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)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

I generally make my New Year resolutions somewhere towards the end of May, for I belong to that higher order of beings who not only forget to keep promises, but forget even to make them. Besides, my birthday is somewhere about then; and I like to be born again at the time I was born.
-January 11, 1913, Daily News

Thursday, December 29, 2016

"The king was whipped in the cathedral, a performance which I recommend to those who regret the unpopularity of church-going."

When four knights scattered the blood and brains of St. Thomas of Canterbury, it was not only as sign of anger but a sort of black admiration. They wished for his blood, but the wished even more for his brains. Such a blow will remain forever unintelligible unless we realize what the brains of St. Thomas were thinking about just before they were distributed over the floor. They were thinking about the great mediaval conception that the church is the judge of the world. Becket objected to a priest being tried even by the Lord Chief Justice. And his reason was simple: because the Lord Chief Justice was being tried by the priest. The judiciary was itself sub judice. The kings were themselves in the dock. The idea was to create an invisible kingdom, without armies or prisons, but with complete freedom to condemn publicly all the kingdoms of the earth. Whether such a supreme church would have cured society we cannot affirm definitely; because the church was never a supreme church. We only know that in England at any rate the princes conquered the saints. What the world wanted we see before us; and some of us call it a failure. But we cannot call what the church wanted a failure, simply because the church failed. Tracy struck a little too soon. England had not yet made the great Protestant discovery that the king can do no wrong. The king was whipped in the cathedral, a performance which I recommend to those who regret the unpopularity of church-going. But the discovery was made, and Henry VIII scattered Becket's bones as easily as Tracy has scattered his brains.
What's Wrong With the World (1910)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Nor, for that matter, do I know why [...] the parliamentary enclosure at Westminster is also connected with the first of the martyrs; unless it be because St. Stephen was killed with stones. The stones piled together to make modern political buildings, might perhaps be regarded as a cairn, or heap of missiles, marking the place of the murder of a witness to the truth
-Irish Impressions (1919)

"Many modern writers have rejected every kind of rigid creed upon the ground that such creeds made against the variety and the vivacity of life."

For herein lies the last and not the least important of the defences that must be made for that element of dogma or clear and pugnacious theory which the modern world so largely discourages and dilutes. Many modern writers have rejected every kind of rigid creed upon the ground that such creeds made against the variety and the vivacity of life.

The truth is that it is only in the light of such creeds that we become conscious of any variety or any vivacity at all. If, let us say, I accept a fixed standard of goodness, I can then adopt or discuss the pleasing and stimulating proposition that Caesar Borgia was a good man. If I have no standard of goodness, then I can have no opinion about the matter; Caesar Borgia and I are two entirely distinct and unmeaning facts with no relation to each other; between me and Caesar Borgia there is no tie at all, which is a very sad state of things.

The fixed beliefs of mankind have given us all our own heresies and eccentricities, for they have given us the very terms in which we talk. Even paradox (a word which I seem to have seen somewhere) depends, like every other statement, upon the terms used in it being firm, intelligible, and even orthodox. If a man were really sceptical about everything he would not be able to think paradox or to think anything. He may be trying to prove that black is white; but even to do that he must be certain black is black.
-August 26, 1905, Daily News

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Harry Houdini and GKC

Houdiniphiles know Harry was a big fan of Sherlock Holmes and a friendly rival of Holmes' creator, Arthur Conan Doyle. Less known is Harry's affection for the invisible man of 20th century literature, the writer and philosopher G. K. Chesterton.

Friday, December 16, 2016

"If there is really no justification for dipping into a book [...] it seems really doubtful whether there is any justification for dipping into existence, as we all of us do."

If it is really useless for us to judge of anything in samples (and so the most artistic critics tell us), then, certainly, we are all in a most difficult position. There is that interesting object, the earth, for instance, we cannot see it in its entirety, except by going to the moon and then somewhat obscurely; we see as much of it as we can get hold of. The universe itself cannot show us its unity; we have to judge it in selections. If there is really no justification for dipping into a book, as is the habit of some of us, it seems really doubtful whether there is any justification for dipping into existence, as we all of us do. Whenever and wherever we are born, we are coming into the middle of something; at whatever time we first begin to take notice, we are reading the last chapter of some story first. Once establish the proposition that good things are useless, if they are fragmentary, and all our lives, religion, principles, politics and habits, become useless indeed. For whether they are good or bad, they are all fragmentary.
-G.K.C. as M.C. (1929)

Friday, December 9, 2016

"But Christmas is not merely the glory of any god; it is especially the worship of a divine childhood."

But Christmas is not merely the glory of any god; it is especially the worship of a divine childhood. Its main lesson is the lesson of simplicity, a lesson very difficult for all of us. We have all studied things too much, and we are none of us simple enough to see them. Alike in our social sympathy and in our social indignation, we need a kind of new birth and an intellectual innocence. For instance, on the kindlier side of Christmas we say what seems simple enough, 'The child thinks that Santa Claus gives the toys; but really the father and mother give them.' But we never ask 'and who gives the father and mother?' We are not simple enough to ask that question. We are not simple enough to be able even to see the father and mother, in the sense that we see the toys in the stocking. I do not suggest that Santa Claus can be expected to put our father in our stocking. But I say that it is a beautiful and strictly supernatural thing that he has contrived to put our father into his own stockings
-December 23, 1905, Daily News

Thursday, December 8, 2016

[...] how can I love my neighbour as myself if he gets out of range for snowballs?
-Alarms and Discursions (1910)

Sunday, December 4, 2016

"When a thing of the intellect is settled it is not dead: rather it is immortal."

When a thing of the intellect is settled it is not dead: rather it is immortal. The multiplication table is immortal, and so is the fame of Shakspere [sic]. But the fame of Zola is not dead or not immortal; it is at its crisis, it is in the balance; and may be found wanting. The French, therefore, are quite right in considering it a living question. It is still living as a question, because it is not yet solved. But Shakspere is not a living question: he is a living answer.
-All Things Considered (1908)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"If truth is relative, to what is it relative?"

One celebrated critic, strongly associated with the popularizing of Ibsen in England, said, I think, the other day that Ibsen was aiming at asserting the relativity of truth. I cannot believe that Ibsen was so silly as all that. If truth is relative, to what is it relative? The same writer, I think, emphasized the matter still further by calling it the mutability of truth.

Philosophically understood, these phrases mean literally nothing at all; the quality of truth cannot be mutable; the element of actuality, if it is present, must always be the same. But symbolically understood, these phrases do mean something; they mean that Ibsen and many others honestly felt an irritation against all existing standards and ideals; spiritualist and materialist, revolutionist and reactionary. They really do mean with a lucidity varying with their mental capacity that there shall be no definable moral codes for the society of the future. In this they must be understood; and in this they must be fought.
-June 2, 1906, Daily News

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"...the soul is only to be opened with the key of reverence."

[The worst fallacy of realism] is the idea that we come nearer to the soul of a human being by climbing over walls and listening at keyholes, whereas the soul is only to be opened with the key of reverence [...] But to imagine that we get nearer to anyone by multiplying those endless personal details which we know in our case to be more misleading than a mask or a cloak, to insist on those kindly frivolities of private life which are more sacred because more fragile than its tragedies, to think that a deep-rooted family joke can be transplanted one whit better than a family curse- this is the deep wrong of realism, realism which is always a kind of snobbery.
-March 21, 1901, Daily News

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

JFK, C.S. Lewis, and Aldoux Huxley

Today is the 53rd anniversary of the deaths of President Kennedy, C.S. Lewis, and Aldous Huxley.

It just occurred to me that there is a Chesterton connection with all three.

I've heard that Kennedy quoted Chesterton before, and certainly at least on one occasion he did when he paraphrased a passage from GKC's book The Thing, in this way: "Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up." You can see the passage JFK was paraphrasing here.

As for C.S. Lewis, the connection there of course is well known. Just to give a sample (from Lewis's spiritual autobiography Surprised By Joy) of GKC's influence in his conversion to Christianity, there are some passages collected here.

As for Aldous Huxley, I'm not that familiar with his works, and don't know if he had ever mentioned GKC, but one interesting fact I did discover mentioned before (for instance, in Joseph Pearce's Literary Converts, p. 189) is that Huxley was one of those who were present at Chesterton's funeral.

OK, not much of a post, but something I found interesting. :-)

"The Happy Man"

The Happy Man

To teach the grey earth like a child,
To bid the heavens repent,
I only ask from Fate the gift
Of one man well content.

Him will I find: though when in vain
I search the feast and mart,
The fading flowers of liberty,
The painted masks of art.

I only find him at the last,
On one old hill where nod
Golgotha’ ghastly trinity—
Three persons and one god.

[H/T Karen Hornsby ]

Friday, November 18, 2016

If you level men with animals you will only in the long run level down. For one man who treats dogs like men there will be twenty who will treat men like dogs.
-April 10, 1906, Daily News

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Flannery O'Connor and GKC

I came across an interesting essay via Google Books:

"Flannery O'Connor's 'A Good Man is Hard to Find' and G.K. Chesterton's Manalive."

 The entire essay is not available as part of the preview, but most of it is, and what is there is interesting. To give a couple excerpts:
The genesis of "A Good Man is Hard to Find" has been traced to various news items in the Atlanta Journal. The evidence for this origin is circumstantial, but enough particulars of congruence emerge to suggest that O'Connor might indeed have transformed in her story bits and pieces from various news accounts. Nevertheless, the most enigmatic moment in the story, The Misfit's conclusion that the grandmother "would have been a good woman...if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life," has no analog in the news accounts O'Connor read in the Atlanta Journal. It's origin appears to be Chesterton's Manalive [...]

[...] the true merit of discovering Chesterton's influence on O'Connor's story lies in a recognition of how "A Good Man is Hard to Find" apparently revises Manalive. O'Connor's short story does not merely derivatively reuse an episode in Chesterton's novel, but (as one would expect of a work by a major author like O'Connor) it thoroughly recasts this episode. O'Connor's world is patently darker than Chesterton's.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

[...] the prigs are now too bored even to go on with their normal routine about the Common Man; the familiar routine of oppressing him in practice and adoring him in theory.
-The Common Man (1950)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I have sometimes thought of keeping a scrap-book of the insults to the people which are uttered in popular journalism. But I soon found the task to be too vast and encyclopaedic [...]
-December 31, 1910, Daily News

Sunday, November 6, 2016

"Modesty is too fierce and elemental a thing for the modern pedants to understand."

[...] men are not poets because they tear away the veil from sex. On the contrary it is because all men are poets that they all hang a veil over sex [...] Decorum is not an over-civilised convention. Decorum is not tame; decorum is wild, as wild as the wind at night [...]

Modesty is too fierce and elemental a thing for the modern pedants to understand [...] It has in it the joy of escape and the ancient shyness of freedom [...] in not admiring sexual reticence [they] simply [do] not understand one of the greatest poems of humanity.

-William Blake (1910)

Friday, November 4, 2016

"We are putting the official on the throne while he is still in the dock."

[...] at the very time when we are all beginning to doubt these authorities, we are letting laws pass to increase their most capricious powers. All our commissions, petitions, and letters to the papers are asking whether these authorities can give an account of their stewardship. And at the same moment all our laws are decreeing that they shall not give any account of their stewardship, but shall become yet more irresponsible stewards [...] this sort of man is being trusted with more authority, apparently because he is being doubted with more reason [...] We are putting the official on the throne while he is still in the dock.
-A Miscellany of Men (1912)

Monday, October 31, 2016

That is, I fancy, the true doctrine on the subject of Tales of Terror and such things, which unless a man of letters do well and truly believe, without doubt he will end by blowing his brains out or by writing badly. Man, the central pillar of the world must be upright and straight; around him all the trees and beasts and elements and devils may crook and curl like smoke if they choose. All really imaginative literature is only the contrast between the weird curves of Nature and the straightness of the soul. Man may behold what ugliness he likes if he is sure that he will not worship it; but there are some so weak that they will worship a thing only because it is ugly. These must be chained to the beautiful. It is not always wrong even to go, like Dante, to the brink of the lowest promontory and look down at hell. It is when you look up at hell that a serious miscalculation has probably been made.

* * *

Therefore I see no wrong in riding with the Nightmare to-night; she whinnies to me from the rocking tree-tops and the roaring wind; I will catch her and ride her through the awful air. Woods and weeds are alike tugging at the roots in the rising tempest, as if all wished to fly with us over the moon, like that wild amorous cow whose child was the Moon-Calf. We will rise to that mad infinite where there is neither up nor down, the high topsy-turveydom of the heavens. I will answer the call of chaos and old night. I will ride on the Nightmare; but she shall not ride on me.
-Alarms and Discursions (1910)

Friday, October 28, 2016

"Are you the new recruit?" said the invisible chief, who seemed to have heard all about it. "All right. You are engaged."

 Syme, quite swept off his feet, made a feeble fight against this irrevocable phrase.

"I really have no experience," he began.

"No one has any experience," said the other, "of the Battle of Armageddon."

"But I am really unfit—"

"You are willing, that is enough," said the unknown.

"Well, really," said Syme, "I don't know any profession of which mere willingness is the final test."

"I do," said the other—"martyrs. I am condemning you to death. Good day."
-The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare (1908)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Thomas Paine invented the name of the Age of Reason; and he was one of those sincere but curiously simple men who really did think that the age of reason was beginning, at about the time when it was really ending. Being a secularist of the most simple-minded sort, he naturally aroused angry passions at the moment, as does any poor fellow who stands on a chair and tries to heckle heaven in Hyde Park. But considering him in retrospect, the modern world will be more disposed to wonder at his belief than at his unbelief. The denial of Christianity is as old as Christianity; we might well say older. The anti-clerical will probably last as long as the Church, which will last as long as the world. But it is doubtful when we shall see again the positive side of Paine's philosophy; the part that was at once credulous and creative. It is impossible, alas, for us to believe that a Republic will put everything right, that elections everywhere will ensure equality for all. For him the Church was at best a beautiful dream and the Republic a human reality; today it is his Republic that is the beautiful dream. There was in that liberalism much of the leisure of the eighteenth-century aristocrats who invented it; and much of the sheltered seclusion also. The garden which Voltaire told a man to cultivate was really almost as innocent as the garden of Eden. But the young men who saw such visions were none the less seeing visions of paradise, though it was an earthly paradise. Rationalism is a romance of youth. There is nothing very much the matter with the age of reason; except, alas, that it comes before the age of discretion.
-William Cobbett (1925)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

This would be no place to enquire too closely why those bright youths who are so superior to eternity seem to be so subject and submissive to time; why they proclaim with such wild pagan gestures that they can pull down the Cross; but assure us, with such anxious and agitated motions, that we cannot put back the clock.
-July 13, 1935, Illustrated London News

Monday, October 17, 2016

..if a man thinks himself the pillar of righteousness, it is all the more spiritually dangerous for him the more it is approximately true. But if a modern artist thinks himself a beacon of blazing originality, that is less likely to be in any way flattered by the facts. That- as the Irish priest said to the lady who confessed she had thought much about her own beauty- that is not a sin, it is mistake.
-July 29, 1911, Daily News

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Politics are eternal and politicians luckily are not.
-January 1, 1910, Daily News

Monday, October 3, 2016

According to the Wikipedia article for The Man Who Was Thursday:
In Neil Gaiman's The Sandman comics, the Library of Dream's castle contains every story ever written plus every story dreamed of but never written. Among the latter is The Man Who Was October by G. K. Chesterton, which is supposedly a sequel to his Thursday.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Cats and Dogs

Cats are so beautiful that a creature from another star might fall in love with them, and so incalculable that he might kill them. Some of my friends take quite a high moral line about cats. Some, like Mr. Titterton, I think, admire a cat for its moral independence and readiness to scratch anybody "if he does not behave himself." Others, like Mr. Belloc, regard the cat as cruel and secret, a fit friend for witches; one who will devour everything, except, indeed, poisoned food, "so utterly lacking is it in Christian simplicity and humility." For my part, I have neither of these feelings. I admire cats as I admire catkins; those little fluffy things that hang on trees. They are both pretty and both furry, and both declare the glory of God. And this abstract exultation in all living things is truly to be called Love; for it is a higher feeling than mere affectional convenience; it is a vision. It is heroic, and even saintly, in this: that it asks for nothing in return. I love all the cats in the street as St. Francis of Assisi loved all the birds in the wood or all the fishes in the sea; not so much, of course, but then I am not a saint. But he did not wish to bridle a bird and ride on its back, as one bridles and rides on a horse. He did not wish to put a collar round a fish's neck, marked with the name "Francis," and the address "Assisi"—as one does with a dog. He did not wish them to belong to him or himself to belong to them; in fact, it would be a very awkward experience to belong to a lot of fishes. But a man does belong to his dog, in another but an equally real sense with that in which the dog belongs to him. The two bonds of obedience and responsibility vary very much with the dogs and the men; but they are both bonds. In other words, a man does not merely love a dog; as he might (in a mystical moment) love any sparrow that perched on his windowsill or any rabbit that ran across his path. A man likes a dog; and that is a serious matter.
-A Miscellany of Men (1912)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Foolish despotisms try to teach their servants seriousness: our wiser oligarchy teaches its servants levity.
-October 19, 1907, Daily News

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

And that sign, which Constantine saw in heaven above his eagles, should be enough in itself to convey that mystery of Christendom which must always be a menace to its enemies [...] There is but one religion which can only decorate even its triumphs with an emblem of defeat. There is only one army which carries the image of its own captain, not enthroned or riding, but captured and impaled.
-June 28, 1916, Daily News

Thursday, September 8, 2016

For continuous and systematic secrecy you need an advanced civilization. For continuous and systematic secrecy you need good taste and gentlemanly feeling and other unpleasant things. Above all, for continuous and systematic secrecy you need journalism.
-January 31, 1905, Daily News

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Winston Churchill with GKC

[...] in 1917 [Chesterton] was accompanying Winston Churchill (along with Churchill's cousin and GKC's secretary, Freda Spencer) to Warsash on the Solent to inspect seaplanes at Supermarine, Saunders-Roe and RNAS Calshot; Churchill had to rescue Freda when she fell into the Solent. It might be wondered what Gilbert's function was; possibly, together with more propaganda and recruiting speeches, he was also there in the capacity of a ghost-speechwriter for Churchill."
-G.K. Chesterton: A Reappraisal , Denis Conlon

Friday, September 2, 2016

"Mr. G.K. Chesterton is one of the great writers here." - Gandhi

I've referred to GKC's influence on Gandhi before, but now I've come across a direct quote from Gandhi mentioning Chesterton. It is quoted in an appendix ("Critical Judgments") in the book G.K. Chesterton: A Reappraisal by Denis Conlon, and he lists as the source Indian Opinion, January 1910 [presumably the article mentioned in the link above]. Here is the quote:
Mr. G.K. Chesterton is one of the great writers here. He is an Englishman of a liberal temper. Such is the perfection of his style that his writings are read by millions with great avidity. To "The Illustrated London News" of September 18, 1909 he has contributed an article on Indian awakening, which is worth studying. I believe that what he has said is reasonable."
 [A quick note: the date of the article in the American edition which came out two weeks later, and which date Ignatius Press uses in its volumes of Chesterton's ILN articles, is October 2, 1909.]

Thursday, September 1, 2016

An amusing anecdote :-)
After she had married and come to live at Overstrand Mansions, Annie [Firmin] recalled an evening when Chesterton came round to their flat on his way to dinner at the House of Commons with a shoe on one foot and a slipper on the other. Did it matter? Chesterton asked, when it was pointed out to him. 'I told him I was sure Frances would not like him to go out like that- the only argument to affect him'
-G.K. Chesterton: A Biography Ian Ker (2011), p.121

Saturday, August 27, 2016

"Of a living thing we have a divine ignorance; and a divine ignorance may be called the definition of romance. "

All this is the origin of the one distinctly human thing- the story. There can be as good science about a turnip as about a man. There can be, properly considered, as good philosophy about a turnip as about a man. There can be, I should strongly, though reverently, suspect, as good theology about a turnip as about a man. There can be, without any question at all, as good higher mathematics about a turnip as about a man. But I do not think, though I speak in a manner somewhat tentative, that there could be as good a novel written about a turnip as about a man. I am not sure; there may be a quiet, silverly school of fiction to which a turnip would lend itself. But I think, on the whole, that even in the most quiet and silvery school there would be needed a certain swell and ebb of events. No; in this matter of the story comes in the real supremacy of man. Of a mechanical thing we have a full knowledge. Of a living thing we have a divine ignorance; and a divine ignorance may be called the definition of romance. The Christian gospel is not a system; a system is fit for turnips. The Christian gospel is literally a story; that is, a thing in which one does not know what is to happen next. This thing, called Fiction, then, is the main fact of our human supremacy. If you want to know what is our human kinship with Nature, with the brutes, and with the stars, you can find cartloads of big philosophical volumes to show it you. You will find our kinship with Nature in books on geology and books on metaphysics. But if you want to find our isolation and divinity, you must pick up a penny novellette.
-March 26, 1904, Daily News [also found in In Defense of Sanity]

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"...paganism deals always with a light shining on things, Christianity with a light shining through them."

And I think a broad distinction between the finest pagan and the finest Christian point of view may be found in such an approximate phrase as this, that paganism deals always with a light shining on things, Christianity with a light shining through them. That is why the whole Renaissance colouring is opaque, the whole Pre-Raphaelite colouring transparent. The very sky of Rubens is more solid than the rocks of Giotto: it is like a noble cliff of immemorial blue marble. The artists of the devout age seemed to regret that they could not make the light show through everything, as it shows through the little wood in the wonderful Nativity of Botticelli. And this is why, again, Christianity, which has been attacked so strangely as dull and austere, invented the thing which is more intoxicating than all the wines of the world, stained-glass windows.
-G.F. Watts (1904)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Children live in an almost entirely timeless world (in which they resemble the Deity of Thomas Aquinas), and most of us who can remember our childhood can remember a certain sense of spaciousness in the hours, a sense that might be called a kind of happy emptiness.
-May 5, 1906, Illustrated London News

Saturday, August 20, 2016

"But it was you who said it was a miracle," said Alboin, staring.

"I'm so sorry," said Father Brown; "I'm afraid there's some mistake. I don't think I ever said it was a miracle. All I said was that it might happen. What you said was that it couldn't happen, because it would be a miracle if it did. And then it did. And so you said it was a miracle. But I never said a word about miracles or magic, or anything of the sort from beginning to end."

"But I thought you believed in miracles," broke out the secretary.

"Yes," answered Father Brown, "I believe in miracles. I believe in man-eating tigers, but I don't see them running about everywhere. If I want any miracles, I know where to get them."

"I can't understand your taking this line, Father Brown," said Vandam, earnestly. "It seems so narrow; and you don't look narrow to me, though you are a parson. Don't you see, a miracle like this will knock all materialism endways? It will just tell the whole world in big print that spiritual powers can work and do work. You'll be serving religion as no parson ever served it yet."

The priest had stiffened a little and seemed in some strange way clothed with unconscious and impersonal dignity, for all his stumpy figure. "Well," he said, `you wouldn't suggest I should serve religion by what I know to be a lie? I don't know precisely what you mean by the phrase; and, to be quite candid, I'm not sure you do. Lying may be serving religion; I'm sure it's not serving God. And since you are harping so insistently on what I believe, wouldn't it be as well if you had some sort of notion of what it is?'
The Incredulity of Father Brown (1926)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

"But God forbid that men's rights should ever be left to a human discretion."

But God forbid that men's rights should ever be left to a human discretion. We know that human discretion. Its other name is Plutocracy.[...] numberless people will say this: that there is a graduated scale among men as among animals. That black men have not the rights of white men. That ignorant men have not the same rights as wise men. Therefore I lay down my second dogma or axiom. 'Every man owes it to men to keep the rights of men quite distinct and definite. If anyone says the things just said above, let him be suppressed. If there is a church of humanity, let him be anathema. If there is an army of humanity, let him be shot. For he is a traitor to the whole adventure of the house of Adam.
-August 10, 1907, Daily News

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"...merely human law has a great tendency to become merely inhuman law."

The family is itself a wilder thing than the State; if we mean by wildness that it is born of will and choice as elemental and emancipated as the wind. It has its own laws, as the wind has; but properly understood it is infinitely less subservient than things that are under the elaborate and mechanical regulations of legalism. Its obligations are love and loyalty, but these are things quite capable of being in revolt against merely human laws; for merely human law has a great tendency to become merely inhuman law.
-The Coloured Lands (1938)

Monday, August 15, 2016

"...the wealth of the state is not the prosperity of the people"

[Carlyle's] great and real work was the attack on Utilitarianism: which did real good, though  there was much that was muddled and dangerous in the historical philosophy which he preached as an alternative. It is his real glory that he was the first to see clearly and say plainly the great truth of our time; that the wealth of the state is not the prosperity of the people. Macaulay and the Mills and all the regular run of the Early Victorians, took it for granted that if Manchester was getting richer, we had got hold of the key to comfort and progress. Carlyle pointed out (with stronger sagacity and humour than he showed on any other question) that it was just as true to say that Manchester was getting poorer as that it was getting richer: or, in other words, that Manchester was not getting richer at all, but only some of the less pleasing people in Manchester.
-The Victorian Age in Literature (1913)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Pope Paul VI and GKC

How G.K. Chesterton Influenced Pope Paul VI
[Chesterton] wrote [St. Francis of Assissi] in 1924. It was reviewed in Italy by a young priest named Giovanni Battisti Montini. He saw something prophetic in Chesterton’s words. Forty years later, this priest would be Pope Paul VI
I am not able to read Italian, but for those who do, I believe this is the review.

Incidentally, GKC mentions in his book The Resurrection of Rome that when he met Pope Pius XI in Rome in 1929 (who on GKC's death named him a "Defender of the Faith") that the Pope said "some very generous things about a sketch I wrote of St. Francis of Assisi."

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Their position is perfectly clear and honest; but it is not any more tolerant than mine. For they are only (with a superb effort) tolerating the things they agree with.
-September 24, 1904, Daily News

Friday, August 12, 2016

Of course, politics and journalism are, as it happens, very vulgar. But their vulgarity is not the worst thing about them. Things are so bad with both that by this time their vulgarity is the best thing about them.
-All Things Considered (1908)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

"What on earth is that?" asked Father Brown, and stood still.

"Oh, a new religion," said Flambeau, laughing; "one of those new religions that forgive your sins by saying you never had any. Rather like Christian Science, I should think. The fact is that a fellow calling himself Kalon (I don't know what his name is, except that it can't be that) has taken the flat just above me. I have two lady type-writers underneath me, and this enthusiastic old humbug on top. He calls himself the New Priest of Apollo, and he worships the sun."

"Let him look out," said Father Brown. "The sun was the cruelest of all the gods. But what does that monstrous eye mean?"

"As I understand it, it is a theory of theirs," answered Flambeau, "that a man can endure anything if his mind is quite steady. Their two great symbols are the sun and the open eye; for they say that if a man were really healthy he could stare at the sun."

"If a man were really healthy," said Father Brown, "he would not bother to stare at it."

"Well, that's all I can tell you about the new religion," went on Flambeau carelessly. "It claims, of course, that it can cure all physical diseases."

"Can it cure the one spiritual disease?" asked Father Brown, with a serious curiosity.

"And what is the one spiritual disease?" asked Flambeau, smiling.

"Oh, thinking one is quite well," said his friend.
-The Innocence of Father Brown (1911)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Wisdom doubtless is a better thing than wit; but when we read the rambling polysyllables of our modern books and magazines, I think it is much clearer that we have lost the wit than it is that we have found the wisdom.
-G.K.C. as M.C. (1929)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

"the Party System [...] is quite the most cunning instrument for preventing such criticism ever devised by human ingenuity."

....Government (and especially representative Government) now actually exists to protect those very abuses which Government (and especially representative Government) was actually created to prevent [...] Parliaments, petitions, elections, juries, all the things that were ever rightly or wrongly called free institutions, all rest on the idea that we cannot put our trust in princes, because we cannot put it (without some balance of dispute and examination) in any child of man. But the Party System, as it is by this time, is quite the most cunning instrument for preventing such criticism ever devised by human ingenuity. It silences a criticism, it stops all self-purging, it turns back all repentance, and freezes all hopeful anger, far more than the most brutal methods of the oldest tyrannies...Common human annoyance could be counted on to kick common human nuisances. Our method is much subtler. We set up one man and call him Liberty; we set up another man and call him Loyalty. If the first man becomes a tyrant, all who love Liberty must help him to tyrannise. If the second man betrays his country, all who love Loyalty must help him to betray his country. All other systems have left reform doubtful; this is the only system that has nearly succeeded in making it impossible.
-February 1, 1913, Illustrated London News

Sunday, August 7, 2016

"...he who has never seen darkness has never seen the sun."

There is a current prejudice against fogs, and Dickens, perhaps, is their only poet. Considered hygienically, no doubt this may be more or less excusable. But, considered poetically, fog is not undeserving, it has a real significance. We have in our great cities abolished the clean and sane darkness of the country. We have outlawed night and sent her wandering in wild meadows; we have lit eternal watch-fires against her return. We have made a new cosmos, and as a consequence our own sun and stars. And as a consequence also, and most justly, we have made our own darkness. Just as every lamp is a warm human moon, so every fog is a rich human nightfall. If it were not for this mystic accident we should never see darkness, and he who has never seen darkness has never seen the sun. Fog for us is the chief form of that outward pressure which compresses mere luxury into real comfort. It makes the world small, in the same spirit as in that common and happy cry that the world is small, meaning that it is full of friends. The first man that emerges out of the mist with a light, is for us Prometheus, a saviour bringing fire to men. He is that greatest and best of all men, greater than the heroes, better than the saints, Man Friday. Every rumble of a cart, every cry in the distance, marks the heart of humanity beating undaunted in the darkness. It is wholly human; man toiling in his own cloud. If real darkness is like the embrace of God, this is the dark embrace of man.
-Charles Dickens (1906)

Friday, August 5, 2016

Loyalty is the heart of a commonwealth; but Liberty is its lungs. You find out the necessity of Liberty as you find out the necessity of air- by not having enough of it, and gasping.
-March 18, 1911, Daily News

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Curé de Ars.

M. Vianney appeared in history at the supreme moment of the French Revolution, when it was proclaiming both tremendous truths and tremendous falsehoods as with the trumpets of the Apocalypse. And in the midst of all those thunders the Curé de Ars stood calmly talking about something totally different. He was talking exactly as he would have talked if he had been a Celtic hermit of the Dark Ages talking to a savage tribe of Picts. At the very moment when the human world seemed to have been enlarged beyond all limits for all to see, he declared it to be quite small as compared with things that hardly anybody could see. At the moment when thousands thought they were reading a radiant and self-evident philosophy, proved quite clearly in black and white, he calmly called its black white and its white black [...] in the atmosphere of his own age, he was like a man dug up out of some other aeon or flung from some other planet. And indeed the quarrel of the world about such a man must always be, in a deeper sense, on whether he has risen from the Stone Age or fallen from the stars. [...]

[...] The critics of the Church are notably unlucky in hitting on the charge that she belongs to a feudal world or particular periods of the past. They are driven to call so many modern things medieval, that it is at last apparent that she is no more medieval than she is modern. It was in the dull daylight of the manufacturing and materialistc nineteenth century that the unearthly light shone from the cavern of Lourdes. And it was in the full sunrise of the secular age of reason introduced by the eighteenth century that a nimbus not of that age or of this world could be seen round the head of the Curé de Ars.
-G.KC. as M.C. (1929)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Baseball Hall of Famer Mike Piazza quotes G.K. Chesterton

Just a few days ago, Mike Piazza was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame.

Last night, on The World Over on EWTN, Raymond Arroyo interviewed Mike Piazza, and in the course of the interview, he quoted Chesterton (well, he slightly misquoted Chesterton, but in that respect he is very like Chesterton himself was with quotes, of course).

The actual interview starts at about the 42:30 mark, with the Chesterton quote coming at about the 49:00 mark:


BTW, here is the actual Chesterton quote, from his book on St. Francis of Assissi

"...to this great mystic his religion was not a thing like a theory but a thing like a love affair."

Thursday, July 28, 2016

"The really practical statesman does not fit himself to existing conditions, he denounces the conditions as unfit."

Let us ask ourselves first what we really do want, not what recent legal decisions have told us to want, or recent logical philosophies proved that we must want, or recent social prophecies predicted that we shall some day want [...] The really good journeyman tailor does not cut his coat according to his cloth; he asks for more cloth. The really practical statesman does not fit himself to existing conditions, he denounces the conditions as unfit. History is like some deeply planted tree which, though gigantic in girth, tapers away at last into tiny twigs; and we are in the topmost branches. Each of us is trying to bend the tree by a twig: to alter England through a distant colony, or to capture the State through a small State department, or to destroy all voting through a vote. In all such bewilderment he is wise who resists this temptation of trivial triumph or surrender, and happy (in an echo of the Roman poet) who remembers the roots of things.
-A Miscellany of Men (1912)

Saturday, July 23, 2016

For our judges are not hampered by any hide-bound code; they are progressive [...], and ally themselves on principle with the progressive forces of the age, especially those they are likely to meet out at dinner.
-Tales of the Long Bow (1925)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"Piety has anticipated all profanities."

All that the most terrible blasphemer has to say is tame and timid compared with what we have to say. You may sweep the gutters for foul jokes, but you cannot say anything more frightful than that God was made flesh. Piety has anticipated all profanities. All the profane speakers I have ever heard have only been engaged in expounding and elaborating in detail, and perhaps with some dullness, the plain epigram of the Incarnation. The saints made the joke; the blasphemers only explain it. You may laugh if you see fit; but before you were the heavens laughed louder than you, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.
-January 11, 1908, Daily News

Monday, July 18, 2016

Most modern notions of the earlier and better Middle Ages are drawn either from historians or from novels. The novels are very much the more reliable of the two. The novelist has at least to try to describe human beings; which the historian often does not even attempt.
-Lunacy and Letters
(collection of essays published posthumously in 1958)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

" 'Hide and Seek' is the greatest of games..."

High above [other games], and at the head of another class, towers the great and Royal game of "Hide and Seek," the noblest of all earthly games, and the game that includes all others. How the majority of men and women in this world can waste their time in childish amusement, such as golf and rabbit-shooting, while neglecting pastime of the gods, is indeed one of the riddles of existence. "Hide and Seek" is the greatest of games, because, like war, it has the whole earth for its chess-board. Every object of the landscape, tree or hole or hedge, has, like a huge chess-man, its own peculiar powers and functions in the game. A tree may be valuable because it is high, a wall because it is low, a bank because it is slippery, a rock because it is firm. The game includes planning, thinking, remembering, inventing, running, climbing, jumping, seeing, hearing, and waiting. The player has the emotions of all the outlaws since the world began. We may think long and hard before any of us can understand why this great terrestrial warfare, this ancient and earth-born strategy, should be considered childish, knocking little balls about with sticks considered manly. "Hide and Seek" is surely a greater thing than the absurd shooting of tiny little beasts and birds, which does not, to the really sportsmanlike spirit, differ very much from shooting bluebottles. For "Hide and Seek" is the noblest of all sports and chases, the hunting of man.
-November 30, 1901, The Speaker

Thursday, July 14, 2016

"... the Crucifixion of a Deity makes impossible a supercilious attitude towards failure and defeat."

Those orthodox dogmas which Mr. Thomas regards dubiously are valued by those who believe them, not only as philosophical truths, but also as moral standards and guarantees. They not only occupy the intellect, but they prevent it from being occupied by certain idle or insane suggestions to which the human mind is prone. Satan finds some mischief still for open minds to think. Thus, the goodness of God makes impossible the evil thing called despair. Thus the Incarnation makes impossible a mere priggish contempt for the flesh; and thus the Crucifixion of a Deity makes impossible a supercilious attitude towards failure and defeat.
-March 26, 1910, Daily News

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

...the new sentiment of humanitarianism has come, when the old sentiment of aristocracy has not gone. Social superiors have not really lost any old privileges; they have gained new privileges, including that of being superior in philosophy and philanthropy as well as in riches and refinement. No revolution has shaken their secret security or menaced them with the awful peril of becoming no more than men. Therefore their social reform is but their social refinement grown restless.
-The Uses of Diversity (1921)

Monday, July 11, 2016

The mountain tops are only noble because from them we are privileged to behold the plains. So the only value in any man being superior is that he may have a superior admiration for the level and the common. If there is any profit in a place craggy and precipitous it is only because from the vale it is not easy to see all the beauty of the vale; because when actually in the flats one cannot see their sublime and satisfying flatness. If there is any value in being educated or eminent (which is doubtful enough) it is only because the best instructed man may feel most swiftly and certainly the splendour of the ignorant and the simple: the full magnificence of that mighty human army in the plains. The general goes up to the hill to look at his soldiers, not to look down at his soldiers. He withdraws himself not because his regiment is too small to be touched, but because it is too mighty to be seen. The chief climbs with submission and goes higher with great humility; since in order to take a bird's eye view of everything, he must become small and distant like a bird.
-Alarms and Discursions (1910)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

"...the drum that is beaten loudly must be hollow."

No image can express the amazing state of our politics. But the image that comes nearest to being a key to everything is this: that the drum that is beaten loudly must be hollow. In England today the question that is disputed loudly must be empty. It may excite; it may inspire; it may really divide; it may really educate; but it must not exist. That is, it must not engage the souls of the people prominently debating it, though it may be really important to some remote people they are supposed to be debating about.
-September 14, 1912, Illustrated London News

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Tradition does not mean [...] that the living are dead but that the dead are alive.
-What I Saw in America (1922)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

That increasing number of intellectuals, who are content to say that Democracy has been a failure, miss the point of the far more disastrous calamity that Plutocracy has been a success. I mean it has been the only sort of success it could be; for Plutocracy has no philosophy or morals or even meaning; it can only be a material success, that is, a base success. Plutocracy can only mean the success of plutocrats in being plutocrats [...] With Democracy the case is exactly the reverse. We may say, with some truth, that Democracy has failed; but we shall only mean that Democracy has failed to exist.
-Autobiography (1936)

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The healthy doctrine of liberty, for which we are supposed to stand, is not really perplexing to the mind, though, like many other good things, it is partly a paradox. The two parts of the doctrine are these: first, that there are some things in which a man ought to be interfered with by force, and some things in which he ought emphatically to be left alone; and second, that the things he is permitted to do must often be worse than the things he is forbidden to do. A lady's sneer in a smoking carriage may be much more offensive than a gentleman's cigar in a non-smoking carriage. But the collective strength of mankind is capable of taking the cigar out of the gentleman's mouth. Whereas nothing short of racks and red-hot pincers and the most fiendish torment could take the sneer out of the mouth of the lady. The things are different in kind; and to remember that is to keep the civilized instinct of liberty. The man's cigar is incendiary; like a firebrand or a blazing bomb. The man's cigar is a kind of physical assault; and suppressing it is only preserving social order. The lady's smile is a department of devil-worship; and respecting it is religious toleration.
-Februay 12, 1910, Daily News

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Monday, June 27, 2016

It may or may not do good to go to a hall packed with one's own sort of people and hit a table and say that the will of the people must prevail. It will certainly do unmixed harm if by the “people” we mean the people in the hall and not the people in the street.
January 11, 1913, Daily News
[H/T ACS Facebook page]

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Even if we are to deal first with a League of Nations, we presumably have to deal with the Nations as well as the League. The principle of "the self-determination of all peoples" must obviously mean permitting every people to settle its own affairs- and not settling every people's affairs for it.
-February 15, 1919, Illustrated London News

Friday, June 10, 2016

"...that warmer and more domestic thing, a house on fire."

Since, like I said a few days ago, I recently read a work of Charlotte Bronte, I decide to re-read some references to her in GKC, and came across this wonderful description of her (also found in his book The Victorian Age in Literature, right after the passage which I quoted the other day.)
But while Emily Brontë was as unsociable as a storm at midnight [...] Charlotte Brontë was [...] like that warmer and more domestic thing, a house on fire [...]

Sunday, June 5, 2016

"Yielding to a temptation is like yielding to a blackmailer; you pay to be free, and find yourself the more enslaved."

The evil of vindictiveness is the same as that of every other sin; it is that in some extraordinary way it tends to destroy the soul, to blacken and eat up the whole nature [...] Yielding to a temptation is like yielding to a blackmailer; you pay to be free, and find yourself the more enslaved. The reality of sin arises, in fact, from the same truth which makes the reality of human poetry and joy. It arises from the fact that the smallest thing in this world has its own infinity [...]

[...] That is the whole point of the position of sin in human psychology, and that is the whole point of the peril of revenge. Hatred is bad [...] because it narrows the soul to a sharp point. It is not merely that Jones desires the death of Brown [...] The evil is that the death of Brown becomes the whole life of Jones. The violent man, in short, tries to break out; but he only succeeds in breaking in. He breaks into smaller and smaller cells of his own subterranean heart till he is suffocated in the smallest, and dies like a rat in a hole.
-August 8, 1908, Daily News

Saturday, June 4, 2016

"Jane Eyre remains the best of [Charlotte Bronte's] books [...] because while it is a human document written in blood, it is also one of the best blood-and-thunder detective stories in the world.

 In any case, it is Charlotte Brontë who enters Victorian literature. The shortest way  of stating her strong contribution is, I think, this: that she reached the highest romance through the lowest realism. She did not set out with Amadis of Gaul in a forest or with Mr. Pickwick in a comic club. She set out with herself, with her own dingy clothes, and accidental ugliness, and flat, coarse, provincial household; and forcibly fused all such muddy materials into a spirited fairy-tale. If the first chapters on the home and school had not proved how heavy and hateful sanity can be, there would really be less point in the insanity of Mr. Rochester's wife—or the not much milder insanity of Mrs. Rochester's husband. She discovered the secret of hiding the sensational in the commonplace: and Jane Eyre remains the best of her books (better even than Villette) because while it is a human document written in blood, it is also one of the best blood-and-thunder detective stories in the world.
-The Victorian Age in Literature (1913)
[I ended up reading the novel this week based on this quote by GKC, and I agree]

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

To a lucid mind Imperialism and patriotism are opposite; patriotism means that boundaries are sacred, and Imperialism means that they are not.
-May 14, 1910, Daily News

Monday, May 23, 2016

"Men never enjoy so much the blazing sun and the rushing wind as when they are out hunting the Devil."

Men are never more awake to the good in the world than when they are furiously awake to the evil in the world. Men never enjoy so much the blazing sun and the rushing wind as when they are out hunting the Devil. On the other hand, there are no people so dreary as philosophical optimists; and men are never so little happy as when they are constantly reassured. Such men have begun by calling the moon as bright as the sun, but they end only by seeing the sun as pallid as the moon. They have made a shameful treaty with shame; and the mark of it is on them. Everything is good, except their own spirits.
-December 16, 1905, Daily News

Sunday, May 22, 2016

"...that strength in reserve which is called laziness"

The dispute that goes on between Macbeth and his wife about the murder of Duncan is almost word for word a dispute which goes on at any suburban breakfast-table about something else. It is merely a matter of changing "Infirm of purpose, give me the daggers", into "infirm of purpose, give me the postage stamps" [...]The strengths of the two partners differ in kind. The woman has more of that strength on the spot which is called industry. The man has more of that strength in reserve which is called laziness.
-The Spice of Life
(collection of essays published posthumously in 1964)

Friday, May 20, 2016

"They all were moderns in their day"

Ballade of Moderns

On deserts red and deserts grey
The temples into sand have slid;
Go search that splendour of decay
To find the final secret hid
In mummies' painted coffin-lid
In hieroglyphs of hunt and play.
Read the last word, my cultured kid,
They all were moderns in their day.

Yes, it was just as bold and gay
To do what Astoreth forbad.
Yes, it was smart to carve in clay
And chic to build a pyramid.
Yes, Babylonian boys were chid
For reading hieroglyphs risqué.
We do but as our fathers did --
They all were moderns in their day.

There are progressives who passed away
And prigs of whom the world is rid,
And there are men in hell today
As silly as old Ben Kidd;
And Webb (whose uncle calls him Sid),
God made him with the flowers of May,
And the blind stones he walked amid.
They all were moderns in their day.


Prince, still the soul stands virgin; "quid
Times"; we tear some rags away
But shall we grasp her; God forbid.
They all were moderns in their day.

[H/T http://branemrys.blogspot.com/]

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Just a quick post to say I've updated my short GKC quotes list a little (adding  about a dozen more quotes or so the other day).


Yes, I'm still here. Hope to get back into the habit of posting regularly soon.

Monday, May 16, 2016

If children see that their teachers despise what their parents desire, there is and must be a conflict of authorities. And there is, and must be, in the modern State, a monstrous discovery; that it is the more new and unnatural authority that has the power.
-December 27, 1918, New Witness
H/T G.K. and Frances Chesterton Facebook page

Monday, May 9, 2016

...whatever else is powerful, a vote is, at this moment, almost powerless....The elections are so artificially inaugurated, the alternative between Tweedledum and Tweedledee is so artificially explained, and the professional politicians once chosen are so artificially protected that the ordinary elector has almost no effect on the ultimate decisions of our politics.
-July 16, 1910, Daily News

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Those who dislike definite religious systems often talk of people 'swallowing' doctrines, and there is a truth in the metaphor, though not as they commonly use it. There is no great harm in swallowing a thing if it feeds you. The great objection to swallowing a thing is that it generally chokes you. And that is exactly what happens to those eager idealists who merely accept words like 'truth' or 'life' or 'progress', as satisfying their spiritual hunger. The words do not so much nourish their spiritual bodies as stop their spiritual breath. Such ideal phrases really are what they say 'dogmas' are: a thing that stops the mind.
-December 28, 1912, Daily News

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Most of the things that are hinted in depreciation of Chaucer could be said as easily in depreciation of Shakespeare. If Chaucer borrowed from Boccaccio and other writers, Shakespeare borrowed from anybody or anything, and often from the same French or Italian sources as his forerunner. The answer indeed is obvious and tremendous; that if Shakespeare borrowed, he jolly well paid back.
-Chaucer (1932)

Friday, April 22, 2016


It is less noticed, but it is equally notable, that [they ...] do vaguely but honestly think it charitable to pardon a crime by saying it has never been committed [...]

[...] Not only are [positions like this] false, but they are not even kindly; they are not even white lies or well-meaning deceptions.  You cannot show mercy to what is not there.You do not sympathise with a sick man at all, if you do not sympathise with the reality of his sickness. You do not sympathise with a sinner at all, if you do not sympathise with his sense of sin.
-January 4, 1913, Daily News

Monday, April 18, 2016

...if we wish to protect the poor we shall be in favour of fixed rules and clear dogmas. The rules of a club are occasionally in favour of the poor member. The drift of a club is always in favour of the rich one.
-Orthodoxy (1908)
The first and most important thing about any man is his vision, or conception, of the universe. The colour of all his art or culture or practical politics will be taken in the last resort from the question whether the picture of existence at the back of his mind is the picture of a chaos, or an order, or a race, or a covenant, or a battle, or a garden, or a wheel. Every battle in history that was anything more than a disorderly military review was a battle of gods, a war of universes, a war of the worlds [...] A man's conception of existence is the only important thing. Upon this depends whether he will paint a gorgeous picture or a sad one. Upon this also depends whether he will paint a sad picture or merely jump over London Bridge.
-January 2, 1902, Daily News

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Well, one interesting fact I just discovered:

Alan Napier, who played Alfred the butler in the 1960's Batman television series, had also the following in his acting credits:
Magic, G.K. Chesterton. Oxford Playhouse, Oxford. February 15-20, 1926 (Dr. Grimthorpe)

[Source- Not Just Batman's Butler: The Autobiography of Alan Napier, p. 362 (2015)]

Friday, April 15, 2016

We do not want a censorship of the Press; but we are long past talking about that. At present it is not we that silence the Press; it is the Press that silences us. It is not a case of the Commonwealth settling how much the editors shall say; it is a case of the editors settling how much the Commonwealth shall know. If we attack the Press we shall be rebelling, not repressing.
-All Things Considered (1908)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

"Some of them will probably abuse their privilege; but we prefer the risk to that of the State or of the Trust, which abuses its omnipotence.”

We do not offer perfection; what we do offer is proportion. We wish to correct the proportions of the modern state; but proportion is between varied things; and proportion is hardly ever a pattern. It is as if we were drawing the picture of a living man and they thought we were drawing a diagram of wheels and rods for the construction of a Robot. We do not propose that in a healthy society all land should be held in the same way; or that all property should be owned on the same conditions; or that all citizens should have the same relation to the city. It is our whole point that the central power needs lesser powers to balance and check it, and that these must be of many kinds: some individual, some communal, some official and so on. Some of them will probably abuse their privilege; but we prefer the risk to that of the State or of the Trust, which abuses its omnipotence.
-The Outline of Sanity (1926)
[H/T to G.K. Chesterton Facebook Page

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

 [The following passage was obviously written in jest, though taken from a larger passage making a serious point, but I wanted to post it simply because I found it humorous.]

For my part, I believe that the Fall of Man was due to the introduction of the simple life. In a state of innocence our first ancestors (I suppose) ate beef and drank beer like Christians. Then came the Tempter, the spirit of intellectual pride and intellectual perversity; he took the form of a Serpent because that form is full of an evil simplicity. And he said, with the elaborate lucidity of modern hygiene, " All these meals are unnecessary to health. Take one raw apple, Madam, in the early morning; another at noon. The apple best suited for our purpose is of particular chemical properties, at once nutritious and light; it grows on a tree which I will show you in a moment. This simpler regimen will expand the moral powers, clear the intellect, purify and exalt the feelings: it will lead you up the endless spiral of Science and Moral Evolution. You will become as gods, knowing good and evil.'" But the divine justice smote that liar and put him also upon a regimen. '"On thy belly shalt thou go and the dust shalt thou eat.'" That is something like a Simple Life for you.

This theory of the Fall (which I commend to the teachers as an example of simple Bible teaching) is also supported by the story of Cain and Abel. It has often been pointed out that Cain was an agriculturist and therefore most probably a vegetarian; while Abel kept flocks and killed and ate them. I am sure that somewhere in this fact is to be found the key of that dark and terrible story. It seems so like a vegetarian to kill his brother on strictly altruistic principles. But however this may be, I decline to be soothed by the assurances of the social authority who delights in the increased hygiene of fashionable Society. This does not assuage the tender fears that fill me as I watch over the aristocracy. I still feel sadly responsible for them.
-July 7, 1906, Illustrated London News

Monday, April 11, 2016

"Literature is one of the forms that happiness takes; perhaps no writer has given me as many happy hours as Chesterton"
-Jorge Luis Borges
(quoted in the introduction to Daylight and Nightmare)

Friday, April 8, 2016

"A tradition is a live thing, not a dead one."

A tradition is a live thing, not a dead one. Nay, a tradition is actually felt as a recent thing; not a remote one. A tradition is always modern; if it has not energy enough to be modern then it is not a tradition, it is that despicable thing, a document. I do not eat pies at Christmas because William the Conquerer did. I do it because my father did; he did it because his father did; and along that chain (I need hardly say) I can trace a clear pedigree to William the Conquerer. 

The tradition is not kept up because it is old. It is kept up because it is nice; it was only by persistently being nice, generation after generation, that it managed to get old. The New Year is not observed because it is an ancient observance, but because it is a new year. When I give children toys at Christmas it is not because Christmas is antique, but because it is still young. I am not an antiquarian. I am not digging up in my garden the bones of something that is dead. On the contrary, I am watering in my garden the roots of something that is still alive: a green Christmas tree that still bears fruit every year. Therefore I do not worry about the origins, since I experience the rush and richness of the life.
-December 24, 1910, Daily News

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Our claim that nonsense is a new literature (we might almost say a new sense) would be quite indefensible if nonsense were nothing more than a mere aesthetic fancy. Nothing sublimely artistic has ever arisen out of mere art, any more than anything essentially reasonable has ever arisen out of the pure reason. There must always be a rich moral soil for any great aesthetic growth. The principle of art for art's sake is a very good principle if it means that there is a vital distinction between the earth and the tree that has its roots in the earth; but it is a very bad principle if it means that the tree could grow just as well with its roots in the air. Every great literature has always been allegorical—allegorical of some view of the whole universe. The 'Iliad' is only great because all life is a battle, the 'Odyssey' because all life is a journey, the Book of Job because all life is a riddle. There is one attitude in which we think that all existence is summed up in the word 'ghosts'; another, and somewhat better one, in which we think it is summed up in the words 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.' Even the vulgarest melodrama or detective story can be good if it expresses something of the delight in sinister possibilities—the healthy lust for darkness and terror which may come on us any night in walking down a dark lane. If, therefore, nonsense is really to be the literature of the future, it must have its own version of the Cosmos to offer; the world must not only be the tragic, romantic, and religious, it must be nonsensical also. And here we fancy that nonsense will, in a very unexpected way, come to the aid of the spiritual view of things. Religion has for centuries been trying to make men exult in the 'wonders' of creation, but it has forgotten that a thing cannot be completely wonderful so long as it remains sensible. So long as we regard a tree as an obvious thing, naturally and reasonably created for a giraffe to eat, we cannot properly wonder at it. It is when we consider it as a prodigious wave of the living soil sprawling up to the skies for no reason in particular that we take off our hats, to the astonishment of the park-keeper. Everything has in fact another side to it, like the moon, the patroness of nonsense. Viewed from that other side, a bird is a blossom broken loose from its chain of stalk, a man a quadruped begging on its hind legs, a house a gigantesque hat to cover a man from the sun, a chair an apparatus of four wooden legs for a cripple with only two.

This is the side of things which tends most truly to spiritual wonder. It is significant that in the greatest religious poem existent, the Book of Job, the argument which convinces the infidel is not (as has been represented by the merely rational religionism of the eighteenth century) a picture of the ordered beneficence of the Creation; but, on the contrary, a picture of the huge and undecipherable unreason of it. 'Hast Thou sent the rain upon the desert where no man is?' This simple sense of wonder at the shapes of things, and at their exuberant independence of our intellectual standards and our trivial definitions, is the basis of spirituality as it is the basis of nonsense. Nonsense and faith (strange as the conjunction may seem) are the two supreme symbolic assertions of the truth that to draw out the soul of things with a syllogism is as impossible as to draw out Leviathan with a hook. The well-meaning person who, by merely studying the logical side of things, has decided that 'faith is nonsense,' does not know how truly he speaks; later it may come back to him in the form that nonsense is faith.

-The Defendant

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Nothing so much drives a thinking man to the conviction that Christianity is the moral core of the world than the vast diversity of the fools who attack it. This thing may or may not be the cornerstone; it may or may not be true that anyone dashing himself against it shall be broken. But there is no doubt that he is very frequently cracked.
October 29, 1910, Daily News

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"The whole peril of our public life is that so much of it is private life."

The hiding of ugly things is the whole disease of England. The whole peril of our public life is that so much of it is private life.
-January 18, 1908, Daily News

Monday, April 4, 2016

Legend and epic are in their nature even truer than history; since history is forced to record many things which are exceptional and involuntary, whereas poetry is a full confession of men's hearts.
-The Outlook, Volume LVVVI (September to December 1905), "The Eclipse of Sentiment"

Saturday, April 2, 2016

One of the most perfect feasts of the year is the one called April Fool's Day. It is the day of practical jokes, and by that perfect artistic instinct that endures in the heart of humanity it was fixed for a day in early spring.

For spring is a practical joke. You cannot imagine anyone trying to make anyone an April Fool in October. The April Fool symbolises (and experiences) the three great qualities of April, its expectancy, its gaiety, and its disappointment. Mankind made this joke at this particular time of the year because this particular time of the year is full of such bright uncertainty. I put my head out of window and see white patches which, by this time of the year, might well be white narcissus. Then I find they are only snow: and Nature, rocking with laughter down to her remotest chasms and caves, roars with laughter and thunders 'April Fool!'
-Lunacy and Letters (collection of essays published posthumously in 1958)
 The only case [...] in every quarrel, is to go back to first principles.....If there are such principles, it is best to debate on the basis of them. If there are no such principles, it is best not to debate at all. In that case, indeed, we cannot debate at all. We can only go on making noises [...]
-August 25. 1928, Illustrated London News

Friday, April 1, 2016

There are many definite methods, honest and dishonest, which make people rich; the only "instinct" I know of which does it is that instinct which theological Christianity crudely describes as "the sin of avarice."
-All Things Considered (1908)

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The big sin ought always to be the nearest sin; that is, our own. If we are really fighting that, then we may fight anything else, however small. But if we fight the small thing first- then we have fled from fighting the big one. The man who sees nothing wrong in himself is the one man who is really wrong. He who wanders through the universe trying to find someone worse than himself, will find that he cannot find one.
-September 19, 1908, Daily News

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Triolet of the Self-examining Journalist

Triolet of the Self-examining Journalist

My writing is bad,
And my speaking is worse;
They were all that I had,
My writing is bad;
It is frightfully sad,
And I don't care a curse.
My writing is bad,
And my speaking is worse.

February 27, 1912


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Johnson: Sir, there is no such thing. There is not and never has been a separation by mutual consent. I am an old man now, and have known something of the conjugal difficulties of many couples. I have known them separated by all manner of things; I have known them separated by jealousy and levity and lust, by poverty and by wealth, by sin and self-righteousness. But I never knew a couple separated by mutual consent. There is always one who divorces and the other who endures the divorce. There is always one who succeeds and one who suffers. You asked me if I believed in a supernatural fire on the hearth that would burn for ever. Let me ask you a question in return. Did you ever know two natural fires that went out at exactly the same moment?
-The Judgment of Dr. Johnson (1927)

Monday, March 28, 2016

In the end it will not matter to us whether we wrote well or ill; whether we fought with flails or reeds. It will matter to us greatly on what side we fought.
-All Things Considered (1908)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The creator of Peter Pan writing about GKC

"He was a glorious man, loveable beyond words and I think the greatest literary figure left to us. One aspect of him that I have not seen mentioned but that is clear to me is that he was such a gentleman. Chaucer's perfect gentle knight."
-J.M. Barrie  (creator of Peter Pan, and a good friend of GKC) in a letter dated June 21, 1936 to Frances Chesterton after GKC's death
[quoted in Nancy Carpentier Brown's book The Woman Who Was Chesterton]
Happy Easter! I will resume blogging now that Lent is over. :-)

Monday, February 8, 2016

[With Lent coming up, I plan on refraining from updating this page until Easter (since, among other things, I plan on giving up reading Chesterton, with rare exceptions, for Lent). That being said, this will be my last update until then, and this seems an extremely appropriate quote for Lent.]

To live it is necessary to be born again, to be born again it is necessary to die. 
-January 21, 1905, Daily News

Saturday, February 6, 2016

"Our Notebook" Column, by G.K. Chesterton
Illustrated London News, January 7, 1922

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Once poetry and politics were great. Now they have been lopped from the tree only to rot on the ground or wither in the air. For the tree from which these fruits and flowers have been cut is that which our Northern forefathers worship, the Life-tree, Ygdrasil, whose branches take hold on heaven and whose fruit is the stars.
-The Outlook, Volume LVVVI (September to December 1905), quote found in article "G.K. Chesterton"

Monday, February 1, 2016

This sort of thing reduces my mind to a pulp. I can faintly resist when a man says that if the earth were a globe cats would not have four legs; but when he says that if the earth were a globe cats would not have five legs I am crushed.
-The Defendant (1901)
I mean the fact that the [his] rages, which are so ridiculous considered as rages, are perfectly intelligent and calculated considered as tricks.  That is a vital fact of modern government [...] The new cunning consists not in hiding the emotions, but in showing the sham emotions.  Familiarity is the instrument of falsity [...] We used to complain that rulers were reverenced as if they were more than human.  Our complaint may have been right; but we had not foreseen the filthy and ghastly results of being ruled by those who claim to be human, all too human.  We rebelled, and perhaps rightly, when a king was made stiff with gold and gems like an idol, and set on a throne as if it were an altar.  We are often tempted to-day to wish that the new ruler had the good manners of a stone image.  We wish he were as well-behaved as a wooden idol or even a wooden-headed king.
Sidelights on New London and Newer York (1932)

Saturday, January 30, 2016

...geniality is almost definable as strength to spare.
-Heretics (1905)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

It is much to be desired that those entirely excellent fellows who have a talent for scepticism should transfer some of their energies of inquiry from the dogmas of the other world to the dogmas of this world [...] It may be that I have a weak sympathy with those who have not seen and yet have believed. But I have no sympathy at all with those who have seen and yet have believed the opposite.
-March 10,1906, Daily News

Monday, January 25, 2016

"I am not prepared to admit that there is or can be, properly speaking, in the world anything that is too sacred to be known."

I am not prepared to admit that there is or can be, properly speaking, in the world anything that is too sacred to be known. That spiritual beauty and spiritual truth are in their nature communicable, and that they should be communicated, is a principle which lies at the root of every conceivable religion. Christ was crucified upon a hill, and not in a cavern, and the word Gospel itself involves the same idea as the ordinary name of a daily paper. Whenever, therefore, a poet or any similar type of man can, or conceives that he can, make all men partakers in some splendid secret of his own heart, I can imagine nothing saner and nothing manlier than his course in doing so. Thus it was that Dante made a new heaven and a new hell out of a girl's nod in the streets of Florence. Thus it was that Paul founded a civilisation by keeping an ethical diary. But the one essential which exists in all such cases as these is that the man in question believes that he can make the story as stately to the whole world as it is to him, and he chooses his words to that end. Yet when a work contains expressions which have one value and significance when read by the people to whom they were addressed, and an entirely different value and significance when read by any one else, then the element of the violation of sanctity does arise. It is not because there is anything in this world too sacred to tell. It is rather because there are a great many things in this world too sacred to parody.
-Robert Browning (1903)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The source for two quotations commonly attributed to GKC. :-)


"If men do not understand signs, they will never understand words."

...all men talk by signs. To talk by statues is to talk by signs; to talk by cities is to talk by signs. Pillars, palaces, cathedrals, temples, pyramids, are an enormous dumb alphabet: as if some giant held up his fingers of stone. The most important things at the last are always said by signs, even if, like the Cross on St. Paul's, they are signs in heaven. If men do not understand signs, they will never understand words.
-All Things Considered (1908)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

"If you will not have rules, you will have rulers."

There has been, and apparently will be, a definite increase of personal government in England. And it is wholesome to say first of all that it is mostly our own fault. We tend to have personal government because we have lost faith in impersonal government; that is, government by laws, by creeds, or by ideals. There are only two ways of governing human beings: the first is called dogmatism and the second despotism. But despotism is easier. For if men are ruled by a king they can forget him; if they are ruled by a creed they have to remember it.

Here is where I differ from Mr. Carpenter and all the interesting people who want to have no rules: I think they would only succeed in advancing the most bumptious man in the town. Exactly in proportion as these principles of impersonal government fade the chances of personal government increase. When the people does not know what it wants the despot gets what he wants. If you will not have rules, you will have rulers.

This growth of arbitrary government in our country is a very real thing...Judicial equity has become more and more a question of the judge and less and less a question of the statute. The very phrase 'judge-made law' either means nothing or it means personal despotism. If anyone said 'King-made law' we should start.
-October 12, 1907, Daily News

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

We need to ask ourselves why today so many people, men and women, young and old, of every social class, go to to psychics and fortune-tellers. Cardinal Giacomo Biffi used to quote these words by the English writer G.K. Chesterton: "When Man ceases to worship God he does not worship nothing but worships everything."
-The Name of God is Mercy, Pope Francis
The modern miser has changed much from the miser of legend and anecdote; but only because he has grown yet more insane. The old miser had some touch of the human artist about him in so far that he collected gold—a substance that can really be admired for itself, like ivory or old oak. An old man who picked up yellow pieces had something of the simple ardour, something of the mystical materialism, of a child who picks out yellow flowers. Gold is but one kind of coloured clay, but coloured clay can be very beautiful. The modern idolater of riches is content with far less genuine things. The glitter of guineas is like the glitter of buttercups, the chink of pelf is like the chime of bells, compared with the dreary papers and dead calculations which make the hobby of the modern miser.

The modern millionaire loves nothing so lovable as a coin. He is content sometimes with the dead crackle of notes; but far more often with the mere repetition of noughts in a ledger, all as like each other as eggs to eggs. [...]The round coins in the miser's stocking were safe in some sense. The round noughts in the millionaire's ledger are safe in no sense; the same fluctuation which excites him with their increase depresses him with their diminution. The miser at least collects coins; his hobby is numismatics. The man who collects noughts collects nothings.
-A Miscellany of Men (1912)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Some time ago, when a stir was made by a rather striking book called Who Moved the Stone? which might almost be described, with all reverence, as a divine detective story and almost a theological thriller, a pugnacious little paper in Fleet Street made a remark which has always hovered in my memory as more mysterious than any mystery story in the world. The writer said that any man who believes in the Resurrection is bound to believe also in the story of Aladdin in the Arabian Nights. I have no idea what he meant. Nor, I imagine, had he. But this curious conjunction of ideas recurs to my mind in connexion with a rather interesting suggestion made by Mr. Christopher Dawson about what we may call the History of Science. On the face of it, the remark I have quoted from the pugnacious paper seems to have no quality whatever except pugnacity. There is no sort of logical connexion between believing in one marvellous event and believing in another, even if they were exactly alike and not utterly different. If I believe that Captain Peary reached the North Pole, I am not therefore bound to believe that Dr. Cook also reached the North Pole, even if they both arrived with sledges and dogs out of the same snows. It is a fallacy, therefore, even where the two things are close enough to be compared. But the comparison between the Gospel miracle and the Arabian fairy-tale is about the most unfortunate comparison in the world. For in the one case there is a plain and particular reason for thinking the thing true, or at least meant to be true. And in the other case there is a plain and particular reason for realizing that the tale is not only untrue, but is not even meant to be true.

The historical case for the Resurrection is that everybody else, except the Apostles, had every possible motive to declare what they had done with the body, if anything had been done with it. The Apostles might have hidden it in order to announce a sham miracle, but it is very difficult to imagine men being tortured and killed for the truth of a miracle which they knew to be a sham. In the case of the Apostles’ testimony, the general circumstances suggest that it is true. In the case of the Arabian tale, the general circumstances avow and proclaim that it is false. For we are told in the book itself that all the stories were told by a woman merely to amuse the king and distract his attention from the idea of cutting off her head. A romancer in this personal situation is not very likely to confine herself strictly to humdrum accuracy, and it would be impossible more plainly to warn the reader that all the tales are taradiddles. In the one case, then, we have witnesses who not only think the thing true, but do veritably think it is as true as death, or truer than death. They therefore prefer death to the denial of its truth. In the other case we have a story-teller who, in trying to avoid death, has every motive to tell lies. If St. John the Baptist had wished to avoid being beheaded, and had saved his life by inventing a long string of Messianic or Early Christian legends on the spur of the moment, in order to hold the attention of King Herod, I should not regard any “resurrection myth” he might tell as a strong historical argument for the Resurrection. But, as the Apostles were killed as St. John was killed, I think their evidence cannot be identified by sound scholarship as a portion of the Arabian Nights.
-As I Was Saying (1936)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

We should desire to see the profane things transfigured by the sacred, rather than the sacred disenchanted by the profane.
-The New Jerusalem (1920)
[H/T to the American Chesterton Society]

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Now, of course, it is very easy to say that all this is only the ignorance of the people which we have to enlighten. It is quite easy and quite reasonable, but also quite oligarchical. A democrat is bound to feel that the mass of a community is almost certain to hold some kind of secret of sanity. He is bound to feel that whether or no the voice of the people is the voice of God, at least it is the voice of Man. And we shall be ignoring this democratic drift in things quite as much if we become mere common sociologists as if we became mere common kings. The aristocracy which holds itself strong enough to raise the people is quite as aristocratic as the aristocracy that holds itself strong enough to crush the people. A free man ought neither to raise the people nor crush the people; he ought to be the people. And we ought not to be always asking ourselves, as we are in this educational controversy, 'What laws shall we make for the people?' We ought sometimes to ask 'What laws will the people make for us?' In the same way, the middle-class educationalist ought not to be always saying, 'In what subjects shall I educated the poor?' Sometimes in still spells of night under the stars the middle-class educationalist should ask the awful question, 'In what subjects can the poor educate me?'
-June 3, 1905, Daily News

Sunday, January 10, 2016

"I'm beginning quite to like water," said the taller of the two knights. "I used to think it a most dangerous drink. In theory, of course, it ought only to be given to people who are fainting. It's really good for them, much better than brandy. Besides, think of wasting good brandy on people who are fainting! But I don't go so far as I did; I shouldn't insist on a doctor's prescription before I allow people water. That was the too severe morality of youth; that was my innocence and goodness. I thought that if I fell once, water-drinking might become a habit. But I do see the good side of water now. How good it is when you're really thirsty, how it glitters and gurgles! How alive it is! After all, it's the best of drinks, after the other.
-The Flying Inn (1914)

Monday, January 4, 2016

"The Woman Who Was Chesterton" review [link]

Here is a nice review by Stuart Dunn of the book "The Woman Who Was Chesterton" (a biography of GKC's wife Frances Chesterton), written by Nancy Carpentier Brown. I have not had the opportunity to read the book yet, but I have been wishing to once I get the opportunity, in order to learn more about a remarkable woman.. This review certainly makes me wish to do so even more. For instance, one interesting part of the review alerts me to a fact that I had not known before:
What was fascinating to me is that [Frances Chesterton] was the governess of Rudyard Kipling's children!
The review also mentions the book containing previously unpublished letters between GKC and Frances.

Now just to get the book at some point so that I can read it...