Quotes by G. K. Chesterton
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Wikipedia Summary for G. K. Chesterton
Gilbert Keith Chesterton (29 May 1874 – 14 June 1936) was an English writer, philosopher, lay theologian, and literary and art critic. He has been referred to as the "prince of paradox". Time magazine observed of his writing style: "Whenever possible Chesterton made his points with popular sayings, proverbs, allegories—first carefully turning them inside out."Chesterton created the fictional priest-detective Father Brown, and wrote on apologetics. Even some of those who disagree with him have recognised the wide appeal of such works as Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man.
Chesterton routinely referred to himself as an "orthodox" Christian, and came to identify this position more and more with Catholicism, eventually converting to Catholicism from High Church Anglicanism. Biographers have identified him as a successor to such Victorian authors as Matthew Arnold, Thomas Carlyle, John Henry Newman, and John Ruskin. On his contributions, T. S. Eliot wrote:
He was importantly and consistently on the side of the angels. Behind the Johnsonian fancy-dress, so reassuring to the British public, he concealed the most serious and revolutionary designs—concealing them by exposure ... Chesterton's social and economic ideas...were fundamentally Christian and Catholic. He did more, I think, than any man of his time—and was able to do more than anyone else, because of his particular background, development and abilities as a public performer—to maintain the existence of the important minority in the modern world. He leaves behind a permanent claim upon our loyalty, to see that the work that he did in his time is continued in ours.
People who make history know nothing about history. You can see that in the sort of history they make.
Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.
I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.
Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances which we know to be desperate.
Hope means expectancy when things are otherwise hopeless.
Against a dark sky, all flowers look like fireworks.
Against a dark sky all flowers look like fireworks. There is something strange about them, at once vivid and secret, like flowers traced in fire in the phantasmal garden of a witch.
Exactly at the instant when hope ceases to be reasonable it begins to be useful.
The best kind of giving is thanksgiving.
I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean.
It is always the secure who are humble.
Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.
To be simple is the best thing in the world.
To be simple is the best thing in the world; to be modest is the next best thing. I am not sure about being quiet.
The paradox of courage is that a man must be a little careless of his life even in order to keep it.
Brave men are all vertebrates; they have their softness on the surface and their toughness in the middle.
To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.
The only defensible war is a war of defense.
A man who says that no patriot should attack the war until it is over is saying no good son should warn his mother of a cliff until she has fallen.
Monotony has nothing to do with a place; monotony, either in its sensation or its infliction, is simply the quality of a person. There are no dreary sights; there are only dreary sight seers.
Tradition does not mean that the living are dead, but that the dead are living.
Tradition does not mean a dead town; it does not mean that the living are dead but that the dead are alive. It means that it still matters what Penn did two hundred years ago or what Franklin did a hundred years ago; I never could feel in New York that it mattered what anybody did an hour ago.
Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead.
We are Christians and Catholics not because we worship a key, but because we have passed a door and felt the wind that is the trumpet of liberty blow over the land of the living.
When you break the big laws, you do not get liberty; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws.
Atheism is indeed the most daring of all dogmas ... for it is the assertion of a universal negative.
ONCE remove the old arena of theological quarrels, and you will throw open the whole world to the most horrible, the most hopeless, the most endless, the most truly interminable quarrels; the untheological quarrels.
Here ends another day, during which I have had eyes, ears, hands and the great world around me. Tomorrow begins another day. Why am I allowed two?
There are no wise few. Every aristocracy that has ever existed has behaved, in all essential points, exactly like a small mob.
Men spoke much in my boyhood about restricted or ruined men of genius: and it was common to say that many a man was a Great Might-Have-Been. To me it's a more solid and startling fact that any man in the street is a Great Might-Not-Have-Been.
The great misfortune of the modern English is not at all that they are more boastful than other people (they are not); it is that they are boastful about those particular things which nobody can boast of without losing them.
There is no better test of a man's ultimate chivalry and integrity than how he behaves when he is wrong... A stiff apology is a second insult.
It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.
A cosmic philosophy is not constructed to fit a man; a cosmic philosophy is constructed to fit a cosmos. A man can no more possess a private religion than he can possess a private sun and moon.
What are we going to do? asked the Professor. At this moment, said Syme, with a scientific detachment, I think we are going to smash into a lamppost.
But since he stood for England And knew what England means, Unless you give him bacon You must not give him beans.
The human race is always trying this dodge of making everything entirely easy; but the difficulty which it shifts off one thing it shifts to another.
The humorous look of children is perhaps the most endearing of all the bonds that hold the Cosmos together.
Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion. To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain.
The man who lives in contact with what he believes to be a living Church is a man always expecting to meet Plato and Shakespeare tomorrow at breakfast. He is always expecting to see some truth that he has never seen before.
The more truly we can see life as a fairytale, the more clearly the tale resolves itself into war with the dragon who is wasting fairyland.
He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it.
The ignorant pronounce it Frood To cavil or applaud The well-informed pronounce it Froyd But I pronounce it Fraud.
For us who live in cities Nature is not natural. Nature is supernatural. Just as monks watched and strove to get a glimpse of heaven, so we watch and strive to get a glimpse of earth. It is as if men had cake and wine every day but were sometimes allowed common bread.
We are learning to do a great many clever things. The next great task will be to learn not to do them.
I tell you naught for your comfort, Yea, naught for your desire, Save that the sky grows darker yet And the sea rises higher.
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 which really sink into them. It is the things
you forget even to teach that they learn.
Every work of art has one indispensable mark ... the center of it is simple, however much the fulfillment may be complicated.
Ingratitude is surely the chief of the intellectual sins of man. He takes his political benefits for granted, just as he takes the skies and the seasons for granted.
What we call emancipation is always and of necessity simply the free choice of the soul between one set of limitations and another.
Savages and modern artists are alike strangely driven to create something uglier than themselves. but the artists find it harder.
Nothing can ever overcome that one enormous sex (female) superiority that even the male child is born closer to his mother than to his father.
Be careful how you suggest things to me. For there is in me a madness which goes beyond martyrdom, the madness of an utterly idle man.
Every remedy is a desperate remedy. Every cure is a miraculous cure. Curing a madman is not arguing with a philosopher; it is casting out a devil.
It is a mathematical fact that if a line be not perfectly directed towards a point, it will actually go further away from it as it comes nearer to it.
I have myself a poetical enthusiasm for pigs, and the paradise of my fancy is one where pigs have wings. But it is only men, especially wise men, who discuss whether pigs can fly; we have no particular proof that pigs ever discuss it.
When a woman puts up her fists to a man she is putting herself in the only posture in which he is not afraid of her.
And pray where in earth or heaven are there prudent marriages-Might as well talk about prudent suicides.
In our time the blasphemies are threadbare. Pessimism is now patently, as it always was essentially, more commonplace than piety. Profanity is now more than an affectation -- it is a
convention. The curse against God is Exercise I in the primer of minor poetry.
It is quite an old-fashioned fallacy to suppose that our objection to scepticism is that it removes the discipline from life. Our objection to scepticism is that it removes the motive power. Materialism is not a thing which destroys mere restraint. Materialism itself is the great restraint.
Marxism: The theory that all the important things in history are rooted in an economic motive, that history is a science, a science of the search for food.
It's not that we don't have enough scoundrels to curse; it's that we don't have enough good men to curse them.
If we want to give poor people soap we must set out deliberately to give them luxuries. If we will not make them rich enough to be clean, then empathically we must do what we did with the saints. We must reverence them for being dirty.
The State did not own men so entirely, even when it could send them to the stake, as it sometimes does now where it can send them to the elementary school.
I still hold...that the suburbs ought to be either glorified by romance and religion or else destroyed by fire from heaven, or even by firebrands from the earth.
Our society is so abnormal that the normal man never dreams of having the normal occupation of looking after his own property. When he chooses a trade, he chooses one of the ten thousand trades that involve looking after other people's property.
The aesthete aims at harmony rather than beauty. If his hair does not match the mauve sunset against which he is standing, he hurriedly dyes his hair another shade of mauve. If his wife does not go with the wall-paper, he gets a divorce.
There is nothing harder to learn than painting and nothing which most people take less trouble about learning. An art school is a place where about three people work with feverish energy and everybody else idles to a degree that I should have conceived unattainable by human nature.
Destiny is but a phrase of the weak human heart -- the dark apology for every error. The strong and virtuous admit no destiny. On earth conscience guides; in heaven God watches. And destiny is but the phantom we invoke to silence the one and dethrone the other.
An almost unnatural vigilance is really required of the citizen because of the horrible rapidity with which human institutions grow old.
Virtue is not the absence of vices or the avoidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell.
Laughter has something in it common with the ancient words of faith and inspiration; it unfreezes pride and unwinds secrecy; it makes people forget themselves in the presence of something greater than themselves.
If Christianity should happen to be true -- that is to say, if its God is the real God of the universe -- then defending it may mean talking about anything and everything.
There is a certain poetic value, and that a genuine one, in this sense of having missed the full meaning of things. There is beauty, not only in wisdom, but in this dazed and dramatic ignorance.
All science, even the divine science, is a sublime detective story. Only it is not set to detect why a man is dead; but the darker secret of why he is alive.
Blasphemy is an artistic effect, because blasphemy depends upon a philosophical conviction. Blasphemy depends upon belief and is fading with it. If any one doubts this, let him sit down seriously and try to think blasphemous thoughts about Thor.
The more we are proud that the Bethlehem story is plain enough to be understood by the shepherds, and almost by the sheep, the more do we let ourselves go, in dark and gorgeous imaginative frescoes or pageants about the mystery and majesty of the Three Magian Kings.
The big corporation is not in the least remarkable for efficiency; it is only too big to be blamed for its inefficiency.
It is still bad taste to be an avowed atheist. But now it is equally bad taste to be an avowed Christian.
The past is democratic, because it is a people. The future is despotic, because it is a caprice. Every man is alone in his prediction, just as each man is alone in a dream.
It is customary to complain of the bustle and strenuousness of our epoch. But in truth the chief mark of our epoch is a profound laziness and fatigue; and the fact is that the real laziness is the cause of the apparent bustle.
Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of 'touching' a man's heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it.
Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.
Nine times out of ten it is the coarse word that condemns an evil, and the refined word that excuses it.
Comradeship is obvious and universal and open; but it is only one kind of affection; it has characteristics that would destroy any other kind. Anyone who has known true comradeship in a club or in a regiment, knows that it is impersonal.
The only words that ever satisfied me as describing nature are the terms used in fairy books, charm, spell, enchantment; they express the arbitrariness of the fact and its mystery.
A nation is not going mad when it does extravagant things, so long as it does them in an extravagant spirit. But whenever we see things done wildly, but taken tamely, then the State is growing insane.
Women are the only realists; their whole object in life is to pit their realism against the extravagant, excessive, and occasionally drunken idealism of men.
We cannot fling ourselves into the blank future; we can only call up images from the past. This being so, the important principle follows, that how many images we have largely depends on how much past we have.
Powerful men who have powerful passions use much of their strength in forging chains for themselves.
They have invented a phrase, a phrase that is a black and white contradiction in two words -- 'free-love' -- as if a lover ever had been, or ever could be, free.
The true savage is a slave, and is always talking about what he must do; the true civilised man is a free man, and is always talking about what he may do.
The Party System was founded on one national notion of fair play. It was the notion that folly and futility should be fairly divided between both sides.
The Frenchman works until he can play. The American works until he can't play; and then thanks the devil, his master, that he is donkey enough to die in harness. But the Englishman, as he has since become, works until he can pretend that he never worked at all.
Only friendliness produces friendship. And we must look far deeper into the soul of man for the thing that produces friendliness.
The primary paradox of Christianity is that the ordinary condition of man is not his sane or sensible condition; that the normal itself is an abnormality.
A child's instinct is almost perfect in the matter of fighting. The child's hero is always the man or boy who defends himself suddenly and splendidly against aggression.
O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride.
Whatever else we may say of our own age, for good or evil, nobody is likely to call it an Age of Reason.
A fairly clear line separated advertisement from art. ... The first effect of the triumph of the capitalist (if we allow him to triumph) will be that that line of demarcation will entirely disappear. There will be no art that might not just as well be advertisement.
Whenever you remove any fence, always pause long enough to ask why it was put there in the first place.
Shouldn't atheist have an equal obligation to explain pleasure in a world of randomness. Where does pleasure come from?
Think of all those ages through which men have had the courage to die, and then remember that we have actually fallen to talking about having the courage to live.
Ten thousand women marched through the streets shouting, 'We will not be dictated to,' and went off and became stenographers.
A feminist is someone who loathes being a woman and who dislikes the chief feminine characteristics.
A man cannot be wise enough to be a great artist without being wise enough to wish to be a philosopher.
When belief in God becomes difficult, the tendency is to turn away from Him; but in heaven's name to what?
You have not wasted your time; you have helped to save the world. We are not buffoons, but very desperate men at war with a vast conspiracy.
'It seems to me,' said the other, 'That you are simply seeking a pretext to insult the Marquis.' By George!' said Syme facing round and looking at him, 'What a clever chap you are!'
A strange fanaticism fills our time: the fanatical hatred of morality, especially of Christian morality.
Christian Science … is the direct denial both of science and of Christianity, for Science rests wholly on the recognition of truth and Christianity on the recognition of pain.
And though St. John saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators.
But a somewhat more liberal and sympathetic examination of mankind will convince us that the cross is even older than the gibbet, that voluntary suffering was before and independent of compulsory; and in short that in most important matters a man has always been free to ruin himself if he chose.
Why should anything go right; even observation and deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic? They are both movements in the brain of a bewildered ape?
Eugenics asserts that all men must be so stupid that they cannot manage their own affairs; and also so clever that they can manage each other's.
Now there is any amount of this nonsense cropping up among American cranks. Anybody may propose to establish coercive Eugenics; or enforce psychoanalysis that is, enforce confession without absolution.
The objection to fairy stories is that they tell children there are dragons. But children have always known there are dragons. Fairy stories tell children that dragons can be killed.
It is not funny that anything else should fall down; only that a man should fall down... Why do we laugh? Because it is a grave religious matter: it is the Fall of Man. Only man can be absurd: for only man can be dignified.
Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice.
The unconscious democracy of America is a very fine thing. It is a true and deep and instinctive assumption of the equality of citizens, which even voting and elections have not destroyed.
It is largely because the free-thinkers, as a school, have hardly made up their minds whether they want to be more optimist or more pessimist than Christianity that their small but sincere movement has failed.
People seem to fight about things very unsuitable for fighting. They make a frightful noise in support of very quiet things. They knock each other about in the name of very fragile things.
When giving treats to friends or children, give them what they like, emphatically not what is good for them.
He said he didn't very well understand how George was going to sleep any more than he did now, seeing that there were only twenty-four hours in each day.