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)

Friday, December 22, 2017

"What's Wrong With the World?" "I am"

According to a popular story that has circulated for a long time, a well known London newspaper in the early part of the twentieth century (usually stated to be The Times) asked the question "What is wrong with the world?" and received many replies. The shortest was from G.K. Chesterton, simply consisting of "I am."

Now, the story as told seems to be apocryphal, but it does seem to have a grain of truth in it. Since recently in a couple of places I came across people mentioning (correctly) that the story as told is apocryphal, I did state what the grain of truth seems to be, and so I decided just to post one of the replies I made below, for others who may be interested or doing research on it:
Well, even though the story as usually told is apocryphal, there is a grain of truth in it. In 1905, the Daily News in London published a letter called "What's Wrong With the World" by "A Heretic" that generated a huge correspondence from readers for months. Chesterton was one of the people who responded, and while his response was much longer than the apocryphal story indicates, it did include among other things this passage:

"In one sense, and that the eternal sense, the thing is plain. The answer to the question , 'What is Wrong?' is, or should be, I am wrong.' Until a man can give that answer his idealism is only a hobby."

(-Letter to the Daily News, August 16, 1905, "What is Wrong")
UPDATE: You can read the whole letter here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

"It is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age."

From Joseph Pearce's book Literary Giants, Literary Catholics, p. 57:
...[Alec Guiness, i.e., "Obi-Wan Kenobi" of Star Wars fame] remained confident about the future, rooted in the belief that the essential traditions of Catholicism "remain firmly entrenched":
The Church has proved she is not moribund. "All shall be well," I feel, "and all manner of things shall be well", so long as the God who is worshiped is the God of all ages, past and to come, and not the Idol of Modernity, so venerated by some of our bishops, priests and mini-skirted nuns.
Guiness quoted one of Chesterton's "most penetrating statements" as a prelude to his discourse on the reform of the Church. "The Church", wrote Chesterton, "is the one thing that saves a man from the degrading servitude of being a child of his own time."
[Note: The exact quote in its orginal form is "It is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.", found in his essay "Why I am a Catholic", which appeared in the book Twelve Modern Apostles and Their Creed, published in 1926. It is also repeated in the form "The Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age" in The Catholic Church and Conversion (1927)]

Saturday, December 16, 2017


A friend of mine has made game of me in a recent book for saying that lamp-posts are poetical; that common things, the boots I wear or the chair I sit on, if they once are understood, can satisfy the most gigantic imagination. I can only adhere with stubborn simplicity to my position. The boots I wear are, I will not say beautiful upon the mountains, but, at least, highly symbolic in the street, being the boots of one that bringeth good news. The chair I sit on is really romantic-nay, it is heroic, for it is eternally in danger. The lamp-posts are poetical; not merely from accidental, but from essential causes. It is not merely the softening sentimental associations that belong to lamp-posts, the beautiful facts that aristocrats were hanged from them, or that intoxicated old gentlemen embrace them: the lamp-post really has the whole poetry of man, for no other creature can lift a flame so high and guard it so well.
July 24, 1909, Illustrated London News

Thursday, December 14, 2017

There is one moral matter in which we really can return good for evil without merely strengthening the evils; one weapon from the armoury of the saints is, even in a worldly sense, stronger than the world. That weapon is humility.
Illustrated London News, July 24, 1915
[H/T American Chesterton Society]

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

[The modern mind] finds it easier to prophesy Christmas like a Utopia than to enjoy it like a Saturnalia.
-December 20, 1922, Illustrated London News

"The Citizen has liberty; the Slave can have only leisure."

The Citizen has liberty; the Slave can have only leisure. The definition of the duties and rights of the citizens is really very necessary, lest they should come to be confused with the mere obedience and the mere holidays of a population really regarded as servile. The old Republicans were not wrong because they carried out a political theory, but because they did not carry it far enough; because too many of them claimed to be democrats while really remaining aristocrats. They were not, as their stupider critics say, too logical; they were rather only too tolerant of their own illogicality. Jefferson believed in citizens and owned slaves. He was in a false position; he knew it and he even said so. But he was in some ways in a better position than the despotic social reformer, who wishes to own all citizens as if they were slaves.
-November 29, 1930, Illustrated London News

Sunday, December 3, 2017

"Theology is only thought applied to religion..."

[...] the critic generally begins by dismissing these conflicts with the statement that they are all about small points of theology. I do not admit that theological points are small points. Theology is only thought applied to religion; and those who prefer a thoughtless religion need not be so very disdainful of others with a more rationalistic taste. The old joke that the Greek sects only differed about a single letter is about the lamest and most illogical joke in the world. An atheist and a theist only differ by a single letter; yet theologians are so subtle as to distinguish definitely between the two.
-The New Jerusalem (1920)

Monday, November 27, 2017

"But you are unhappy because you disbelieve in evil, and think it philosophical to see everything in the same light of grey..."

"...Forgive me if I imagine things for you, so to speak; it is a way I have. You have studied superstitions all over the world, and you have seen things compared with which all that talk of salt and table-knives is like a child's game of consequences. You have been in the dark forests over which the vampire seems to pass more vast than a dragon; or in the mountains of the werewolf, where men say a man can see in the face of his friend or his wife the eyes of a wild beast. You have known people who had real superstitions; black, towering, terrific superstitions; you have lived with those people; and I want to ask you a question about them."

"You seem to know something about them yourself," answered Noel; "but I will answer any question you like."

"Were they not happier men than you?"

Gale paused a moment as he put the question, and then went on. "Did they not in fact sing more songs, and dance more dances, and drink wine with more real merriment? That was because they believed in evil. In evil spells, perhaps, in evil luck, in evil under all sorts of stupid and ignorant symbols; but still in something to be fought. They at least read things in black and white, and saw life as the battlefield it is. But you are unhappy because you disbelieve in evil, and think it philosophical to see everything in the same light of grey..."
The Poet and the Lunatics (1929)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

"Were you ever an isosceles triangle?"

Gale still lay in the shadow of the thick trees staring up at the birds, as if he had never stirred. Garth called to him by name, but it was only after a silence that Gale spoke. What he said was:
"Were you ever an isosceles triangle?"
"Very seldom," replied Garth with restraint. "May I ask what the devil you are talking about?"
"Only something that I was thinking about," answered the poet, lifting himself up to one elbow. "I wondered whether it would be a cramping sort of thing to be surrounded by straight lines, and whether being in a circle would be any better. Did anybody ever live in a round prison?"'
-The Poet and the Lunatics (1929)

Monday, November 20, 2017

"... we must always realise not only the humanity of the oppressed, but even the humanity of the oppressor."

The one thing [Dickens] did not describe in any of the abuses he denounced was the soul-destroying potency of routine. He made out the bad school, the bad parochial system, the bad debtor's prison as very much jollier and more exciting than they may really have been. In a sense, then, he flattered them; but he destroyed them with the flattery. By making Mrs. Gamp delightful he made her impossible. He gave every one an interest in Mr. Bumble's existence; and by the same act gave every one an interest in his destruction. It would be difficult to find a stronger instance of the utility and energy of the method which we have, for the sake of argument, called the method of the optimistic reformer. As long as low Yorkshire schools were entirely colourless and dreary, they continued quietly tolerated by the public and quietly intolerable to the victims. So long as Squeers was dull as well as cruel he was permitted; the moment he became amusing as well as cruel he was destroyed. As long as Bumble was merely inhuman he was allowed. When he became human, humanity wiped him right out. For in order to do these great acts of justice we must always realise not only the humanity of the oppressed, but even the humanity of the oppressor. The satirist had, in a sense, to create the images in the mind before, as an iconoclast, he could destroy them. Dickens had to make Squeers live before be could make him die.
-Charles Dickens (1906)

Friday, November 17, 2017

"...the artist is not so much to copy the works of God as to copy the work of God..."

[...] the artist is not so much to copy the works of God as to copy the work of God, in the sense of the working of God; or the way in which God works. There will be in his art the same, or some approximation to the same, spirit and tendency of line and motion and balance; because there is only one creation and no inspiration from outside it. But the work will rather be that of the child of God making his own smaller world than the servant of God copying the details of the larger one. And as even the Divine Creator pours forth his cataracts in a manner proper to water and not to something else, as he carves even his trees in a style properly to be called wood-carving and not stone-carving, as he hollows the rock in one way and the wave in another, so the human creator also is right to recognise the materials in which his meaning is bodied forth; and to express it in his own materials and not in an imitation of the cosmic materials. As Mr. Gill once expressed it in a speech somewhere, "A sculptor has to make a man; but it has to be a stone man. It has to be the sort of man that God would have made, if He had chosen to make him in stone."
-A Handful of Authors (1953)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Stephen King reference to GKC

Stephen King, in his book Danse Macabre, while commenting on Jekyll and Hyde, mentions GKC:
Like a police-court trial (to which the critic G.K. Chesterton compared it), we get the narrative through a series of different voices, and it is through the testimony of those involved that Dr. Jekyll's unhappy tale unfolds.

Friday, October 6, 2017

"Facts as facts do not always create a spirit of reality, because reality is a spirit."

Facts as facts do not always create a spirit of reality, because reality is a spirit. Facts by themselves can often feed the flame of madness, because sanity is a spirit. Consider the huge accumulations of detail piled up by men who have some crazy hobby of believing that Herodotus wrote Homer or that the Great Pyramid was a prophecy of the Great War. Consider the concrete circumstances and connected narratives that can often be given at vast lengths and in laborious detail by men who suffer from a  delusion of being persecuted, or being disinherited, or being the rightful King of England. These men are maddened by material facts; they are lunatics not by their fancies but by having learned too many facts. What they lack is proportion: a thing as invisible as beauty, as inscrutable as God.
-Come to Think of It (1930)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Chesterton inspriation for a rock album

Apparently Chesterton was the inspiration for rock album! :-) From an interview with
Jonathan Jackson of Enation:

So how was “Radio Cinematic” inspired by Chesterton? Jonathan explained, “I love G.K. Chesterton. I’m a huge C.S. Lewis fan and I discovered that he was influenced by Chesterton, so I started reading some of his work. But there was a particular theme in one of his books. I can’t remember if it was in ‘Orthodoxy’ or ‘The Everlasting Man.’ It had to do with your second childhood. And in his witty, brilliant way, he talked about – as you grow up, you get this invitation to enter your second childhood. I have felt that in my own life. Growing up, the world has its way of beating you down. I think one of the toughest things to live with is genuine joy. So in the band, we’ve always seen joy and having a sense of hope as a kind of rebellion. It’s not this passive, docile, soft thing that people oftentimes think. It actually comes from a place of having to fight.

BTW, apparently Jonathan Jackson is also an Emmy Award winning actor as well. From his Wikipedia page:
Jonathan Stevens Jackson (born May 11, 1982) is an American actor, musician and author. His first well known character was Lucky Spencer on the ABC Daytime soap opera General Hospital, a role which has won him five Emmy Awards. In 2002, he played Jesse Tuck in the film Tuck Everlasting. In 2004 he started the band Enation (currently: Jonathan Jackson + Enation) with his brother, actor Richard Lee Jackson and friend Daniel Sweatt. He currently portrays Avery Barkley in the CMT drama Nashville.

Friday, September 22, 2017

[...] a man teaches a great deal by what he does not teach.
-May 12, 1905 Daily News

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Fr. Ronald Knox and Orson Welles's broadcast of The War of the Worlds

Interesting anecdote concerning Fr. Ronald Knox (who, given his close friendship with GKC, it seems this blog is an appropriate place to post this):
In January 1926, for one of his regular BBC Radio programmes, our hero broadcast a simulated live report of revolution sweeping across London entitled Broadcasting from the Barricades. In addition to live reports of several people, including a government minister, being lynched, his broadcast mixed supposed band music from the Savoy Hotel with the hotel’s purported destruction by trench mortars. The Houses of Parliament and the clock tower were also said to have been flattened. Because the broadcast occurred on a snowy weekend, much of the United Kingdom was unable to get the newspapers until days later. The lack of newspapers caused a minor panic, as it was believed that this was caused by the events in London.

A 2005 BBC report on the broadcast suggests that the innovative style of our heroe’s programme may have influenced Orson Welles’s radio broadcast “The War of the Worlds” (1938), which foreshadowed it in its consequences. In an interview for the book This is Orson Welles, Welles himself said that the broadcast gave him the idea for “The War of the Worlds”! [emphasis mine] [source]
I had been aware of "Broadcasting the Barricades" before as well as the speculation that it influenced Orson Welles' broadcast, but I had been unaware until now that Welles himself stated it gave him the idea. (Of course, less than two months before his "War of the Worlds" broadcast, Orson Welles had done a broadcast of GKC's novel The Man Who Was Thursday.)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

If there is any blunder which the past made carelessly, the present will reduplicate [it] carefully. Social reform, as now understood, seems to mean turning all our most antiquated sins into a system.
-October 12, 1912, Illustrated London News

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Press is no longer holding up a dim or dusty or cracked mirror to the world; it is simply painting a sort of mad picture of the world, which is a pastiche of a hundred pictures of anything or nothing, most of them badly painted and all of them badly chosen
-February 15, 1930, G.K's Weekly
[H/T American Chesterton Society]

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Princess Diana and Maurice Baring

From the latest issue of Gilbert (July/Aug 2017), this interesting fact concerning one of Chesterton's best friends (featured with him and Belloc in the painting The Conversation Piece), Maruice Baring
[...] Baring's sister, the Honorable Margaret Baring, was married to Charles Spencer, the 6th Earl Spencer, and their great-granddaughter was none other than Diana, Princess of Wales which makes Maurice Baring her great-great uncle.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

James Mattis quoting GKC

Secretary of Defense James Mattis quoted GKC in the opening of a speech he gave last week:
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. G.K. Chesterton once said: “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water, and yet drink death like wine.”
Senator Peters, Deputy Secretary Shanahan, Secretary Speer – wonderful words. General Milley, great words. Sergeant Major Dailey, but most of all, to Charlie Tigers and Specialist Five Jim McCloughan... Cherie, you married well to a most wonderful person. They met at the Messiah, a reminder for all you young troops to go to church. [Source]
 [H/T American Chesterton Society]

Thursday, August 10, 2017

It is much more likely that people's favourite actor really is their favourite actor than the politician they support is really the politician they admire.
-Introduction to The New World of the Theatre
[H/T American Chesterton Society)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

[...] of all poetical publications the most poetical is a daily paper. The real objection to a daily paper is, of course, that it is too poetical. It is congested with poetry. It is a chaos of stars and sunshine, a confusion of the flowers and the sea. It is two hundred splendid books mixed up at once; so that the reader of that bewildering masterpiece loses the thread of all of them. It is impossible at once to keep in tune with the pantomime of a Government inquiry and the tragedy of a suicide at Wandsworth; but surely this is not from any lack of poetry in them [...]
-October 1, 1903, Daily News

Friday, July 14, 2017

But the influence of children goes further than its first trifling effort of remaking heaven and earth. It forces us actually to remodel our conduct in accordance with this revolutionary theory of the marvellousness of all things. We do (even when we are perfectly simple or ignorant)—we do actually treat talking in children as marvellous, walking in children as marvellous, common intelligence in children as marvellous. The cynical philosopher fancies he has a victory in this matter—that he can laugh when he shows that the words or antics of the child, so much admired by its worshippers, are common enough. The fact is that this is precisely where baby-worship is so profoundly right. Any words and any antics in a lump of clay are wonderful, the child's words and antics are wonderful, and it is only fair to say that the philosopher's words and antics are equally wonderful.

The truth is that it is our attitude towards children that is right, and our attitude towards grown-up people that is wrong. Our attitude towards our equals in age consists in a servile solemnity, overlying a considerable degree of indifference or disdain. Our attitude towards children consists in a condescending indulgence, overlying an unfathomable respect. We bow to grown people, take off our hats to them, refrain from contradicting them flatly, but we do not appreciate them properly. We make puppets of children, lecture them, pull their hair, and reverence, love, and fear them. When we reverence anything in the mature, it is their virtues or their wisdom, and this is an easy matter. But we reverence the faults and follies of children.
The Defendant (1901)

Monday, July 10, 2017

[Browning] had the one great requirement of a poet—he was not difficult to please. The life of society was superficial, but it is only very superficial people who object to the superficial. To the man who sees the marvellousness of all things, the surface of life is fully as strange and magical as its interior; clearness and plainness of life is fully as mysterious as its mysteries. The young man in evening dress, pulling on his gloves, is quite as elemental a figure as any anchorite, quite as incomprehensible, and indeed quite as alarming.
-Robert Browning (1903)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Romance, indeed, does not consist by any means so much in experiencing adventures as in being ready for them. How little the actual boy cares for incidents in comparison to tools and weapons may be tested by the fact that the most popular story of adventure is concerned with a man who lived for years on a desert island with two guns and a sword, which he never had to use on an enemy.
-Twelve Types (1902)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Only by the hypocritical ignoring of a huge fact can any one contrive to talk of "free love"; as if love were an episode like lighting a cigarette, or whistling a tune. Suppose whenever a man lit a cigarette, a towering genie arose from the rings of smoke and followed him everywhere as a huge slave. Suppose whenever a man whistled a tune he "drew an angel down" and had to walk about forever with a seraph on a string. These catastrophic images are but faint parallels to the earthquake consequences that Nature has attached to sex; and it is perfectly plain at the beginning that a man cannot be a free lover; he is either a traitor or a tied man.
-What's Wrong With the World (1910)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Artificial Conflict

But the main character of these questions is that they divide people wrongly. They set up an opposition that does not exist, and so avoid, very often, the formidable opposition that does exist. The nameless and ancestral enemy that desires to eat our swords with rust and seal our eyes with an evil slumber, the primal cowardice that is older than the hills, has no way more effective than this artificial conflict for bringing about its peace, the peace of Satan that passes all understanding. It desires a false unity; and to make assurance doubly sure, it creates a false division. It sets men fighting about nothing, lest they should fight about something. This is half the secret of the political aristocracy of England.
-December 16, 1905, Daily News

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

"...and perhaps it is a minor matter that it has ceased to be any good to anybody."

Practical men tell us that it is useless to cry over spilt milk [...] Anyhow, in the ordinary way unspilt milk has obviously more chance of remaining pure, but spilt milk has much more chance of becoming universal. To spill it is the way to spread it [...] It is the best course for the truly modernist milkman, who cannot consent to have his sacred element confined in narrow forms and limitations, in rigid cans and restricted jugs, but wishes it to flow forth freely and without limit, like a fountain in the public streets. By merely spilling the milk, the modernist will not, perhaps, make a fountain, but he will do what is more important to a modernist, he will make a splash. He will splash the milk far and wide, so as to cover a much larger area; possibly, also, so as to cover some of the passers-by, whose attention will thus be drawn to the incident. The milk of human kindness will be much more generally recognised when it is spilt than when it is imprisoned in a can- or a creed. It will have more appeal, more advertisement value, more publicity and big business methods. In short, the milk is more obvious to everybody; and perhaps it is a minor matter that it has ceased to be any good to anybody.
-December 20, 1924, Illustrated London News

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Pickwick goes through life with that god-like gullibility which is the key to all adventures. The greenhorn is the ultimate victor in everything; it is he that gets the most out of life. Because Pickwick is led away by Jingle, he will be led to the White Hart Inn, and see the only Weller cleaning boots in the courtyard. Because he is bamboozled by Dodson and Fogg, he will enter the prison house like a paladin, and rescue the man and the woman who have wronged him most. His soul will never starve for exploits or excitements who is wise enough to be made a fool of. He will make himself happy in the traps that have been laid for him; he will roll in their nets and sleep. All doors will fly open to him who has a mildness more defiant than mere courage. The whole is unerringly expressed in one fortunate phrase -- he will be always "taken in." To be taken in everywhere is to see the inside of everything. It is the hospitality of circumstance. With torches and trumpets, like a guest, the greenhorn is taken in by Life. And the sceptic is cast out by it.
-Charles Dickens (1906)

Monday, June 12, 2017

"The saint without humility is the devil."

The ethics of the Middle Ages were at one with the ethics of the New Testament on this important point; that they understood the idea of the Pharisee. The saint without humility is the devil [...] the devil is a saint without humility. He is as austere as any anchorite; he is as intellectual as any doctor or theologian; he is as refined as any lady abbess; he is as sexless as any virgin martyr. The one difference between him and them is that he is an egoist; an austere, refined, intellectual, virgin egoist.
-February 3, 1906, Daily News

Friday, May 26, 2017

"It acts on a fixed theory that religious motives [...] need not be calculated and must not even be mentioned."

In all ages the world has rightly satirised religious hypocrisy. But in our age the world suffers terribly from something that can only be called secular hypocrisy. The cant is not only secular, it is even secularist. It acts on a fixed theory that religious motives, in national and international things, need not be calculated and must not even be mentioned [...] It is not a question of liking or disliking any of the religions, or of having any religion at all. It is simply a taboo of tact or convention, whereby we are free to say that a man does this or that because of his nationality, or his profession, or his place of residence, or his hobby, but not because of his creed about the very cosmos in which he lives.
-The End of the Armistice
(collection of essays published posthumously in 1940)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

I wish we could sometimes love the characters in real life as we love the characters in romances. There are a great many human souls whom we should accept more kindly, and even appreciate more clearly, if we simply thought of them as people in a story.
-What I Saw In America (1922)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

G.K. Chesterton's Nightmare (Philip Jenkins)
Thirty years ago, a British newspaper took an unscientific survey of current and former intelligence agents, asking them which fictional work best captured the realities of their profession. Would it be John Le Carré, Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum? To the amazement of most readers, the book that won easily was G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, published in 1908.

This was so surprising because of the book's early date, but also its powerful mystical and Christian content: Chesterton subtitled it "a nightmare." But perhaps the choice was not so startling. Looking at the problems Western intelligence agencies confront fighting terrorism today, Chesterton's fantasy looks more relevant than ever, and more like a practical how-to guide.
An interesting article to read

Monday, May 22, 2017

Upon this very simple fact of human nature- that bustle always mean banality- the whole gigantic modern Press [...] is built.
-March 26, 1910, Illustrated London News

Thursday, May 18, 2017

That power to control thoughts, moralities, and tones of life which we would not give to the Commonwealth itself, crowned with the auctoritas of the people, we are actually giving to every two-penny firm, to every ephemeral business that can scrape together enough money to enslave a score or two of men. 
-March 6, 1909, Daily News

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

[...] every high civilisation decays by forgetting obvious things.
-The New Jerusalem (1920)

Monday, May 15, 2017

People said his distinctions were fine distinctions, and so they were; very fine indeed. A fine distinction is like a fine painting or a fine poem or anything else fine; a triumph of the human mind. In these days when large-mindedness is supposed to consist of confusing everything with everything else, of saying that man is the same as woman and religion the same as irreligion, and the unnatural as good as the natural and all the rest of it, it is well to keep high in the mind the great power of distinction, by which man becomes in the true sense distinguished.
-G.K.'s Weekly, March 29, 1930
(quoted in The Man Who Was Orthodox by A.L. Maycock, 1963)

Saturday, May 6, 2017

[...] there is no limit to the lunacy of men when they think themselves superior both to humility and laughter.
-March 2, 1907, Daily News

Friday, May 5, 2017

"They desire the democracy to be sexually fluid, because the making of small nuclei is like the making of small nations."

There is only one form of freedom which they tolerate; and that is the sort of sexual freedom which is covered by the legal fiction of divorce. If we ask why this liberty is alone left, when so many liberties are lost, we shall find the answer in the summary of this chapter. They are trying to break the vow of the knight as they broke the vow of the monk. They recognise the vow as the vital antithesis to servile status, the alternative and therefore the antagonist. Marriage makes a small state within the state, which resists all such regimentation. That bond breaks all other bonds; that law is found stronger than all later and lesser laws. They desire the democracy to be sexually fluid, because the making of small nuclei is like the making of small nations. Like small nations, they are a nuisance to the mind of imperial scope. In short, what they fear, in the most literal sense, is home rule.
-The Superstition of Divorce (1920)

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Chesterton, in The Sandman series...

An appearance by GKC in The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman...


Saturday, April 22, 2017

"The question of miracles is not one of physical science; it is obviously, by its nature, purely one of philosophical belief."

The question of miracles is not one of physical science; it is obviously, by its nature, purely one of philosophical belief. There can be no such thing as a proof from physical science that the order of Nature is rigid, or necessarily recurrent; for obviously, the study of things in the order can prove nothing about whether there is anything out of the order. A man who says that he has learnt from science that water cannot be changed into wine might just as well say that he had learnt from Blackstone's commentaries on the Laws of England that a burglary cannot occur in Fulham. The mere repetition of anything cannot prove, however incessant, that the repetition is destined to go on. Only if we know the reason of the repetition can we know that.
-October 8, 1904, Daily News

Friday, April 21, 2017

"It was never allowed to be enough of a success to be properly called a failure."

[Chesterton, writing in the aftermath of WWI, but which seems applicable in a large degree a century later as well, and something for the Church to keep in mind...]

[...] any good movement will do most good not by embracing the world, but by attacking the world. If it is to end by converting everybody, it must not begin by including everybody.

The modern world was not made by its religion, but rather in spite of its religion. Religion has produced evils of its own; but the special evils which we now suffer began with its breakdown. Nor do I mean religion merely in an ideal, but strictly in a historical sense. The cruel competition of classes went with the abandonment of charity- not merely of the primitive theory of charity, but of the medieval practice of charity. The colossal evil of cosmopolitan finance came with a new toleration of usury. The Prussian superman, the supreme product of modern immoralism, arose through a denial not merely of the mystical humility of Christian saints, but of the ordinary modesty of Christian men. The wickedness that led up to the war may be called, if anyone likes to put it so, the failure of Christianity. But it was it's failure to rule, not its failure to rule well. It was never allowed to be enough of a success to be properly called a failure. All the actual causes- Colonial expansion, scientific warfare, industrial development, racial theories, even journalism- were all things which the modern mind has made in its reaction from the old religion [...] It has not made modernity- it has not that on its conscience. Its only spiritual justification, and its obvious social strategy, is to attack modernity. It ought to show, as it really could show, that social evils have not come from its presence, but rather from its absence. So far from insisting on its power, it ought rather to insist on its impotence. So far from claiming to be obeyed, it ought to claim to have been disobeyed. So far from assuming indefinite numbers of men as belonging to it, it ought to note the enormous numbers of men who fail by not belonging to it. In short, to recur to the original text, it ought not to be content with all the people who will consent or condescend to call themselves something. It ought to lead them into the way of truth. For any movement to do this, of course, is it necessary for it to have a truth to lead them to.
-July 12, 1919, Illustrated London News

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Inspector Morse

I know nothing about this series, but....
“Endeavour”:This series has a long literary bloodline. It’s based on the Inspector Morse novels by Colin Dexter, an Oxford classics scholar who, after moving into a career in educational testing, decided to entertain himself on a rainy day by writing novels.
Too bad for Oxford classics students, too good for the rest of us. Dexter’s Morse is an Oxford-educated detective with a love of beer and opera and a massive disdain for snooty and murderous professors.

Dexter’s novels turned into 33 Inspector Morse episodes, starring the great British actor John Thaw as Morse. Kevin Whately played his blue-collar Yorkshire sidekick Robbie Lewis. Then Morse died, both in the books and in the series, and an Inspector Lewis series was launched, also starring Whately and Laurence Fox as Lewis’ young, Cambridge-educated (here’s mud in your eye!) counterpart. That series is still going on KCTS 9 and through streaming services, and available through checkout at the libraries.

Still with me? Good. The series “Endeavour” goes back to Morse’s youth, as the incomparably dishy Shaun Evans plays the young Morse. All these shows feature complicated plots, atmospheric Oxford settings, terrible crimes and a gorgeous soundtrack by the composer Barrington Pheloung, who has hung on through all three series. Fun inside fact: the young Morse’s boss Fred Thursday is named after the book “The Man Who Was Thursday” by G.K. Chesterton, the creator of “Father Brown.”


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

"How to Help Our Fellows"

[Excerpts from an article called "How to Help Our Fellows" which was republished in the Kalgoorlie Miner, January 29, 1907]

If we want to help our fellows, there is one broad necessity which seems to come before anything else, and that is that we should recognise that they are our fellows. This is not recognised in the modern world; probably on the whole it is less recognised than it has ever been before; probably it is less recognised than it was in many slave holding States. That I recognise a man is my fellow does not mean that I recognise that he is to be pitied, or that his condition should be improved for the sake of posterity, or that in my particular politics it is arranged that he shall have a vote. It means that I have fellowship with him. It means that I can say to him naturally and with social sincerity "my dear fellow." Pity is not fellowship. Philanthropy is not fellowship. Social reform is not fellowship. I pity a wounded rabbit; but I have no fellowship with him. I should like to improve a mad elephant, but I am not so hypocritical as to pretend that I wish to drink and sing and talk through the night and tell all my secrets to a mad elephant. I feel philanthropic towards a wounded worm, but I never feel an impulse to slap him on the back and say "my dear fellow." Now the trouble with the whole modern world is that this fundamental faculty of fellowship, of being able to live with all kinds of men, and talk with all kinds of men, has probably never been at a lower ebb than it is to-day. It is quite possible that there is more compassion than there ever was. It is quite certain that there is less fellowship than there ever was. [...]

Before all discussion, therefore, on the right way of thinking about the poor, this is the first thing to be registered; that we are thinking about the poor. In a real democracy it would be the poor who would be thinking about us. That scientific solemnity with which we speak of the poor; that air of an abstract argument which is not likely to be interrupted; that secure and placid discussion of the poor  [...] all this means first and last, the entire absence of fellowship.[...]

Now public institutions are very righteous things upon this assumption always, that they are really public. The trouble with most of these things in the modern world is that they are not in the proper sense public: they do not represent the whole or the great preponderance of the community [...] And it must be remembered that the case is definitely worse than it was in times less formally democratic. Then the leaders of the people may have had an unjust preponderance, but they were leaders of the people in so far that they were like the people. The populace may have had a small part to play compared with the aristocrats, but what part they played was sincerely and spontaneously with the aristocrats. But the life and energy in our modern institutes is all definitely against the actual popular feeling.[...]

 I am not saying that [the poor man] is right, but I am saying that it is highly undemocratic to assume that he is wrong. And the modern world does assume that he is wrong; it assumes that he is wrong because he is ignorant. That is, it assumes that he is wrong because he is poor. That is, it assumes that he is wrong because he is the majority of mankind.

Therefore, while I, like everybody else, have my own notions of an ideal society, and what I should do for the poor, I am quite convinced that the first step of all is to cultivate fellowship, not as a political but as a psychological condition. Let the modern world get over its present violent and inexpugnable prejudice against all the opinions of the poor [...] let us take these views as the serious opinions of our fellows, of those who are our equals in essentials, our inferiors in certain forms of study, our superiors in many forms of experience. Let us consider whether it is really only they who are ignorant of science [...] Let us in a word, if we wish to do good to our fellows, cultivate intellectual fellowship, or if we cannot do this there is one further piece of advice I can offer. Let you and I and the rest of the idealistic middle-class suddenly stop talking. And in the awful silence which follows let us listen to what the charwoman in the Walworth-road really has to say.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Common sense and the higher mysteries lie very close together. It is the fact that they are frequently and even continually absent simultaneously from the same person.
-quoted in The Newsletter: An Australian Paper for Australian People June 11, 1904

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A nice article concerning Chesterton's lectures at Notre Dame (including his experience of Notre Dame football)
October 1930 marked a big event on the Notre Dame campus: the opening of the new football stadium. Knute Rockne gave a speech. A Navy admiral gave a speech. The University president, Rev. Charles O’Donnell, CSC, gave a speech and told the emotional story about George Gipp.
Then a special guest was introduced, and an uproarious standing ovation welcomed G.K. Chesterton, who had just arrived from England and had never seen a football game. According to one report, thousands of “lusty voices shouted the name of one of the world’s leading literary lights.” The University considered it a good omen.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

St. Therse of Lisieux and the grandmother of Hilaire Belloc

This is an unusual post for this blog, insofar as it does not deal directly with Chesterton. However, it *does* deal with the other half of the "Chesterbelloc", and therefore for that reason still seems appropriate for this blog....

In any case, I don't know if this is something that is common knowledge (and I was just ignorant of it), or if perhaps I am making a mistake in my reasoning, but it appears that St. Therese of Lisieux was greatly affected by a story in a book put together by the grandmother of Hilaire Belloc


While reading through The Letters of St. Therese the other night, I came across a letter that her sister Pauline wrote to her when St. Therese was 12 years old (LC 41), in which in one part she wrote "If you see again the luminous trail on the waves of the sea, think of times past, of your old teacher, of Grandmother's Tirelire.." A footnote at this point in my volume states:
La Tirelire aux histoires by S.W. Belloc. One of the stories, entitled "The Golden Trail," was filled with memories for Pauline and Therese; see MS. A, pp. 48-49 [...]
There is one part in St. Therese's Story of a Soul  where Therese writes:
In the evening at that moment when the sun seems to bathe itself in the immensity of the waves, leaving a luminous trail behind, I went and sat down on the huge rock with Pauline. Then I recalled the touching story of the “Golden Trail.” I contemplated this luminous trail for a long time. It was to me the image of God’s grace shedding its light across the path the little white-sailed vessel had to travel. And near Pauline, I made the resolution never to wander far away from the glance of Jesus in order to travel peacefully toward the eternal shore!

Anyway, as you can imagine, the name "Belloc" in the footnote above caught my attention. So I did some Googling, and came across a footnote in an edition of The Story of a Soul on Google Books concerning this passage stating:
This story appears in a collection of readings called La Tirelire aux histoires by Madame Louise Belloc [...]

Doing some more Googling, I also came across this page:


Now, I don't know French, but...:
Titre La tirelire aux histoires. Lectures choisies / par Mme Louise Sw-Belloc...
Type document Livre
Auteur principal Belloc , Louise Swanton
It appears to me that "Mme Louise Sw-Belloc" is the same as "Louise Swanton Belloc".

And, of course, Louise Swanton Belloc, was the grandmother of Hilaire Belloc.


So the story that had such memories for St. Therese of Lisieux was from a book by Hilaire Belloc's grandmother!

Either that, or I made some mistake in my reasoning above (which is quite possible, I realize! lol.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"The whole point of education is that it should give a man abstract and eternal standards, by which he can judge material and fugitive conditions."

The whole point of education is that it should give a man abstract and eternal standards, by which he can judge material and fugitive conditions. If the citizen is to be a reformer, he must start with some ideal which he does not obtain merely by gazing reverently at the unreformed institutions. And if any one asks, as so many are asking: "What is the use of my son learning all about ancient Athens and remote China and medieval guilds and monasteries, and all sorts of dead or distant things, when he is going to be a superior scientific plumber in Pimlico?" the answer is obvious enough. "The use of it is that he may have some power of comparison, which will not only prevent him from supposing that Pimlico covers the whole planet, but also enable him, while doing full credit to the beauties and virtues of Pimlico, to point out that, here and there, as revealed by alternative experiments, even Pimlico may conceal somewhere a defect."
All is Grist (1931)
(H/T G.K. Chesterton Facebook page)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

"The answer to anyone who talks about the surplus population is to ask him whether he is the surplus population, or if he is not, how he knows he is not."

Scrooge is not only as modern as Gradgrind but more modern than Gradgrind. He belongs not only to the hard times of the middle of the nineteenth century, but to the harder times of the beginning of the twentieth century; the yet harder times in which we live. Many amiable sociologists will say, as he said, 'Let them die and decrease the surplus population.' The improved proposal is that they should die before they are born.

It is notable also that Dickens gives the right reply; and that with a deadly directness worthy of a much older and more subtle controversialist. The answer to anyone who talks about the surplus population is to ask him whether he is the surplus population, or if he is not, how he knows he is not. That is the answer which the Spirit of Christmas gives to Scrooge; and there is more than one fine element of irony involved in it. There is this very mordant moral truth, among others; that Scrooge is exactly the sort of man who would talk of the superfluous poor as of something dim and distant; and yet he is also exactly the kind of man whom others might regard as sufficiently dim,not to say dingy, to be himself superfluous. There is something of a higher sarcasm, even than that to be read on the surface, in the image of that wretched little rag of a man so confident that the rags and refuse of humanity can be safely swept away and burned; in the miser who himself looks so like a pauper, confidently ordering a massacre of paupers.
-G.K.C. as M.C. (1929)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

"To the Catholic every other daily act is dramatic dedication to the service of good or of evil."

When I wrote a little volume on my friend Mr. Bernard Shaw, it is needless to say that he reviewed it. I naturally felt tempted to answer and to criticise the book from the same disinterested and impartial standpoint from which Mr. Shaw had criticised the subject of it. I was not withheld by any feeling that the joke was getting a little obvious; for an obvious joke is only a successful joke; it is only the unsuccessful clowns who comfort themselves with being subtle. The real reason why I did not answer Mr. Shaw's amusing attack was this: that one simple phrase in it surrendered to me all that I have ever wanted, or could want from him to all eternity. I told Mr. Shaw (in substance) that he was a charming and clever fellow, but a common Calvinist. He admitted that this was true, and there (so far as I am concerned) is an end of the matter. He said that, of course, Calvin was quite right in holding that "if once a man is born it is too late to damn or save him." That is the fundamental and subterranean secret; that is the last lie in hell.

The difference between Puritanism and Catholicism is not about whether some priestly word or gesture is significant and sacred. It is about whether any word or gesture is significant and sacred. To the Catholic every other daily act is dramatic dedication to the service of good or of evil. To the Calvinist no act can have that sort of solemnity, because the person doing it has been dedicated from eternity, and is merely filling up his time until the crack of doom. The difference is something subtler than plum-puddings or private theatricals; the difference is that to a Christian of my kind this short earthly life is intensely thrilling and precious; to a Calvinist like Mr. Shaw it is confessedly automatic and uninteresting. To me these threescore years and ten are the battle. To the Fabian Calvinist (by his own confession) they are only a long procession of the victors in laurels and the vanquished in chains. To me earthly life is the drama; to him it is the epilogue. Shavians think about the embryo; Spiritualists about the ghost; Christians about the man. It is as well to have these things clear.

[...] These essential Calvinists have, indeed, abolished some of the more liberal and universal parts of Calvinism, such as the belief in an intellectual design or an everlasting happiness. But though Mr. Shaw and his friends admit it is a superstition that a man is judged after death, they stick to their central doctrine, that he is judged before he is born.
-What's Wrong With the World (1910)

Monday, March 13, 2017

[... ] the new philosophies and new religions and new social systems cannot draw up their own plans for emancipating mankind without still further enslaving mankind. They cannot carry out even what they regard as the most ordinary reforms without instantly imposing the most extraordinary restrictions.
-Avowals and Denials (1934)

Friday, March 10, 2017

[...] it is a bad economic sign in the State that masses of our fellow-citizens are too poor to be taxed [...]
-April 11, 1925, Illustrated London News

Monday, March 6, 2017

My own political philosophy is very plain and humble; I can trust the uneducated but not the badly educated.
-May 15, 1909, Daily News

Friday, March 3, 2017

" [...] whether the modern mind prefers its pretensions to popular breadth or its claims to creedless spirituality [...] it cannot have both at once;"

The truth is that the broad religion creates the narrow clique. It is what is called the religion of dogmas, that is of facts (or alleged facts), that creates a broader brotherhood and brings men of all kinds together. This is called a paradox; but it will be obvious to anyone who considers the nature of a fact. All men share in a fact, if they believe it to be a fact. Only a few men commonly share a feeling, when it is only a feeling. If there is a deep and delicate and intangible feeling, detached from all statements, but reaching to a wordless worship of beauty, wafted in a sweet savour from the woods of Kent or the spires of Canterbury, then we may be tolerably certain that the Miller will not have it. The Miller can only become the Pilgrim, if he recognizes that God is in the heavens as he recognizes that the sun is in the sky. If he does recognize it, he can share the dogma just as he can share the daylight. But he cannot be expected to share all the shades of fine intellectual mysticism that might exist in the mind of the Prioress or the Parson. I can understand that argument being turned in an anti-democratic as well as an anti-dogmatic direction; but anyhow the individualistic mystics must either do without the mysticism or do without the Miller. To some refined persons the loss of the latter would be no very insupportable laceration of the feelings. But I am not a refined person and I am not merely thinking about feelings. I am even so antiquated as to be thinking about rights; about the rights of men, which are extended even to millers. Among those rights is a certain rough working respect and consideration, which is at the basis of comradeship. And I say that if the comradeship is to include the Miller at all, it must be based on the recognition of something as really true, and not merely as ideally beautiful. It is easy to imagine the Knight and the Prioress riding to Canterbury and talking in the most elegant and cultivated strain, exchanging graceful fictions about knights and ladies for equally graceful legends about virgins and saints. But that sort of sympathy, especially when it reaches the point of subtlety, is not a way of uniting, or even collecting, all the Canterbury Pilgrims. The Knight and the Prioress would be the founders of a clique; as they probably were already the representatives of a class. I am not concerned here with whether the modern mind prefers its pretensions to popular breadth or its claims to creedless spirituality. I am only pointing out that it cannot have both at once; that if religion is an intuition, it must be an individual intuition and not a social institution; and that it is much easier to build a social institution on something that is regarded as a solid fact.
-Chaucer (1932)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

"There is only one thing which is generally secure from plagiarism- self-denial."

There will always be thousands of snobs and slaves to imitate all their gaieties and all their grandeurs. There is only one thing which is generally secure from plagiarism- self-denial.
-September 2, 1911, Illustrated London News

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

[...] whereas men in the earlier times said unscientific things with the vagueness of gossip and legend, they now say unscientific things with the plainness and the certainty of science.
-G.F. Watts (1904)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

All little boys, it may be noticed, like to possess a stick more almost than any other object, and in this, as in most things, little boys are very subtle sages. The stick is an abstraction; it is the straight line of Euclid; it is the primary principle of rigidity and direction. The stick is the backbone of the other structures; of the gun, the umbrella, the telescope, the spade, and the spear. Now the child, wishing for liberty and variety, wisely avoids realism, and clings to abstraction. If you have a telescope you cannot (without a violent effort) think it an umbrella. It were idle to look through a spade to find any of the emotions of a telescope. But if you have the plain bar or rod that is the rudimentary shape of all of them you can (if you are young enough) feel as if you possessed them all, and could take each of them in turn off its hook. A stick is a whole tool-box and a whole armoury. Nay, a stick is sometimes a stable. You can call it a horse and bestride it, and ride along country roads with the most mettlesome leaps and caracoles. I propose to do so in a few minutes.
-October 23, 1909, Daily News
Again, the other chief accusation against Dickens was that his characters and their actions were exaggerated and impossible. But this only meant that they were exaggerated and impossible as compared with the modern world and with certain writers (like Thackeray or Trollope) who were making a very exact copy of the manners of the modern world. Some people, oddly enough, have suggested that Dickens has suffered or will suffer from the change of manners. Surely this is irrational. It is not the creators of the impossible who will suffer from the process of time: Mr. Bunsby can never be any more impossible than he was when Dickens made him. The writers who will obviously suffer from time will be the careful and realistic writers, the writers who have observed every detail of the fashion of this world which passeth away. It is surely obvious that there is nothing so fragile as a fact, that a fact flies away quicker than a fancy. A fancy will endure for two thousand years. For instance, we all have fancy for an entirely fearless man, a hero; and the Achilles of Homer still remains. But exactly the thing we do not know about Achilles is how far he was possible. The realistic narrators of the time are all forgotten (thank God), so we cannot tell whether Homer slightly exaggerated or wildly exaggerated or did not exaggerate at all, the personal activity of a Mycenæan captain in battle; for the fancy has survived the facts. So the fancy of Podsnap may survive the facts of English commerce: and no one will know whether Podsnap was possible, but only know that he is desirable, like Achilles.
-Charles Dickens (1906)

Monday, February 20, 2017

It is is bosh to declare (or, rather, lifelessly to repeat) that schools of thought must be held sacred because good people belong to them [...] If truth is a good thing, I suppose error is a bad one; and if large numbers of nice people are held captive by error that is all the more reason for destroying the error and setting them free. The hero of a fairy tale would not hesitate to deliver a hundred princesses from an enchanter merely because they were very thoroughly enchanted.
-March 26, 1910, Daily News

Thursday, February 16, 2017

For [John Dickens] to be involved in a calamity only meant to be cast for the first part in a tragedy.
-Charles Dickens (1906)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"Patriotism begins the praise of the world at the nearest thing, instead of beginning it at the most distant,.."

The fundamental spiritual advantage of patriotism and such sentiments is this: that by means of it all things are loved adequately, because all things are loved individually. Cosmopolitanism gives us one country, and it is good; nationalism gives us a hundred countries, and every one of them is the best. Cosmopolitanism offers a positive, patriotism a chorus of superlatives. Patriotism begins the praise of the world at the nearest thing, instead of beginning it at the most distant, and thus it insures what is, perhaps, the most essential of all earthly considerations, that nothing upon earth shall go without its due appreciation. Wherever there is a strangely-shaped mountain upon some lonely island, wherever there is a nameless kind of fruit growing in some obscure forest, patriotism insures that this shall not go into darkness without being remembered in a song.
-From the essay "The Patriotic Idea"(contributed to the book England: A Nation, 1904)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

"For many would say that marriage is an ideal..."

For many would say that marriage is an ideal as some would say that monasticism is an ideal, in the sense of a counsel of perfection. Now certainly we might preserve a conjugal ideal in this way. A man might be reverently pointed out in the street as a sort of saint, merely because he was married. A man might wear a medal for monogamy; or have letters after his name similar to V.C. or D.D.; let us say L.W. for "Lives With His Wife," or N.D.Y. for "Not Divorced Yet."

I take it, however, that the advocates of divorce do not mean that marriage is to remain ideal only in the sense of being almost impossible. They do not mean that a faithful husband is only to be admired as a fanatic. The reasonable men among them do really mean that a divorced person shall be tolerated as something unusually unfortunate, not merely that a married person shall be admired as some thing unusually blessed and inspired. But whatever they desire, it is as well that they should realise exactly what they do; and in this case I should like to hear their criticisms in the matter of what they see. They must surely see that [...] the new liberty is being taken in the spirit of licence as if the exception were to be the rule, or, rather, perhaps the absence of rule. This will especially be made manifest if we consider that the effect of the process is accumulative like a snowball, and returns on itself like a snowball.
The Superstition of Divorce (1920)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Anarchy cannot last, but anarchic communities cannot last either. Mere lawlessness cannot live, but it can destroy life. The nations of the earth always return to sanity and solidarity; but the nations which return to it first are the nations which survive.
The Superstition of Divorce (1920)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The redemption of reason in this modern age presents many difficulties, mainly because men have abandoned their belief in first principles. Not having principles on which to agree at the outset, our men of letters lack a common ground of argument. And so, in our popular controversies and debates we find, instead of calm, logical thought, merely abuse and ridicule and unreason.
-Troy (NY) Times, "December 4, 1930
H/T to the American Chesterton Society

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

[...] the chief difficulty with the contemporary world is that so many people are adopting very obvious and facile ideals in order that they may be very easily and obviously attained. And out of this arises [...] an even subtler and more poisonous delusion. We not only think that because the ideals are so easy to attain that they must be right; but we think that because the ideals are so easy to attain, we must have attained them. We think this even when, easy as the ideals may be, we have not. [...] It is not very easy to persuade ourselves that we do passionately and directly love all our fellow-men. But it is very easy to persuade ourselves that we are broad-minded, and have no bigotry, and of that, consequently, we do persuade ourselves.
-Daily News, August 6, 1904

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A horse is a horse, of course, of course...

I have some friends who love horses who will appreciate this passage, I'm sure. Coincidentally, GKC's father, Edward Chesterton (1841-1922) was known as..."Mister Ed"  :-) 

George Wyndham once told me that he had seen one of the first aeroplanes rise for the first time and it was very wonderful but not so wonderful as a horse allowing a man to ride on him. Somebody else has said that a fine man on a fine horse is the noblest bodily object in the world. Now, so long as people feel this in the right way, all is well. The first and best way of appreciating it is to come of people with a tradition of treating animals properly; of men in the right relation to horses. A boy who remembers his father who rode a horse, who rode it well and treated it well, will know that the relation can be satisfactory and will be satisfied. He will be all the more indignant at the ill-treatment of horses because he knows how they ought to be treated; but he will see nothing but what is normal in a man riding on a horse. He will not listen to the great modern philosopher who explains to him that the horse ought to be riding on the man. He will not pursue the pessimist fancy of Swift and say that men must be despised as monkeys and horses worshipped as gods. And horse and man together making an image that is to him human and civilised, it will be easy, as it were, to lift horse and man together into something heroic or symbolical; like a vision of St. George in the clouds. The fable of the winged horse will not be wholly unnatural to him: and he will know why Ariosto set many a Christian hero in such an airy saddle, and made him the rider of the sky. For the horse has really been lifted up along with the man in the wildest fashion in the very word we use when we speak 'chivalry.' The very name of the horse has been given to the highest mood and moment of the man; so that we might almost say that the handsomest compliment to a man is to call him a horse.

 But if a man has got into a mood in which he is not able to feel this sort of wonder, then his cure must begin right at the other end. We must now suppose that he has drifted into a dull mood, in which somebody sitting on a horse means no more than somebody sitting on a chair. The wonder of which Wyndham spoke, the beauty that made the thing seem an equestrian statue, the meaning of the more chivalric horseman, may have become to him merely a convention and a bore. Perhaps they have been merely a fashion; perhaps they have gone out of fashion; perhaps they have been talked about too much or talked about in the wrong way; perhaps it was then difficult to care for horses without the horrible risk of being horsy. Anyhow, he has got into a condition when he cares no more for a horse than for a towel-horse. His grandfather's charge at Balaclava seems to him as dull and dusty as the album containing such family portraits. Such a person has not really become enlightened about the album; on the contrary, he has only become blind with the dust. But when he has reached that degree of blindness, he will not be able to look at a horse or a horseman at all until he has seen the whole thing as a thing entirely unfamiliar and almost unearthly.

Out of some dark forest under some ancient dawn there must come towards us, with lumbering yet dancing motions, one of the very queerest of the prehistoric creatures. We must see for the first time the strangely small head set on a neck not only longer but thicker than itself, as the face of a gargoyle is thrust out upon a gutter-spout, the one disproportionate crest of hair running along the ridge of that heavy neck like a beard in the wrong place; the feet, each like a solid club of horn, alone amid the feet of so many cattle; so that the true fear is to be found in showing, not the cloven, but the uncloven hoof. Nor is it mere verbal fancy to see him thus as a unique monster; for in a sense a monster means what is unique, and he is really unique. But the point is that when we thus see him as the first man saw him, we begin once more to have some imaginative sense of what it meant when the first man rode him. In such a dream he may seem ugly, but he does not seem unimpressive; and certainly that two-legged dwarf who could get on top of him will not seem unimpressive. By a longer and more erratic road we shall come back to the same marvel of the man and the horse; and the marvel will be, if possible, even more marvellous. We shall have again a glimpse of St. George; the more glorious because St. George is not riding on the horse, but rather riding on the dragon.

In this example, which I have taken merely because it is an example, it will be noted that I do not say that the nightmare seen by the first man of the forest is either more true or more wonderful than the normal mare of the stable seen by the civilised person who can appreciate what is normal. Of the two extremes, I think on the whole that the traditional grasp of truth is the better. But I say that the truth is found at one or other of these two extremes, and is lost in the intermediate condition of mere fatigue and forgetfulness of tradition. In other words, I say it is better to see a horse as a monster than to see it only as a slow substitute for a motor-car. If we have got into that state of mind about a horse as something stale, it is far better to be frightened of a horse because it is a good deal too fresh.
-The Everlasting Man (1925)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

"I remember reading G.K. Chesterton...." -Mike Piazza

Mike Piazza, this past year inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame, and who holds the record for most career home runs by a catcher, reads GKC. :-)
Piazza credits his mother with giving him the gift of faith that has carried him throughout his life.

“My mother was such an influence on me,” he explained. “When I was in minor league baseball, there were times before the internet when we’d have to find churches in the Yellow Pages and look for Mass times, and I’d grab a friend on Sunday and go to Mass. If we had a day game, we’d to Mass Sunday evening.

 “I find it’s easy to talk about faith when it’s true and that’s how it’s been in my life. I know it’s a different time today, but I have no worries. I remember reading (Catholic philosopher and apologist) G.K. Chesterton and there was this whole movement of Atheism in the ‘20s and ‘30s. I mean, it comes and goes. But the rock that is the Church will always be there. So I feel confident. I’m parking my car here.”

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The only real object of all education is to teach people the proportion of things, that they may see what things are large and what small; we seem bent on teaching to prefer in everything what is small to what is great, what is doubtful to what is certain, and what is trivial to what is eternal.
-August 24, 1912, Illustrated London News

Sunday, January 15, 2017

From a letter by Stephen Vincent Benét to William Rose Benét (January 15, 1915)
Magic [a play by Chesterton] is fine too. The place where the red light turns blue is a great moment, great, GREAT. There certainly are devils.
-Selected Letters of Steven Vincent Benét, p. 9

[I know nothing about  Benét, but a quick trip to Google informs me that a short story he wrote was the basis for the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.]

Friday, January 13, 2017

"To be dogmatic and to be egotistic are not only not the same thing, they are opposite things."

To be dogmatic and to be egotistic are not only not the same thing, they are opposite things. Suppose, for instance, that a vague sceptic eventually joins the Catholic Church. In that act he has at the same moment become less egotistic and become more dogmatic. The dogmatist is by the nature of the case not egotistical, because he believes that there is some solid obvious and objective truth outside him which he has perceived and which he invites all men to perceive. And the egotist is in the majority of cases not dogmatic, because he has no need to isolate one of his notions as being related to truth; all his notions are equally interesting because they are related to him. The true egotist is as much interested in his own errors as in his own truth; the dogmatist is interested only in the truth, and only in the truth because it is true. At the most the dogmatist believes that he is in the truth; but the egotist believes that the truth, if there is such a thing, is in him.
-A Handful of Authors
(collection of essays published posthumously in 1953)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Some men say that Science says this or that; when they only mean scientists, and do not know or care which scientists.
-November 2, 1929, Illustrated London News

Friday, January 6, 2017

"..a fixed rule is the only protection of ordinary humanity against clever men"...

The whole point is, however, not that our Judges have a personal power, but that the whole world around them, the newspapers, the tone of opinion, encourage them to use it in a very personal way. In our legal method there is too much lawyer and too little law. For we must never forget one fact, which we tend to forget nevertheless: that a fixed rule is the only protection of ordinary humanity against clever men- who are the natural enemies of humanity. A dogma is the only safeguard of democracy. The law is our only barrier against lawyers.
-September 22, 1906, Illustrated London News