Selected Quotes from G.K. Chesterton -- 1926 to 1928

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Note: for the most part the following quotes are from GKC's column for the Illustrated London News. (He wrote the column from 1905 until his death in 1936.) Dates, either in years or more specific, would refer to when the column was published. There are also two books with collections of quotes from GKC. "The Quotable Chesterton" was edited by George J. Marlin, Richard P. Rabatin, and John L. Swan and published by Ignatius Press. It's mostly quotes from Chesterton's books, such as the Father Brown series. It included a bibliography of Chesterton's writings. "More Quotable Chesterton", was edited by the same men, and also published by Ignatius. It consists of quotes culled from the Illustrated London News columns.
The following quotes are my own selections from the ILN columns.

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When such a critic says, for instance, that faith kept the world in darkness until doubt led to enlightenment, he is himself taking things on faith, things that he has never been sufficiently enlightened to doubt. That exceedingly crude simplification of human history is what he has been taught, and he believes it because he has been taught. I do not blame him for that; I merely remark that he is an unconscious example of everything that he reviles. 2/13/1926

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I am very glad that our fashionable fiction seems to be full of a return to paganism, for it may possibly be the first step of a return to Christianity. Neo-pagans have sometimes forgotten, when they set out to do everything the old pagans did, that the final thing the old pagans did was to get christened. 3/20/1926

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The one really rousing thing about human history is that, whether or no the proceedings go right, at any rate, the prophecies always go wrong. The promises are never fulfilled and the threats are never fulfilled. Even when good things do happen, they are never the good things that were guaranteed. And even when bad things happen, they are never the bad things that were inevitable. You may be quite certain that, if an old pessimist says the country is going to the dogs, it will go to any other animals except the dogs; if it be to the dromedaries or even the dragons. ... It was as if one weather prophet confidently predicted blazing sunshine and the other was equally certain of blinding fog; and they were both buried in a beautiful snow-storm and lay, fortunately dead, under a clear and starry sky. 4/17/26

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Poets and such persons talk about the public as if it were some enormous and abnormal monster-a huge hybrid between the cow they milk and the dragon that drinks their blood. 7/31/26

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Grimm's Fairy Tales were by far the greatest things that ever came out of Germany; and it may yet prove that Joel Chandler Harris's collection of negro fairy-tales is the greatest thing that ever came out of America. 11/13/26

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All centralized systems mean the rule of the few; and industrial machinery is the most centralized of all systems. If the modern American really wants to know what his fathers meant by democracy, he will never learn it from a Ford car. He must make the supreme and awful sacrifice. He must get out and walk. 11/13/26

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[...] to realize that Sherlock Holmes is not really a real logician. He is an ideal logician imagined by an illogical person. [...] But Sherlock Holmes is an ideal figure, and in an imaginative sense a very effective one. He does embody the notion which unreasonable people entertain of what pure reason would be like. 1/5/27

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I think the name of leisure has come to cover three totally different things. The first is being allowed to do something. The second is being allowed to do anything. And the third (and perhaps most rare and precious) is being allowed to do nothing. Of the first we have undoubtedly a vast and a very probably a most profitable increase in recent social arrangements. Undoubtedly there is much more elaborate equipment and opportunity for golfers to play golf, for bridge-players to play bridge, for jazzers to jazz, or for motorists to motor. But those who find themselves in the world where these recreations are provided will find that the modern world is not really a universal provider. He will find it made more and more easy to get some things and impossible to get others. [] The second sort of leisure is certainly not increased, and is on the whole lessened. The sense of having a certain material in hand which a man may mould into _any_ form he chooses, this a sort of pleasure now almost confined to artists. As for the third form of leisure, the most precious, the most consoling, the most pure and holy, the noble habit of doing nothing at all--that is being neglected in a degree which seems to me to threaten the degeneration of the whole race. It is because artists do not practice, patrons do not patronise, crowds do not assemble to worship reverently the great work of Doing Nothing, that the world has lost its philosophy and even failed to create a new religion. 7/23/1927

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From time to time, as we all know, a sect appears in our midst announcing that the world will very soon come to an end. Generally, by some slight confusion or miscalculation, it is the sect that comes to an end. Such is our heartless and heathen frivolity that most of us even prefer this issue to the alternative. 9/24/1927

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[...] it is a queer paradox that Shakespeare was an obscure and almost unhistorical figure; according to some nameless or worthless, according to others impersonal and self-effacing, but anyhow somewhat elusive and secret; and from him came a cataract of clear song and national eloquence; while Bacon was a public man of wide renown and national and scientific philosophy; and out of him have come riddles and oracles and fantastic cryptograms and a lifelong hobby for lunatics. 10/1/1927

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If there is no design existing beforehand, and no goal existing already, how are we to know whether any entirely new thing is a good thing or not? All attempted answers to this question are evasions of the question. We may say that man must judge by his best moral standards; but that is to admit that there are standards by which we can judge the standards. We may say that he must follow where the best light leads him; but that is to admit that there is a difference between light and darkness which cannot change. And why should it not change if everything else changes. 10/15/1927

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What we call personality (...) has become the most impersonal thing in the world. Its pale and featureless face appears like a ghost at every corner and in every crowd. ... Individualism kills individuality, precisely because individualism has to be an 'ism' quite as much as Communism or Calvinism. The economic and ethical school which calls itself individualist ended by threatening the world with the flattest and dullest spread of the commonplace. Men, instead of being themselves, set out to find a self to be: a sort of abstract economic self identified with self-interest. But while the self was that of a man, the self-interest was generally that of a class or a trade or even an empire. So far from really remaining a separate self, the man became part of a communal mass of selfishness. 2/25/1928

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[...] we have a suffocating sense of luxury and no sense at all of liberty. All the pleasure-hunters seem to be themselves hunted. All the children of fortune seem to be chained to the wheel. There is very little that really even pretends to be happiness in all this sort of harassed hedonism. 4/28/1928

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