Quotes / G. K. Chesterton

The idea that there is something English in the repression of one's feelings is one of those ideas which no Englishman ever heard of until England began to be governed exclusively by Scotchmen, Americans, and Jews. At the best, the idea is a generalization from the Duke of Wellington — who was an Irishman. At the worst, it is a part of that silly Teutonism which knows as little about England as it does about anthropology, but which is always talking about Vikings.
G. K. Chesterton, Heretics (1905)

... and what I need
To buck me up is Gilbert Chesterton,
(The only man I regularly read).
Hilaire Belloc, Untitled Ballade (1906)

This is that insanely frivolous thing we call sanity. And the elegant female, drooping her ringlets over her water-colors, knew it and acted on it. She was juggling with frantic and flaming suns. She was maintaining the bold equilibrium of inferiorities which is the most mysterious of superiorities and perhaps the most unattainable. She was maintaining the prime truth of woman, the universal mother: that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.
G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong With The World (1910)

Remote and ineffectual Don
That dared attack my Chesterton...
Don nasty, skimpy, silent, level;
Don evil; Don that serves the devil.
Don ugly — that makes fifty lines...
Believe me, I shall soon return.
My fires are banked, but still they burn
To write some more about the Don
That dared attack my Chesterton.
Hilaire Belloc, Lines To A Don (1910)

I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, not for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.

Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?
G. K. Chesterton, The Ballad of the White Horse (1911)

For the great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry
And all their songs are sad.
G. K. Chesterton, The Ballad of the White Horse (1911)

I was very agreeably surprised in him. I had been afraid he would be untidy in his person and aggressive in his manner. He was very huge and ugly, of course, but it is a nice ugliness... one liked his voice — it was the voice of a gentleman, and suggested not only culture but breeding.... His lecture was very Chestertonian, but much sounder than I had expected and not so fire-worky. He said some really excellent things. I have noted for future use, that his books ought to be read as he speaks — rather slowly, and delivering the paradoxical statements tentatively. His speaking has none of that aggressive and dogmatic quality which his writings are apt to assume when read aloud.
Dorothy L. Sayers, Letter to her Parents (May 17, 1914)

In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
G. K. Chesterton, Lepanto (1915)

Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a god who knew the way out of the grave.
G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (1925)

A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.
G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (1925)

The perfect happiness of men on the earth (if it ever comes) will not be a flat and solid thing, like the satisfaction of animals. It will be an exact and perilous balance; like that of a desperate romance. Man must have just enough faith in himself to have adventures, and just enough doubt of himself to enjoy them.
G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (1909)

At that moment, however, the drowsy stillness of the summer afternoon was shattered by what sounded to his strained senses like G.K. Chesterton falling on a sheet of tin.
P. G. Wodehouse, Mr. Mulliner Speaking (1929)

I have not met G.K.C.: Shaw always calls him a man of colossal genius. I cannot read his journalism, which is perhaps a good sign.
T.E. Lawrence, Letter to G. W. M. Dunn (November 9, 1932)

Chesterton makes one despair ... I have been studying St. Thomas all my life, and I could never have written such a book. I consider it as being without possible comparison the best book ever written on St. Thomas. Nothing short of genius can account for such an achievement.
Étienne Gilson, on Chesterton's Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox (1933)

G.K. Chesterton died yesterday. P. G. Wodehouse is now the greatest living master of the English language.
T.H. White (June 15, 1936)

Here lies G.K Chesterton,
Who to Heaven might have gone,
But wouldn't, when he heard the news
That the place was run by Jews.
Humbert Wolfe, Epitaph Upon G.K Chesterton (ca. 1936)

P.note  ... has been wading through The Ballad of the White Horse for the last many nights; and my efforts to explain the obscurer parts to her convince me that it is not as good as I thought. The ending is absurd. The brilliant smash and glitter of the words and phrases (when they come off, and are not mere loud colours) cannot disguise the fact that G.K.C. knew nothing whatever about the 'North', heathen or Christian.
J. R. R. Tolkien, Letter to Christopher Tolkien (September 3, 1944)

Compare it with another good writer, Kafka. Is the difference simply that the one is "dated" and the other contemporary? Or is it rather that while both give a powerful picture of the loneliness and bewilderment which each one of us encounters in his (apparently) single-handed struggle with the universe, Chesterton, attributing to the universe a more complicated disguise, and admitting the exhilaration as well as the terror of the struggle, has got in rather more; is more balanced: in that sense, more classical, more permanent?
C. S. Lewis, "The 'Period Talent' of G. K. Chesterton," The Listener (October 17, 1946)

Chesterton had more sense than all the other moderns put together.
C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (1955)

[The Everlasting Man] is a great, popular book, one of the few really great popular books of the century; the triumphant assertion that a book can be both great and popular. And it needs no elucidation. It is brilliantly clear. It met a temporary need and survives as a permanent monument.
Evelyn Waugh, Review of Chesterton: Man and Mask in National Review'' (April 22, 1961)

When people stop believing in God, they donít believe in nothing ó they believe in anything.
Émile Cammaerts, The Laughing Prophet: The Seven Virtues and G. K. Chesterton (1937) : even though this quote is almost always attributed to Chesterton (and may, indeed, be the one most attributed to him), it is not one of his. The mistake is understandable because 1) it sounds exactly like something he would have said ; 2) it was written in a book *about* him. It is also probably a conflation of genuine lines from two different Father Brown stories - "It's the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense and can't see things as they are", from "The Oracle of the Dog", and "You all swore you were hard-shelled materialists; and as a matter of fact you were all balanced on the edge of belief - of belief in almost anything", from "The Miracle of Moon Crescent".

When Plain Folk, such as you and I
See the Sun sinking in the sky
We think it is the Setting Sun.
But Mr. Gilbert Chesterton
Is not so easily misled.
He calmly stands upon his head
And upside-down attains a new
And Chestertonian point of view,
Observing thus, how from his toes
The sun creeps closer to his nose,
He cries with wonder and delight,
"How grand the SUNRISE is tonight!"
Oliver Herford, Confessions of a Caricaturist, (1917)

Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.
G.K. Chesterton