This page contains a variety quotes from G.K. Chesterton. Enjoy!
“IT IS remarkable that in so many great wars it is the defeated who have won. The people who were left worst at the end of the war were generally the people who were left best at the end of the whole business.” ~Tremendous Trifles.
“DEMOCRACY means government by the uneducated, while aristocracy means government by the badly educated.” ~N.Y. Times, Feb. 1, 1931.
“IF THERE is one fact we really can prove, from the history that we do know, it is that despotism can be a development, often a late development and very often indeed the end of societies that have been highly democratic. A despotism may almost be defined as a tired democracy.” ~The Everlasting Man.
“THIS world is all one wild divorce court; nevertheless, there are many who still hear in their souls the thunder of the authority of human habit; those whom God hath joined together let no man sunder.” ~What’s Wrong With the World.
“INSTEAD of the liberty of dogma, you have the tyranny of taste.” ~A Miscellany of Men.
“THERE ARE two kinds of people in the world: the conscious dogmatists and unconscious dogmatists. I have always found myself that the unconscious dogmatists were by far the most dogmatic.” ~Generally Speaking.
“FOR IT IS the test of a good encyclopedia that it does two rather different things at once. The man consulting it finds the thing he wants; he also finds how many thousand things there are that he does not want.” ~The Common Man.
“THE FUNDAMENTALISTS are funny enough, and the funniest thing about them is their name. For, whatever else the fundamentalist is, he is not fundamental. He is content with the bare letter of Scripture—the translation of a translation, coming down to him by the tradition of a tradition—without venturing to ask for its original authority.” ~All is Grist.
“THERE IS no such thing as being a gentleman at important moments; it is at unimportant moments that a man is a gentleman. At important moments he ought to be something better.” ~A Handful of Authors.
“WHATEVER else there was, there was never any such thing as the evolution of the idea of God. The idea was concealed, was avoided, was almost forgotten, was even explained away; but it was never evolved.”
~The Everlasting Man.
“TO BE merely modern is to condemn oneself to an ultimate narrowness; just as to spend one’s last earthly money on the newest hat is to condemn oneself to the old-fashioned. The road of the ancient centuries is strewn with dead moderns.” ~The Common Man.
THE CHRISTIAN admits that the universe is manifold and even miscellaneous, just as a sane man knows that he is complex. Nay, the really sane man knows that he has a touch of the madman. But the Materialist's world is quite simple and solid, just as the madman is quite sure he is sane. The Materialist is sure that history has been simply and solely a chain of causation, just as the interesting person before mentioned is quite sure that he is simply and solely a chicken. Materialists and madmen never have doubts. ~Orthodoxy.
"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 (04-19-1924)
“I AM very fond of revolutionists, but not very fond of nihilists. For nihilists, as their name implies, have nothing to revolt about.” ~The Thing.
“PEOPLE put the matter wrong when they say that the novel is a study of human nature. Human nature is a thing that even men can understand. Human nature is born of the pain of a woman; human nature plays at peep-bo when it is two and at cricket when it is twelve; human nature earns its living and desires the other sex and dies. What the novel deals with is what women have to deal with; the differentiations, the twists and turns of this eternal river.” ~The Victorian Age in Literature.
“A GOOD novelist always has a philosophy; but a good novel is never a book of philosophy.” ~A Handful of Authors.
“IT SEEMS seems to me that Gilbert Chesterton at his baptism was visited by three fairies. Two good and one evil. The two good fairies were the fairy of fecundity of speech and the fairy of wide appreciation. The bad fairy was struck dead as she entered the church---and served her right. He was blessed in knowing nothing of the acerbities which bite into the life of writing men.” ~Hilaire Belloc: Gilbert Chesterton in English Letters.
“THE FULL value of this life can only be gotten by fighting; the violent take it by storm. And if we have accepted everything we have missed something—war. This life of ours is a very enjoyable fight, but a very miserable truce.” ~GKC: Charles Dickens.
"THE SAME lesson [of the pessimistic pleasure-seeker] was taught by the very powerful and very desolate philosophy of Oscar Wilde. It is the carpe diem religion; but the carpe diem religion is not the religion of happy people, but of very unhappy people. Great joy does not gather the rosebuds while it may; its eyes are fixed on the immortal rose which Dante saw." ~Heretics.
"OSCAR WILDE said that sunsets were not valued because we could not pay for sunsets. But Oscar Wilde was wrong; we can pay for sunsets. We can pay for them by not being Oscar Wilde." ~Orthodoxy.
When H.G. Wells was seriously ill, he wrote Chesterton and said, "If after all my Atheology turns out wrong and your Theology right I feel I shall always be able to pass into Heaven (if I want to) as a friend of G.K.C.'s. Bless you." --- Chesterton replied, "If I turn out to be right, you will triumph, not by being a friend of mine, but by being a friend of Man, by having done a thousand things for men like me in every way from imagination to criticism. The thought of the vast variety of that work, and how it ranges from towering visions to tiny pricks of humor, overwhelmed me suddenly in retrospect; and I felt we have none of us ever said enough. . .Yours always, G. K. Chesterton."
(Note: Gilbert was a large man, 6' 4" and weighing 290 lb).
On one occasion, Chesterton remarked to his visiting friend, George Bernard Shaw: "To look at you, anyone would think a famine had struck England". Shaw retorted, "To look at you, anyone would think you have caused it".
“IT IS easy enough to say the cultured man should be the crowd’s guide, philosopher and friend. Unfortunately, he has nearly always been a misguiding guide, a false friend and a very shallow philosopher. And the actual catastrophes we have suffered, including those we are now suffering, have not in historical fact been due to the prosaic practical people who are supposed to know nothing, but almost invariably to the highly theoretical people who knew they knew everything. The world may learn by its mistakes; but they were mostly the mistakes of the learned.” ~The Common Man.