Chesterton Quotes – The Illustrated London News 1920-1922

G.K. Chesterton, Collected Works, Volume XXXII

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.

Among the themes Chesterton tackles: Public education, feminism, eugenics, science, communism, capitalism, modernism. This volume is notable for containing several essays by Hilaire Belloc, who filled in when GKC and Frances travelled to the Middle East.

Get the book here.

“We give the name of enlightenment to a lightning succession of illusions and delusions.” (05-29-1920)

“Thousands of business men excused themselves for brutality and cynicism by a vague notion of a newly discovered law of life. Darwinism was a failure as a true philosophy, but it was a success as a false religion.” (05-29-1920)

“… education is easy when dogma is universal. It only becomes difficult when men are divided about dogmas.” (06-12-1920)

“They have arranged to teach history without considering what history teaches; they have obtained powers of compulsion for teaching the truth to everybody; and then, looking into their own minds, have found that the truth is not in them.” (06-12-1920)

“It is the indictment against the whole of our modern mechanical and urban civilisation, and it is simply this — that people cannot enjoy themselves. That is, they cannot amuse themselves, and therefore they must be amused.” (06-19-1920)

“The mind is not free till it is free from fashion as well as from tradition; and therefore free from the future as well as the past.” (07-10-1920)

“People are taught to say that they have grown indifferent through over-familiarity with the creeds of the past. But, as a fact, when they are indifferent it is generally through complete ignorance of the creeds of the past.” (09-18-1920)

“But one thing is at least certain — that none of these people talking about evolution and progress have the most remote notion of what their ancestors really did believe.” (09-18-1920)

“The mere word “Science” is already used as a sacred and mystical word in many matters of politics and ethics.” (10-09-20)

“The mood of revolt will grow more and more bitter so long as we can prove we are right; we must pray for the higher talent of proving we are wrong.” (10-23-1920)

“But, as a matter of fact, the Conservative has exactly the same error as the Progressive. It consists in the fact that each of them allows truth to be determined by time. That is to say, he judges a thing by whether it is of yesterday or to-day or to-morrow, and not by what it is in eternity.” (10-30-1920)

“The work of Karl Marx has not been opened by one in a million of the men who would call themselves Marxians.” (10-10-1921)

“… Bolshevism and Big Business are very much alike; they are both built on the truth that everything is easy and simple if once you eliminate liberty.” (10-29-1921)

“The truth is that so long as Bolshevism looked like anarchy it was possible to mistake it for liberty. As soon as it became something like order it became certainly and obviously slavery.” (11-12-1921)

“The Bolshevist formula is an amazing example of the power of words. But it is not, as some say, the power of words to incite and madden the mind. Rather it is their terrible power to satisfy it, and send it to sleep.” (11-19-1921)

“I strongly object to the wrong arguments on the right side. I think I object to them more than to the wrong arguments on the wrong side.” (11-26-1921)

“I like the Americans for a great many reasons. I like them because even the modern thing called industrialism has not entirely destroyed in them the very ancient thing called democracy. I like them because they have a respect for work which really curbs the human tendency to snobbishness. I like them because they do not think that stupidity is a superiority in business and practical life; and because they do not think that ideas are always insanities.” (01-21-1922)

“No creed or philosophy, simple or complex, ancient or modern, can be altogether free from the peril of being employed for ends of venality or vanity.” (02-18-1922)

“[Love] is creative; it makes him do things, such as hang a poem on a tree, like a lover in Elizabethan drama; or hang himself on a tree, like a lover in Russian drama.” (02-25-1922)

“Indeed, these critics are more irrelevant when they think they are complimenting the French than when they think they are condemning them. They talk about the French wit, as if Foch had won the Battle of the Marne by a series of brilliant epigrams.” (03-11-1922)

“It is usually thought sufficient to make a vague demand for more ‘organisation,’ for the modern man is in favour of introducing order into everything except his own ideas.” (04-01-1922)

“The truth is that any advance in science leaves morality in its ancient balance; and it depends still on the inscrutable soul of man whether any discovery is mainly a benefit or mainly a calamity. This is, perhaps, the strongest argument for a morality superior to materialism, and a religion that refuses to be bullied by science” (04-01-1922)

“… while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid.” (06-03-1922)

“If free thought means that we are not free to rebuke free-thinkers, it is surely a very one-sided sort of free thought. It means that they may say anything they choose about all that we hold most dear, and we must not say anything we think in protest against all that we hold most damnable.” (06-10-1922)

“All tends to the return of the simple truth that the private work is the great one and the public work the small. The human house is a paradox, for it is larger inside than out.” (08-05-1922)

“For anyone who makes himself responsible for one small baby, as a whole, will soon find that he is wrestling with gigantic angels and demons.” (08-12-1922)

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