On Lying in Bed and Other Essays by G. K. Chesterton, edited by Alberto Manguel

Not a bad essay in the lot.

This collection of essays published in 2000 was a freebie at the 2021 Chesterton Conference. It includes several well-known essays along with many that were new to me. Unfortunately, the editor did not reference where or when the essays where originally published; regardless of the origin, each selection gives us incredible insights on the past, present, and future. The excerpts below illustrate.

A few of these essays really stand out. Chesterton’s introduction to the Book of Job contains some profound ideas and helps make sense of one of the most perplexing books in the Bible. The Maniac delivers an unexpected perspective on madness; A Dragon’s Grandmother, a brilliant and beautiful reflection on good and evil and why fairy tales are indispensable for teaching children the difference; On the Child, a sobering warning about the state’s aggression against parenthood and privacy.

Overlook the many typos. This collection is a great choice if you’re looking for an introduction to Chesterton’s non-fiction works.

Quotes from On Lying in Bed and other Essays by G. K. Chesterton

As you can see I like this quote.

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” (On Running After One’s Hat)

“The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.” (The Advantages of Having One Leg)

“If there is one thing worse than the modern weakening of major morals it is the modern strengthening of minor morals.” (On Lying in Bed)

“… there is no such thing in the world as a dull subject.” (A Defense of Bores)

“In a book certainly the largest jewels are shut in the smallest casket.” (Lunacy and Letters)

“Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason.  Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do… The poet asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.” (The Maniac)

“The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.” (The Maniac)

“To abuse authority is to attack authority.” (About Bad Comparisons)

“The fatal metaphor of progress, which means leaving things behind us, has utterly obscured the real idea of growth, which means leaving things inside us.” (The Romance of Rhyme)

“The old artist remained proud in spite of his unpopularity; the new artist is proud because of his unpopularity; perhaps it is his chief ground for pride.” (The Romance of Rhyme)

“The family is the test for freedom; because the family is the only thing that the free man makes for himself and by himself.” (A Defense of Dramatic Unities)

“Faith is always at a disadvantage; it is a perpetually defeated thing which survived all its conquerors.” (Watts’ Allegorical Paintings)

“The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.” (The Book of Job)

“… the medieval mind did not really believe that the truth was to be found by going to extremes.” (Chaucer and the Renaissance)

“The revolt against culture is often the last fashion of the cultured.” (Poor Old Shakespeare)

“The very definition of a lunatic is a man who has taken details out of their real atmosphere.” (A Shakespeare Portrait)

“The professional soldier gains more and more power as the general courage of a community declines.” (Rudyard Kipling)

“But nowadays that most men are against a thing is thought to be in its favour; it is vaguely supposed to show that some day most men will be for it. … The final objection to it is that it amounts to this: say anything, however idiotic, and you are in advance of your age. This kind of stuff must be stopped.” (Shaw, The Philosopher)

“A man can pretend to be wise; a man cannot pretend to be witty.” (Sherlock Holmes)

“… I fancy that it is one of the strange testimonies to Christianity that its opponents do not get clear of it into the original human condition, but go mad with mere reaction and anarchy.” (A Fairy Tale)

“Folk-lore means that the soul is sane, but that the universe is wild and full of marvels. Realism means that the world is dull and full of routine, but that the soul is sick and screaming.” (A Dragon’s Grandmother)

“Fairy tales do not give a child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey.” (The Red Angel)

“When in the near future the real collision comes between Christianity and the genuine forces opposed to it, the central symbol and standard round which the whole battle will rage will be the problem of the thing called Humility.” (The Paradox of Humility)

“Whatever may be the reason, we all do warmly respect humility — in other people.” (A Defense of Humility)

“It is always the secure who are humble.” (A Defense of Humility)

“We have heard something, and we ought to hear more, of modern capitalism and commercialism reversing the Christian idea of charity to the poor. But we have not heard much about Advertisement, with its push, publicity and self-assertion, reversing the idea of Christian humility.” (The American Ideal)

“Only a very soft-headed, sentimental, and rather servile generation of men could possibly be affected by advertisements at all.” (A Meditation in Broadway)

“The person who is really in revolt is the optimist, who generally lives and dies in a desperate and suicidal effort to persuade all the other people how good they are. It has been proved a hundred times over that if you really wish to engage people and make them angry, even unto death, the right way to do it is to tell them that they are all the sons of God.” (The Defendant)

“To scatter flowers on a grave is simply a way in which an ordinary person can express in gesture things that only a very great poet could express in words.” (On Funeral Customs)

“And a great deal of what is called enlightenment seems largely to consist of extinguishing this inner illumination; or, in other words, sinning against the light.” (On Funeral Customs)

“For a man without history is almost in the literal sense half-witted.” (The Rights of Ritual)

“The old Christian saint bade men be sorry, not as men without hope. The new pagan sage rather bids them to be merry as men without hope.” (The Rights of Ritual)

“… merely human law has a great tendency to become merely inhuman law.” (On Household Gods and Goblins)

“We are too fond nowadays of committing the sin of fear and calling it the virtue of reverence.” (A Defence of Publicity)

“The record of the great spiritual movements of mankind is dead set against the idea that spirituality is a private matter.” (A Defence of Publicity)

“A really human human being would always put the spiritual things first.” (In Topsy-Turvy Land)

“Most of the Uptopias represent only a dull sort of destruction; the sort of destruction that we call simplification.” (On Calling Names — Christian and Otherwise)

“I do not believe in ignoring the Pagan morals all around us; it does not diminish the Paganism; it only deprives us of the pleasure and advantage of denouncing it as Pagan.” (About the Censor)

“The modern world seems to have no notion of preserving different things side by side, of allowing its proper and proportionate place to each, of saving the whole varied heritage of culture. It has no notion except that of simplifying something by destroying nearly everything …” (Romantic Love)

“The artist does ultimately exhibit himself as being intelligent by being intelligible.” (On The True Artist)

“The more a man looks at a thing, the less he can see it, and the more a man learns of a thing, the less he knows it.” (The Twelve Men)

“But when [civilization] wishes anything done which is really serious it collects twelve of the ordinary men standing around. The same thing was done, if I remember right, by the Founder of Christianity.” (The Twelve Men)

“The evil enigma for us here is not the rich, but the Very Rich. The distinction is important, because this special problem is separate from the old and general quarrel about rich and poor that runs through the Bible and all strong books, old and new. The special problem to-day is that certain powers and privileges have grown so world-wide and unwieldy that they are out of the power of the moderately rich as of the moderately poor. They are out of the power of everybody except a few millionaires — that is, misers.” (The Miser and His Friends)

“The merely rich are not rich enough to rule the modern market.” (The Miser and His Friends)

“But among the Very Rich you will never find a really generous man, even by accident. They may give their money away, but they will never give themselves away; they are egotistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it.” (The Miser and His Friends)

“But whenever we see things done wildly, but taken tamely, then the State is growing insane.” (The Mad Official)

“The notion of making the head of a humble family really independent and responsible, like a citizen, has really vanished from the mind of most of the realists of our real world.” (On the Child)

“As a fact, it is the rich who have to be taught about the existence of private property, and especially about the existence of private life.” (On the Child)

“They hardly realize how much of educational and philanthropic reform has been kidnapping on a large scale. That is, it has shown an increasing disregard for the privacy of the private citizen, considered as a parent.” (On the Child)

“If I had only one sermon to preach, it would be a sermon against Pride.” (If I Had Only One Sermon To Preach)

“The power of wealth, and that power at its vilest, is increasing in the modern world. A very good and just people, without this temptation [to a shameful admiration], might not need, perhaps, to make clear rules and systems to guard themselves against the power of our great financiers. But that is because a very just people would have shot them long ago, from mere native good feeling.” (Some Policemen and a Moral)

Leave a Reply