Best 371 of G. K. Chesterton quotes - MyQuotes

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G. K. Chesterton
By Anonym 16 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

If our life is ever really as beautiful as a fairy-tale, we shall have to remember that all the beauty of a fairy-tale lies in this: that the prince has a wonder which just stops short of being fear. If he is afraid of the giant, there is an end of him; but also if he is not astonished at the giant, there is an end of the fairy-tale. The whole point depends upon his being at once humble enough to wonder, and haughty enough to defy. So our attitude to the giant of the world must not merely be increasing delicacy or increasing contempt: it must be one particular proportion of the two–which is exactly right. We must have in us enough reverence for all things outside us to make us tread fearfully on the grass. We must also have enough disdain for all things outside us, to make us, on due occasion, spit at the stars. Yet these two things (if we are to be good or happy) must be combined, not in any combination, but in one particular combination. The perfect happiness of men on the earth (if it ever comes) will not be a flat and solid thing, like the satisfaction of animals. It will be an exact and perilous balance; like that of a desperate romance. Man must have just enough faith in himself to have adventures, and just enough doubt of himself to enjoy them.

By Anonym 20 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

What we all dread most,” said the priest in a low voice, “is a maze with no centre. That is why atheism is only a nightmare.

By Anonym 16 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

I do not know by what extraordinary mental accident modern writers so constantly connect the idea of progress with the idea of independent thinking. Progress is obviously the antithesis of independent thinking. For under independent or individualistic thinking, every man starts at the beginning, and goes, in all probability, just as far as his father before him. But if there really be anything of the nature of progress, it must mean, above all things, the careful study and assumption of the whole of the past.

By Anonym 17 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

Nothing, again, could be more prosaic and impenetrable than the domestic energies of Miss Diana Duke. But Innocent had somehow blundered on the discovery that her thrifty dressmaking went with a considerable feminine care for dress--the one feminine thing that had never failed her solitary self-respect. In consequence Smith pestered her with a theory (which he really seemed to take seriously) that ladies might combine economy with magnificence if they would draw light chalk patterns on a plain dress and then dust them off again. He set up "Smith's Lightning Dressmaking Company," with two screens, a cardboard placard, and box of bright soft crayons; and Miss Diana actually threw him an abandoned black overall or working dress on which to exercise the talents of a modiste. He promptly produced for her a garment aflame with red and gold sunflowers; she held it up an instant to her shoulders, and looked like an empress. And Arthur Inglewood, some hours afterwards cleaning his bicycle (with his usual air of being inextricably hidden in it), glanced up; and his hot face grew hotter, for Diana stood laughing for one flash in the doorway, and her dark robe was rich with the green and purple of great decorative peacocks, like a secret garden in the "Arabian Nights." A pang too swift to be named pain or pleasure went through his heart like an old-world rapier. He remembered how pretty he thought her years ago, when he was ready to fall in love with anybody; but it was like remembering a worship of some Babylonian princess in some previous existence. At his next glimpse of her (and he caught himself awaiting it) the purple and green chalk was dusted off, and she went by quickly in her working clothes.

By Anonym 17 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

Men are moved most by their religion; especially when it is irreligion.

By Anonym 19 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

There is a certain solid use in fools. It is not so much that they rush in where angels fear to tread, but rather that they let out what devils intend to do.

By Anonym 18 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

The Eugenic optimism seems to partake generally of the nature of that dazzled and confused confidence, so common in private theatricals, that it will be all right on the night. They have all the ancient despotism, but none of the ancient dogmatism. If they are ready to reproduce the secrecies and cruelties of the Inquisition, at least we cannot accuse them of offending us with any of that close and complicated thought, that arid and exact logic which narrowed the minds of the Middle Ages; they have discovered how to combine the hardening of the heart with a sympathetic softening of the head.

By Anonym 17 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

Nevertheless, there is a queer quality in that time [The Medieval Age]; which, while it was international was also internal and intimate. War, in the wide modern sense, is possible, not because more men disagree, but because more men agree.

By Anonym 19 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

There was something of relative freedom in that feudal gesture of the vow; for no man asks vows from slaves anymore than from spades.

By Anonym 19 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

There was a short railway official travelling up to the terminus, three fairly short market-gardeners picked up two stations afterwards, one very short widow lady going up from a small Essex town, and a very short Roman Catholic priest going up from a small Essex village. When it came to the last case, Valentin gave it up and almost laughed. The little priest was so much the essence of those Eastern flats; he had a face as round and dull as a Norfolk dumpling; he had eyes as empty as the North Sea; he had several brown-paper parcels, which he was quite incapable of collecting. The Eucharistic Congress had doubtless sucked out of their local stagnation many such creatures, blind and helpless, like moles disinterred. Valentin was a skeptic in the severe style of France, and could have no love for priests. But he could have pity for them, and this one might have provoked pity in anybody. He had a large, shabby umbrella, which constantly fell on the floor. He did not seem to know which was the right end of his return ticket. He explained with a moon-calf simplicity to everybody in the carriage that he had to be careful, because he had something made of real silver "with blue stones" in one of his brown-paper parcels. His quaint blending of Essex flatness with saintly simplicity continuously amused the Frenchman till the priest arrived (somehow) at Tottenham with all his parcels, and came back for his umbrella.

By Anonym 16 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

I do not know by what extraordinary mental accident modern writers so constantly connect the idea of progress with the idea of independent thinking.

By Anonym 19 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

The sane man knows that he has a touch of the beast, a touch of the devil, a touch of the saint, a touch of the citizen. Nay, the really sane man knows that he has a touch of the madman. But the materialist's world is quite simple and solid, just as the madman is quite sure he is sane.

By Anonym 18 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

Sleep!” cried Father Brown. “Sleep. We have come to the end of the ways. Do you know what sleep is? Do you know that every man who sleeps believes in God? It is a sacrament; for it is an act of faith and it is a food. And we need a sacrament, if only a natural one. Something has fallen on us that falls very seldom on men; perhaps the worst thing that can fall on them.

By Anonym 15 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

All habits are bad habits. (...) Madness does not come by breaking out, but by giving in; by settling down in some dirty, little, self-repeating circle of ideas; by being tamed.

By Anonym 16 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it; if you could really look at other men with common curiosity and pleasure; if you could see them walking as they are in their sunny sefishness and their virile indifference! You would begin to be interested in them, because they are not interested in you. You would break out of this tiny and tawdry theatre in which your own little plot is always played, and you would find yourself under a freer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers.

By Anonym 19 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

Those might not be the very best judges of the relation of religion to happiness who, by their own account, had neither one nor the other.

By Anonym 16 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

I am sure that it was only because Michael Angelo was engaged in the ancient and honourable occupation of lying in bed that he ever realised how the roof of the Sistine Chapel might be made into an awful imitation of a divine drama that could only be acted in the heavens.

By Anonym 16 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

It was his home now. But it could not be his home till he had gone from it and returned to it. Now he was the Prodigal Son.

By Anonym 19 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

The modern world is filled with men who hold dogmas so strongly that they do not even know that they are dogmas. It may be said even that the modern world, as a corporate body, holds certain dogmas so strongly that it does not know that they are dogmas. It may be thought 'dogmatic,' for instance, in some circles accounted progressive, to assume the perfection or improvement of man in another world. But it is not thought "dogmatic" to assume the perfection or improvement of man in this world; though that idea of progress is quite as unproved as the idea of immortality, and from a rationalistic point of view quite as improbable. Progress happens to be one of our dogmas, and a dogma means a thing which is not thought dogmatic.

By Anonym 17 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

Now our modern politics are full of a noisy forgetfulness; forgetfulness that the production of this [man's] happy and conscious life is after all the aim of all complexities and compromises. We talk of nothing but useful men and working institutions; that is, we only think of the chickens as things that will lay more eggs.

By Anonym 19 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

To a Calvinist the most important thing was Calvinism; to a Puritan the most important thing was the Puritan creed; and this in itself certainly did not favor the vague sentiments either of emancipation or fraternity. Calvinism took away a man's liberty in the universe; why, then, should it favor his liberty in the State? Puritanism denied free will; why should it be likely to affirm free speech? Why should the Calvinist object to an aristocracy? The Calvinists were an aristocracy; they were the most arrogant and awful of aristocracies by the nature of their own belief: they were the elect. Why should the Puritans dislike a baby being born a nobleman? It was the whole philosophy of the Puritans that a baby is born a celestial nobleman; and he is at birth and before birth a member of the cosmic upper classes. It should have been a small matter to the Puritans to admit that one might be born a king, seeing that they maintained the much more paradoxical position that one might be born a saint. Nor is it easy to see upon their own ideal principles why the Puritans should have disliked despotism or arbitrary power; though it is certainly much more the fact that they did dislike despotism than that they did dislike oligarchy. The first conception of Calvinism is a fierce insistence on the utterly arbitrary nature of power. The King of the Cavaliers was certainly not so purely willful, so sublimely capricious a sultan, as the God of the Puritans.

By Anonym 19 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

The vulgar modern argument used against religion, and lately against common decency, would be absolutely fatal to any idea of liberty. It is perpetually said that because there are a hundred religions claiming to be true, it is therefore impossible that one of them should really be true. The argument would appear on the face of it to be illogical, if anyone nowadays troubled about logic. It would be as reasonable to say that because some people thought the earth was flat, and others (rather less incorrectly) imagined it was round, and because anybody is free to say that it is triangular or hexagonal, or a rhomboid, therefore it has no shape at all; or its shape can never be discovered; and, anyhow, modern science must be wrong in saying it is an oblate spheroid. The world must be some shape, and it must be that shape and no other; and it is not self-evident that nobody can possibly hit on the right one. What so obviously applies to the material shape of the world equally applies to the moral shape of the universe. The man who describes it may not be right, but it is no argument against his rightness that a number of other people must be wrong.

By Anonym 16 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

Each thing that obeys law [has] the glory and isolation of the anarchist.

By Anonym 18 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

The Aristocrat The Devil is a gentleman, and asks you down to stay At his little place at What'sitsname (it isn't far away). They say the sport is splendid; there is always something new, And fairy scenes, and fearful feats that none but he can do; He can shoot the feathered cherubs if they fly on the estate, Or fish for Father Neptune with the mermaids for a bait; He scaled amid the staggering stars that precipice, the sky, And blew his trumpet above heaven, and got by mastery The starry crown of God Himself, and shoved it on the shelf; But the Devil is a gentleman, and doesn't brag himself. O blind your eyes and break your heart and hack your hand away, And lose your love and shave your head; but do not go to stay At the little place in What'sitsname where folks are rich and clever; The golden and the goodly house, where things grow worse for ever; There are things you need not know of, though you live and die in vain, There are souls more sick of pleasure than you are sick of pain; There is a game of April Fool that's played behind its door, Where the fool remains for ever and the April comes no more, Where the splendour of the daylight grows drearier than the dark, And life droops like a vulture that once was such a lark: And that is the Blue Devil that once was the Blue Bird; For the Devil is a gentleman, and doesn't keep his word.

By Anonym 16 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

How can we say that the Church wishes to bring us back into the Dark Ages? The Church was the only thing that ever brought us out of them.

By Anonym 19 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

The modern mind is like the eye of a man who is too tired to see the difference between blue and green. It fails in the quality that is truly called distinction; and,being incapable of distinction, it falls back on generalisation. The man, instead of having the sense to say he is tired, says he is emancipated and enlightened and liberal and universal.... ...we find it less trouble to let in a jungle of generalisations than to keep watch upon a logical frontier. But this shapeless assimilation is not only found in accepting things in the lump; it is also found in condemning them in the lump. When the same modern mind does begin to be intolerant, it is just as universally intolerant as it was universally tolerant. It sends things in batches to the gallows just as it admitted them in mobs to the sanctuary. It cannot limit its limitations any more than its license....There are...lunatics now having power to lay down the law, who have somehow got it into their heads that any artistic representation of anything wicked must be forbidden as encouraging wickedness. This would obviously be a veto on any tragedy and practically on any tale. But a moment's thought...would show them that this is simply an illogical generalisation from the particular problem of sex. All dignified civilisations conceal sexual things, for the perfectly sensible reason that their mere exhibition does affect the passions. But seeing another man forge a cheque does not make me want to forge a cheque. Seeing the tools for burgling a safe does not arouse an appetite for being a burglar. But the intelligence in question cannot stop itself from stopping anything. It is automatically autocratic; and its very prohibition proceeds in a sort of absence of mind. Indeed, that is the most exact word for it; it is emphatically absence of mind. For the mind exists to make those very distinctions and definitions which these people refuse. They refuse to draw the line anywhere; and drawing a line is the beginning of all philosophy, as it is the beginning of all art. They are the people who are content to say that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and are condemned to pass their lives in looking for eggs from the cock as well as the hen.

By Anonym 16 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

...his mind moves in a perfect but narrow circle. A small circle is quite as infinite as a large circle; but, though it is quite as infinite, it is not so large.

By Anonym 18 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

The Bible tells us to love our neighbours, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.

By Anonym 19 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

The modern mind is merely a blank about the philosophy of toleration; and the average agnostic of recent times has really had no notion of what he meant by religious liberty and equality. He took his own ethics as self-evident and enforced them; such as decency or the error of the Adamite heresy. Then he was horribly shocked if he heard of anybody else, Moslem or Christian, taking his ethics as self-evident and enforcing them; such as reverence or the error of the Atheist heresy. And then he wound up by taking all this lop-sided illogical deadlock, of the unconscious meeting the unfamiliar, and called it the liberality of his own mind. Medieval men thought that if a social system was founded on a certain idea it must fight for that idea, whether it was as simple as Islam or as carefully balanced as Catholicism. Modern men really think the same thing, as is clear when communists attack their ideas of property. Only they do not think it so clearly, because they have not really thought out their idea of property.

By Anonym 18 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

Sex and breathing are about the only two things that generally work best when they are least worried about. That, I suppose, is why the same sophisticated age that has poisoned the world with Feminism is also polluting it with Breathing Exercises.

By Anonym 17 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

My own general thesis was somewhat to this effect: that Artists have worried the world by being wantonly, needlessly, and gratuitously progressive. Politicians have to be progressive; that is, they have to live in the future, because they know they have done nothing but evil in the past. But Artists, who have been right from the beginning of the world, who were, perhaps, the only people who were right even in the beginning of the world, decorating pottery or designing rude frescoes on the rock when other people were fighting or offering human sacrifice, they have no right to despise their own past.

By Anonym 16 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

...every man is dignified when he is dead.

By Anonym 19 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

The modern philosopher had told me again and again that I was in the right place, and I still felt depressed even in acquiescence. But I had heard that I was in the wrong place, and my soul sang for joy like a bird in spring.

By Anonym 15 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

A real problem only occurs when there are admittedly disadvantages in all courses that can be pursued. If it is discovered just before a fashionable wedding that the Bishop is locked up in the coal-cellar, that is not a problem. It is obvious to anyone but an extreme anti-clerical or practical joker that the Bishop must be let out of the coal-cellar. But suppose the Bishop has been locked up in the wine-cellar, and from the obscure noises, sounds as of song and dance, etc., it is guessed that he has indiscreetly tested the vintages round him; then indeed we may properly say that there has arisen a problem; for upon the one hand, it is awkward to keep the wedding waiting, while, upon the other, any hasty opening of the door might mean an episcopal rush and scenes of the most unforeseen description.

By Anonym 18 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

The man who cannot believe his senses, and the man who cannot believe anything else, are both insane, but their insanity is proved not by any error in their argument, but by the manifest mistake of their whole lives. They have both locked themselves up in two boxes, painted inside with the sun and stars; they are both unable to get out, the one into the health and happiness of heaven, the other even into the health and happiness of the earth.

By Anonym 16 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

If Innocent is happy, it is because he is innocent. If he can defy the conventions, it is just because he can keep the commandments. It is just because he does not want to kill but to excite to life that a pistol is still as exciting to him as it is to a schoolboy. It is just because he does not want to steal, because he does not covet his neighbour's goods, that he has captured the trick (oh, how we all long for it!), the trick of coveting his own goods. It is just because he does not want to commit adultery that he achieves the romance of sex; it is just because he loves one wife that he has a hundred honeymoons.

By Anonym 19 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

There are some people who state that the exterior, sex, or physique of another person is indifferent to them, that they care only for the communion of mind with mind; but these people need not detain us. There are some statements that no one ever thinks of believing, however often they are made.

By Anonym 16 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

I am not good at deception,' said Tuesday gloomily, flushing. Right, my boy, right,' said the President with a ponderous heartiness, 'You aren't good at anything.

By Anonym 16 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

In other words, we may, by fixing our attention almost fiercely on the facts actually before us, force them to turn into adventures; force them to give up their meaning and fulfill their mysterious purpose.

By Anonym 19 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

We may fight for the cause of international peace because we are very fond of fighting.

By Anonym 15 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

But the more shrewdly and earnestly we study the histories of men, the less ready shall we be to make use of the word ‘artificial.’ Nothing in the world has ever been artificial. Many customs, many dresses, many works of art are branded with artificiality because the exhibit vanity and self-consciousness: as if vanity were not a deep and elemental thing, like love and hate and the fear of death. Vanity may be found in darkling deserts, in the hermit and in the wild beasts that crawl around him. It may be good or evil, but assuredly it is not artificial: vanity is a voice out of the abyss.

By Anonym 16 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

England and the English governing class never did call on this absurd deity of race until it seemed, for an instant, that they had no other god to call on… the truth of the whole matter is very simple. Nationality exists, and has nothing in the world to do with race. Nationality is a thing like a church or a secret society. It is the product of the human soul and will; it is a spiritual product. And there are men… who would think anything and do anything rather than admit anything could be a spiritual product.

By Anonym 16 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it.

By Anonym 15 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

Divinity is great enough to be divine; it is great enough to call itself divine. But as humanity grows greater, it grows less and less likely to do so. God is God, as the Moslems say; but a great man knows he is not God, and the greater he is the better he knows it. That is the paradox; everything that is merely approaching to that point is merely receding from it.

By Anonym 19 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

{We} have not to crown the exceptional man who knows he can rule; rather we must crown the much more exceptional man who knows he can’t.

By Anonym 16 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

I should say that there ought to be no war except religious war. If war is irreligious, it is immoral. No man ought ever to fight at all unless he is prepared to put his quarrel before that invisible Court of Arbitration with which all religion is concerned. Unless he thinks he is vitally, eternally, cosmically in the right, he is wrong to fire off a pocket-pistol.

By Anonym 20 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

When Nietszche says, "A new commandment I give to you, be hard" he is really saying, "A new commandment I give to you, be dead." Sensibility is the definition of life.

By Anonym 15 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

A man must love a thing very much if he practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practice it without any hope of doing it well. Such a man must love the toils of the work more than any other man can love the rewards of it.

By Anonym 16 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

Everywhere the man who alters things begins by liking things. And the real explanation of this success of the optimistic reformer, of this failure of the pessimistic reformer, is, after all, an explanation of sufficient simplicity. It is because the optimist can look at wrong not only with indignation, but with a startled indignation. When the pessimist looks at any infamy, it is to him, after all, only a repetition of the infamy of existence. The Court of Chancery is indefensible—like mankind. The Inquisition is abominable—like the universe. But the optimist sees injustice as something discordant and unexpected, and it stings him into action. The pessimist can be enraged at wrong; but only the optimist can be surprised at it.

By Anonym 16 Sep

G. K. Chesterton

Eugenics, as discussed, evidently means the control of some men over the marriage and unmarriage of others; and probably means the control of the few over the marriage and unmarriage of the many