Happy Birthday, G.K. Chesterton!

Today is the birthday of G. K. Chesterton, one of the most quotable writers of modern times.  Here are some samples:

“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.” (ILN 1-3-31)

“A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” – Everlasting Man, 1925

“Impartiality is a pompous name for indifference, which is an elegant name for ignorance.” – The Speaker, 12/15/00

“He is a [sane] man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head.” – Tremendous Trifles, 1909

“Moderate strength is shown in violence, supreme strength is shown in levity.” – The Man Who was Thursday, 1908

“The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right.” – ILN 10-28-22

“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

“War is not ‘the best way of settling differences; it is the only way of preventing their being settled for you.” – ILN, 7/24/15

“The only defensible war is a war of defense.” – Autobiography, 1937

“Once abolish the God, and the government becomes the God.” – Christendom in Dublin, 1933

“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, 1922

“He is a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of a conservative.” – Varied Types

“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.” – A Short History of England. 156

“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 contemplete how few politicians are hanged.” – The Cleveland Press, 3/1/21

“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.” – ILN, 4/19/24

“Love means loving the unlovable – or it is no virtue at all.” – Heretics, 1905

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.” – ILN, 7/16/10

“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.” – ILN 1-3-20

“There is no bigot like the atheist.” (Magic)

“Civilization has run on ahead of the soul of man, and is producing faster than he can think and give thanks.” – Daily News, 2/21/02

“Truth is sacred; and if you tell the truth too often nobody will believe it.” – ILN, 2/24/06

“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)

“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)

There are many, many more gems here.  Happy Birthday, G.K.!!

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  1. #1 by Karl Johnson on June 3, 2008 - 7:41 pm

    Thanks for the post. The quotes he produced are amazing. Here’s one of my favorites:
    “I may not practice what I preach but God forbid I should preach what I practice”

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