m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...
Favorite Quotes from G.K. Chesterton
You can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it.
I am incurably convinced that the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.
There is many a tender old Tory imagination that vaguely feels that our streets would be hung with escutcheons and tapestries, if only the profane vulgar had not hung them with advertisements of Sapolio and Sunlight Soap. But advertisement does not come from the unlettered many. It comes from the refined few. Did you ever hear of a mob rising to placard the Town Hall with proclamations in favor of Sapolio? Did you ever see a poor, ragged man laboriously drawing and painting a picture on the wall in favour of Sunlight Soap - simply as a labour of love? It is nonsense; those who hang our public walls with ugly pictures are the same select few who hang their private walls with exquisite and expensive pictures. The vulgarization of life has come from the governing class; from the highly educated class.
I'm still a liberal. It's those people who aren't liberals.
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.
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.
When such a critic says, for instance, that faith kept the world in darkness until doubt led to enlightenment, he is himself taking things on faith, things that he has never been sufficiently enlightened to doubt. That exceedingly crude simplification of human history is what he has been taught, and he believes it because he has been taught. I do not blame him for that; I merely remark that he is an unconscious example of everything that he reviles.
The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice.
It is the beginning of all true criticism of our time to realize that it has really nothing to say, at the very moment when it has invented so tremendous a trumpet for saying it.
When men have come to the edge of a precipice, it is the lover of life who has the spirit to leap backwards, and only the pessimist who continues to believe in progress.
What is education? Properly speaking, there is no such thing as education. Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another. ... What we need is to have a culture before we hand it down. In other words, it is a truth, however sad and strange, that we cannot give what we have not got, and cannot teach to other people what we do not know ourselves.
The purpose of Compulsory Education is to deprive the common people of their commonsense.
Many clever men like you have trusted to civilisation. Many clever Babylonians, many clever Egyptians, many clever men at the end of Rome. Can you tell me, in a world that is flagrant with the failures of civilisation, what there is particularly immortal about yours?
The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.
Did Herbert Spencer ever convince you - did he ever convince anybody - did he ever for one mad moment convince himself - that it must be to the interest of the individual to feel a public spirit? ... Herbert Spencer refrained from theft for the same reason that he refrained from wearing feathers in his hair, because he was an English gentleman with different tastes.
Every man has hated mankind when he was less than a man.
It isn't that they can't see the solution. It is that they can't see the problem.
We have remarked that one reason offered for being a progressive is that things naturally tend to grow better. But the only real reason for being a progressive is that things naturally tend to grow worse. The corruption in things is not only the best argument for being progressive; it is also the only argument against being conservative. The conservative theory would really be quite sweeping and unanswerable if it were not for this one fact. But all conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution. Briefly, if you want the old white post you must have a new white post.
A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.
Men will ask what selfish sort of woman it must have been who ruthlessly exacted tribute in the form of flowers, or what an avaricious creature she can have been to demand solid gold in the form of a ring; just as they ask what cruel kind of God can have demanded sacrifice and self-denial.
Is one religion as good as another? Is one horse in the Derby as good as another?
Posting a letter and getting married [sic] are among the few things left that are entirely romantic; for to be entirely romantic, a thing must be irrevocable.
To be in a romance is to be in uncongenial surroundings.
It is of the new things that men tire - of fashions and proposals and improvements and change. It is the old things that startle and intoxicate. It is the old things that are young.
If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.
...[T]here are many kinds of sincerity and insincerity. When you say 'thank you' for the salt, do you mean what you say? No. When you say 'the world is round,' do you mean what you say? No. It is true, but you don't mean it.
Art, like morality, consists in drawing a line somewhere.
Rossetti make the remark somewhere, bitterly but with great truth, that the worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.
Omar Khayyam's wine-bibbing is bad, not because it is wine-bibbing. It is bad, and very bad, because it is medical wine-bibbing. It is the drinking of a man who drinks because he is not happy. [...] He feasts because life is not joyful; he revels because he is not glad.
To have a horror of tobacco is not to have an abstract standard of right; but exactly the opposite. It is to have no standard of right whatever; and to make certain local likes and dislikes as a substitute.
To each man one soul only is given; to each soul only is given a little power - the power at some moments to outgrow and swallow up the stars. If age after age that power comes upon men, whatever gives it to them is great. Whatever makes men feel old is mean - an empire or a skin-flint shop. Whatever makes men feel young is great - a great war or a love story.
For it is a sin against the reason to tell men that to travel hopefully is better than to arrive; and when once they believe it, they travel hopefully no longer.
So far as a man may be proud of a religion rooted in humility, I am very proud of my religion; I am especially proud of those parts of it that are most commonly called superstition. I am proud of being fettered by antiquated dogmas and enslaved by dead creeds (as my journalistic friends repeat with so much pertinacity), for I know very well that it is the heretical creeds that are dead, and that it is only the reasonable dogma that lives long enough to be called antiquated.
The public does not like bad literature. The public likes a certain kind of literature and likes that kind of literature even when it is bad better than another kind of literature even when it is good. Nor is this unreasonable; for the line between different types of literature is as real as the line between tears and laughter; and to tell people who can only get bad comedy that you have some first-class tragedy is as irrational as to offer a man who is shivering over weak warm coffee a really superior sort of ice. --Charles Dickens
More Collections of Chesterton Quotations
- An extensive collection from The American Chesterton Society (also here).
- Another extensive collection: Dave Armstrong's Selected Chesterton Utterances
- Martin Ward's collection of extensive quotations and his on-line copy of Chesterton Day by Day
- David Hawkins 1 and 2 had a smaller collections of smaller quotations
- The Quotations Page has some quotes.