Chesterton Quotes – The Illustrated London News 1908-1910

G.K. Chesterton, Collected Works, Volume XXVIII

G.K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton wrote a weekly column for The Illustrated London News from the mid-1900s to the mid-1930s. Ignatius Press has assembled his essays into several volumes, as part of its massive Collected Works compilation. Despite being a century old, Chesterton’s insights are just as pertinent today as they were then — in fact, even more so.

Because Chesterton’s ideas are so important, I thought I’d share some of my favorite passages from each volume. With luck they will  spark your interest in reading more. The passages below are a mere taste; Chesterton’s most engaging ideas are too involved and too amazing to be boiled down into a short excerpt.

  • “A turkey is more occult and awful than all the angels and archangels. In so far as God has partly revealed to us an angelic world, he has partly told us what an angel means. But God has never told us what a turkey means. And if you go and stare at a live turkey for an hour or two, you will find by the end of it that the enigma has increased rather than diminished.” (01-11-1908)
  • “Tradition (it seems to me) is simply the democracy of the dead.” (01-11-1908)
  • “The frivolous chatter is now all in public journalism. The public responsibility is all in private conversation.” (02-01-1908)
  • “Our generation professes to be scientific and particular about the things it says; but unfortunately it is never scientific and particular about the words in which it says them. It is difficult to believe that people who are obviously careless about language can really be very careful about anything else.” (04-04-1908)
  • “I detest and would destroy all tyrannical minorities …” (04-11-1908)
  • “… for the chief evil of our times is that the social collectivity has increased spiritual solitude. Never were bodies so much jostled; never were souls so much deserted.” (06-06-1908)
  • “We apply the word strict, narrow, bigoted or intolerant, to two separate states of mind which are not only different but are really quite opposite. To put the point quite crudely, we call a man narrow when he is illogical; but we also call a man narrow when he is logical.” (07-04-1908)
  • “In short, the only objection to the Missing Link is that he is missing.” (09-05-1908)
  • “If married people are to be divorced for incompatibility of temper, I cannot imagine why all married people are not divorced.” (09-19-1908)
  • “An open mind is really a mark of foolishness, like an open mouth. Mouths and minds were made to shut; they were made to open only in order to shut.” (10-10-1908)
  • “… active resistance is sometimes right, but passive resistance is always wrong.” (11-21-1908)
  • “Snobs say they have the right kind of hat; prigs say they have the right kind of head.” (12-12-1908)
  • “The nation that has no gods at all not only dies, but what is more, it is bored to death.” (01-09-1909)
  • “Mankind declares this with one deafening voice: that sex may only be ecstatic so long as it is also restricted.” (01-09-1909)
  • “We must first of all establish the principle that we do not want a newspaper to give us a vision of the world made perfect; we want a church for that. We do not want a newspaper to give us good news; we want a gospel for that. We want a newspaper to give us the true news, not elevating news or improving news.” (03-06-1909)
  • “To my thinking, the oppression of the people is a terrible sin; but the depression of the people is a far worse one.” ((06-05-1909)
  • “The definition of a prig, I suppose, is this: one who has pride in the possession of his brain rather than joy in the use of it.” (06-12-1909)
  • “One of the few gifts that can really increase with old age is a sense of humour.” (07017-1909)
  • “The truth is that the evolutionary theory, if true, is totally useless for human affairs. It is enormous, but irrelevant. Like the solar system, it is a colossal trifle.” (09-18-1909)
  • “The test of a democracy is not whether the people vote, but whether the people rule.” (10-02-1909)
  • “The truth is that if a man wishes to remain in perfect mental breadth and freedom, he had better not think at all. Thinking is a narrowing process. It leads to what people call dogma. A man who thinks hard about any subject for several years is in horrible danger of discovering the truth about it.” (10-16-1909)
  • “Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable,” (10-23-1909)
  • “The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice.” (06-11-1910)
  • “For it is one of the marks of real dignity of character not to wish to separate oneself from the honour and tragedy of the whole tribe. All men are ordinary men; the extraordinary men are those who know it.” (06-25-1910)
  • “But I cannot see how thoughts, as such, can have any of this human sanctity about them, or why I should respect an idea which I think a nasty idea merely because it has got into somebody’s head.” (10-29-1910)
  • “The truths of religion are unprovable; the facts of science are unproved.” (11-05-1910)
  • “Vanity means thinking somebody’s praise important, more important than yourself. But pride (which does not exist in heaven, but at quite an opposite address) is thinking yourself more important than  anything that can praise or blame you.” (11-12-1910)
  • “Our chief trouble at present is that words and things do not fit each other.” (12-24-1910)

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