Chesterton Quotes – The Illustrated London News 1911-1913

G.K. Chesterton, Collected Works, Volume XXIX

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.

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  • “A real soldier does not fight because he has something that he hates in front of him. He fights because he has something that he loves behind his back.” (01-14-1911)
  • “Because it is very hard work to apply principles of judgment to anything, people are everywhere abandoning the principles and practically deciding not to test life at all, but only to let life test them.” (03-25-1911)
  • “A woman putting up her fists at a man is a woman putting herself in the one and only posture in which she does not frighten him.” (04-22-1911)
  • “About half the history now taught in schools and colleges is made windy and barren by this narrow notion of leaving out the theological theories.” (05-13-1911)
  • “There are two sides to a question, but there is only one answer to a question; that is, only one right answer.” (06-03-1911)
  • “Nothing is baser in our time than the idea that we an have special enthusiasms for things, so long as they are secure, without pledging ourselves to uphold them if they are ever in peril.” (07-29-1911)
  • “Satire has weakened in our epoch for several reasons, but chiefly, I think, because the world has become too absurd to be satirized.” (12-16-1911)
  • “They are in revolt against something they have forgotten in favor of something else which (by their own account) they have not yet found.” (12-23-1911)
  • “If the mass of citizens are to rule, it is absolutely necessary that they should have very strong principles of thought. … if you want to build a wall of pebbles you must have very strong cement.” (01-13-1912)
  • “The only real object of all education is to teach people the proportion of things, that they may see what things are large and what small: we seem bent on teaching them to prefer in everything what is small to what is great, what is doubtful to what is certain, and what is trivial to what is eternal.” (08-24-1912)
  • “But this luxury of doubt, like other dissipations, is very weakening. An isolated orgy of denial like an isolated orgy of drink, does a man comparatively little harm in early youth; but the nipping and sipping of scepticism carried into later life undermines not only the brains, but the nerves.” (10-12-1912)
  • “I have gone through most of my life looking for an uninteresting subject — or even an uninteresting person. It is the romance of my life that I have failed to find either of them yet.” (01-11-1913)
  • “The highly astounding result is this: that Government (and especially representative Government) now actually exists to protect those very abuses which Government (and especially representative Government) was actually created to prevent.” (02-01-1913)
  • “[A crank] thinks things are self-evident which are really in the last degree questionable; and he thinks opinions are universal which the mass of mankind has never heard of.” (07-26-1913)
  • “No man has ever laughed at anything till he has laughed at himself.” (08-30-1913)
  • “The primary public duty before us is to uneducate the educated. For they have all been educated wrong, and cannot see with their eyes or hear with their ears or (least of all) understand with their heart. Now, curiously enough, the quickest way of unlearning things really is through calamity.” (11-08-1913)

2 Replies to “Chesterton Quotes – The Illustrated London News 1911-1913”

  1. Eclectic as always!
    I wonder if the bottom quote will hold true in this pandemic? I hope we can unlearn some of the “truths” found in today’s politics.

    Keep writing — you make me think.

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