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)

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"The Speaker" Articles

A book I published containing 112 pieces Chesterton wrote for the newspaper "The Speaker" at the beginning of his career.

They are also available for free electronically on another blog of mine here, if you wish to read them that way.




Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"He should be able to imagine the whole plan of an error: the complete logic of a fallacy. He must be able to *think* it if he does not believe it."

One of the most fashionable forms of bigotry exhibits itself in the discovery of fantastic and trivial explanations of things that need no explanation. We are in this cloudland of prejudice (for example) when we say that a man becomes an atheist because he wants to go on the spree; or that a man becomes a Roman Catholic because the priests have trapped him; or that a man becomes a Socialist because he envies the rich. For all these random and remote explanations show that we have never seen, like a clear diagram, the real explanation: that Atheism, Catholicism, and Socialism are all quite plausible philosophies. A man does not need to be driven or trapped or bribed into them; because a man can be converted to them.

True liberality, in short, consists of being able to imagine the enemy. The free man is not he who thinks all opinions equally true or false; that is not freedom, but feeblemindedness. The free man is he who sees the errors as clearly as he sees the truth. The more solidly convinced a man really is, the less he will use phrases like, "No enlightened person can really hold---"; or "I cannot understand how Mr. Jones can possibly maintain---", followed by some very old, mild, and defensible opinion. A progressive person may hold anything he likes. I do understand quite well how Mr. Jones maintains those maniacal opinions which he does maintain. If a man sincerely believes that he has the map of the maze, it must show the wrong paths just as much as the right. He should be able to imagine the whole plan of an error: the complete logic of a fallacy. He must be able to think it if he does not believe it.

-"The Bigot" (Daily News, 1910)

-Found in Lunacy and Letters (collection of essays published in 1958)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Blessed is he who expecteth nothing, for he shall enjoy everything."

It is commonly in a somewhat cynical sense that men have said, "Blessed is he that expecteth nothing, for he shall not be disappointed." It was in a wholly happy and enthusiastic sense that St. Francis said, "Blessed is he who expecteth nothing, for he shall enjoy everything." It was by this deliberate idea of starting from zero, from the dark nothingness of his own deserts, that he did come to enjoy even earthly things as few people have enjoyed them; and they are in themselves the best working example of the idea. For there is no way in which a man can earn a star or deserve a sunset. But there is more than this involved, and more indeed than is easily to be expressed in words. It is not only true that the less a man thinks of himself, the more he thinks of his good luck and of all the gifts of God. It is also true that he sees more of the things themselves when he sees more of their origin; for their origin is a part of them and indeed the most important part of them. Thus they become more extraordinary by being explained. He has more wonder at them but less fear of them; for a thing is really wonderful when it is significant and not when it is insignificant; and a monster, shapeless or dumb or merely destructive, may be larger than the mountains, but is still in a literal sense insignificant. For a mystic like St. Francis the monsters had a meaning; that is, they had delivered their message. They spoke no longer in an unknown tongue. That is the meaning of all those stories whether legendary or historical, in which he appears as a magician speaking the language of beasts and birds. The mystic will have nothing to do with mere mystery; mere mystery is generally a mystery of iniquity.

-St. Francis of Assisi (1923)

Monday, August 29, 2011

"The dream is so reasonable that it is quite impossible."

There can be comparatively little question that the place ordinarily occupied by dreams in literature is peculiarly unreal and unsatisfying. When the hero tells us that "last night he dreamed a dream," we are quite certain from the perfect and decorative character of the dream that he made it up at breakfast. The dream is so reasonable that it is quite impossible. An angel came to him and opened before him a scroll inscribed with some tremendous moral truth; a knight in armour rode past him declaring some ideal quest; the phantom of his mother arose to warn him from some imminent sin. Dreams like these are (with occasional exceptions) practically unknown in the lawless kingdoms of the night. A dream is scarcely ever rounded to express faultlessly some faultless ideas. An angel might indeed open a scroll before the dreamer, but it would probably be inscribed with some remark about excursion trains to Brighton; a knight in armour might ride by him, but it would be impossible to deny that the most salient fact about that warrior was the fact that he was wearing three hats; his mother might indeed appear to the dreamer, and give him the tenderest and most elevated counsel, but it would be impossible for the loftiest ethical comfort to entirely obscure the fact that her nose was growing longer and longer every minute. Dreams have a kind of hellish ingenuity and energy in the pursuit of the inappropriate; the most omniscient and cunning artist never took so much trouble or achieved such success in finding exactly the word that was right or exactly the action that was significant, as this midnight lord of misrule can do in finding exactly the word that is wrong and exactly the action that is meaningless. The object of art is to subordinate the detail that is incidental to the tendency which is general. The object of a dream appears to be so to develop itself that some utterly futile and half-witted detail shall gradually devour all the other details of the vision. The flower upon the wall-paper just behind the head of Napoleon Buonaparte becomes brighter and brighter until we see nothing but a flower; the third waistcoat button of our best friend grows larger and larger until it is the great round sun of a revolving cosmos.

-"Dreams" (1901)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"....that large and beautiful and benignant explanation that the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked."

No one of any degree of maturity in reading Pauline will be quite so horrified at the sins of the young gentleman who tells the story as he seems to be himself. It is the utterance of that bitter and heartrending period of youth which comes before we realise the one grand and logical basis of all optimism—the doctrine of original sin. The boy at this stage being an ignorant and inhuman idealist, regards all his faults as frightful secret malformations, and it is only later that he becomes conscious of that large and beautiful and benignant explanation that the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.

-Robert Browning (1903)

Friday, August 26, 2011

"For the guns are the great bells in the Cathedral of the Devil...and the bells are the guns in the Tower of God."

SCENE- Misty darkness on the Embankment near Westminster. A tall and shadowy figure can be traced, apparently leaning over the rampart of the river. The New Year's Eve Bells are heard faintly.

THE MAN [in a clear but broken monologue]:...the bells...bells...but even across the world one seems to hear the guns answer them. The guns...the bells...both monsters with mouths of iron...both made by man...it seems strange, but the monsters that bellow out blessings and peace...they were made in ages of war. And the monsters that bellow out curses and death...they are made most and best in our age which we call a time of humanity and progress. I wonder if the time will come when Science will be remembered only for its iniquities, as we of the North remembered Catholicism only by the Inquisition? The tourist's guide points to the Iron Virgin and says in effect, "That is Popery." Will some future tourist's guide point to the torpedo and say "That was science"?...But the bells keep it up...the guns must be louder...the guns shake the stars...but the bells keep it up. Beleaguered, outnumbered, besieged by the modern world, they make some short of show. For the guns are the great bells in the Cathedral of the Devil...and the bells are the guns in the Tower of God.

[He leans further over the parapet.]

One...two...three...as fast as those ripples can rush by, soul after soul is at this moment rushing into eternity...some shot dead, some out of an age of agony. All that each man might have been suddenly made impossible...How badly we humanitarians always put the case against killing. We always dwell on wounds and blood and torment and corpses...the world does not care about them, and the world is right. The ugliness of war does not make it bad any more than the ugliness of a Baptist Chapel makes that bad. We must all be carrion. A dead philanthropist is no prettier after three days than a dead Cossack. To die of liver complaint is as revolting as to die by a shell...but the stoppage of what might have been...the ending of youth. O! we are idiots. We ought not to talk about blood and broken limbs and decay. We ought to talk about strength and festivals and flowers. We ought not to talk about what death brings- that is only a heap of clay and bones, to be seen in any dustbin: there is nothing frightful about that. We ought to talk about what death takes away, the roads of the great world, the endless human faces, the beautiful corners, the still and startling sun. A shot produces a corpse- what is that to say? But say that a shot puts out the sun and stars and makes a million adventures impossible, wipes out a song that might have been sung, a witty word that might have been said...We all feel that with a sudden pain. The weakness of the Peace attacks on war is one of the hundred instances of the failures of realism. What fools we are to say, "Ivan was blown into twenty-three pieces. This is a fact. Who cares?" We ought to say, "Ivan met the most beautiful woman, as he thought, in the world three days afterwards. This is a fable. He might have done so had not the fact blown him to bits." If my friends the Humanitarians really wish to make killing unpopular, it is no good for them to denounce and dissect death. They must praise life. If I had my way the Peace lectures and the Peace pamphlets should be full, not of the bad things that did happen, but of the good things that did not happen. If I had my way there should be nothing in The Humanitarian, or in Concord, except descriptions of the flowers and firelight of the untroubled life of men.

-Time's Abstract and Brief Chronicle (1904-1905)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"The way to love anything is to realise that it might be lost."

All pessimism has a secret optimism for its object. All surrender of life, all denial of pleasure, all darkness, all austerity, all desolation has for its real aim this separation of something so that it may be poignantly and perfectly enjoyed. I feel grateful for the slight sprain which has introduced this mysterious and fascinating division between one of my feet and the other. The way to love anything is to realise that it might be lost. In one of my feet I can feel how strong and splendid a foot is; in the other I can realise how very much otherwise it might have been. The moral of the thing is wholly exhilarating. This world and all our powers in it are far more awful and beautiful than even we know until some accident reminds us. If you wish to perceive that limitless felicity, limit yourself if only for a moment. If you wish to realise how fearfully and wonderfully God's image is made, stand on one leg. If you want to realise the splendid vision of all visible things—wink the other eye.

-Tremendous Trifles (1909)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might not the heart of man become in its long journey towards the stars?"

From Maisie Ward's book "Return to Chesterton" [p. 161 in my edition]. The context of this scene being World War 1.
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...Then came August 4th and the beginning of another kind of tragedy. As the weeks dragged on the strain became greater and greater, but there had come also a lifting of the heart in Gilbert that responded to the heroism around him. Mrs. Meredith remembers keenly a November afternoon in the little study at Overroads. Gilbert was dictating and a newsboy was crying bad news underneath the window and announcing the death and the wounds of many young Englishmen. Gilbert paused in the detective story he was writing and after the pause he went on in a new voice:

"If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might not the heart of man become in its long journey towards the stars?"

As he spoke the boy's voice could still be heard, growing fainter as he vanished into the mist.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"...that which all the saints declared to be the reward of chastity: a queer clearness of the intellect, like the hard clearness of a crystal."

A much more important gift is that which all the saints declared to be the reward of chastity: a queer clearness of the intellect, like the hard clearness of a crystal.

-George Bernard Shaw (1909)

Monday, August 22, 2011

"It is of the new things that men tire...of fashions and proposals and improvements and change...It is the old things that are young"

"..And in the darkest of the books of God there is written a truth that is also a riddle. It is of the new things that men tire...of fashions and proposals and improvements and change. It is the old things that startle and intoxicate. It is the old things that are young. There is no sceptic who does not feel that many have doubted before. There is no rich and fickle man who does not feel that all his novelties are ancient. There is no worshipper of change who does not feel upon his neck the vast weight of the weariness of the universe. But we who do the old things are fed by nature with a perpetual infancy. No man who is in love thinks that any one has been in love before. No woman who has a child thinks that there have been such things as children. No people that fight for their own city are haunted with the burden of the broken empires. Yes, oh dark voice, the world is always the same, for it is always unexpected."

-The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

"...a phrase invented by Prussian professors who would like to exist, but can't."

This is the greatest thing in Shaw, a serious optimism--even a tragic optimism. Life is a thing too glorious to be enjoyed. To be is an exacting and exhausting business; the trumpet though inspiring is terrible. Nothing that he ever wrote is so noble as his simple reference to the sturdy man who stepped up to the Keeper of the Book of Life and said, "Put down my name, Sir." It is true that Shaw called this heroic philosophy by wrong names and buttressed it with false metaphysics; that was the weakness of the age. The temporary decline of theology had involved the neglect of philosophy and all fine thinking; and Bernard Shaw had to find shaky justifications in Schopenhauer for the sons of God shouting for joy. He called it the Will to Live-- a phrase invented by Prussian professors who would like to exist, but can't. Afterwards he asked people to worship the Life-Force; as if one could worship a hyphen. But though he covered it with crude new names (which are now fortunately crumbling everywhere like bad mortar) he was on the side of the good old cause; the oldest and the best of all causes, the cause of creation against destruction, the cause of yes against no, the cause of the seed against the stony earth and the star against the abyss.

-George Bernard Shaw (1909)

Friday, August 12, 2011

"Holiday tasks are a mistake. Home-work is a mistake."

...I think the educational arrangement about holidays has long been a ludicrous mistake. Holiday tasks are a mistake. Home-work is a mistake. Give the boy or girl less holidays if you think they need less. But be sufficiently businesslike to get the best out of the boy or girl for whatever concession you make to them. If you can excuse anyone from work, you can excuse him from worry. Leisure is a food, like sleep; liberty is a food, like sleep. Leisure is a matter of quality rather than quantity. Five minutes lasts longer when one cannot be disturbed than five hours when one may be disturbed. Restrict the liberty in point of time; restrict it in point of space; but do not restrict it in point of quality. If you give somebody only three seconds' holiday - then, by all the remains of your ruined sense of honour, leave him alone for three seconds.

-May 21, 1914, New Witness, "On Holidays"

Found in The Spice of Life and Other Essays, collection of essays first published in 1964

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"Murder, for instance, is quite overrated, aesthetically"

It is really time that the absurd pretence of the vices to be romantic were given up. Ever since the time of Byron there has been vague and foolish conception clinging to all men's minds that there is some connection between lawlessness and poetry, between orderly images and disorderly acts. A thousand instances might be given to show the shallowness of this idea. For instance, blasphemy has been regarded as something bold and splendid, as if the very essence of blasphemy were not the commonplace. It is the very definition of profanity that it thinks and speaks of certain things prosaically, which other men think and speak of poetically. It is thus a defeat of the imagination, and a volume full of the wildest pictures and most impious jests remains in its essential character a piece of poor literalism, a humdrum affair. The same general truth might be pursued through all the Ten Commandments. Murder, for instance, is quite overrated, aesthetically. I am assured by persons on whose judgment I rely, and whose experience has, presumably, been wide, that the feelings of a murderer are of a quite futile character. What could be stupider than kicking to pieces, like a child, a machine you know nothing about, the variety and ingenuity of which should keep any imaginative person watching it delightedly day and night? Say we are acquainted with such a human machine; let us say, a rich uncle. A human engine is inexhaustible in its possibilities; however long and unrewarding has been our knowledge of the avuncular machine, we never know that the very moment that we lift the assassin's knife the machine is not about to grind forth some exquisite epigram which it would make life worth living to hear, or even, by some spasm of internal clockwork, produce a cheque. To kill him is clearly prosaic. Alive, he is a miracle; dead, he is merely a debris, a debris of unpleasant gore and quite inappropriate and old-fashioned clothes."

-March 29, 1902, The Speaker, "A Sermon on Cheapness"

Found in The Apostle and the Wild Ducks (collection of essays first published in 1975)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

"The chief gift of hot weather to me is the somewhat unpopular benefit called a conviction of sin."

The chief gift of hot weather to me is the somewhat unpopular benefit called a conviction of sin. All the rest of the year I am untidy, lazy, awkward, and futile. But in hot weather I feel untidy, lazy, awkward, and futile. Sitting in a garden-chair in a fresh breeze under a brisk grey and silver sky, I feel a frightfully strenuous fellow: sitting on the same garden-chair in strong sunshine, it begins slowly to dawn on me that I am doing nothing. In neither case, of course, do I get out of the chair. But I resent that noontide glare of photographic detail by the ruthless light of which I can quite clearly see myself sitting in the chair. I prefer a more grey and gracious haze, something more in the Celtic-twilight style, through which I can only faintly trace my own contours, vast but vague in the dusk and distance.

-June 11, 1910, The Illustrated London News

H/T to this wonderful Facebook G.K. Chesterton page

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"Almost every contemporary proposal to bring freedom into the church is simply a proposal to bring tyranny into the world."

Almost every contemporary proposal to bring freedom into the church is simply a proposal to bring tyranny into the world. For freeing the church now does not even mean freeing it in all directions. It means freeing that peculiar set of dogmas loosely called scientific, dogmas of monism, of pantheism, or of Arianism, or of necessity. And every one of these (and we will take them one by one) can be shown to be the natural ally of oppression. In fact, it is a remarkable circumstance (indeed not so very remarkable when one comes to think of it) that most things are the allies of oppression. There is only one thing that can never go past a certain point in its alliance with oppression -- and that is orthodoxy. I may, it is true, twist orthodoxy so as partly to justify a tyrant. But I can easily make up a German philosophy to justify him entirely.

-Orthodoxy (1908)

Monday, August 1, 2011

"To be wrong, and to be carefully wrong, that is the definition of decadence."

It is the final sign of imbecility in a people that it calls cats dogs and describes the sun as the moon—and is very particular about the preciseness of these pseudonyms. To be wrong, and to be carefully wrong, that is the definition of decadence.

-A Miscellany of Men (1912)