If you have never read a Chesterton book and don’t know where to begin, we suggest you start with G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense and Common Sense 101: Lessons from Chesterton. These books, written by American Chesterton Society president Dale Ahlquist, are designed to introduce new readers to Chesterton’s thought and writing.
Looking for a comprehensive overview of Chesterton’s books? The list below outlines Chesterton’s books in chronological order, including a brief description, a selected quotation, and some information on availability. It is by no means a comprehensive bibliography.
Greybeards at Play
Chesterton’s first book, a slim volume of light verse with his own illustrations. Available! G.K. Chesterton’s Early Poetry
“I love to see the little Stars
all dancing to one tune;
I think quite highly of the Sun
and kindly of the Moon.”
The White Knight
Includes such favorites as “The Donkey” and “By the Babe Unborn.” Available! G.K. Chesterton’s Early Poetry
“Fools, for I also had my hour,
One far fierce hour and sweet,
There was a shout about my ears
And palms before my feet.”
Essays reprinted from Chesterton’s literary reviews in The Speaker, includes A Defence of Ugly Things, of Nonsense, of Patriotism, of Detective Fiction, of Baby Worship, and even of Skeletons. The second edition includes A Defence of a Second Edition.
Available! Click here.
“Most probably we are in Eden still. It is only our eyes that have changed.”
“‘My country, right or wrong,’ is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, ‘My mother, drunk or sober.'”
Essays from the Daily News and The Speaker, on figures such as Charlotte Bronte, Leo Tolstoy, Robert Louis Stevenson, and St. Francis. Available! Twelve Types
“A man building up an intellectual system has to build like Nehemiah, with the sword in one hand and the trowel in the other. The imagination, the constructive quality, is the trowel, and argument is the sword. A wide experience of actual intellectual affairs will lead most people to the conclusion that logic is mainly valuable as a weapon wherewith to exterminate logicians.”
Chesterton’s first real book, which established his unique approach to both literary criticism and biography. He uses his subject merely as a device to expound on his own philosophy. Out of Print.
“Existence has a value wholly inexpressible, [and] we are most truly compelled to that sentiment not by any argument or triumphant justification of the cosmos, but by a few of these momentary and immortal sights and sounds, a gesture, an old song, a portrait, a piano, an old door.”
Art criticism of the portrait painter and allegorist, George Frederick Watts. A wonderful discourse on language, art, and allegory. Includes 37 sepia tone reproductions of his paintings. This book available here.
“The new school of art and thought does indeed wear an air of audacity, and breaks out everywhere into blasphemies, as if it required any courage to say a blasphemy. There is only one thing that requires real courage to say, and that is a truism.”
The Napoleon of Notting Hill
Chesterton’s first novel, a story about the residents of a London suburb who take up arms and declare their independence from England. Available! Napoleon of Notting Hill and also Collected Works Volume 6.
“If you look at a thing nine hundred and ninety-nine times, you are perfectly safe; if you look at it the thousandth time, you are in frightful danger of seeing it for the first time.”
The Club of Queer Trades
Six adventures of Basil and Rupert Grant, who encounter what seem to be strange, unexplainable crimes, all of which turn out to have even stranger explanations. With illustrations by Chesterton. Available! Club of Queer Trades and Collected Works Volume 6.
“Being good is a an adventure far more violent and daring than sailing around the world.”
An often overlooked book that contains some of Chesterton’s strongest writing, as he takes on the “heresies” of modern thought, such as negativism, relativism, neo-paganism, puritanism, aestheticism, individualism. Includes one of his best essays, “On Certain Modern Writers and the Institution of the Family.” Available! See Heretics and Collected Works Volume 1.
“Take away the supernatural, and what remains is the unnatural.”
“Truth, of course, must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for we have made fiction to suit ourselves.”
Considered by T.S. Eliot, Peter Ackroyd, and others, to be the best book on Dickens ever written, this literary biography was largely responsible for creating both a popular revival for Dickens’ works and serious reconsideration of Dickens by scholars. See Collected Works Volume 15 (currently Volume 15 is out of print).
“The common mind means the mind of all the artists and heroes; or else it would not be common. Plato had the common mind; Dante had the common mind. Commonness means the quality common to the saint and the sinner, to the philosopher and the fool; and it was this that Dickens grasped and developed. In everybody there is a certain thing that loves babies, that fears death, that likes sunlight: that thing enjoys Dickens. And everybody does not mean uneducated crowds; everybody means everybody.”
The Man Who Was Thursday
“The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all.”
All Things Considered
A book of essays reprinted from Chesterton’s weekly column in the Illustrated London News. Includes “On Running After One’s Hat,” “Cockneys and their Jokes,” “Wine When It is Red.” Out of print. Last reprinted 1969 Dufour Editions. All of the original essays from this book are available in Collected Works Volumes 27 and Volume 28.
“Man is always something worse or something better than an animal; and a mere argument from animal perfection never touches him at all. Thus, in sex no animal is either chivalrous or obscene. And thus no animal ever invented anything so bad as drunkenness – or so good as drink.”
Considered by many to be Chesterton’s best book, it is certainly his most indispensable book, a unique and refreshing spiritual autobiography and defense of the Christian faith. Everyone should read this book. Everyone should read it every year. Available! See Orthodoxy and also Collected Works Volume 1.
“Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead.”
“The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”
Twelve Types plus a few more, including essays on Bret Harte, Queen Victoria, and Tennyson. Out of print.
“We are learning to do a great many clever things. . . The next great task will be to learn not to do them.”
George Bernard Shaw
Chesterton and Shaw were friends but disagreed on most everything. This critique of Shaw’s philosophy, politics and plays is, in effect, a critique of the prevailing ideas of the 20th century. See Collected Works Volume 11.
“Something in the evil spirit of our time forces people always to pretend to have found some material and mechanical explanation. It never crosses the modern mind that perhaps a people is chiefly influenced by how that people has chosen to behave.”
Essays reprinted from Chesterton’s weekly column in the Daily News. Includes “A Piece of Chalk,” “On Lying in Bed,” “The Twelve Men,” “What I Found in My Pocket.” A great introduction to Chesterton. Back in print and available here.
“Misers get up early in the morning; and burglars, I am informed, get up the night before. It is the great peril of our society that all its mechanism may grow more fixed while its spirit grows more fickle. A man’s minor actions and arrangements ought to be free, flexible, creative; the things that should be unchangeable are his principles, his ideals. But with us the reverse is true; our views change constantly; but our lunch does not change.”
The Ball and the Cross
A novel that acts out the debate between Christianity and atheism, as embodied by two characters who propose to fight a duel but can never manage carry it out. Filled with humor, rich dialogue and striking allegorical imagery. Available! See The Ball and the Cross and Collected Works Volume 7.
“The world left to itself grows wilder than any creed. . . That is the only real question – whether the Church is really madder than the world. Let the rationalists run their own race, and let us see where they end. If the world has some healthy balance other than God, let the world find it. Does the world find it? Cut the world loose! Does the world stand on its own end? Does it stand, or does it stagger?”
Chesterton discusses the art, poetry, and mysticism of Blake. Includes several plates of Blake’s art and poems. Out of Print.
“We all feel the riddle of the earth without anyone to point it out. The mystery of life is the plainest part of it. The clouds and curtains of darkness, the confounding vapours, these are the daily weather of this world. Whatever else we have grown accustomed to, we have grown accustomed to the unaccountable. Every stone or flower is a hieroglyphic of which we have lost the key; with every step of our lives we enter into the middle of some story which we are certain to misunderstand.”
Alarms and Discursions
Essays reprinted from the Daily News. Includes “On Gargoyles,” “The Futurists,” “How I Found the Superman,” and “Cheese” (a subject about which poets are mysteriously silent.) Out of print, but some of the essays are available in On Lying in Bed and Other Essays.
“But the great towns have grown intolerable solely because of such suffocating vulgarities and tyrannies. It is not humanity that disgusts us in the huge cities; it is inhumanity. It is not that there are human beings; but that they are not treated as such. We do not, I hope, dislike men and women; we only dislike their being made into a sort of jam: crushed together so that they are not merely powerless but shapeless.”
What’s Wrong With the World
Chesterton systematically takes on Big Government, Big Business, Compulsory Education, and Feminism. More timely today than when he wrote it. Available! See What’s Wrong With the World and Collected Works Volume 4.
“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”
“A thing worth doing is worth doing badly.”
The Ballad of the White Horse
Chesterton’s epic poem about King Alfred’s defeat of the Danes in 878. An unjustly neglected masterpiece about a unjustly neglected historical event. Available! See The Ballad of the White Horse.
“The wise men know what wicked things
Are written on the sky,
They trim sad Lamps, they touch sad strings,
Hearing the heavy purple wings,
Where the forgotten seraph kings
Still plot how God shall die.”
Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens
Also known as Chesterton on Dickens. A collection of Introductions to each of Dickens’ works. Reveals the breadth and depth of Chesterton’s acquaintance with Dickens but also an insider’s view of the creative process and the art of the written word. In Collected Works Volume 15, which is currently out of print.
“The wise old fairy tales never were so silly as to say that the prince and the princess lived peacefully ever afterwards. The fairy tales said that the prince and the princess lived happily, and so they did. They lived happily, although it is very likely that from time to time they threw the furniture at each other. Most marriages, I think, are happy marriages; but there is no such thing as a contented marriage. The whole pleasure of marriage is that it is a perpetual crisis.”
The Innocence of Father Brown
The first collection of Father Brown mysteries. Twelve yarns that helped introduce the world to the humble little priest who was also a clever sleuth. Includes “The Blue Cross” and “The Invisible Man.” Available! See The Collected Works Volume 12.
“Reason is always reasonable, even in the last limbo, in the lost borderland of things. I know that people charge the Church with lowering reason, but it is just the other way. Alone on earth, the Church makes reason really supreme. Alone on earth, the Church affirms that God himself is bound by reason.”
A Miscellany of Men
A collection of essays reprinted from the Daily News. Includes “The Miser,” “The Mystagogue,” and “The Romantic in the Rain.”
Available! See A Miscellany of Men.
“I say you cannot really understand any myths till you have found that one of them is not a myth. Turnip ghosts mean nothing if there are no real ghosts. Forged bank-notes mean nothing if there are no real bank-notes. Heathen gods mean nothing, and must always mean nothing to those of us that deny the Christian God. When once a god is admitted is admitted, even a false god, the Cosmos begins to know its place: which is second place. When once it is the real God, the Cosmos falls down before Him.”
A novel about Innocent Smith, a man who picnics on rooftops, breaks into his own house, has an affair with his own wife. There are any number of Chesterton books which offer us a window on his thoughts, but this book grabs us and pulls us in the front door. This is the book on how to live Chesterton. Available! See Manalive and also Collected Works Volume 7.
“This man’s spiritual power has been precisely this, that he has distinguished between custom and creed. He has broken the conventions, but he has kept the commandments.”
The Victorian Age in Literature
A sweeping yet succinct volume of literary criticism, packed with Chestertonian surprises, such as the point that one of the principal literary influences on the Victorian poets and novelists was a writer named Darwin. (In Collected Works Volume 15, currently out of print.)
“You will find twenty allusions to Jekyll and Hyde in a day’s newspaper reading. You will also find that all such allusions suppose the two personalities to be equal, neither caring for the other. Or more roughly, they think the book means that man can be cloven into two creatures, good and evil. The whole stab of the story is that man can’t: because while evil does not care for good, good must care for evil. Or, in other words, man cannot escape from God, because good is the God in man; and insists on omniscience. This point, which is good psychology and also good theology and also good art, has missed its main intention merely because it was also good story-telling.”
Chesterton’s most successful play, which served as the basis for Ingmar Bergman’s film, The Magician (though the two shouldn’t be compared too closely). The question: is the magic real or not? Available! See Collected Works Volume 11.
Conjurer: “Doctor, there are about a thousand reasons why I should not tell you how I really did that trick. But one will suffice, because it is the most practical of all.
Doctor: “Well? And why shouldn’t you tell me?”
Conjurer: “Because you wouldn’t believe me if I did.”
The Barbarism of Berlin (see The Appetite of Tyranny – below)
The Flying Inn
A novel which Chesterton said was one of the books he most enjoyed writing. Imagining what England would be like under Prohibition, Chesterton follows the adventures of two men who travel through the country with a barrel of rum and a temporary inn sign which they hang up at every occasion. It is a romp, filled with amusing characters and wonderful drinking songs, such as “The Song of the Vegetarian,” “The Song of Right and Wrong,” and “The Song of Quoodle.” Available! See The Flying Inn and also Collected Works Volume 7.
“Mr. Mandragon the Millionaire, he wouldn’t have wine or a wife,
He couldn’t endure complexity; he lived the simple life;
He ordered his lunch by megaphone in manly, simple tones,
And used all motors for canvassing voters,
and twenty telephones;
Besides a dandy little machine,
Cunning and neat as ever was seen,
With a hundred pulleys and cranks between,
Made of iron and kept quite clean,
To hoist him out of his healthful bed on every day of his life,
And wash him and brush him and shave him and dress him
to live the Simple Life.”
The Wisdom of Father Brown
The second collection of mysteries featuring the beloved priest-detective. The twelve stories include “The Absence of Mr. Glass” and “The Head of Caesar.” Available! See Collected Works Volume 12.
“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.”
A Collection of Chesterton’s poems, including “Lepanto,” “The Wise Men,” “The House of Christmas,” and the hymn “O God of Earth and Altar.” Out of print, but most are available in Collected Works Volume 10.
“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.”
Wine, Water, and Song
All of the songs and poems from The Flying Inn (see above). Out of print, but most are in Collected Works, Volume 10.
“Feast on wine or fast on water
And your honour shall stand sure,
God Almighty’s son and daughter
He the valiant, she the pure;
If an angel out of heaven
Brings you other things to drink,
Thank him for his kind attentions,
Go and pour them down the sink.”
The Appetite of Tyranny
Reprinted articles from the London Daily Mail, written at the outset of World War I, this book attacks German philosophy and politics, and is surprisingly prophetic about World War II and the reasons for defending against German aggression. Includes the previously published The Barbarism of Berlin. and “Letters to an Old Garibaldian.” Available! See Collected Works Volume 5.
“We are fighting to prevent a German future for Europe. We think it would be narrower, nastier, less sane, less capable of liberty and of laughter, than any of the worst parts of the European past.”
The Crimes of England
Another wartime book, in which Chesterton responds to the typical German attacks on England by explaining what the real weaknesses, the real “crimes” of England have been in its history. Available! See Collected Works Volume 5.
“The Church had learnt, not at the end but at the beginning of her centuries, that the funeral of God is always a premature burial.”
Divorce vs. Democracy
Essay reprinted from Nash Magazine, along with an introduction. An argument that divorce is not democratic, that the vast majority of people are against it. Available! See Collected Works Volume 4.
“The rich do mainly believe in divorce. The poor do mainly believe in fidelity. But the modern rich are powerful and the modern poor are powerless. Therefore for years and decades past the rich have been preaching their own virtues. Now that they have begun to preach their vices too, I think it is time to kick.”
Kitchener, a former field marshall in Africa, was British Secretary of State at the beginning of World War I and was responsible for recruiting soldiers. Adored by the general public, but disliked by the Cabinet ministers, he died a hero when, on a mission to Russia, his ship was sunk by a German mine. This commemoration, written just after Kitchener’s death, contains an interesting discussion of Islam, since Kitchener spent so much time in Sudan. Available! See Collected Works Volume 5.
“There is an English proverb which asks whether the mountain goes to Mahomet or he to the mountain, and it may be a question whether his religion be the cause or the effect of a certain spirit, vivid and yet strangely negative, which dwells in such deserts. Walking among the olives of Gaza or looking on the Philistine plain, such travellers may well feel that they are treading on cold volcanoes, as empty as the mountains of the moon. But the mountain of Mahomet is not yet an extinct volcano.”
Utopia of Usurers
A collection of essays reprinted from the Daily Herald. A critique of the “strange poetry of plutocracy” and other modern developments which still afflict the common man, robbing him of his dignity, his autonomy, and his simple pleasures. Available! See Utopia of Usurers and also Collected Works Volume 5.
“I say that men have not been compelled by iron economic laws, but in the main by the coarse and Christless cynicism of other men.”
A Short History of England
Known as the history book with no dates in it (but see if you can find some), Chesterton at once paints the big picture but also includes the most overlooked details of English history: the landscape, the buildings, the ruins, the little things, and “The meaning of Merry England.” See Collected Works Volume 20.
“To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.”
How to Help Annexation
An essay reprinted from the North American Review, arguing that Alsace-Lorraine should be part of France, not part of Germany.
Available! See Collected Works Volume 5.
Chesterton’s portrait of Ireland’s distinct culture is sympathetic and perceptive. Written in the midst of the events surrounding Ireland’s fight for Home Rule. Available! See Irish Impressions and also Collected Works Volume 20.
“Not only is patriotism a part of practical politics, but it is more practical than any politics.”
The Superstition of Divorce
Arguing that divorce is, at best, a failure, Chesterton is more interested in finding the cure than allowing the disease to complete its deadly effects. This book is a marvelous defense of the sanctity of the family. Available! See Collected Works Volume 4.
“The obvious effect of frivolous divorce will be frivolous marriage. If people can be separated for no reason they will feel it all the easier to be united for no reason.”
The Uses of Diversity
A collection of essays reprinted from The Illustrated London News and New Witness on subjects ranging from the Japanese, the Mormons, the Christian Scientists, and the Futurists to Shakespeare, Shaw, and Jane Austen. Out of print, but all the Illustrated London News essays from this collection are available in Collected Works Volume 28, Volume 29, and Volume 30 (currently unavailable).
“Materialism says the universe is mindless; and faith says it is ruled by the highest mind. Neither will be satisfied with the new progressive creed, which declares hopefully that the universe is half-witted.”
The New Jerusalem
Written during a trip to the Holy Land, Chesterton’s observations combine history, literature, religion, social criticism, and whatever else comes to his mind. Includes a controversial chapter on Zionism. Available! See Collected Works Volume 20.
“A wall is like a rule; and the gates are like the exceptions that prove the rule. The man making it has to decide where his rule will run and where his exceptions shall stand. He cannot have a city that is all gates any more than a house that is all windows; nor is it possible to have a law that consists entirely of liberties.”
The Ballad of St. Barbara and Other Poems
Includes “Elegy in Country Churchyard” and “The Convert.” Out of print, but some are available are in Collected Works Volume 10.
“The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.”
Eugenics and Other Evils
A powerful and prophetic book that gets at the root of the evils which would give rise to Nazi Germany and which still plague modern society. Chesterton shows how evil wins through ambiguity and “through the strength of its splendid dupes.” Available! See Eugenics and Other Evils and also Collected Works Volume 4.
“The modern world is insane, not so much because it admits the abnormal as because it cannot recover the normal.”
What I Saw in America
A thick book of essays written during Chesterton’s trip to America in 1921, with his unique and incisive observations of “the only nation ever founded on a creed.” Available! See What I Saw in Americain Collected Works Volume 21.
“Then there was the question, ‘Are you in favour of subverting the government of the United States by force?’ Against this I should write, ‘I prefer to answer that question at the end of my tour and not the beginning.’ The inquisitor, in his more than morbid curiosity, had then written down, ‘Are you a polygamist?’ The answer to this is, ‘No such luck’ or ‘Not such a fool,’ according to our experience of the other sex.”
The Man Who Knew Too Much
A collection of mysteries featuring another amateur detective, the rather languid Horne Fisher. No connection to the Alfred Hitchcock film(s) of the same name. Available! See Collected Works Volume 8.
“We’re all really dependent in nearly everything, and we all make a fuss about being independent in something.”
St. Francis of Assisi
A marvelous book about St. Francis, putting him into his context, taking him through the phases of his spiritual development, showing us that “he was a poet whose whole life was a poem,” and finally, explaining that he reflects the divine light as the moon reflects the light of the sun. Available! See St. Francis of Assisi and also Collected Works Volume 2.
“He understood down to its very depths the theory of thanks; and its depths are a bottomless abyss. He knew that the praise of God stands on its strongest ground when it stands on nothing.”
Fancies Versus Fads
A collection of essays reprinted from London Mercury, New Witness, and Illustrated London News. Includes an introduction by Chesterton. He takes on modern poetry, modern history, modern laws, and even another modern thing called “film.”
Available! See Fancies Versus Fads. The essays collected from Illustrated London News in this book are also available in Collected Works Volume 32 (currently unavailable).
“Art is born when the temporary touches the eternal; the shock of beauty is when the irresistible force hits the immovable post.”
The End of the Roman Road
Subtitled, “A Pageant of Wayfarers,” this short piece is neither an essay nor a short story, but something of both, about the Roman influence on English culture. Available! See Collected Works Volume 14.
“My conviction of the Roman background of all our arts and arms is a matter of common sense and not of scholarship.”
The Superstitions of the Sceptic
The text of a speech Chesterton delivered to the I.D.K. Club, followed by correspondence between Chesterton and the Medieval scholar (and skeptic) G.G. Coulton. Chesterton criticizes the philosophy that is founded on doubt. Coulton criticizes Chesterton’s interpretation of history. I.D.K., by the way, stands for “I Don’t Know.” Out of print, and very rare.
“Only at very slight moments, passing moments, has there been anything resembling a really independent scepticism. The sceptics themselves have always turned something else into a sacred object, into a superstition, and when that thing was examined it was always found to be far narrower than the older traditions that had been rejected.”
Cobbett (1763-1835) was a popular journalist, a defender of rural England and the rights of small property owners, and a critic of the rise of industrialism. In other words, he was an early version of Chesterton, and certainly one of Chesterton’s heroes (and of Distributists everywhere). Avaiable! See William Cobbett.
“What he [Cobbett] saw was the perishing of the whole English power of self- support, the growth of cities that drain and dry up the countryside, the growth of dense dependent populations incapable of finding their own food, the toppling triumph of machines over men, the sprawling omnipotence of financiers over patriots, the herding of humanity in nomadic masses whose very homes are homeless, the terrible necessity of peace and the terrible probability of war; the wealth that may mean famine and the culture that may mean despair; the bread of Midas and the sword of Damocles. In a word, he saw what we see, but he saw it when it was not there. And some cannot see it – even when it is there.”
Tales of the Long Bow
“These tales concern the doing of things recognised as impossible to do; impossible to believe; and, as the weary reader may well cry aloud, impossible to read about.” So begins a series of what seem to be unconnected stories, which end up being connected, in which pigs fly, sows ears are sown into silk purses, and a gentleman eats his hat. Available! See Collected Works Volume 8.
“The world is materialistic, but it isn’t solid. It isn’t hard or stern or ruthless in pursuit of its purpose, or all the things that the newspapers and novels say it is; and sometimes actually praise it for being. Materialism isn’t like stone; it’s like mud, and liquid mud at that.”
The Everlasting Man
One of Chesterton’s greatest and most important books. Written as a sort of rebuttal to H.G. Wells’ Outline of History, this is Chesterton’s view of history, presented in two parts: “On The Creature Called Man,” and “On The Man Called Christ,” arguing that the central character in history is Christ, and that no explanation other than the Christian one makes as much sense. When the book was first published, The Times Literary Supplement wrote: “Mr. Chesterton has a quite unusual power of seeing the obvious, and it is quite true that many learned men seem to have lost that power. There are many modern theories whose origins we can understand only on the hypothesis that their authors have spent their whole lives in one room.” Available! See The Everlasting Man and also Collected Works Volume 2.
“When the world goes wrong, it proves rather that the Church is right. The Church is justified, not because her children do not sin, but because they do.”
“The truth is that when critics have spoken of the local limitations of the Galilean, it has always been a case of the local limitations of the critics.”
The Outline of Sanity
Chesterton’s most systematic treatment of Distributism, a scathing critique of communism, capitalism, and commercialism, leaving the only logical alternative: the wide distribution of capital, private ownership, and productive property. Available! See The Outline of Sanity and also Collected Works Volume 5.
“A pickpocket is obviously a champion of private enterprise. But it would perhaps be an exaggeration to say that a pickpocket is a champion of private property. The point about Capitalism and Commercialism, as conducted of late, is that they have really preached the extension of business rather than the preservation of belongings; and have at best tried to disguise the pickpocket with some of the virtues of the pirate. The point about Communism is that it only reforms the pickpocket by forbidding pockets.”
The Incredulity of Father Brown
The third collection of Father Brown mysteries. Eight stories, including “The Oracle of the Dog,” “The Miracle of Moon Crescent” and “The Resurrection of Father Brown.” Available! See Collected Works Volume 13.
“It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense and can’t see things as they are.”
“You all swore you were hard-shelled materialists; and as a matter fact you were all balanced on the very edge of belief – of belief in almost anything.”
The Queen of Seven Swords
A book of 24 religious poems. The title poem refers to the seven swords of sorrow that pierced Mary’s heart as she witnessed the sufferings of her son. Out of print, but some in Collected Works Volume 10.
“What are the flowers the garden guards not
And how but here should dreams return?
And how of hearths made cold with ruin
The wide wind-scattered ashes burn –
What is the home of the heart set free,
And where is the nesting of liberty,
And where from the world shall the world take shelter
And man be master, and not with Thee?”
The Catholic Church and Conversion
Written five years after his conversion, Chesterton describes the feeling of discovering that the Catholic Church is “larger on the inside than on the outside.” He addresses both the common objections and the real obstacles to conversion. Available! See Collected Works Volume 3.
“The Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his own age.”
The Collected Poems of G.K. Chesterton
Several new poems, along with most of the previous collections, except Greybeards at Play and The Queen of Seven Swords. Out of print, but many in Collected Works Volume 10A or Volume 10B or Volume 10C.
“Oh, how I love Humanity,
With love so pure and pringlish,
And how I hate the horrid French,
Who never will be English!”
Gloria in Profundis
A single poem, published with woodcuts by Eric Gill. Available in Collected Works Volume 10.
The Judgment of Dr. Johnson
Chesterton’s play about Samuel Johnson, the great 18th century man of letters. Chesterton was often compared with Dr. Johnson, and for good reason. Both were poets, critics, journalists, essayists, and conversationalists of great wit. The dialogue Chesterton gives Dr. Johnson in this play blends Johnson’s aphorisms seamlessly with his own. Available! See Collected Works Volume 11.
“He who has the impatience to interrupt the words of a another seldom has the patience rationally to select his own.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
The author of popular works from A Child’s Garden of Verses to Treasure Island and Kidnapped, Stevenson was treated harshly by the “higher” critics, and Chesterton’s criticism of the critics is as extensive – and as enjoyable – as his defense of Stevenson and his lively, romantic and adventurous view of life. Chesterton’s description of childhood is exquisite. Available! Collected Works Volume 18.
“But most men know that there is a difference between the intense momentary emotion called up by memory of the loves of youth, and the yet more instantaneous yet more perfect pleasure of the memory of childhood. The former is always narrow and individual, piercing the heart like a rapier; but the latter is like a flash of lightning, for one split second revealing a whole varied landscape; it is not the memory of a particular pleasure any more than of a particular pain, but of a whole world that shone with wonder. The first is only a lover remembering love; the second is like a dead man remembering life.”
The Secret of Father Brown
The fourth collection of Father Brown mysteries. In addition to a prologue and epilogue, the eight stories include “The Man with Two Beards,” “The Red Moon of Meru,” and what some fans think is the best Father Brown mystery, “The Chief Mourner of Marne.” Available! See Collected Works Volume 13.
“There is a limit to human charity,” said Lady Outram, trembling all over.
“There is,” said Father Brown dryly; “and that is the real difference between human charity and Christian charity. You must forgive me if I was not altogether crushed by your contempt for my uncharitableness today; or by the lectures you read me about pardon for every sinner. For it seems to me that you only pardon the sins that you don’t really think sinful. You only forgive criminals when they commit what you don’t regard as crimes, but rather as conventions. So you tolerate a conventional duel, just as you tolerate a conventional divorce. You forgive because there isn’t anything to be forgiven.”
The Return of Don Quixote
A novel which, in one sense, is the sequel to Tales of the Long Bow (it even has a recurring character); in another sense, it is the sequel to all his novels: softly whimsical and sharply pointed. Some consider it Chesterton’s most finely crafted novel. Michael Herne, a mild librarian, playing the role of a medieval king in play, decides at the end of the performance to keep wearing his costume and head off into the real world as the champion of trade unions to do battle against the modern industrial state. Available! See Collected Works Volume 8.
“You can’t really mean, Mr. Braintree,” remonstrated the lady, “that you want great men to be killed.”
“Well, I think there’s something in the idea,” said Braintree. “Tennyson deserved to be killed for writing the May-Queen, and Browning deserved to be killed for rhyming ‘promise’ with ‘from mice,’ and Carlyle deserved to be killed for being Carlyle; and Herbert Spencer deserved to be killed for writing ‘The Man versus The State”; and Dickens deserved to be killed for not killing Little Nell quick enough, and. . .”
Social Reform vs. Birth Control
A short work in which Chesterton argues that the advocates of birth control are merely dupes of industrial capitalism. Available! Collected Works Volume 4.
“Normal and real birth control is called self control.”
Culture and the Coming Peril
The text of a speech delivered at the University of London. Reprinted in Chesterton Review, Vol. 18, No. 2, August, 1992.
“To put it shortly, the evil I am trying to warn you of is not excessive democracy, it is not excessive ugliness, it is not excessive anarchy. It might be stated thus: It is standardisation by a low standard.”
Do We Agree?
The text of a debate between Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw, mostly about Socialism vs. Distributism. Hillaire Belloc serves as moderator, and, truth be told, wins the day. Available! See Collected Works Volume 11.
“The Ten Commandments do, I think, correspond pretty roughly to the moral code of every religion that is at all sane. These all reverence certain ideas about ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ They all have a reverence for the commandment which says, ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods.’ They reverence the idea that you must not covet his house or his ox or his ass. It should be noted, too, that besides forbidding us to covet our neighbour’s property, this commandment also implies that every man has a right to own some property.”
A collection of essays reprinted from Chesterton’s weekly column in the Illustrated London News from 1923 to 1927. The usual variety of subjects are covered, from Leisure to Funeral Customs to Buddhism. Out of print, but all of the essays from this collection are available in Collected Works, Volumes 32, Volume 33, and Volume 34 (all currently unavailable).
“The statistician is trying to make a rigid and unchangeable chain out of elastic links.”
The Poet and the Lunatics
Eight mysteries featuring the poet-detective, Gabriel Gale, who solves (or prevents) crimes committed by madmen. The lunatics all represent the modern breakdown of reason. Available! See The Poet and the Lunatics.
“I doubt whether any truth can be told except in a parable.”
A single poem built on the fairy tale line, “You must seek for a castle east of the sun and west of the moon.” Available! See Collected Works Volume 10.
“For the Sun is not lord but a servant
Of the secret sun we have seen:
The sun of the crypt and the cavern,
The crown of a secret queen:
Where things are not what they seem
But what they mean.”
Father Brown Omnibus
The four previously published collections all under one roof. (Re-issued in 1947 to include The Scandal of Father Brown and in 1953 to include the story, “The Vampire of the Village.”) Available! See Collected Works Volume 12 and Volume 13.
“Do you know what psychology means?” asked Flambeau with friendly surprise. “Psychology means being off your chump.”
The Thing: Why I am a Catholic
The word “Catholic” means “universal” and in this book Chesterton not only defends his Catholic faith from attacks on all sides, but shows how it is the right answer to all questions. He applies “The Thing” (i.e. the Faith) to all other things: worldly philosophies, economic theory and practice, nationalism, Protestantism, agnosticism, art, history, education, and sports. Universal. Available! See Collected Works Volume 3.
“These are the two marks of modern moral ideals. First, that they were borrowed or snatched out of ancient or medieval hands. Second, that they wither very quickly in modern hands.”
“The world really pays the supreme compliment to the Catholic Church in being intolerant of her tolerating even the appearance of the evils which it tolerates in everything else.”
G.K.C. as M.C.
A collection of 37 introductions by Chesterton to books by others, with the subjects ranging from Gilbert and Sullivan, Jane Austen, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, to Boswell, Belloc, and George MacDonald. Includes one of Chesterton’s most transcendent essays, “Introduction to the Book of Job.” Out of print.
“The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.”
The Grave of Arthur
A single poem, comparing the figure of the legendary King Arthur with the figure Christ. Available! See Collected Works Volume 10.
“A dream shall wail through the worm-shaped horn
‘Dead is a King that never was born’
And a trumpet of truth from the Cross reply
“Dead is the King who shall not die’.”
Come to Think of It
A collection of essays reprinted from Chesterton’s weekly column in the Illustrated London News from 1928 and 1929. The usual variety of subjects includes Abraham Lincoln, encyclopedias, mythology, and scientists. Out of print, but all of the essays from this collection are available in Collected Works, Volumes 34 and 35 (both of which are currently unavailable).
Quote: “It is not true that right and wrong changes. The particular concentration on a certain sort of right changes; the relative toleration of a certain sort of wrong changes.”
The Resurrection of Rome
Chesterton’s “travel book” about his trip to Rome in 1929, drawing together history and art and current events. Available! See Collected Works Volume 21.
“A fountain is itself a paradox. It is a sort of topsy-turvy prodigy to show that water can fall upwards or flow uphill. . . [It is] water in a state of rebellion, or least of resurrection.”
Four Faultless Felons
Four mysteries about men who are, respectively, a murderer, a fraud, a thief, and a traitor. All quite guilty. . . except for the fact that they’re completely innocent, proving that “through the worst one could imagine comes the best one could not imagine.” Available! See Four Faultless Felons.
“. . . and wherever I went, I should see petrol pumps instead of trees. That is the logical end of your great progress of science and reason – and a damned illogical end to a damned unreasonable progress. Every spot of England is to be covered with petrol stations, so that people can travel about and see more petrol stations.”
The Turkey and the Turk
A simple Christmas “Mummer’s Play,” in verse, where Chesterton uses the confrontation of St. George and the Turkish Knight to represent Christianity and Islam. Available! See Collected Works Volume 11.
“Two swords in crossing make the sign of the cross.”
All is Grist
A collection of essays reprinted from Chesterton’s weekly column in the Illustrated London News from 1930 and 1931. The usual variety of subjects include Swinburne, the Renaissance, lotteries, heredity, and “The Thrills of Boredom.” Out of print, all of the essays from this collection are in Collected Works Volume 35 (currently unavailable).
“This is a psychological age, which is the opposite of an intellectual age. It is not a question of persuading men, but of suggesting how they are persuaded. It is an age of Suggestion; that is, of appeal to the irrational part of man.”
Christendom in Dublin
Written while attending the World Eucharistic Congress, this short book manages to create a perspective that is at once both inside and outside of the Catholic Church. Available! See Collected Works Vol 20 (currently sold out).
“Once remove the old arena of the 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.”
Sidelights on New London and Newer York (also known simply as Sidelights)
A collection of essays reprinted from G.K.’s Weekly and several other periodicals, divided into three sections: observations on England and America and some essays of literary criticism. Available! See Collected Works Vol. 21.
“America has never been quite normal.”
Chesterton shines in this work on Chaucer and his Age, both of which Chesterton praises as being more sane, more cheerful, and more normal than the writers and ages which came after them. Available! See Collected Works Volume 18.
“There is at the back of all our lives an abyss of light, more blinding and unfathomable than any abyss of darkness; and it is the abyss of actuality, of existence, of the fact that things truly are, and that we ourselves are incredibly and sometimes almost incredulously real.”
All I Survey
A collection of essays reprinted from Chesterton’s weekly column in the Illustrated London News from 1931 and 1932. The usual variety of subjects includes taxes, the solar system, literary cliques, and eating and sleeping. Out of print, but some of the essays from this collection are in Collected Works Volume 35 (unavailable), and Volume 36.
“A citizen can hardly distinguish between a tax and a fine, except that the fine is generally much lighter.”
St. Thomas Aquinas (subtitled in some subsequent editions, The Dumb Ox)
“I consider it as being without possible comparison the best book ever written on St. Thomas.” So wrote the renowned international scholar, Etienne Gilson. But besides being merely the best book ever written about St. Thomas, Chesterton’s book has the virtue of being the most readable. Available! See St. Thomas Aquinas and also Collected Works Volume 2.
“To this question ‘Is there anything?’ St. Thomas begins by answering ‘Yes'; if he began by answering ‘No’, it would not be the beginning, but the end. That is what some of us call common sense.
“It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything.”
Avowals and Denials
A collection of essays reprinted from Chesterton’s weekly column in the Illustrated London News from 1932 and 1933. The usual variety of subjects include jazz, monsters, free verse, dogs and apes. Out of print, but all of the essays from this collection are available in Collected Works Volume 36.
“Of all modern phenomena, the most monstrous and ominous, the most manifestly rotting with disease, the most grimly prophetic of destruction, the most clearly and unmistakably inspired by evil spirits, the most instantly and awfully overshadowed by the wrath of heaven, the most near to madness and moral chaos, the most vivid with deviltry and despair, is the practice of having to listen to loud music while eating a meal in a restaurant.”
The Scandal of Father Brown
The fifth and final set in the series of Father Brown mysteries. Eight stories, including “The Blast of the Book” and “The Insoluble Problem.” Available! See Collected Works Volume 13.
“Surely,” said Father Brown very gently, “it is not generous to make even God’s patience with us a point against him.”
The Well and the Shallows
This book could be called More of The Thing. It is the natural sequel to that book, a collection of essays reprinted from a number of different periodicals, which apply “The Thing” to everything else, including sex, materialism, nihilism, Puritanism, Capitalism, free thought, Luther and the rest. Includes the essay, “Babies and Distributism,” which is cast down like a gauntlet against modern thought. Available! See Collected Works Volume 3.
“Let all the babies be born; and then let us drown those we do not like.”
The Way of the Cross
A Commentary on The Stations of the Cross, which is a commentary both on art and on the vividness of the events surrounding the Crucifixion. Available! See Collected Works Volume 3.
[Regarding the mob which demanded Christ’s death:] “There is every shade of every passion, or lack of passion, that may go to make up a huge human blunder or crime; as if to emphasise the deeper doctrinal conception that every man has his own quarrel with God.”
As I Was Saying
A collection of essays reprinted from Chesterton’s weekly column in the Illustrated London News from 1934 and 1935. The usual variety of subjects includes Traffic, Blondes, Shirts, the Telephone and Mad Metaphors. -Out of print, but all of the essays from this collection will be available in Collected Works Volume 36 and Volume 37.
“It is especially the educational film that threatens to darken and weaken the human intelligence. . . A false film might be refuted in a hundred books, without much affecting the million dupes who had never read the books but only seen the film.”
It is hard for a humble man to talk about himself, so Chesterton talks about several other things instead, giving us glimpses along the way of what is ostensibly the subject of this book, which was completed just before his death and published just after it. Available! Autobiography and Collected Works Volume 16.
“Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it.”
The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond
A collection of eight mysteries, featuring Mr. Pond (whose first name we never learn), an obscure bureaucrat who, wouldn’t you know it, has a surprising way of solving crimes. Includes the remarkable story, “The Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” Unavailable.
“How many men have sold their souls to be admired by fools?”
The Coloured Lands
A collection of stories, poems, essays and drawings, which Maisie Ward, Chesterton’s biographer, assembled with the intention of re-creating what it would be like to spend a weekend with Chesterton. Available! See The Coloured Lands and some of the stories are available in Collected Works Volume 14.
“For children are innocent and love justice; while most of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy.”
The End of the Armistice
A collection of essays from G.K.’s Weekly, compiled by Frank Sheed, to demonstrate Chesterton’s acute awareness of “future history.” He predicted the coming of World War II, even that it would begin on the Polish border. Says Sheed, “Now when a man is as right as that in his forecasts, there is some reason to think he may be right in his premises.” Available! See Collected Works Volume 5.
“In the lands of the new religions, rapidly turning into the new irreligions, there had already sprung up a number of new tests and theories; of which the most menacing was the new theory of Race.”
The Common Man
A collection of essays from several different periodicals, compiled by Dorothy Collins, Chesterton’s secretary and literary executrix. Includes “If I Had Only One Sermon to Preach,” “Rabelasian Regrets” and a wonderful essay on “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.” Out of print.
“Progress has been merely the persecution of the Common Man. . . There is no normal thing that cannot now be taken from the normal man.”
A delightful play, written in 1932, but never produced in Chesterton’s lifetime. A play within a play, the Author of the play finally has to intervene because the actors make a mess of it. (The 1952 edition includes an introduction by Dorothy L. Sayers.)
“Obedience. The most thrilling word in the world; a very thunderclap of a word. Why do all these fools fancy that the soul is only free when it disagrees with the common command? Even the mobs who rise to burn and destroy owe all their grandeur and terror, and a sort of authority, not to their anger but to their agreement. Why should disagreement make us feel free?”
A Handful of Authors
A collection of 37 essays compiled from different sources by Dorothy Collins about literary figures and subjects, including Mark Twain, Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde, Henrik Ibsen, Lewis Carroll and Louisa Alcott. Out of print.
“A man may enjoy humour all by himself; he may see a joke when no one else sees it; he may see the point and avoid it. But wit is sword; it is meant to make people feel the point as well as see it. All honest people saw the point of Mark Twain’s wit. Not a few dishonest people felt it.”
The Glass Walking-Stick
A collection of essays compiled by Dorothy Collins from Chesterton’s columns in the Illustrated London News from 1920 to 1928, which were not included in previous collections. The usual variety of subjects includes Camelot, Tom Jones, Napoleon, and “A Plea for the Heroic Couplet.” Out of print, but all of the essays from this collection are available in Collected Works, Volume 32, Volume 33, 34, and 35 (all unavailable).
“The refined people seem to think that there is something unpleasant and profane about making a war religious. 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.”
Lunacy and Letters
A collection of essays compiled by Dorothy Collins from Chesterton’s columns in the Daily News, half a century earlier. Includes “The Meaning of Dreams,” “Tommy and the Traditions,” and the parable-like “The Roots of the World.” Out of print.
“Sceptics do not succeed in pulling up the roots of Christianity; but they do succeed in pulling up the roots of every man’s ordinary vine and fig tree, of every man’s kitchen garden. Secularists have not succeeded in wrecking divine things; but Secularists have succeeded in wrecking secular things.”
Where All Roads Lead
A collection of essays about the Catholic Church that originally appeared in Blackfriars magazine in 1922 and 1923, just after Chesterton’s conversion. Available! Collected Works Volume 3.
“If there were no God, there would be no atheists.”
The Spice of Life
A collection of essays compiled from different sources by Dorothy Collins. Includes “On the Essay,” “The Macbeths” “The Philosophy of Islands” and “On Losing One’s Head.” Out of print.
[in responding to T.S. Eliot and “the young pessimists”]
“Some sneer; some snigger; some simper;
In the youth where we laughed and sang,
And they will end with a whimper
But we will end with a bang.”
Chesterton on Shakespeare
Chesterton had been commissioned to write a book on Shakespeare, but, alas, he died before he was able to do it. Dorothy Collins compiled 32 of his essays on Shakespeare’s plays and characters, many of which are from previous collections, but some of which are collected here for the first time, including early articles from The Speaker (1901-02). Out of print. However, there is a brand new collection of Chesterton on Shakespeare, which you can get here. It’s even better than Dorothy Collins’s book.
“The dispute that goes on between Macbeth and his wife about the murder of Duncan is almost word for word a dispute which goes on at any suburban breakfast table about something else. It is merely a matter of changing ‘Infirm of purpose, give me the daggers’ into ‘Infirm of purpose, give me the postage stamps.'”
The Apostle and the Wild Ducks
Dorothy Collins’ final compilation of essays from several different sources. Includes “On Manners”, “For Persons of the Name of Smith,” “Asparagus,” and the incomparable “What’s Right with the World.” Out of print.
“The most dangerous thing in the world is to be alive; one is always in danger of one’s life. But anyone who shrinks from that is a traitor to the great scheme and experiment of being.”
The Spirit of Christmas
Stories, poems, and essays about Christmas, compiled by Marie Smith, most of which appear in previous collections, but some which are collected here for the first time.
“The idea of embodying goodwill – that is, of putting it into a body – is the huge and primal idea of the Incarnation. A gift of God that can be seen and touched is the whole point of the epigram of the creed. Christ Himself was a Christmas present. . . The Three Kings came to Bethlehem bringing gold and frankincense and myrrh. If they had only brought Truth and Purity and Love there would have been no Christian art and no Christian civilization.”
Daylight and Nightmare
Stories and fables by Chesterton, compiled by Marie Smith, many of which are collected for the first time. Includes “A Picture of Tuesday,” “The End of Wisdom,” “The Tree of Pride,” and “The Conversion of an Anarchist.” Out of print, but most of the stories are available in Collected Works Volume 14 (which also includes the two uncollected Father Brown stories).
“Each was bound by a chain; the heaviest chain ever tied to a man – it is called a watch-chain.”
Brave New Family
Subtitled “G.K. Chesterton on Men & Women, Children, Sex, Divorce, Marriage & the Family.” Essays, short quotations, and poems compiled by Alvaro de Silva. An excellent and well- organized collection, which includes some great material that is not available elsewhere. We need more collections like this one. Currently out of print.
“A man has been lucky in marrying the women he loves. But he is luckier in loving the woman he marries.”
A facsimile of the book, Platitudes in the Making, by Holbrook Jackson, which was presented by the author to Chesterton. Chesterton’s written responses, in green pencil, to each “platitude,” present a microcosm of his debate with modern thinking. Not only a good introduction to Chesterton, but a welcome discovery for those who can’t get enough Chesterton. Unavailable.
Jackson: “Truth is one’s own conception of things.”
Chesterton: “The Big Blunder. All thought is an attempt to discover if one’s own conception is true or not.”
On Lying in Bed and Other Essays
A wonderful new collection bringing together some of Chesterton’s best essays which have long been out of print. Edited and introduced by Alberto Manguel. Unavailable.
“Lost somewhere in the enormous plains of time, there wanders a dwarf who is the image of God, who has produced on a yet more dwarfish scale an image of creation. The pigmy picture of God we call Man; the pigmy picture of creation we call Art.”
“The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.”
Chesterton’s first novel, never published during his lifetime. Discovered by Chesterton scholars Denis Conlon and Aidan Mackey. This was written in the 1890’s and provides a fascinating glimpse of Chesterton’s developing powers as a writer. Evoking Jane Austen in its witty, restrained dialogue, Chesterton’s hero is a young man who has befriended three colorful sisters and is falling in love with one of them. Published by New City Press, but unfortunately not available in the United States. This edition includes an introduction by Denis Conlon, explaining the discovery and reassembly of the manuscript and speculation on the autobiographical elements in the novel. There is, however, a mostly complete version available in Collected Works Volume 14.
“…A young man today, in this whirling social cosmos, chased by sins, fretted by doubts, has still one sight which God sends him eternally; the sight which Adam saw when he awoke from sleep.”
Approximately 375 of the 1535 essays which Chesterton wrote for the Illustrated London News from 1905-1936 were reprinted in collections such as All Things Considered, et al. The ILN essays through 1931 are mostly available in the Ignatius Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton Volumes 27-35.
Chesterton wrote literally thousands of essays that have not been collected. They originally appeared in the Daily News, The New Witness, G.K.’s Weekly, and well over one hundred other periodicals on both sides of the Atlantic.