palace on some unknown wrong it turns very slowly into our prison. Macbeth at the end of the play is not merely a wild beast; he is a caged wild beast.
-The Spice of Life
(collection of essays published posthumously in 1964)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Fable is more historical than fact, because fact tells us about one man and fable tells us about a million men."

For this reason England, like every other great and historic nation, has sought its typical hero in remote and ill-recorded times. The personal and moral greatness of Alfred is, indeed, beyond question. It does not depend any more than the greatness of any other human hero upon the accuracy of any or all of the stories that are told about him. Alfred may not have done one of the things which are reported of him, but it is immeasurably easier to do every one of those things than to be the man of whom such things are reported falsely. Fable is, generally speaking, far more accurate than fact, for fable describes a man as he was to his own age, fact describes him as he is to a handful of inconsiderable antiquarians many centuries after [...] Fable is more historical than fact, because fact tells us about one man and fable tells us about a million men. If we read of a man who could make green grass red and turn the sun into the moon, we may not believe these particular details about him, but we learn something infinitely more important than such trivialities, the fact that men could look into his face and believe it possible. The glory and greatness of Alfred, therefore, is like that of all the heroes of the morning of the world, set far beyond the chance of that strange and sudden dethronement which may arise from the unsealing of a manuscript or the turning over of a stone. Men may have told lies when they said that he first entrapped the Danes with his song and then overcame them with his armies, but we know very well that it is not of us that such lies are told. There may be myths clustering about each of our personalities [...] But they do not commonly lie to the effect that we have shed our blood to save all the inhabitants of the street. A story grows easily, but a heroic story is not a very easy thing to evoke. Wherever that exists we may be pretty certain that we are in the presence of a dark but powerful historic personality. We are in the presence of a thousand lies all pointing with their fantastic fingers to one undiscovered truth.
-Varied Types (1905)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

"It is not only necessary that the democracy should be taught; it is also necessary that the democracy should be taught democracy."

It is singular that Dickens, who was not only a radical and a social reformer, but one who would have been particularly concerned to maintain the principle of modern popular education, should nevertheless have seen so clearly this potential evil in the mere educationalism of our time -- the fact that merely educating the democracy may easily mean setting to work to despoil it of all the democratic virtues. It is better to be Lizzie Hexam and not know how to read and write than to be Charlie Hexam and not know how to appreciate Lizzie Hexam. It is not only necessary that the democracy should be taught; it is also necessary that the democracy should be taught democracy. Otherwise it will certainly fall a victim to that snobbishness and system of worldly standards which is the most natural and easy of all the forms of human corruption. This is one of the many dangers which Dickens saw before it existed. Dickens was really a prophet; far more of a prophet than Carlyle.
-Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens (1911)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"...those most virile and creative hopes which we call resolutions."

The truisms are all true; and the passing of Christmas and the approach of the New Year are rightly made a measure of progress, or, what is more practical, reform. It is proverbially true of that most practical of all kinds of reform which we call reformation; as we speak of the personal reformation of a drunkard or a thief. In the mystical triad of faith, hope, and charity, it is obvious that Christmas stands for charity, and among the more fortunate, for faith. Equally obviously the New Year may well stand for hope. And equally proverbially it does stand for those most virile and creative hopes which we call resolutions.
-January 3, 1920, Illustrated London News