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.




Friday, November 30, 2012

Utopias

Mr. Wells, however, is not quite clear enough of the narrower scientific outlook to see that there are some things which actually ought not to be scientific. He is still slightly affected with the great scientific fallacy; I mean the habit of beginning not with the human soul, which is the first thing a man learns about, but with some such thing as protoplasm, which is about the last. The one defect in his splendid mental equipment is that he does not sufficiently allow for the stuff or material of men. In his new Utopia he says, for instance, that a chief point of the Utopia will be a disbelief in original sin. If he had begun with the human soul--that is, if he had begun on himself--he would have found original sin almost the first thing to be believed in. He would have found, to put the matter shortly, that a permanent possibility of selfishness arises from the mere fact of having a self, and not from any accidents of education or ill-treatment. And the weakness of all Utopias is this, that they take the greatest difficulty of man and assume it to be overcome, and then give an elaborate account of the overcoming of the smaller ones. They first assume that no man will want more than his share, and then are very ingenious in explaining whether his share will be delivered by motor-car or balloon.

-Heretics (1905)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Christmas Carol

(The Chief Constable has issued a statement declaring that carol singing in the streets by
children is illegal, and morally and physically injurious. He appeals to the public to discourage
the practice.—Daily Paper.)


God rest you merry gentlemen, 
Let nothing you dismay;  
The Herald Angels cannot sing, 
The cops arrest them on the wing, 
And warn them of the docketing  
Of anything they say.

God rest you merry gentlemen,  
May nothing you dismay:  
On your reposeful cities lie 
Deep silence, broken only by 
The motor horn’s melodious cry,  
The hooter’s happy bray.

So, when the song of children ceased  
And Herod was obeyed,  
In his high hall Corinthian
With purple and with peacock fan, 
Rested that merry gentleman; 
And nothing him dismayed.

-The Ballad of St. Barbara and Other Verses (1922)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Xmas

"...I want to consult you about the Human Gazette. Shall we have a double Christmas number?"

"So long as you don't call it an Xmas number, I don't mind," said Basil. "I think it a disgrace to any Xian, with all the gospel of hard work which is as much the law of Xianity as it was of the carpenter's bench at Nazareth, to be so lazy that he can't take the trouble to spell his master's name, but must call him X."

"There is an algebraic truth in it," said Denis Marvell. "I think he is still the unknown quantity."

"I myself," said Gabriel, "could never get rid of a transcendental conviction that He was equal to N."

"Dear me, I never imagined you knew any mathematics, Gabriel," said Basil. "I thought you confined yourself entirely to the other wrongs of man."

"So I do," said the poet, "but you see N was the only algebraic sign I ever really loved: because it was equal to infinity. From my babyhood infinity has been my hobby."


-Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, Volume XIV, p. 672, "The Human Club" (mid 1890's)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Education is implication. It is not the things you say which children respect; when you say things they very commonly laugh and do the opposite. It is the things you assume that really sink into them. It is the things you forget even to teach that they learn.

-January 26, 1907, Illustrated London News

Monday, November 26, 2012

"A great nation in peril is saved by a great nation, or it is not saved at all."

Strength is the great weakness of politicians. They are haunted by the decayed Carlylean fancy that a nation in peril must be saved by a Great Man; and each of them is always trying to prove that he was the Great Man and all his colleagues were impiously blind to the fact. They are wrong from the very root. A great nation in peril is saved by a great nation, or it is not saved at all [...] Here is the great snare for statesmen. And we....must warn them against this great temptation. They must be cured of being strong men. They must be saved from saving the State. Serving the State is all that is asked of them, and this they are quite competent to do. 

-November 27, 1915, Illustrated London News

[I would only add that the population itself must not look for any politician to "save the nation", either, which we almost invariably see by all sides in any Presidential election, for instance, unfortunately....Or, in other words, to quote the words of Scripture, "Put not your trust in princes."]

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christ the King

But above all, it is true of the most tremendous issue; of that tragedy which has created the divine comedy of our creed. Nothing short of the extreme and strong and startling doctrine of the divinity of Christ will give that particular effect that can truly stir the popular sense like a trumpet; the idea, of the king himself serving in the ranks like a common soldier. By making that figure merely human we make that story much less human. We take away the point of the story which actually pierces humanity; the point of the story which is quite literally the point of a spear. It does not especially humanize the universe to say that good and wise men can die for their opinions; any more than it would be any sort of uproariously popular news in an army that good soldiers may easily get killed. It is no news that King Leonidas is dead any more than that Queen Anne is dead; and men did not wait for Christianity to be men, in the full sense of being heroes. But if we are describing, for the moment, the atmosphere of what is generous and popular and even picturesque, any knowledge of human nature will tell us that no sufferings of the sons of men, or even of the servants of God, strike the same note as the notion of the master suffering instead of his servants. And this is given by the theological and emphatically not by the scientific deity. No mysterious monarch, hidden in his starry pavilion at the base of the cosmic campaign, is in the least like that celestial chivalry of the Captain who carries his five wounds in the front of battle.

-The Everlasting Man (1925)

H/T to  G.K. Chesterton Facebook page

Saturday, November 24, 2012

That explains it....

In the beginning of the twentieth century you could not see the ground for clever men. They were so common that a stupid man was quite exceptional, and when they found him they followed him in crowds down the street and treasured him and gave him some high post in the State.

-The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Man has always lost his way. He has been a tramp ever since Eden; but he always knew, or thought he knew, what he was looking for. Every man has a house somewhere in the elaborate cosmos; his house waits for him waist deep in slow Norfolk rivers or sunning itself upon Sussex downs. Man has always been looking for that home which is the subject matter of this book. But in the bleak and blinding hail of skepticism to which he has been now so long subjected, he has begun for the first time to be chilled, not merely in his hopes, but in his desires. For the first time in history he begins really to doubt the object of his wanderings on the earth. He has always lost his way; but now he has lost his address.

-What's Wrong With the World (1910)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?

-"Notebook" (mid 1890's)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Enemy of Eugenics 

The United Kingdom was one of the few major countries where eugenics was not effectively put into law. Yet people should not feel smug that it did not happen in Britain – because it nearly did. The United Kingdom escaped eugenics laws by the skin of its teeth, as they were backed by some of the most powerful people in the land. As far as can be seen, only one public figure waged a vigorous, and ultimately successful, campaign against the proposed Mental Deficiency Bill in 1912. That man was G. K. Chesterton. The battle against eugenics is Chesterton's great, unknown victory.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Choose a favourite author and say why you admire her/him

GK Chesterton, especially ‘The Napoleon of Notting Hill’. I like his way with paradox. My granny lived in Beconsfield and he did too. She told me that he was a big fat man with a squeaky voice.

"One Minute With: Terry Pratchett, Novelist" (The Independent, Saturday, October 20, 2012)

Monday, November 19, 2012

...that clear mark of recent times [is] the appeal to authorities without authority....

-June 18, 1927, Illustrated London News

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Many supernatural stories rest on the evidence of rough unlettered men, like fishermen and peasants; and most criminal trials depend on the detailed testimony of quite uneducated people. It may be remarked that we never throw a doubt on the value of ignorant evidence when it is a question of a judge hanging a man, but only when it is a question of a saint healing him.

-The Uses of Diversity (1921)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

What we really need for the frustration and overthrow of a deaf and raucous Jingoism is a renascence of the love of the native land. When that comes, all shrill cries will cease suddenly. For the first of all the marks of love is seriousness: love will not accept sham bulletins or the empty victory of words. It will always esteem the most candid counsellor the best. Love is drawn to truth by the unerring magnetism of agony; it gives no pleasure to the lover to see ten doctors dancing with vociferous optimism round a death-bed.

-The Defendant (1901)

Friday, November 16, 2012

I will confess that I attach much more importance to men's theoretical arguments than to their practical proposals. I attach more importance to what is said than to what is done; what is said generally lasts much longer and has much more influence. I can imagine no change worse for public life than that which some prigs advocate, that debate should be curtailed. A man's arguments show what he is really up to. Until you have heard the defence of a proposal, you do not really know even the proposal. Thus, for instance, if a man says to me, "Taste this temperance drink," I have merely doubt, slightly tinged with distaste. But if he says, "Taste it, because your wife would make a charming widow," then I decide. I would be openly moved in my choice of an institution, not by its immediate proposals for practice, but very much by its incidental, even its accidental, allusion to ideals. I judge many things by their parentheses.

-January 4, 1908, The New Age

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A perfect description of modern advertising....

Living in a world that worships swiftness and success no longer means living in a world of new things. Rather it means living in a world of old things; of things that very swiftly grow old. The actual sensation of novelty lasts for a much shorter time than it does in a world where there are fewer sensations. People are not taught and trained to prolong and enjoy their own sense of wonder, even at novelties. They are only trained to tire of things quickly; and then boast that their life goes by very quick. Moreover, this sort of newness is inevitably accompanied by narrowness. Things do not move so swiftly as that, unless they move in a groove.

-August 3, 1935, Illustrated London News

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Most of them by this time cannot amuse themselves; they are too used to being amused."

I will now emit another brilliant flash of paradox by remarking that Christmas occurs in the winter. That is, it is not only a feast dedicated to domesticity, but it is one deliberately placed under the conditions in which it is most uncomfortable to rush about and most natural to stop at home. But under the complicated conditions of modern conventions and conveniences, there arises this more practical and much more unpleasant sort of paradox. People have to rush about for a few weeks, if it is only to stay at home for a few hours. Now the old and healthy idea of such winter festivals was this; that people being shut in and besieged by the weather were driven back on their own resources; or, in other words, had a chance of showing whether there was anything in them. It is not certain that the reputation of our most fashionable modern pleasure-seekers would survive the test. Some dreadful exposures would be made of some such brilliant society favourites, if they were cut off from the power of machinery and money. They are quite used to having everything done for them......on the average of healthy humanity I believe the cutting off of all these mechanical connections would have a thoroughly enlivening and awakening effect. At present they are always accused of merely amusing themselves; but they are doing nothing so noble or worthy of their human dignity. Most of them by this time cannot amuse themselves; they are too used to being amused.

Christmas might be creative. We are told, even by those who praise it most, that it is chiefly valuable for keeping up ancient customs or old-fashioned games. It is indeed valuable for both those admirable purposes. But in the sense of which I am now speaking it might once more be possible to turn the truth the other way round. It is not so much old things as new things that a real Christmas might create. It might, for instance, create new games, if people were really driven to invent their own games. Most of the very old games began with the use of ordinary tools or furniture. So the very terms of tennis were founded on the framework of the old inn courtyard. So, it is said, the stumps in cricket were originally only the three legs of the milking-stool. Now we might invent new things of this kind, if we remembered who is the mother of invention. How pleasing it would be to start a game in which we scored so much for hitting the umbrella-stand or the dinner-wagon, or even the host and hostess; of course, with a missile of some soft material. Children who are lucky enough to be left alone in the nursery invent not only whole games, but whole dramas and life-stories of their own; they invent secret languages; they create imaginary families; they laboriously conduct family magazines. That is the sort of creative spirit that we want in the modern world; want both in the sense of desiring and in the sense of lacking it. If Christmas could become more domestic, instead of less, I believe there would be a vast increase in the real Christmas spirit; the spirit of the Child. But in indulging this dream we must once more invert the current convention into the form of a paradox. It is true in a sense that Christmas is the time at which the doors should be open. But I would have the doors shut at Christmas, or at least just before Christmas; and then the world shall see what we can do.

-The Thing (1929)

Monday, November 12, 2012

...the whole business of Comparitive Mythology is made up of shallow parallels; that is, of superficial resemblances which cover deep and fundamental divisions. I have legs and a table has legs; if I am large and round, it is also possible for a table to be large and round. Therefore I am the legendary counterpart, or possibly the mythical origin, of the Round Table. But if I modestly advance this claim, it may occur to some that the differences between a man and a table are fundamental; while the resemblances between table-legs and merely human legs are superficial; they are in fact almost metaphorical. A man is alive and walks about; a table seldom does so, save under the moral influence of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle*. And the abyss between the organic and the inorganic is too absolute to be bridged by the figure of speech called a wooden leg. So we commonly find in current discussions a pretence of finding things roughly similar when they are radically different; as if a man were accused of splitting hairs because he obstinately distinguished between feathers and ferns.

-Chaucer (1932)

*Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, besides being the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, in later life was also a Spiritualist.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"I have a suspicion that you are all mad," said Dr. Renard, smiling sociably; "but God forbid that madness should in any way interrupt friendship.

-The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare (1908)
There is this characteristic of the vitality of all real attitudes, that they can be expressed in any number of ways, and are always taking on new disguises. Everything that is really true is true for all the reasons of its opponents, as well as for all the reasons of its supporters. Blasphemy itself is only the underside of holiness; when Swift said, as a bitter joke, that if Christianity were abolished it would be a pity, since nobody could swear, he was expressing what is, in actual truth, one of the strongest arguments for the sanctity and necessity of the supernatural. It is the argument that without it we have no superlatives: that without it no one could say "God bless you" or "God forbid": that the language of lovers would suddenly be bankrupt with the bankruptcy of theology. And when we find this about a view, that it is able to express itself, either religiously or sceptically, either gravely or flippantly, we are certain that it lives

-The English Illustrated Magazine, Volume 29 (1903)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

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 controversionalist. 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.
 

Friday, November 9, 2012

"That is one of the ringing realities of the Bible, that it does not make its great men commit grand sins; it makes its great men (such as David and St. Peter) commit small sins and behave like sneaks."

But the best part of [Dicken's novel Great Expectations] -- the account of the vacillations of the hero between the humble life to which he owes everything, and the gorgeous life from which he expects something, touches a very true and somewhat tragic part of morals; for the great paradox of morality (the paradox to which only the religions have given an adequate expression) is that the very vilest kind of fault is exactly the most easy kind. We read in books and ballads about the wild fellow who might kill a man or smoke opium, but who would never stoop to lying or cowardice or to "anything mean." But for actual human beings opium and slaughter have only occasional charm; the permanent human temptation is the temptation to be mean. The one standing probability is the probability of becoming a cowardly hypocrite. The circle of the traitors is the lowest of the abyss, and it is also the easiest to fall into. That is one of the ringing realities of the Bible, that it does not make its great men commit grand sins; it makes its great men (such as David and St. Peter) commit small sins and behave like sneaks.

-Charles Dickens (1906)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bad government, like good government, is a spiritual thing. Even the tyrant never rules by force alone; but mostly by fairy tales.

-Utopia of Usurers and Other Essays (1917)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Now a man must be very blind nowadays not to see that there is a danger of a sort of amateur science or pseudo-science being made the excuse for every trick of tyranny and interference. Anybody who is not an anarchist agrees with having a policeman at the corner of the street; but the danger at present is that of finding the policeman half-way down the chimney or even under the bed. In other words, it is a danger of turning the policeman into a sort of benevolent burglar. Against this protests are already being made, and will increasingly be made, if men retain any instinct of independence or dignity at all.

-What I Saw in America (1922)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

It seems strangely forgotten that the indifference of a nation is sacred as well as its differences. Even public apathy is a kind of public opinion--and in many cases a very sensible kind. If I ask every body to vote about Mineral Meals and do not get a single ballot-paper returned, I may say that the citizens have not voted. But they have.

- Divorce versus Democracy (1916)

Monday, November 5, 2012

To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.

-A Short History of England (1917)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Just a few short quotes from Chesterton's book Fancies Versus Fads (1923)

"... a potato is a poem; it is even an ascending scale of poems; beginning at the root, in subterranean grotesques in the Gothic manner, with humps like the deformities of a goblin and eyes like a beast of Revelation, and rising up through the green shades of the earth to a crown that has the shape of stars and the hue of Heaven."

"It is human to err; and the only final and deadly error, among all our errors, is denying that we have ever erred."

"In truth there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogmas and know it, and those who accept dogmas and don't know it."

[Finally, Chesterton rhetorically questioning those who blindly scorn past generations:]

"If you cannot see Man, divine and democratic, under the disguises of all the centuries, why on earth should you suppose you will be able to see him under the disguises of all the nations and tribes?"

Thursday, November 1, 2012

"They sacrifice...the unfortunates of the human community. They do not merely kill, but annihilate; not only in the sense of reducing people to nothing, but even of regarding them as nobodies."

An amusing attack made by GKC in the mid-30's on certain modern principles of contempt for the unfortunate....

The world has not yet had the happiness of reading my great forthcoming work, The Case for Human Sacrifice, or Moloch the Modern World’s Hope, in nine volumes, with plates and diagrams illustrating all the advantages of Ritual Murder, and the religious side of cannibalism. It is even possible, alas! that the reader will never have the rapture of reading this great scientific monograph; for I have a great many other jobs on hand, in the distraction and excitement of which it is possible that my first fiery and youthful enthusiasm for Human Sacrifice may have somewhat faded, with the passage of years and the consolidation of more moderate convictions. But though I doubt whether I could, by this time, bring myself to sacrifice a baby to Moloch, and though my first boyish impatience at the tame compromise adopted in the cases of Isaac and Iphigenia has long died away, I still think Human Sacrifice is infinitely more decent and dignified than some scientific operations proposed at the present time. At least Human Sacrifice is human; a great deal more human than humanitarianism. And when modern medical men gravely get up and propose that human beings should be put in lethal chambers, when there is any reason to fancy that they are tired of life, I am still (relatively) prepared to cry: “Give me Moloch and the cannibals.”

First consider the fundamental point: that the pagan altar at least treated a man’s life as something valuable, while the lethal chamber treats a man’s life as something valueless. A man’s life was offered to the gods because it was valuable; more valuable than the best bull or the finest ram, or the choice things from the flocks and herds which were always chosen because they were choice. But the moderns, who do not believe in the existence of gods, tend at last not to believe even in the existence of men. Being scientific evolutionists, they cannot tell the difference between a man and a sheep. And being highly civilized townsmen, they would probably be very bad judges of the difference between a good sheep and a bad one. Therefore, there is in their sacrificial operations a sort of scornful and indifferent quality contrary to the idea of sacrifice, even at its blackest and bloodiest. They are always talking about eliminating the unfit, getting rid of the surplus population, segregating the feeble-minded, or destroying the hopeless; and this gives all their work a character of contempt. Now, in the very vilest blood-rites of barbarians, there may have been cruelty, but there was not contempt. To have your throat cut before an ugly stone idol was a compliment; though perhaps a compliment that you would have politely disclaimed and waved away.

It would have implied that you were, in the words of the old feudal custom of rent, the Best Beast. And however beastly you might think the people around you, and their religious views and liturgical habits, there would be some satisfaction in being the best beast among them. Human Sacrifice had this great though fallen splendour clinging about it; that at least it was the very contrary of the Survival of the Fittest. Like all the deaths of the martyrs and the heroes, it was the Surrender of the Fittest. The scientific destroyers necessarily talk in the opposite terms and spread the opposite tone. They sacrifice the black sheep of the flock; the mad bull of the herd; the unfortunates of the human community whom they choose to regard as mad or merely as weak-minded. They do not merely kill, but annihilate; not only in the sense of reducing people to nothing, but even of regarding them as nobodies. The sacrificial victim was always regarded as something; he was even respected as somebody. The victim was often a princess whose beauty was admired, or a great enemy whose courage was envied. Some have said that the latter was the origin of cannibalism; in which case it would be quite a handsome compliment to be cooked and eaten; and something of a snub or sneer, to any sensitively constituted gentleman, to be spared and left alive. The reader may be relieved to learn, however, that I do not really recommend the inclusion of cannibalism and human sacrifice among the ritualistic innovations of the Advanced School in the Church.

-As I Was Saying (1936)