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

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

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

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

-Heretics (1905)

Thursday, December 31, 2015

"Pride...is the falsification of fact by the introduction of self"

The greatest of Christian doctors were the first to admit that most of the Christian virtues had really been heathen virtues. [...] It is unjust to say that no heathens were ever merciful; it is absurd to say that no heathens were ever just [...] Upon one point and one point only, was there really a moral revolution that broke the back of human history. And that was upon the point of Humility. There was this definite thing about the best Pagan; that in him dignity did mean pride. It was a change that stood alone; and was worthy to stand alone. For it was the greatest psychological discovery that man has made, since man has sought to know himself.

It was the stupendous truth that man does not know anything, until he can not only know himself but ignore himself. He must subtract himself from the study of any solid and objective thing [...]But Pride which is the falsification of fact, by the introduction of self, is the enduring blunder of mankind. Christianity would be justified if it had done nothing but begin by detecting that blunder.
-The End of the Armistice
(collection of essays published posthumously in 1940)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

...the worst tyrant is not the man who rules by fear; the worst tyrant is he who rules by love and plays on it as on a harp.
-Robert Browning (1903)

Monday, December 28, 2015

It is common talk in these days that we ought to be imaginative, if only in order to be charitable. If a man commits forgery we must try to understand his temptations and his original trend. But no such mercy is generally shown to the enthusiast for ideas. The sins of the intolerant are seldom considered with any intellectual tolerance.
-The Apostle and the Wild Ducks
(collection of essays published posthumously in 1975)

Friday, December 25, 2015

Richard III and GKC

OK, this is old news, but I just discovered it a few minutes ago, so that is why I hadn't posted it before.

The remains of Richard III (king of England from 1483-1485) were discovered in 2012, and earlier this year (in March) they were reburied Leicester Cathedral. But what I had not known till just today was an interesting bit of news in connection with GKC concerning the service of reburial:
The coffin remained shouldered as the eulogy was read, and the cathedral procession then led the bearer party to a plinth in front of the altar, where it was laid. The opening prayer, from the Dean of Leicester, the Very Revd David Monteith, was from the medieval rite of reburial, and the opening hymn, G. K. Chesterton's "O God of earth and altar", arranged by Vaughan Williams, contrasted the imperfections of earthly life ("not least as exemplified by our faltering rulers", an explanatory note suggested).
[Source] (emphasis mine)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

"The Man in the Street"

[The Man in the Street] is a myth, perhaps a beautiful myth, but still a myth. This Man in the Street, this being by whose arbitrament politics, literature, and ethics are now tested and decided, is as fabulous as the Hydra; he is a thing that does not exist. My friend the Pessimist, to whom I have alluded in a previous article, and who is naturally disposed to take a somewhat gloomy view of things, declares that the Man in the Street does exist. But then my friend the Pessimist does not exist himself, so, he cannot be held to be a sound judge of all the niceties of the question, and may even be considered as having a certain bias. The essential proof that the Man in the Street does not exist is very simple. No one ever met anyone who believed himself to be the Man in the Street. No one ever met anyone who believed anyone else whom he knew intimately to be the Man in the Street. The sage who goes on the hopeless hunt after the average man will be endlessly disappointed as his researches exhibit endless variety and individuality. It will be more and more discovered that the Man in the Street only happens to be in the street, just as we happen to be in the street. Beyond that he resolves himself variously into the Man in the Cathedral, the Man in the Public-House, the Man in the National Gallery, the Man in the Penitentiary, the Man in the Fabian Society, the Man in the Divorce Court, the Man in Khaki- and the Man in Holy Orders. Among all the millions whom we summarise as men in the street there is not one who bears the least resemblance to any other man the moment we really understand his private memories, hopes, and conceptions. If we had to advise one man in the street how he should conduct himself in a definite crisis towards definite persons, our advice would be quite different to that which we should offer to another man in the street. No doubt there is a common human basis for all these men, but that common human basis includes the cultivated and exceptional quite as much as it includes these people. The dilemma, therefore, is simply this: either there is no such thing as the Man in the Street or else Maeterlinck is the Man in the Street and Mr. W. B. Yeats is the Man in the Street.
-April 12, 1902, The Speaker

"To tell the priest to throw away theology and impress us with his personality, is exactly like telling the doctor to throw away physiology and merely hypnotize us with his glittering eye."

The preacher is told to cast aside all systems and speak out of his own heart, or (in favourable cases) out of his own head. It does not seem to occur to these critics that they are making the priest or preacher much more important than he was before. They are demanding from him a genius and originality which cannot be expected from all the individual members of any profession. The poor ordinary parson is not allowed to teach what he has learnt, a certain system of religious thought. But he is expected, all by himself, to be a sort of compound of Savonarola and Swedenborg and M. Coué. All men are not born mesmerists or prose poets or persons of magnetic personality. But all men can expound a rational scheme of religion and morals, if there is one to expound.

The truth is that creed and dogma are the only things that make preaching tolerable. A system of thought can be explained by any reasonably thinking man; but it does not follow that the thinking man is a thinker. The case is very much the same as that of the medical authority of the general practitioner. We do not expect every ordinary G.P. to be a person like Pasteur or Lister or some great medical discoverer. But we do expect him to know the system he has been taught; the creed and dogma of his profession. To tell the priest to throw away theology and impress us with his personality, is exactly like telling the doctor to throw away physiology and merely hypnotize us with his glittering eye. People are very fond of making unjust complaints about preachers, as they are of making equally unjust complaints about doctors. But they have not yet got so far as complaining of doctors because they know their business, and because they regard it as a science. And the preacher, even the very worst preacher, would be infinitely more empty and dreary than he is if he had never regarded theology as a science. What makes his preaching tolerable, at its worst, is that he is, after all, in some sense giving us the thoughts of great men like St. Paul or St. Augustine, or even Calvin, and not merely the thoughts of a small man unassisted by any tradition of greatness. I do not know what advice will be given to the preacher by most of the distinguished persons who will probably advise him. But a melancholy familiarity with most current thought, or thoughtlessness, leads me to advise him to listen to it, and then do the opposite.
-Come to Think of It (1930)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

I am entirely in favour of capital for labourers. I am also in favour of labour for capitalists. I am in favour of hard labour for some capitalists.
-May 28, 1927, G.K.'s Weekly
[H/T The Distributist Review]

Saturday, December 19, 2015

"...You laughed when I said that the sulky look of Mrs. Sands was a study in character; but not in the character of Mrs. Sands. But it was true. If you want to know what a lady is really like, don’t look at her; for she may be too clever for you. Don’t look at the men round her, for they may be too silly about her. But look at some other woman who is always near to her, and especially one who is under her. You will see in that mirror her real face, and the face mirrored in Mrs. Sands was very ugly..."
-The Secret of Father Brown (1927)

Friday, December 18, 2015

"I mean that a tree goes on growing, and therefore goes on changing; but always in the fringes surrounding something unchangeable."

[While written in a different context, the following passage is applicable, I believe, to many conflicts in the Church today as well...indeed, the word "tree" naturally reminds one of Christ's parable of the mustard seed]

Perhaps we might call the two antagonistic philosophies the philosophy of the The Tree and the philosophy of The Cloud. I mean that a tree goes on growing, and therefore goes on changing; but always in the fringes surrounding something unchangeable. The innermost rings of the tree are still the same as when it was a sapling; they have ceased to be seen, but they have not ceased to be central. When the tree grows a branch at the top, it does not break away from the roots at the bottom; on the contrary, it needs to hold more strongly by its roots the higher it rises with its branches. That is the true image of the vigorous and healthy progress of a man, a city, or a whole species. but when the evolutionists I speak of talk to us about change, they do not mean that. They do not mean something that produces external changes from a  permanent and organic centre, like a tree; they mean something that changes completely and entirely in every part, at every minute, like a cloud; there is no head or tail that cannot turn into something else; it not only changes, but it is itself only a prolonged change. While Hamlet and Polonius stood looking at the cloud, it will be remembered that, in those few minutes, the prince could persuade the courtier that the cloud had a hump like a camel, that it was a weasel, and that it was a whale. That is the cosmos as understood by these cosmic philosophers; the cosmos is a cloud. It changes in every part; nor is one part more permanent or even more essential than the other. For that matter, of course, the cosmic philosophers change as much as their cosmic cloud [...] Now, if this merely cloudy and boneless development be adopted as a philosophy, then there can be no place for the past and no possibility of a complete culture. Anything may be here today and gone tomorrow; even tomorrow. But I do not accept that everlasting evolution, which merely means everlasting chaos. As I only accept the organic and orderly development of a thing according to its own design and nature, there is for me such a thing as a human culture that is reasonably complete. Only the modern, advanced, progressive scientific culture is unreasonably incomplete [...] For its weakness is, according to the sacred philosophy of the tree, that it has no roots or its roots are very shallow; it is too recent to be rooted in the subconsciousness or to have anything of the dimension of depth, in the matter of memory and what is called "second nature." There is not enough of the momentum of mankind behind it, and it wavers and grows weary even before our eyes.
-Avowals and Denials (1934)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Now, in spite of the wildest claims to independence, the intellectual life of today still strikes me as being mainly symbolised by the train or the track or the groove.  There is any amount of fuss and vivacity about certain fixed fashions or directions of thought; just as there is any amount of rapidity along the fixed rails of the railway-track.  But if we begin to think about really getting off the track, we shall find that what is true of the train is equally true of the truth.  We shall find it is actually harder to get out of the groove, when the train is going fast, than when the train is going slowly.  We shall find that rapidity is rigidity; that the very fact of some social or political or artistic movement going quicker and quicker means that fewer people have the courage to move against it.  And at last perhaps nobody will make a leap for real intellectual liberty, just as nobody will jump out of a railway-train going at eighty miles an hour.  This seems to me the primary mark of what we call progressive thought in the modern world.  It is in the most exact sense of the term limited.  It is all in one dimension.  It is all in one direction.  It is limited by its progress.  It is limited by its speed.

 I have said that it has not the curiosity to stop.  If the train-dwellers were really travellers, exploring a strange country to make discoveries, they would always be stopping at little wayside stations.  For instance, they would always be stopping to consider the curious nature of their own conventional terms; a thing which they never do, by any chance.  Their catchwords are regarded solely as gadgets or appliances for getting them where they are going to; they never cast back a thought upon where the catchword comes from.  Yet that is exactly what they would do if they were really thinking, in any thorough and all-round sense.  Of course it will be understood, touching these intellectual fashions, that great masses, probably the mass of mankind, never travel on the train at all.  They remain in their villages and are much happier and better; but they are not regarded as the intellectual leaders of the time.  What I complain of is that the intellectual leaders can only lead along one narrow track; otherwise known as the ringing groove of change.
-The Common Man (collection of essays published posthumously in 1950)

"...to leave a child's mind empty does not mean that it will remain empty; it only means that it will be filled with silly things."

We have most of us realised, I suppose, that the only thing irritating about sceptisim is that it does not exist. A really open mind (which, as Mr. Chamberlain truly says, means an empty mind) would be a very charming thing; it is a very charming thing as it exists in babies in long clothes. But the trouble is that to leave a child's mind empty does not mean that it will remain empty; it only means that it will be filled with silly things. He will not be a sceptic; he will merely be a fanatic for fifth rate causes. Where the human mind is not fed with any doctrine at all, it is simply at the mercy of the first mean sophistry or two-penny cynical generalisation that it may hear from a fast schoolfellow or vulgar employer. Where there is nothing there is Satan. Where there is no concern for moral or religious offices there is ether a fussy and tyrannical concern for cuffs and collars or (what is almost worse) a fussy and tyrannical concern for Liberty ties and Jaeger shirts and all the heathen horrors of art and hygiene. When you break the big laws you do not get liberty: you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws.
-July 29, 1905, Daily News

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Perhaps under the shadow of the storm that menaced all Friars, Bonaventure, the Franciscan, grew into so great a friendship with Thomas the Dominican, that their contemporaries compared them to David and Jonathan. The point is of some interest; because it would be quite easy to represent the Franciscan and the Dominican as flatly contradicting each other. The Franciscan may be represented as the Father of all the Mystics; and the Mystics can be represented as men who maintain that the final fruition or joy of the soul is rather a sensation than a thought. The motto of the Mystics has always been, "Taste and see." Now St. Thomas also began by saying, "Taste and see;" but he said it of the first rudimentary impressions of the human animal. It might well be maintained that the Franciscan puts Taste last and the Dominican puts it first. It might be said that the Thomist begins with something solid like the taste of an apple, and afterwards deduces a divine life for the intellect; while the Mystic exhausts the intellect first, and says finally that the sense of God is something like the taste of an apple. A common enemy might claim that St. Thomas begins with the taste of fruit and St. Bonaventure ends with the taste of fruit. But they are both right; if I may say so, it is a privilege of people who contradict each other in their cosmos to be both right. The Mystic is right in saying that the relation of God and Man is essentially a love-story; the pattern and type of all love-stories. The Dominican rationalist is equally right in saying that the intellect is at home in the topmost heavens; and that the appetite for truth may outlast and even devour all the duller appetites of man.
-St Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox (1933)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Even those who can only regard the great story of Bethlehem as a fairy-tale told by the fire will yet agree that such narrowness is the first artistic necessity even of a good fairy-tale. But there are others who think, at least, that their thought strikes deeper and pierces to a more subtle truth in the mind. There are others for whom all our fairy-tales, and even all our appetite for fairy-tales, draw their fire from one central fairy-tale, as all forgeries draw their significance from a signature. They believe that this fable is a fact, and that the other fables cannot really be appreciated even as fables until we know it is a fact. For them, personality is a step beyond universality; one might almost call it an escape from universality. And what they follow is as much something more than Pantheism as a flame is something more than a temperature. For them, God is not bound down and limited by being merely everything; He is also at liberty to be something. And for them Christmas will always deal with a reality exactly as Shakespeare's poetry deals with an unreality; it will give, not to airy nothing, but to the enormous and overwhelming everything, a local habitation and a Name.
-The Uses of Diversity (1921)