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The Wit of G. K. Chesterton

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, KC*SG (Knight Commander with Star of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great) (1874 – 1936) has been known as the 'prince of paradox’ because of his ability to take popular sayings, proverbs, and so on and turn them ‘inside out’. He was an English writer and poet, as well as a noted philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, lay theologian, biographer, and art and literary critic. He also created the fictional priest-detective Father Brown.

Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man, both works of Christian apologetics, had wide appeal, and Chesterton referred to himself as an 'orthodox' Christian, eventually converting to Catholicism. George Bernard Shaw said of him, 'He was a man of colossal genius’ and biographers have grouped him with other Victorian authors like John Ruskin, Matthew Arnold, Thomas Carlyle and Cardinal John Henry Newman.

The quotes below will give you a flavour of his work:

'Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable.’

'It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything.'

'People wonder why the novel is the most popular form of literature; people wonder why it is read more than books of science or books of metaphysics. The reason is very simple; it is merely that the novel is more true than they are.'

'Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.’

'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.'

'Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.'

'Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.'

'Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.'

'Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it.'

'Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.'

'I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else.'

'The word “good” has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.'

'Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.'

'To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.'

'There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people.'

'There is the great lesson of "Beauty and the Beast", that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.'

'The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost.'

'The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.'

'The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.'

'There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.'

'I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.'

'The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.'

'Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.'

'A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.'

'An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.'

'Do not be so open-minded that your brains fall out.'

'If there were no God, there would be no atheists.'

'To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.'

'Dear Sir: Regarding your article "What's Wrong with the World?" I am. Yours truly,'


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