Chesterton: ATC2

G.K. Chesterton's All Things Considered is proving to be so quotable that I'll need 3 posts to hit the highlights. Here's #2:

  • It is cheap to own a slave. And it is cheaper still to be a slave.
  • I heard Mr. Will Crooks put it perfectly the other day: "The most sacred thing is to be able to shut your own door."
  • The woman's world is a small one, perhaps, but she can alter it.
  • [T]here are some things that a man or a woman, as the case may be, wishes to do for himself or herself. He or she must do it inventively, creatively, artistically, individually—in a word, badly.
  • It is the thing most common to humanity that is most veiled by humanity. It is exactly because we all know that it is there that we need not say that it is there.
  • All persons, as far as I know, on this earth receive money for what they do; the only difference is that some people, like the Irish members, do it.
  • The saints, the most exalted of human figures, were also the most local. It was exactly the men whom we most easily connected with heaven whom we also most easily connected with earth.
  • I certainly should not know if a soldier's sash were on inside out or his cap on behind before. But I should know uncommonly well that genuine professional soldiers do not talk like Adelphi villains and utter theatrical epigrams in praise of abstract violence.
  • But I do think that I am not exaggerating my own sagacity if I say that I should begin to suspect the doctor if on entering my room he flung his legs and arms about, crying wildly, "Health! Health! priceless gift of Nature! I possess it! I overflow with it! I yearn to impart it! Oh, the sacred rapture of imparting health!" In that case I should suspect him of being rather in a position to receive than to offer medical superintendence.
  • And as long as one is loyal to something one can never be a worshipper of mere force. For mere force, violence in the abstract, is the enemy of anything we love. To love anything is to see it at once under lowering skies of danger.
  • It would be the end of German soldiers to be affected by German philosophy.
  • [I]nvalids (alone of all human beings) desire strength.
  • Journalists do control public opinion; but it is not controlled by the arguments they publish—it is controlled by the arguments between the editor and sub-editor, which they do not publish.
  • No educated man born of woman will be quite so absurd as the system that he has to administer. In short, we do not get good laws to restrain bad people. We get good people to restrain bad laws.
  • Men always attempt to avoid condemning a thing upon merely moral grounds. If I beat my grandmother to death to-morrow in the middle of Battersea Park, you may be perfectly certain that people will say everything about it except the simple and fairly obvious fact that it is wrong.
  • [T]he modern world will not insist on having some sharp and definite moral law, capable of resisting the counter-attractions of art and humour, the modern world will simply be given over as a spoil to anybody who can manage to do a nasty thing in a nice way.
  • [T]he vulgar man is always the most distinguished, for the very desire to be distinguished is vulgar.
  • At no English public school is it even suggested, except by accident, that it is a man's duty to tell the truth. What is suggested is something entirely different: that it is a man's duty not to tell lies. So completely does this mistake soak through all civilisation that we hardly ever think even of the difference between the two things. When we say to a child, "You must tell the truth," we do merely mean that he must refrain from verbal inaccuracies. But the thing we never teach at all is the general duty of telling the truth, of giving a complete and fair picture of anything we are talking about, of not misrepresenting, not evading, not suppressing, not using plausible arguments that we know to be unfair, not selecting unscrupulously to prove an ex parte case, not telling all the nice stories about the Scotch, and all the nasty stories about the Irish, not pretending to be disinterested when you are really angry, not pretending to be angry when you are really only avaricious. The one thing that is never taught by any chance in the atmosphere of public schools is exactly that—that there is a whole truth of things, and that in knowing it and speaking it we are happy.
  • [H]is righteousness would be more effective without his refinement.
  • We are justified in enforcing good morals, for they belong to all mankind; but we are not justified in enforcing good manners, for good manners always mean our own manners.
  • Precisely because our political speeches are meant to be reported, they are not worth reporting.
  • Journalism is popular, but it is popular mainly as fiction. Life is one world, and life seen in the newspapers another; the public enjoys both, but it is more or less conscious of the difference.
  • Physical science is like simple addition: it is either infallible or it is false.
  • The paradox of courage is that a man must be a little careless of his life even in order to keep it.


"There is a Future! O, thank God!
Of life this is so small a part!
'Tis dust to dust beneath the sod;
But there, up there, 'tis heart to heart."

— from "Lorena" by Henry Webster 

Mo' Problems

"[W]hile greater knowledge is a greater burden, we should still get wisdom.   We should grow, knowing that our burden will grow with us."  

— N.D. Wilson

Beta Testing

"[W]hen we refuse to acknowledge Him here and now, the end result is that we start building little prototypes of Hell in order to test drive them."

— Douglas Wilson

Happy Warriors

"They have seen Death and ultimate defeat,
and yet they would not in despair retreat, [...]"

— J.R.R. Tolkien, from Mythopoeia