Quotations of G. K. Chesterton

Some of the most celebrated and notorious G.K. Chesterton quotations. Share them. All of them.

Topics

Timeless Truths
Free Advice
The Cult of Progress
War and Politics
Government and Politics
Society and Culture
Love, Marriage, and the Sexes
Religion and Faith
Christmas
Morality and Truth
Economic Theory and Distributism
Art and Literature
Past Words on Today’s Dilemmas
Islam
Atheism
Courage
Friendship
Liberty
The Skeptic
Today’s World

Timeless Truths

  • “Misers get up early in the morning; and burglars, I am informed, get up the night before.” – “On Lying in Bed,” Tremendous Trifles
  • “A change of opinions is almost unknown in an elderly military man.” – Lord Kitchener
  • “The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice.” – “A Defense of Humilities,” The Defendant
  • “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” – “The Five Deaths of the Faith,” The Everlasting Man
  • “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.” – Illustrated London News, April 19, 1930
  • “Impartiality is a pompous name for indifference, which is an elegant name for ignorance.” – The Speaker, Dec. 15, 1900
  • “An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.” – “On Running After Ones Hat,” All Things Considered
  • “What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism.” – “On Bright Old Things and Other Things,” Sidelights on New London and Newer New York
  • “He is a [sane] man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head.” – “The Travellers in State,” Tremendous Trifles
  • “Among the rich you will never find a really generous man even by accident. They may give their money away, but they will never give themselves away; they are egotistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it.” -“The Miser and His Friends,” A Miscellany of Men
  • “Moderate strength is shown in violence, supreme strength is shown in levity.” – “The Six Philosophers,”The Man Who was Thursday
  • “The simplification of anything is always sensational.” – “Tolstoy and the Cult of Simplicity,”Varied Types
  • “Customs are generally unselfish. Habits are nearly always selfish.” – Illustrated London News, Jan. 11, 1908
  • “I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid.” – Illustrated London News, June 3, 1922
  • “The center of every man’s existence is a dream. Death, disease, insanity, are merely material accidents, like a toothache or a twisted ankle. That these brutal forces always besiege and often capture the citadel does not prove that they are the citadel.” – “Sir Walter Scott,” Twelve Types
  • “The person who is really in revolt is the optimist, who generally lives and dies in a desperate and suicidal effort to persuade other people how good they are.” – Introduction to The Defendant
  • “To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.” – “The War of the Usurpers,” A Short History of England
  • “All the exaggerations are right, if they exaggerate the right thing.” – “On Gargoyles,” Alarms and Discursions
  • “The comedy of man survives the tragedy of man.” – Illustrated London News, Feb. 10, 1906
  • “We have had no good comic operas of late, because the real world has been more comic than any possible opera.” – Illustrated London News, Jan. 17, 1931
  • “When learned men begin to use their reason, then I generally discover that they haven’t got any.” – Illustrated London News, Nov. 7, 1908
  • “The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog.” – Broadcast talk, June 11, 1935
  • “Aesthetes never do anything but what they are told.” – “The Love of Lead,” Lunacy and Letters
  • “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.” – Illustrated London News,  Dec. 25, 1909
  • “The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right.” – Illustrated London News, Oct. 28, 1922
  • “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.” – “Charles II,” Twelve Types
  • “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 invented anything so bad as drunkeness – or so good as drink.” – “Wine When it is Red,” All Things Considered
  • “When we step into the family, by the act of being born, we do step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which has its own strange laws, into a world which could do without us, into a world we have not made. In other words, when we step into the family we step into a fairy-tale.” – “On Certain Modern Writers and the Institution of the Family,” Heretics
  • “A thing may be too sad to be believed or too wicked to be believed or too good to be believed; but it cannot be too absurd to be believed in this planet of frogs and elephants, of crocodiles and cuttle-fish.” – “Maycock,” The Man Who Was Orthodox

 

Free Advice

Back to Top

      • “Do not enjoy yourself. Enjoy dances and theaters and joy-rides and champagne and oysters; enjoy jazz and cocktails and night-clubs if you can enjoy nothing better; enjoy bigamy and burglary and any crime in the calendar, in preference to the other alternative; but never learn to enjoy yourself.” – “If I Only Had One Sermon to Preach,” In Defense of Sanity 
      • “Do not look at the faces in the illustrated papers. Look at the faces in the street.” – Illustrated London News, Nov. 16, 1907
      • “When giving treats to friends or children, give them what they like, emphatically not what is good for them.” – The Chesterton Review, Feb., 1984
      • “I agree with the realistic Irishman who said he preferred to prophesy after the event.” – Illustrated London News, Oct. 7, 1916

 

The Cult of Progress

Back to Top

      • “Progress is a comparative of which we have not settled the superlative.” – “On the Negative Spirit,” Heretics
      • “Progress should mean that we are always changing the world to fit the vision, instead we are always changing the vision.” – “The Eternal Revolution,” Orthodoxy
      • “My attitude toward progress has passed from antagonism to boredom. I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday.” – New York Times Magazine,  Feb. 11, 1923
      • “Men invent new ideals because they dare not attempt old ideals. They look forward with enthusiasm, because they are afraid to look back.” – “The Unfinished Temple,” What’s Wrong With The World
      • “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.” – “The Ethics of Elfland,” Orthodoxy
      • “The modern world is a crowd of very rapid racing cars all brought to a standstill and stuck in a block of traffic.” – Illustrated London News, May 29, 1926
      • “Comforts that were rare among our forefathers are now multiplied in factories and handed out wholesale; and indeed, nobody nowadays, so long as he is content to go without air, space, quiet, decency and good manners, need be without anything whatever that he wants; or at least a reasonably cheap imitation of it.” – Commonwealth, 1933
      • “A detective story generally describes six living men discussing how it is that a man is dead. A modern philosophic story generally describes six dead men discussing how any man can possibly be alive.” – “The Divine Detective,” A Miscellany of Men
      • “None of the modern machines, none of the modern paraphernalia. . . have any power except over the people who choose to use them.” – Daily News, July 21, 1906
      • “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.” – “The Artistic Side,” The Coloured Lands
      • “The whole curse of the last century has been what is called the Swing of the Pendulum; that is, the idea that Man must go alternately from one extreme to the other. It is a shameful and even shocking fancy; it is the denial of the whole dignity of the mankind. When Man is alive he stands still. It is only when he is dead that he swings.” – “The New House,” Alarms and Discursions
      • “To hurry through one’s leisure is the most unbusiness-like of actions.” – “A Somewhat Improbable Story,” Tremendous Trifles
      • “This is the age in which thin and theoretic minorities can cover and conquer unconscious and untheoretic majorities.” – Illustrated London News, Dec. 20, 1919
      • “The past is not what it was.” – “The Age of Legends,” A Short History of England

 

War and Politics

Back to Top

      • “[Marxism will] in a generation or so [go] into the limbo of most heresies, but meanwhile it will have poisoned the Russian Revolution.” – Illustrated London News, July 19, 1919
      • “War is not ‘the best way of settling differences;’ it is the only way of preventing their being settled for you.” – Illustrated London News, July 24, 1915
      • “There is a corollary to the conception of being too proud to fight. It is that the humble have to do most of the fighting.” – “The Demons and Philosophers,” The Everlasting Man
      • “The only defensible war is a war of defense.” – “The Shadow of the Sword,” Autobiography
      • “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” – Illustrated London News, Jan. 14, 1911
      • “How quickly revolutions grow old; and, worse still, respectable.” – The Listener, March 6, 1935

 

Government and Politics

Back to Top

      • “Once abolish the God, and the government becomes the God.” – “Very Christian Democracy,” Christendom in Dublin
      • “America is the only country ever founded on a creed.” – “What is America?” What I Saw In America
      • “The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; and it is right; for if they were not created equal, they were certainly evolved unequal. There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man.” – Chapter 19, What I Saw In America
      • “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.” – Illustrated London News, July 21, 1928
      • “When you break the big laws, you do not get freedom; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws.” – Daily News, July 29, 1905
      • “Men are ruled, at this minute by the clock, by liars who refuse them news, and by fools who cannot govern.” – “The New Name,” Utopia of Usurers
      • “If you attempt an actual argument with a modern paper of opposite politics, you will have no answer except slanging or silence.” – Chapter 3, What’s Wrong With The World
      • “He is a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of a conservative.” – “Tennyson,” Varied Types
      • “You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution. – “The Wind and the Trees,” Tremendous Trifles
      • “For fear of the newspapers politicians are dull, and at last they are too dull even for the newspapers.” – “On the Cryptic and the Elliptic,” All Things Considered
      • “When a politician is in opposition he is an expert on the means to some end; and when he is in office he is an expert on the obstacles to it.” – Illustrated London News, April 6, 1918
      • “It is the mark of our whole modern history that the masses are kept quiet with a fight. They are kept quiet by the fight because it is a sham-fight; thus most of us know by this time that the Party System has been popular only in the sense that a football match is popular.” – “Aristocracy and the Discontents,” A Short History of England
      • “I have formed a very clear conception of patriotism. I have generally found it thrust into the foreground by some fellow who has something to hide in the background. I have seen a great deal of patriotism; and I have generally found it the last refuge of the scoundrel.” – The Judgement of Dr. Johnson, Act III
      • “It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged.” – The Cleveland Press, March 1, 1921
      • “There cannot be a nation of millionaires, and there never has been a nation of Utopian comrades; but there have been any number of nations of tolerably contented peasants.” – “The Religion of Small Property,” The Outline of Sanity
      • “All government is an ugly necessity.” – “The Meaning of Merry England,” A Short History of England
      • “It is hard to make government representative when it is also remote.” – Illustrated London News, Aug. 17, 1918
      • “It is a good sign in a nation when things are done badly. It shows that all the people are doing them. And it is bad sign in a nation when such things are done very well, for it shows that only a few experts and eccentrics are doing them, and that the nation is merely looking on.” – “Patriotism and Sport,” All Things Considered
      • “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.” – Illustrated London News, April 19, 1924

 

Society and Culture

Back to Top

      • “I never could see anything wrong in sensationalism; and I am sure our society is suffering more from secrecy than from flamboyant revelations.” – Illustrated London News, Oct. 4, 1919
      • “With all that we hear of American hustle and hurry, it is rather strange that Americans seem to like to linger on longer words.” – “A Meditation in a New York Hotel,” What I Saw in America
      • “It is true that I am of an older fashion; much that I love has been destroyed or sent into exile.” – The Judgement of Dr. Johnson, Act III
      • “I think the oddest thing about the advanced people is that, while they are always talking about things as problems, they have hardly any notion of what a real problem is.” – Uses of Diversity
      • “There have been household gods and household saints and household fairies. I am not sure that there have yet been any factory gods or factory saints or factory fairies. I may be wrong, as I am no commercial expert, but I have not heard of them as yet.” – Illustrated London News, Dec. 18, 1926
      • “Over-civilization and barbarism are within an inch of each other. And a mark of both is the power of medicine-men.” – Illustrated London News, Sept. 11, 1909
      • “By experts in poverty I do not mean sociologists, but poor men.” – Illustrated London News, March 25, 1911
      • “The modern city is ugly not because it is a city but because it is not enough of a city, because it is a jungle, because it is confused and anarchic, and surging with selfish and materialistic energies.” – “The Way to the Stars,” Lunacy and Letters
      • “Self-denial is the test and definition of self-government.” – “The Field of Blood,” Alarms and Discursions

 

Love, Marriage and The Sexes

Back to Top

      • “Charity means pardoning the unpardonable, or it is no virtue at all. Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all. And faith means believing the incredible, or it is no virtue at all.” – “Paganism and Mr. Lowes-Dickinson,” Heretics
      • “A man imagines a happy marriage as a marriage of love; even if he makes fun of marriages that are without love, or feels sorry for lovers who are without marriage.” – “The Garden of Romance,” Chaucer
      • “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.” – “Louisa Alcott,” A Handful of Authors
      • “The whole pleasure of marriage is that it is a perpetual crisis.” – “David Copperfield,” Chesterton on Dickens
      • “A good man’s work is effected by doing what he does, a woman’s by being what she is.” – “Early Works,” Robert Browning
      • “Women have a thirst for order and beauty as for something physical; there is a strange female power of hating ugliness and waste as good men can only hate sin and bad men virtue.” – “Bleak House,” Appreciations and Criticisms
      • “Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honour should decline.” – Manalive
      • “The first two facts which a healthy boy or girl feels about sex are these: first that it is beautiful and then that it is dangerous.” – Illustrated London News, Jan. 9, 1909
      • “I have little doubt that when St. George had killed the dragon he was heartily afraid of the princess.” – “The Great Victorian Novelists,” The Victorian Age in Literature

 

Religion and Faith

Back to Top

      • “One of the chief uses of religion is that it makes us remember our coming from darkness, the simple fact that we are created.” – The Boston Sunday Post, Jan. 16, 1921
      • “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.” – Illustrated London News, July 16, 1910
      • “If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” – Where All Roads Lead
      • “There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions.” – Illustrated London News, Jan. 13, 1906
      • “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” – Chapter 5, What’s Wrong With The World
      • “The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.” – “Introduction to the Book of Job,” In Defense of Sanity
      • “It has been often said, very truely, that religion is the thing that makes the ordinary man feel extraordinary; it is an equally important truth that religion is the thing that makes the extraordinary man feel ordinary.” – “The Dickens Period,” Charles Dickens
      • “Theology is only thought applied to religion.” – “The Groups of the City,”  The New Jerusalem
      • “The truth is, of course, that the curtness of the Ten Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a religion, but, on the contrary, of its liberality and humanity. It is shorter to state the things forbidden than the things permitted: precisely because most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden.” – Illustrated London News, Jan. 3, 1920
      • “These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own.” – Illustrated London News, Aug. 11, 1928
      • “Puritanism was an honourable mood; it was a noble fad. In other words, it was a highly creditable mistake.” – William Blake

 

Christmas

Back to Top

      • “What life and death may be to a turkey is not my business; but the soul of Scrooge and the body of Cratchit are my business.” – “Christmas,” All Things Considered
      • “If a man called Christmas Day a mere hypocritical excuse for drunkeness and gluttony, that would be false, but it would have a fact hidden in it somewhere. But when Bernard Shaw says that Christmas Day is only a conspiracy kept up by Poulterers and wine merchants from strictly business motives, then he says something which is not so much false as startling and arrestingly foolish. He might as well say that the two sexes were invented by jewellers who wanted to sell wedding rings.” – “The Dramatist,” George Bernard Shaw
      • “Any one thinking of the Holy Child as born in December would mean by it exactly what we mean by it; that Christ is not merely a summer sun of the prosperous but a winter fire for the unfortunate.” – “The Streets of the City,” The New Jerusalem
      • “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.” – “Very Christian Democracy,” Christendom in Dublin
      • “The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why.” – “On Christmas,” Generally Speaking

 

Morality and Truth

Back to Top

      • “Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.” – Illustrated London News, Oct. 23, 1909
      • “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.” – Illustrated London News, March 14, 1908
      • “There is a case for telling the truth; there is a case for avoiding the scandal; but there is no possible defense for the man who tells the scandal, but does not tell the truth.” – Illustrated London News, July 18, 1908
      • “The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice.” – Illustrated London News, June 11, 1910
      • “Truth is sacred; and if you tell the truth too often nobody will believe it.” – Illustrated London News, Feb. 24, 1906
      • “Civilization has run on ahead of the soul of man, and is producing faster than he can think and give thanks.” – Daily News, Feb. 21, 1902
      • “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.” – “The Obvious Blunders,” The Catholic Church and Conversion
      • “There’d be a lot less scandal if people didn’t idealize sin and pose as sinners.” – The Father Brown Omnibus
      • “All men thirst to confess their crimes more than tired beasts thirst for water; but they naturally object to confessing them while other people, who have also committed the same crimes, sit by and laugh at them.” – Illustrated London News, March 14, 1908
      • “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.” – Illustrated London News, Sept. 11, 1909
      • “I say that a man must be certain of his morality for the simple reason that he has to suffer for it.” – Illustrated London News, Aug. 4, 1906
      • “To the humble man, and to the humble man alone, the sun is really a sun; to the humble man, and to the humble man alone, the sea is really a sea.” – “H.G. Wells and the Giants,” Heretics
      • “Great truths can only be forgotten and can never be falsified.” – Illustrated London News, Sept. 30, 1933
      • “The voice of the special rebels and prophets, recommending discontent, should, as I have said, sound now and then suddenly, like a trumpet. But the voices of the saints and sages, recommending contentment, should sound unceasingly, like the sea.” – T.P.’s Weekly, 1910
      • “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.” – “What Do They Think?,” The Thing
      • “Most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities.” – “Authority the Unavoidable,” What’s Wrong With the World
      • “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.” – “On Cleanliness in Education,” What’s Wrong with the World
      • “The world will very soon be divided, unless I am mistaken, into those who still go on explaining our success, and those somewhat more intelligent who are trying to explain our failure.” – Speech to Anglo-Catholic Congress, June 29, 1920
      • “What we call emancipation is always and of necessity simply the free choice of the soul between one set of limitations and another.” – Daily News, Dec. 21, 1905
      • “There are some desires that are not desirable.” – “The Eternal Revolution,” Orthodoxy
      • “In the struggle for existence, it is only on those who hang on for ten minutes after all is hopeless, that hope begins to dawn.” – The Speaker, Feb. 2, 1901
      • “Modern broad-mindedness benefits the rich; and benefits nobody else.” – “The Church of the Servile State,” Utopia of Usurers
      • “It is the main earthly business of a human being to make his home, and the immediate surroundings of his home, as symbolic and significant to his own imagination as he can.” – “The Artistic Side,” The Coloured Lands

 

Economic Theory and Distributism

Back to Top

      • “Big Business and State Socialism are very much alike, especially Big Business.” – G.K.’s Weekly, April 10, 1926
      • “[No society can survive the socialist] fallacy that there is an absolutely unlimited number of inspired officials and an absolutely unlimited amount of money to pay them.” – The Debate with Bertrand Russell, BBC Magazine, Nov. 27, 1935
      • “A citizen can hardly distinguish between a tax and a fine, except that the fine is generally much lighter.” – Illustrated London News, May 25, 1931
      • “Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.” – “The Superstition of Divorce (3),” The Superstition of Divorce
      • “Price is a crazy and incalculable thing, while Value is an intrinsic and indestructible thing.” – “Reflections on a Rotten Apple,” The Well and the Shallows
      • “Business, especially big business, is now organized like an army. It is, as some would say, a sort of mild militarism without bloodshed; as I say, a militarism without the military virtues.” – “The Drift From Domesticity,” The Thing
      • “All but the hard hearted man must be torn with pity for this pathetic dilemma of the rich man, who has to keep the poor man just stout enough to do the work and just thin enough to have to do it.” – “Science and the Eugenists,” Utopia of Usurers
      • “From the standpoint of any sane person, the present problem of capitalist concentration is not only a question of law, but of criminal law, not to mention criminal lunacy.” – “A Case In Point,” The Outline of Sanity
      • “Because a girl should have long hair, she should have clean hair; because she should have clean hair, she should not have an unclean home; because she should not have an unclean home, she should have a free and leisured mother; because she should have a free mother, she should not have an usurious landlord; because there should not be a usurious landlord, there should be a redistribution of property; because there should be a redistribution of property, there shall be a revolution.” – “Conclusion,” What’s Wrong with the World
      • “There is only one thing that stands in our midst, attenuated and threatened, but enthroned in some power like a ghost of the Middle Ages: the Trade Unions.” – “The Meaning of Merry England,” A Short History of England
      • “[Capitalism is] that commercial system in which supply immediately answers to demand, and in which everybody seems to be thoroughly dissatisfied and unable to get anything he wants.” – “How to Write a Detective Story,” The Spice of Life
      • “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.” – Commonwealth, Oct. 12, 1932
      • “The real argument against aristocracy is that it always means the rule of the ignorant. For the most dangerous of all forms of ignorance is ignorance of work.” – NY Sun, Nov. 3, 1918
      • “Making the landlord and the tenant the same person has certain advantages, as that the tenant pays no rent, while the landlord does a little work.” – “Hudge and Gudge,” What’s Wrong with the World
      • “You can’t have the family farm without the family.” – “The Unprecedented Architecture of Commander Blair,” Tales of the Long Bow
      • “I would give a woman not more rights, but more privileges. Instead of sending her to seek such freedom as notoriously prevails in banks and factories, I would design specially a house in which she can be free.” – “The Modern Slave,” What’s Wrong with the World

 

Art and Literature

Back to Top

      • “Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.” – Illustrated London News,  May 5, 1928
      • “The decay of society is praised by artists as the decay of a corpse is praised by worms.” – “The Progressive,” George Bernard Shaw
      • “The artistic temperament is a disease that afflicts amateurs.” –  “On the Wit of Whistler,” Heretics
      • “Savages and modern artists are alike strangely driven to create something uglier than themselves. but the artists find it harder.” – Illustrated London News, Nov. 25, 1905
      • “The beautification of the world is not a work of nature, but a work of art, then it involves an artist.” – Illustrated London News, Sept. 18, 1909
      • “By a curious confusion, many modern critics have passed from the proposition that a masterpiece may be unpopular to the other proposition that unless it is unpopular it cannot be a masterpiece.” – “On Detective Novels,” Generally Speaking
      • “And all over the world, the old literature, the popular literature, is the same. It consists of very dignified sorrow and very undignified fun. Its sad tales are of broken hearts; its happy tales are of broken heads.” – “The Great Dickens Characters,” Charles Dickens
      • “The aim of good prose words is to mean what they say. The aim of good poetical words is to mean what they do not say.” – Daily News, April 22, 1905

 

Past Words on Today’s Dilemmas

Back to Top

      1. Absentee Fathers – “What is called matriarchy is simply moral anarchy, in which the mother alone remains fixed because all the fathers are fugitive and irresponsible.” – “Professors and Prehistoric Men,” The Everlasting Man
      2. Back To Nature – “Properly speaking, of course, there is no such thing as a return to nature, because there is no such thing as a departure from it. The phrase reminds one of the slightly intoxicated gentleman who gets up in his own dining room and declares firmly that he must be getting home.” – The Chesterton Review, Aug., 1993
      3. Bigotry –“Bigotry is an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.” – “The Bigot,” Lunacy and Letters
      4. Capital Punishment –“For my part, I would have no executions except by the mob; or, at least, by the people acting quite exceptionally. I would make capital punishment impossible except by act of attainder. Then there would be some chance of a few of our real oppressors getting hanged. – Illustrated London News, Feb. 13, 1909
      5. Condom Distribution –“Our materialistic masters could, and probably will, put Birth Control into an immediate practical programme while we are all discussing the dreadful danger of somebody else putting it into a distant Utopia.” – GK’s Weekly, Jan. 17, 1931
      6. Credibility of the Media –“Modern man is staggering and losing his balance because he is being pelted with little pieces of alleged fact which are native to the newspapers; and, if they turn out not to be facts, that is still more native to newspapers.” – Illustrated London News, April 7, 1923
      7. The Cult of Fame – “America has a genius for the encouragement of fame.” – The Father Brown Omnibus
      8. The Education System
        • “The purpose of Compulsory Education is to deprive the common people of their commonsense.” – Illustrated London News, Sept. 7, 1929
        • “Though the academic authorities are actually proud of conducting everything by means of Examinations, they seldom indulge in what religious people used to descibe as Self-Examination. The consequence is that the modern State has educated its citizens in a series of ephemeral fads.” – Nash’s Pall Mall Magazine, April, 1935
      9. Cloning – “We are learning to do a great many clever things…The next great task will be to learn not to do them.- “Queen Victoria,” Varied Types
      10. A Litigious Society – “The position we have now reached is this: starting from the State, we try to remedy the failures of all the families, all the nurseries, all the schools, all the workshops, all the secondary institutions that once had some authority of their own. Everything is ultimately brought into the Law Courts. We are trying to stop the leak at the other end.” – Illustrated London News, March 24, 1923
      11. September 11 – “The architecture of New York chiefly consists of buildings being destroyed.” – G.K.’s Weekly, Jan. 16, 1926
      12. Police Authority – “Anyone who is not an anarchist agrees with having a policeman at the corner of the street; but the danger at present is that of finding the policeman half-way down the chimney or even under the bed.” – “Fads and Public Opinion,” What I Saw In America
      13. Psychoanlysis – “Psychoanalysis is a science conducted by lunatics for lunatics. They are generally concerned with proving that people are irresponsible; and they certainly succeed in proving that some people are.” – Illustrated London News, June 23, 1928
      14. Reproductive Rights – “Let all the babies be born. Then let us drown those we do not like.” – “Babies and Distributism,” GK’s Weekly, Nov. 12, 1932
      15. Separation of Church and State – “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 Shadow of the Sword,” Autobiography
      16. Urban Planning – “The whole structural system of the suburban civilization is based on the case for having bathrooms and the case against having babies.” –G.K.’s Weekly, July 6, 1929
      17. Vegetarianism – “A modern vegetarian is also a teetotaler, yet there is no obvious connection between consuming vegetables and not consuming fermented vegetables. A drunkard, when lifted laboriously out of the gutter, might well be heard huskily to plead that he had fallen there through excessive devotion to a vegetable diet.” – William Blake
      18. Z.Z. Top – “You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion.” – “How I Met the President,” Tremendous Trifles

 

Islam

Back to Top

  • “A good Moslem king was one who was strict in religion, valiant in battle, just in giving judgment among his people, but not one who had the slightest objection in international matters to removing his neighbour’s landmark.” – Illustrated London News, Nov. 4, 1911
  • “I do not know much about Mohammed or Mohammedanism. I do not take the Koran to bed with me every night. But, if I did on some one particular night, there is one sense at least in which I know what I should not find there. I apprehend that I should not find the work abounding in strong encouragements to the worship of idols; that the praises of polytheism would not be loudly sung; that the character of Mohammed would not be subjected to anything resembling hatred and derision; and that the great modern doctrine of the unimportance of religion would not be needlessly emphasised.” – Illustrated London News, Nov. 15, 1913
  • “A man making the confession of any creed worth ten minutes’ intelligent talk, is always a man who gains something and gives up something. So long as he does both he can create; for he is making an outline and a shape. Mohamet created, when he forbade wine but allowed five wives: he created a very big thing, which we have still to deal with.” – “The Victorian Compromise and Its Enemies,” The Victorian Age in Literature
  • “To do Mohammed justice, his main attack was against the idolatries of Asia. Only he thought, just as the Arians did and just as the Unitarians do, that he could attack them better with a greater approximation to plain theism. What distinguishes his heresy from anything like an Arian or Albigensian heresy is that, as it sprang up on the borders of Christendom, it could spread outwards to a barbaric world.” – “A Note on Comparative Religion,” Where All Roads Lead
  • “When people talk as if the Crusades were nothing more than an aggressive raid against Islam, they seem to forget in the strangest way that Islam itself was only an aggressive raid against the old and ordered civilization in these parts. I do not say it in mere hostility to the religion of Mahomet; I am fully conscious of many values and virtues in it; but certainly it was Islam that was the invasion and Christendom that was the thing invaded.” – “The Way of the Desert,” The New Jerusalem
  • “The effort of the Crusades was sufficient to stop the advance of Islam, but not sufficient to exhaust it. A few centuries after, the Moslem attacked once more, with modern weapons and in a more indifferent age; and, amid the disputes of diplomatists and the dying debates of the Reformation, he succeeded in sailing up the Danube and nearly becoming a central European Power like Poland or Austria. From this position, after prodigious efforts, he was slowly and painfully dislodged. But Austria, though rescued, was exhausted and reluctant to pursue, and the Turk was left in possession of the countries he had devoured in his advance.” – Illustrated London News, Oct. 10, 1914
  • “Islam was something like a Christian heresy. The early heresies had been full of mad reversals and evasions of the Incarnation, rescuing their Jesus from the reality of his body even at the expense of the sincerity of his soul.” – “The Age of the Crusades,” A Short History of England
  • “…but out of the desert, from the dry places and the dreadful suns, come the cruel children of the lonely God; the real Unitarians who with scimitar in hand have laid waste the world. For it is not well for God to be alone.” – “The Romance of Orthodoxy,” Orthodoxy

 

Atheism

Back to Top

      • “Atheism is indeed the most daring of all dogmas . . . for it is the assertion of a universal negative.” – “Charles II,” Twelve Types
      • “It is still bad taste to be an avowed atheist. But now it is equally bad taste to be an avowed Christian.” – “Introductory Remarks on the Importance of Orthodoxy,” Heretics
      • “There is no bigot like the atheist.” – Magic
      • “The atheist is not interested in anything except attacks on atheism.” – “Frozen Free Thought,” The Well and the Shallows
      • “Progress is Providence without God. That is, it is a theory that everything has always perpetually gone right by accident. It is a sort of atheistic optimism, based on an everlasting coincidence far more miraculous than a miracle.” – “Wells and the World State,” What I Saw in America
      • “There are arguments for atheism, and they do not depend, and never did depend, upon science. They are arguable enough, as far as they go, upon a general survey of life; only it happens to be a superficial survey of life.” – Illustrated London News, Jan. 3, 1931
      • “I do not feel any contempt for an atheist, who is often a man limited and constrained by his own logic to a very sad simplification.” – “Babies and Distributism,” The Well and the Shallows
      • “Even in an empire of atheists the dead man is always sacred.” – “The Meaning of Dreams,” Lunacy and Letters
      • “Somehow one can never manage to be an atheist.” – “The Swords Rejoined,”  The Ball and the Cross
      • “If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” – “The Case for Complexity,” Where All Roads Lead

 

There are two kinds of…

Back to Top

      • “There are two kinds of peacemakers in the modern world; and they are both, though in various ways, a nuisance. The first peacemaker is the man who goes about saying that he agrees with everybody. He confuses everybody. The second peacemaker is the man who goes about saying that everybody agrees with him. He enrages everybody. Between the two of them they produce a hundred times more disputes and distractions than we poor pugnacious people would ever have thought of in our lives.” – Illustrated London News, March 3, 1906
      • “There are in this world of ours only two kinds of speakers. The first is the man who is making a good speech and won’t finish. The second is the man who is making a bad speech and can’t finish. The latter is the longer.” – Illustrated London News, Feb. 24, 1906
      • “There are two kinds of charlatan: the man who is called a charlatan, and the man who really is one. The first is the quack who cures you; the second is the highly qualified person who doesn’t.” – Illustrated London News, Feb. 15, 1908
      • “There are two kinds of revolutionists, as of most things – a good kind and a bad. The bad revolutionists destroy conventions by appealing to fads – fashions that are newer than conventions. The good do it by appealing to facts that are older than conventions.” Illustrated London News, April 30, 1910
      • “There are only two kinds of social structure conceivable – personal government and impersonal government. If my anarchic friends will not have rules – they will have rulers. Preferring personal government, with its tact and flexibility, is called Royalism. Preferring impersonal government, with its dogmas and definitions, is called Republicanism. Objecting broadmindedly both to kings and creeds is called Bosh.” – “Imperialism,” What’s Wrong with the World
      • “There are two kinds of paradoxes. They are not so much the good and the bad, nor even the true and the false. Rather they are the fruitful and the barren; the paradoxes which produce life and the paradoxes that merely announce death. Nearly all modern paradoxes merely announce death.” – Illustrated London News, March 11, 1911
      • “There are two kinds of fires: the Bad Fire and the Good Fire. And the paradox is that the Good Fire is made of bad things, of things that we do not want; but the Bad Fire is made of good things, of things that we do want.” – “The Wrong Incendiary,” A Miscellany of Men
      • “There are only two kinds of people, those who accept dogmas and know it, and those who accept dogmas and don’t know it.” – “The Mercy of Mr. Arnold Bennett,” Fancies vs. Fads
      • “There are two kinds of rebellion. The first is one in which the slave demands something that the tyrant has got. The second is one in which he demands something that the tyrant has not got.”- Illustrated London News, Aug. 16, 1924
      • “There are only two kinds of ballads. There are sad ballads about broken hearts and cheerful ballads about broken heads.” – “The Voice of Shelley,” Apostle and the Wild Ducks

 

There are two ways…

Back to Top

      • “It is perfectly obvious that in any decent occupation (such as bricklaying or writing books) there are only two ways (in any special sense) of succeeding. One is by doing very good work, the other is by cheating.” – “The Fallacy of Success,” All Things Considered
      • “There are only two ways of governing: by a rule and by a ruler.” – “The Queen and the Suffragettes,” What’s Wrong with the World
      • “There are two ways of being bloodless – by the avoidance of blood without, and by the absence of blood within.” – Illustrated London News, Aug. 3, 1918
      • “There are two ways of dealing with nonsense in this world. One way is to put nonsense in the right place; as when people put nonsense into nursery rhymes. The other is to put nonsense in the wrong place; as when they put it into educational addresses, psychological criticisms, and complaints against nursery rhymes.” Illustrated London News, Oct. 15, 1921
      • “There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there.” – “Introduction,” The Everlasting Man
      • “There are two ways of dealing with the dignity, the pain, the prejudice or the rooted humour of the poor; especially of the rural poor. One of them is to see in their tragedy only a stark simplicity, like the outline of a rock; the other is to see in it an unfathomable though a savage complexity, like the labyrinthine complexity of a living forest.” – A Shropshire Lass, GKC as MC
      • “There are two ways of renouncing the devil,” said Father Brown; “and the difference is perhaps the deepest chasm in modern religion. One is to have a horror of him because he is so far off; and the other to have it because he is so near. And no virtue and vice are so much divided as those two virtues.” – “The Secret of Flambeau,” The Secret of Father Brown
      • “There are two ways in which a man may vanish – through being thoroughly conquered or through being thoroughly the Conqueror. . . For a man may vanish as Chaos vanished in the face of creation, or he may vanish as God vanished in filling all things with that created life.” – “Tennyson,” A Handful of Authors

 

Courage

Back to Top

      • “Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point and does not break.” – “The Romance of Orthodoxy,” Orthodoxy
      • “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 it requires real courage to say, and that is a truism.” – G.F.Watts
      • “The professional soldier gains more and more power as the general courage of a community declines.” – “On Mr. Rudyard Kipling and Making the World Small,” Heretics
      • “It is the first law of practical courage. To be in the weakest camp is to be in the strongest school.” – “H.G. Wells and the Giants,” Heretics
      • “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.” – “The Paradoxes of Christianity,” Orthodoxy
      • “There is not really any courage at all in attacking hoary or antiquated things, any more than in offering to fight one’s grandmother. The really courageous man is he who defies tyrannies young as the morning and superstitions fresh as the first flowers. The only true free-thinker is he whose intellect is as much free from the future as from the past.” – “The Fear of the Past,” What’s Wrong with the World
      • “I would rather a boy learnt in the roughest school the courage to hit a politician, or gained in the hardest school the learning to refute him – rather than that he should gain in the most enlightened school the cunning to copy him.” – Illustrated London News, Aug. 31, 1912
      • “There should be a burnished tablet let into the ground on the spot where some courageous man first ate Stilton cheese, and survived.” – “The Poet and the Cheese,” A Miscellany of Men

 

Friendship

Back to Top

      • “Comradeship is quite a different thing from friendship. . .” – Illustrated London News, May 19, 1906
      • “. . . For friendship implies individuality; whereas comradeship really implies the temporary subordination, if not the temporary swamping of individuality. Friends are the better for being two; but comrades are the better for being two million.” – “A Case of Comrades,” The Apostle and the Wild Ducks
      • “Only friendliness produces friendship. And we must look far deeper into the soul of man for the thing that produces friendliness.” – “Wells and the World State,” What I Saw In America
      • “It is not merely true that a creed unites men. Nay, a difference of creed unites men – so long as it is a clear difference. A boundary unites. Many a magnanimous Moslem and chivalrous Crusader must have been nearer to each other, because they were both dogmatists, than any two agnostics. “I say God is One,” and “I say God is One but also Three,” that is the beginning of a good quarrelsome, manly friendship.” – “The New Hypocrite,” What’s Wrong with the World
      • “A queer and almost mad notion seems to have got into the modern head that, if you mix up everybody and everything more or less anyhow, the mixture may be called unity, and the unity may be called peace. It is supposed that, if you break down all doors and walls so that there is no domesticity, there will then be nothing but friendship. Surely somebody must have noticed by this time that the men living in a hotel quarrel at least as often as the men living in a street.” – Illustrated London News, Sept. 8, 1917
      • “These are the things which might conceivably and truly make men forgive their enemies. We can only turn hate to love by understanding what are the things that men have loved; nor is it necessary to ask men to hate their loves in order to love one another. Just as two grocers are most likely to be reconciled when they remember for a moment that they are two fathers, so two nationals are most likely to be reconciled when they remember (if only for a moment) that they are two patriots.” – Illustrated London News, June 4, 1921
      • “Because our expression is imperfect we need friendship to fill up the imperfections.” – Illustrated London News, June 6, 1931

 

Liberty

Back to Top

      • “The only object of liberty is life.” – “Belfast and the Religious Problem,” Irish Impressions
      • “The eagle has no liberty; he only has loneliness.” – “The Free Man,” A Miscellany of Men
      • “Liberty is the very last idea that seems to occur to anybody, in considering any political or social proposal. It is only necessary for anybody for any reason to allege any evidence of any evil in any human practice, for people instantly to suggest that the practice should be suppressed by the police.” – Illustrated London News, June 5, 1920
      • “Every sane man recognises that unlimited liberty is anarchy, or rather is nonentity. The civic idea of liberty is to give the citizen a province of liberty; a limitation within which a citizen is a king.” – “The Story of the Family,” The Superstition of Divorce
      • “Religious unity can look like a carnival and religious liberty can look like a funeral.” – Illustrated London News, Dec. 28, 1929
      • “Without authority there is no liberty. Freedom is doomed to destruction at every turn, unless there is a recognized right to freedom. And if there are rights, there is an authority to which we appeal for them.” – G.K.’s Weekly, April 28, 1928
      • “The man of the true religious tradition understands two things: liberty and obedience. The first means knowing what you really want. The second means knowing what you really trust.” – G.K.’s Weekly, Aug. 18, 1928

 

The Skeptic

Back to Top

      • “It is assumed that the sceptic has no bias; whereas he has a very obvious bias in favour of scepticism.” – Illustrated London News, May 4, 1907
      • “Pride consists in a man making his personality the only test, instead of making truth the test. The sceptic feels himself too large to measure life by the largest things; and ends by measuring it by the smallest thing of all.” – “If I Only Had One Sermon to Preach,” In Defense of Sanity
      • “It is the decisive people who have become civilised; it is the indecisive, otherwise called the higher sceptics, or the idealistic doubters, who have remained barbarians.” – Illustrated London News, Nov. 30, 1912
      • “Latter-day scepticism is fond of calling itself progressive; but scepticism is really reactionary. Scepticism goes back; it attempts to unsettle what has already been settled. Instead of trying to break up new fields with its plough, it simply tries to break up the plough.” – Illustrated London News, Feb. 6, 1909
      • “No sceptical philosopher can ask any questions that may not equally be asked by a tired child on a hot afternoon.” – “The Philosopher,” George Bernard Shaw
      • “The sceptics, like bees, give their one sting and die.” – “Ethandune,” Alarms and Discursions
      • “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.” – “Mr. McCabe and a Divine Frivolity,” Heretics
      • “It is ludicrous to suppose that the more sceptical we are the more we see good in everything. It is clear that the more we are certain what good is, the more we shall see good in everything.” – “Concluding Remarks,” Heretics
      • “Liberty has produced scepticism, and scepticism has destroyed liberty. The lovers of liberty thought they were leaving it unlimited, when they were only leaving it undefined. They thought they were only leaving it undefined, when they were really leaving it undefended.” -“The Eclipse of Liberty,” Eugenics and Other Evils
      • “The sceptic ultimately undermines democracy (1) because he can see no significance in death and such things of a literal equality; (2) because he introduces different first principles, making debate impossible: and debate is the life of democracy; (3) because the fading of the images of sacred persons leaves a man too prone to be a respecter of earthly persons; (4) because there will be more, not less, respect for human rights if they can be treated as divine rights.” – Illustrated London News, Jan. 13, 1912
      • “The average businessman began to be agnostic, not so much because he did not know where he was, as because he wanted to forget. Many of the rich took to scepticism exactly as the poor took to drink; because it was a way out.” – “True History of a Eugenist,” Eugenics and Other Evils

 

Today’s World

Back to Top

    • “A great curse has fallen upon modern life with the discovery of the vastness of the word Education.” – “A Grammar of Shelley,” A Handful of Authors
    • “A strange fanaticism fills our time: the fanatical hatred of morality, especially of Christian morality.” – “The Moral Philosophy of Meredith,” A Handful of Authors
    • “Moderns have not the moral courage, as a rule, to avow the sincere spiritual bias behind their fads; they become insincere even about their sincerity. Most modern liberality consists of finding irreligious excuses for religious bigotry. The earlier type of bigot pretended to be more religious than he really was. The later type pretends to be less religious than he really is. He does not wear a mask of piety, but rather a mask of impiety – or, at any rate, of indifference.” – Illustrated London News, Dec. 27, 1919
    • “A fad or heresy is the exaltation of something which even if true, is secondary or temporary in its nature against those things which are essential and eternal, those things which always prove themselves true in the long run. In short, it is the setting up of the mood against the mind.” – William Blake
    • “The sort of man who admires Italian art while despising Italian religion is a tourist and a cad.” – Roman Converts, Dublin Review, Jan-Mar. 1925
    • “I might inform those humanitarians who have a nightmare of new and needless babies (for some humanitarians have that sort of horror of humanity) that if the recent decline in the birth-rate were continued for a certain time, it might end in there being no babies at all; which would console them very much.” – Illustrated London News, May 24, 1930
    • “We lose our bearings entirely by speaking of the ‘lower classes’ when we mean humanity minus ourselves.” – “A Defence of Penny Dreadfuls,” The Defendant
MENU