Quotes by and posts relating to one of the most influential authors of the 20th century, G.K. Chesterton
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."
Friday, December 31, 2021
"The New War on Christmas"
December 26, 1925
Sunday, December 19, 2021
-G.K.'s Weekly, March 21, 1925
Friday, December 10, 2021
-Charles Dickens (1906)
Saturday, November 13, 2021
An Evening with Orson Welles is a series of six short films created in 1970 by Orson Welles, for the exclusive use of Sears, Roebuck & Co. Welles produced the recitations of popular stories for Sears's Avco Cartrivision machines, a pioneering home video system.: 166 Five of the films are regarded as lost; footage from one, The Golden Honeymoon, is known to exist.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Evening_with_Orson_Welles
The reason it interests me is because one of the six short films was devoted to writings by G.K. Chesterton:
It even has an IMDB page:
Now if only it wasn't lost....
Sunday, October 17, 2021
[Mr. Edison] then goes on to deal with the origin of life; or rather, not to deal with it. The following statement is of such fearful intensity and importance that the interviewer prints it all in italics, and I will so reproduce it. "I believe the form of energy that we call life came to the earth from some other planet or at any rate from somewhere out in the great spaces beyond us." In short, there will henceforth be branded upon our brains the conviction that life came from somewhere, and probably under some conditions of space. But the suggestion that it came from another planet seems a rather weak evasion. Even a mind enfeebled by popular science would be capable of stirring faintly at that, and feeling unsatisfied. If it came from another planet, how did it arise on that planet? And in whatever way it arose on that planet, why could it not arise in that way on this planet? We are dealing with something admittedly unique and mysterious: like a ghost. The original rising of life from the lifeless is as strange as a rising from the dead. But this is like explaining a ghost walking visibly in the churchyard, by saying that it must have come from the churchyard of another village.
-May 3, 1924, Illustrated London News
Sunday, September 12, 2021
Now here we find ourselves confronted with an amazing fact. When, in the past, opinions so arguable have been enforced by State violence, it has been at the instigation of fanatics who held them for fixed and flaming certainties. If truths could not be evaded by their enemies, neither could they be altered even by their friends. But what are the certain truths that the secular arm must now lift the sword to enforce? Why, they are that very mass of bottomless questions and bewildered answers that we have been studying in the last chapters --- questions whose only interest is that they are trackless and mysterious; answers whose only glory is that they are tentative and new. The devotee boasted that he would never abandon the faith; and therefore he persecuted for the faith. But the doctor of science actually boasts that he will always abandon a hypothesis; and yet he persecutes for the hypothesis. The Inquisitor violently enforced his creed, because it was unchangeable. The savant enforces it violently because he may change it the next day.
Now this is a new sort of persecution; and one may be permitted to ask if it is an improvement on the old. The difference, so far as one can see at first, seems rather favourable to the old. If we are to be at the merciless mercy of man, most of us would rather be racked for a creed that existed intensely in somebody's head, rather than vivisected for a discovery that had not yet come into anyone's head, and possibly never would. A man would rather be tortured with a thumbscrew until he chose to see reason than tortured with a vivisecting knife until the vivisector chose to see reason. Yet that is the real difference between the two types of legal enforcement. If I give in to the Inquisitors, I should at least know what creed to profess. But even if I yelled out a credo when the Eugenists had me on the rack, I should not know what creed to yell. I might get an extra turn of the rack for confessing to the creed they confessed quite a week ago.
-Eugenics and Other Evils (1922)
Monday, August 16, 2021
The principle which dictates that things said of a man immediately after his death shall be as gentle as is possible is a human and a highly intelligible principle. It rests first upon this; that almost every man leaving the world creates an agony in individual affections, the intensity of which is greater even than that of patriotic anger; it rests secondly on this; that every man dying is going where he may be understood for the first time. To put the matter briefly, we speak as well as may be of a dead man, for two reasons. The first is that some men knew him; the second is that no man knew him.
-July 21, 1906, Daily News
Thursday, August 12, 2021
-G.K.'s Weekly, March 24, 1928[Found in July/August 2021 issue of Gilbert!]
Sunday, May 16, 2021
Jane Austen novels as detective stories
An obvious instance, though a sort of inversion, may be found in the case of Jane Austen. That exceedingly fine comedy, "Northanger Abbey," turns entirely on the idea of the heroine suspecting that there is a murderous mystery, and then finding out after all that there is only a humdrum or mildly humorous household. What fun it would be to write it all over again backwards; and let her first admit that it was only a humdrum household, and then find out after all that it was really a murderous mystery. For my part, I confess that I closed the book with very dark and lingering doubts about General Tilney, that very discouraging gentleman; and, without taking any actual steps about exhuming his wife's body, I can never get rid of the notion that he did murder her after all. But the mind refuses to linger over the admitted melodrama of "Northanger Abbbey"; or to follow tamely the ironical suggestion about the memoirs of the wretched Matilda. It would be even better fun to transfer the atmosphere of crime to the other more quietly realistic stories of Jane Austen. "Persuasion" would be a good name for a murder story; especially of the sort that dwells upon terrorism and torture; and a subtle and delicate ethical and psychological question might be raised about whether a really callous crime would be more probably the result of Sensibility or merely of Sense. The most probable problem raised in the case of "Pride and Prejudice" is obvious enough. Lady Catherine de Bourgh is murdered. Nobody could possibly take social precedence of her on that social occasion. All would rejoice that she would go out of the room before the rest. In every other way, the grouping of the rest of the characters seems deliberately designed for a detective story, of the older and more melodramatic sort. The first suspicion must necessarily fall on Mr. Darcy (who was, if I remember right, her nephew and her heir); a dark, sinister, solitary figure, already unpopular by his unsociable habits and seemingly inhumane arrogance. Yes; the first suspicion of the first detective must be that the crime was committed by Mr. Darcy; possibly helped, or hindered, by Mr. Bingley, as a very reluctant and wavering accomplice. Effective scenes might be made out of the police examination of Mr. Bennet; whose sardonic answers leave the detective in great doubt about whether Mr. Bennet means that he did commit the murder, or merely that he is sincerely repentant for his negligence in not doing so. A grand finale in which the crime was finally brought home to Mr. Collins, who had rebelled at last against a life of servility and humiliation, would satisfy poetical justice; but I fear would not satisfy the extremely prosaic truthfulness of Miss Jane Austen.
It is our duty to hope and pray for all the immortal souls of men; but, while abjuring absolutely the detestable determinism of Calvin, I doubt in the common human sense whether Mr. Collins could ever rise so high in the moral scales as murder. Yet I would rather have the crime committed by Mr. Collins than by Mr. Wickham, who is the nearest approach to a villain who can be found in such a novel. Mr. Wickham floats over our heads in a sort of upper air of triviality and trickery, like an elf; he cannot be convicted as a criminal except perhaps as a sort of aerial pick-pocket, exactly fitted to the euphemism about "the light-fingered gentry." Those light fingers were never made for the necessary but repugnant task of strangling Lady Catherine de Bough; those little hands were never made to tear out those august and malevolent eyes. In this case, so far as I am concerned, I confess that my mystery story is still a mystery. I do not know who murdered Lady Catherine de Bourgh; indeed, it would be a slight exaggeration to say that I have any full and final authority for saying she was murdered. But there is just as good evidence for it as there is for a vast number of the most fashionable and popular theories of evolution, origins of ethics, comparisons of religions, and descriptions of prehistoric men. It has just come into my head; which seems to be all that is necessary for a really promising scientific hypothesis. Perhaps a psycho-analyst will rewrite all the novels; and show that the apparent weak-mindedness of Mrs. Bennett covered a subconscious violence or a sadistic psychosis, that was bound sooner or later to terminate in gore.
This is all a very idle and rambling speculation, which I hope is quite free from all that poison of controversy or propaganda, of which I am sometimes accused. Nobody, I hope, can regard a love of Jane Austen as a controversial matter [...] But it might at least supply something in the nature of a new game. It would be amusing to go over some very familiar work [...] and reconstruct the relations of all the characters, in the light of their relation to some hidden crime that does not occur in the existing story [...] Indeed, the end game seems to give new possibilities to the old game about choosing a book for a desert island. The Robinson Crusoe who took one book might turn it into ten or twenty books, by an ingenious system of telling the tale to himself in ten or twenty versions.
-May 23, 1936, Illustrated London News
Thursday, April 15, 2021
-June 6, 1931, Illustrated London News[H/T Society of G.K. Chesterton]
Sunday, April 11, 2021
Illustrated London News, January 14, 1911
Saturday, April 10, 2021
(Reported in the Montreal Gazette, Feb. 17, 1921)(H/T Society of G.K. Chesterton)
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
"The severe theological credo was replaced by a severe social veto."
One special form of the harm done by the extreme sects in the seventeenth century was this: that they really died young, and that what has infected our culture since has not been their life, or even their death, but rather their decay. In most cases the Puritans lost their religion and retained their morality; a deplorable state of things for anybody. If the special narrow theologies had not perished rapidly as they did, the atmospheric moral mood would not have lingered on exactly in the way it did. But, above all, it permitted of a process which seems to me one of the strangest and most interesting in human history; but which does not seem as yet to have been noticed by historians. It is rather like the geological process of the formation of a fossil. Every one knows that a fossil fish is not a fish; nor a fossil bird a bird. I do not mean merely in the obvious sense: that we should be surprised, nay annoyed, in a restaurant, if we asked for a fish and they gave us a stone. I mean that a fossil is a form, in which remains no actual fragment of a fish. It is a hollow mould or image of a fish, which is very gradually filled up by the infiltration of something else, after the actual fish has decayed. Thus we find the general outline of these stony and very literal faiths filled up by something else when the old fanaticism has decayed....
The point is perhaps clearest in the case of Prohibition. The old original Puritans were not Prohibitionists. Oliver Cromwell was a brewer; but he was not inspired or intoxicated by beer, nor (like the teetotallers) inspired and intoxicated by the absence of beer. Whatever his faults, he did most certainly have a real religion, in the sense of a creed. But it was a sombre creed, one which had been made intentionally more stern and ruthless than the other creeds; and this created a new mood and moral atmosphere, which ultimately spread all over the great plains of Puritan America. Now the point is this: that as the creed crumbled slowly as a creed, its place was taken by something vaguer but of the same general spirit. The severe theological credo was replaced by a severe social veto. You can put it another way if you like, and say that America tolerated Prohibition, not because America was Puritan, but because America had been Puritan. The idea of morality that came to prevail till lately at least, was in every sense a survival of Puritanism, even if it was also in a sense a substitute for Puritanism. That is the essential history of that curious episode; the teetotal ethic of modern times. Prohibition was not a part of the origin of Puritanism; none the less, Prohibition was a thing of Puritan origin.
-Avowals and Denials (1934)
Sunday, March 14, 2021
-Lunacy and Letters (1958)
Sunday, February 14, 2021
"The Superstitions of the Sceptic" by GKC now available
I got a copy of the original edition book back in 2014, and it was expensive. The cheapest copy I could find at the time was $25; all the others were at least $50. So I typed it up then with the intent of making it more widely and easily available. I wasn't sure about its copyright status in the US (i.e., if it was ever renewed; doubtful as that seemed, I wasn't sure, nor did I know how to find out.) So I emailed what I typed up to Martin Ward in England, where I knew it was out of copyright. That way he could put it on his wonderful website of GKC texts (this particular book being found here) so at least it would be available on the Internet for those places where it was out of copyright. (Prior to that, I don't think it was even available online as an etext; at least I could never find it, no matter how much I searched.)
Anyway, since a few weeks ago, on "public domain day" (January 1), all books originally published in 1925 that were not already in the public domain entered the public domain (in the US), I decided over the weekend to publish this book since now I knew for sure it was out of copyright. (For some odd reason, it still had not been available even as a print-on-demand book, even though it was certainly out of copyright by now.)
The book comes in a Kindle edition and a print edition (66 pages for the latter); I set the prices at the lowest possible price Amazon would allow, so that the Kindle edition is 99 cents, and the print edition is $3.58. You can find them here:
As of this moment, there is no inside preview available, but hopefully that will change within the next few days.
(Please forgive any mistakes that may be found; I am most certainly not a professional! I tried to correct the typos from my original typing up of the text, and which can still be found in the etext on Martin Ward's site, but no doubt I didn't find them all.)