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, April 29, 2015

 Let no man deceive himself; if by vulgarity we mean coarseness of speech, rowdiness of behaviour, gossip, horseplay, and some heavy drinking, vulgarity there always was wherever there was joy, wherever there was faith in the gods. Wherever you have belief you will have hilarity, wherever you have hilarity you will have some dangers. And as creed and mythology produce this gross and vigorous life, so in its turn this gross and vigorous life will always produce creed and mythology. If we ever get the English back on to the English land they will become again a religious people, if all goes well, a superstitious people. The absence from modern life of both the higher and lower forms of faith is largely due to a divorce from nature and the trees and clouds. If we have no more turnip ghosts it is chiefly from the lack of turnips.
-Heretics (1905)
For that is what is meant to-day by being broadminded: living on prejudices and never looking at them.
-May 5, 1928, Illustrated London News

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"Exaggeration is the definition of art."

Exaggeration is the definition of art. That both Dickens and the Moderns understood. Art is, in its inmost nature, fantastic. Time brings queer revenges, and while the realists were yet living, the art of Dickens was justified by Aubrey Beardsley. But men like Aubrey Beardsley were allowed to be fantastic, because the mood which they overstrained and overstated was a mood which their period understood. Dickens overstrains and overstates a mood our period does not understand. The truth he exaggerates is exactly this old Revolution sense of infinite opportunity and boisterous brotherhood. And we resent his undue sense of it, because we ourselves have not even a due sense of it. We feel troubled with too much where we have too little; we wish he would keep it within bounds. For we are all exact and scientific on the subjects we do not care about. We all immediately detect exaggeration in an exposition of Mormonism or a patriotic speech from Paraguay. We all require sobriety on the subject of the sea-serpent. But the moment we begin to believe a thing ourselves, that moment we begin easily to overstate it; and the moment our souls become serious, our words become a little wild. And certain moderns are thus placed towards exaggeration. They permit any writer to emphasise doubts for instance, for doubts are their religion, but they permit no man to emphasise dogmas. If a man be the mildest Christian, they smell "cant;" but he can be a raving windmill of pessimism, and they call it "temperament." If a moralist paints a wild picture of immorality, they doubt its truth, they say that devils are not so black as they are painted. But if a pessimist paints a wild picture of melancholy, they accept the whole horrible psychology, and they never ask if devils are as blue as they are painted.
-Charles Dickens (1906)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A prophecy about Youtube music video comments...

I am glad to say that I have to a great extent kept out of all those disputes about taste which are called arguments about art, though they are not arguments about anything. A true argument begins with a first principle and ends with a final proof- or a final failure to prove. An artistic argument begins with somebody disliking something, and ends with his disliking everybody who happens to like it. A dispute about taste is never in any sense settled. But, as a fact, men for the most part vastly prefer to dispute about taste, because they do not want their disputes settled. You cannot prove in black and white the superiority of blue and green, but you can bang each other about the head and pretend to prove it in black and blue. Hence we always find that these illogical disputes are the most pugnacious and provocative. They produce a prodigious race of people swaggering and laying down the law. And they lay down the law because there is no law to be laid down. There is no disputing about tastes, and therefore there is always bragging, brawling, and rioting about tastes.
-December 17, 1927, Illustrated London News
It is very good for a man to talk about what he does not understand; as long as he understands that he does not understand it. Agnosticism (which has, I am sorry to say, almost entirely disappeared from the modern world) is always an admirable thing, so long as it admits that the thing which it does not understand may be much superior to the mind which does not understand it. Thus if you say that the cosmos is incomprehensible, and really mean (as most moderns do) that it is not worth comprehending; then it would be much better for your Greek agnosticism if it were called by its Latin name of ignorance.
-A Handful of Authors (published posthumously in 1953)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The basis of the artistic as of the ethical virtues is courage, and of courage there is only one certain and splendid signal- failure.
-May 12, 1900, The Speaker

Friday, April 24, 2015

Art school

An art school is a place where about three people work with feverish energy and everybody else idles to a degree that I should have conceived unattainable by human nature.
-Autobiography (1936)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

"[Utopia] is generally called a Republic, and it always is a Monarchy."

I am not at all fond of regimentation or repression; that is why I have never written a novel about Utopia, as is the case with almost all of the sinful human race who have written anything in our time. Utopia always seems to me to mean regimentation rather than emancipation; repression rather than expansion. It is generally called a Republic, and it always is a Monarchy. It is a Monarchy in the old and exact sense of the term; because it is really ruled by one man, the author of the book. He may tell us that all the characters in the book spontaneously delight in the beautiful social condition, but somehow we never believe him. His ideal world is always the world that he wants, and not the world that the world wants. therefore, however democratic it may be in theory or in the book, it is always pretty despotic when it begins to be approached in practice through the law. The first modern moves towards any utopian condition are generally as coercive as Prohibition. All that we call Utopia is but the rather evasive and vague expression of the natural, boyish, and romantic sentiment: "If I were King."
-May 7, 1927, Illustrated London News

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated" - Mark Twain

Cyril Clemens (a relation of Mark Twain) wrote a book on Chesterton, called "Chesterton as Seen by His Contemporaries". It is a fascinating book and a source for many great sayings and anecdotes concerning GKC.  (For instance, it is here we learn Chesterton's famous reply concerning the book he would wish to have if he were stranded on a desert island: "Thomas's Guide to Practical Shipbuilding)

That being the case, it is interesting to read this concerning Cyril Clemens' own father, James Ross Clemens, a cousin of Mark Twain:

My father was James Ross Clemens whose illness in London was the innocent cause of Mark Twain's most famous saying, "The report of my death is greatly exaggerated." For the newsmen had confused the two Clemenses and had Mark not merely ill but actually dead!


Or, to give Mark Twain's version of the incident (from which the quote first originated)

"James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London but is well now. the report of my illness grew out of his illness. The report of my death was an exaggeration"


Of course, the saying took on a life of its own (with some tweaking later on by Twain himself, such as adding the word "greatly"), resulting in the more familiar version quoted today. 

Granted, this is only somewhat related to this blog, in that it deals with a famous Mark Twain quote, not a Chesterton quote. But given that the occasion for the Twain quote was when Twain was confused with the father of the author of a book on Chesterton, it was something I wished to share in this place, in that there is a Chesterton connection in that respect
Liberty is the very last idea that seems to occur to anybody, in considering any political or social proposal. It is only necessary for anybody for any reason to allege any evidence of any evil in any human practice, for people instantly to suggest that the practice should be suppressed by the police.
-June 5, 1920, Illustrated London News
[H/T Siris]

Monday, April 20, 2015

...when Conservatives, Liberals, and Socialists all agree, it is time for the larger and more harmless part of mankind to look after its pockets...
-April 5, 1913, Illustrated London News
H/T G.K. Chesterton Facebook page

Sunday, April 19, 2015

What is the matter with internationalism is that it is imperialism. It is the imposition of one ideal of one sect on the vital varieties of men.
-June 17, 1922, Illustrated London News

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Property is a more serious matter than marriage- in a plutocracy.
-October 24, 1925, Illustrated London News

Friday, April 17, 2015

...the modern world is a crowd of very rapid racing-cars all brought to a standstill and stuck in a block of traffic.
-May 29, 1926, Illustrated London News

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The religious prophets, the Elijahs and the Baptists, the Savonarolas and the Bunyans, were the only real democrats, the only real disbelievers in the efficacy of fashion and station and wealth. They did conceive that the problem par excellence was not the problem of the poor, but the problem of the rich. They did go into kings' palaces and rebuke them as if they were the scum of the earth. They did speak to princes as the modern philanthropist speaks to costermongers. They did hope that there might be some real possibilities in peers and plutocrats, as we hope that there may be some real possibilities in vagabonds and thieves. They, I repeat, were perhaps the only real democrats that the world has ever seen. For it is no democracy, but only a foolish masquerade of aristocracy, when it is only possible for the aristocrat to be genuinely interested in the welfare of the plebeian. The real democracy is found when the plebeian may be genuinely interested in the welfare of the aristocrat.
-December 7, 1901, The Speaker

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"The modern world is so broad that all its citizens are narrow."

The great curse of our civilisation is that it is so large that whole masses of its inhabitants never see any but one side of life, any but one phase of thought. The modern world is so broad that all its citizens are narrow. There were a great many advantages in living in a small State, one of them was that of living in a larger world. In Athens probably a man could not put his nose outside his door without hearing Mystics and Atheists talking at the top of their voices. Today there are whole tracts of country such as Brixton and Surbiton in which the householder might go out in perfect safety, in which great philosophers do not argue in the street, perhaps from one year's end to another. These vast herds of suburban citizens living perpetually among people like themselves, might, indeed, be rescued to some extent from ignorance of others and of current thought by the daily Press. But here again the party system frustrates us, and a man only reads in his daily paper his own prejudices embellished with other people’s arguments. Something must be done to shift and float these vast clogged and stagnant masses of human life. Unless this is done it will be no idle jest to say that our civilisation is melting away in an apocalypse which it has not even the sense to understand. We require, in short, first and foremost, a quicker circulation of the civic blood.
-November 2, 1901, The Speaker

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"....the key-word of the Old Testament from beginning to end is the word "joy.' "

Again, one may ask, why should Hebraism be regarded as the expression of a dark self-effacement; why should the Hebrews be regarded as a gloomy people? They danced openly with delight in the goodness of God; the key-word of the Old Testament from beginning to end is the word "joy." Their sacred books blaze with gold and jewels just as they blaze with elemental gratitude and pleasure. They believe, more openly and professedly than any people has believed, in the primal fertilities, in the fact that the corn and the orchard are the signals of the ultimate beneficence, in the fact that children and the fruit of the womb are a heritage and gift that cometh of the Lord. They declared that God called all things good, the most stupendously daring thing that any people has ever said. Yet they said one thing more daring still; they said that all things called God good, that the blessing of the Seventh Day was hurled back again upon the Giver, that all created things praised the Lord. If this be the situation, it is at least striking. God declares that the leper is good, and the leper praises God in reply. It would cause no astonishment if such a people was accused of extravagant optimism, of grotesque exuberance, of hysterical hilarity. But that they should be accused of being sombre, and allowing no place for exhilaration, is perhaps one of the darkest and most ancient riddles of human stupidity. It is absolutely and genuinely, for all intellectual purposes, like accusing the French of a slow and heavy materialism, or the Vikings of an over-subtle aestheticism.
-December 28, 1901, The Speaker

Monday, April 13, 2015

Men talk of philosophy and theology as if they were something specialistic and arid and academic. But philosophy and theology are not only the only democratic things, they are democratic to the point of being vulgar, to the point, I was going to say, of being rowdy. They alone admit all matters; they alone lie open to all attacks...There is no detail, from buttons to kangaroos, that does not enter into the gay confusion of philosophy. There is no fact of life, from the death of a donkey to the General Post Office, which has not its place to dance and sing in, in the glorious Carnival of theology.
-G.F. Watts (1904)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

"It is learning how to enjoy our enjoyments."

...the whole object of real art, of real romance- and, above all, real religion- is to prevent people from losing the humility and gratitude which are thankful for daylight and daily bread; to prevent them from regarding daily life as dull or domestic life as narrow; to teach them to feel in the sunlight the song of Apollo and in the bread the epic of plough. What is now needed most is intensive imagination. I mean the power to turn our imaginations inwards, on the things we already have, and to make those things live. It is not merely seeking new experiences, which rapidly become old experiences. It is really learning how to experience our experiences. It is learning how to enjoy our enjoyments. As it is, we are surrounded by a riot which is excused as the only way of being young, but which seems really to be a rapid way of growing old.
-September 20, 1924, Illustrated London News

Saturday, April 11, 2015

"...and even their own families are human."

Humanitarians of a material and dogmatic type, the philanthropists and the professional reformers go to look for humanity in remote places and in huge statistics. Humanitarians of a more vivid type, the Bohemian artists, go to look for humanity in thieves' kitchens and the studios of the Quartier Latin. But humanitarians of the highest type, the great poets and philosophers, do not go to look for humanity at all. For them alone among all men the nearest drawing-room is full of humanity, and even their own families are human
-Robert Browning (1903)

Friday, April 10, 2015

"A progressive is always a conservative; he conserves the direction of progress. A reactionary is always a rebel."

The term "reactionary" is generally used as a term of offence, just as the term "progressive" is used as a term of praise; but only once in a hundred times is either of them used so as to convey any meaning or truth. Yet though the words have become a mere hackneyed cant, they have their proper use. Progress means persistence in the direction of one object maintained for a considerable period; reaction means some upheaval of disgust or contradiction, which overthrows the recent persistence and appeals back, perhaps, to its opposite. Thus we might truly say that English poetry from Cowley to Akenside progressed towards clearness and metrical accuracy. And we might truly say that Coleridge's Ancient Mariner was a reaction against this progress, the writing of a mere mad ballad in order to show how much more life there was in the old barbaric mysticism than in the recent easy-going rationality. Progress happens, in short, whenever men can endure one tendency for a long time. And reaction happens whenever some particular man can endure it no longer. These definitions are simple but I believe them to be comprehensive. A progressive is always a conservative; he conserves the direction of progress. A reactionary is always a rebel.
-Introduction to Past and Present by Thomas Carlyle (1909)

Thursday, April 9, 2015


Most of our current journalism is written in a dead language...full of florid but faded conventions....One of the worst, for instance, is the application of the terrible terminology of war to all the pettiest purposes of politics.
-June 21, 1924, Illustrated London News