Quotes by Gilbert K. Chesterton

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Chesterton, G(ilbert) K(eith). Born May 29, 1874, London, England. Died June 14, 1936, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. A British man of letters. Chesterton was a journalist, a scholar, a novelist and short-story writer, and a poet. ... more

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

The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.
Love means to love that which is unlovable; or it is no virtue at all.
You cannot love a thing without wanting to fight for it.
Their is a road from the eye to heart that does not go through the intellect.
A stiff apology is a second insult. The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.
How you think when you lose determines how long it will be until you win.
It isn't that they can't see the solution. It is that they can't see the problem.
There is a great man who makes every man feel small. But the real great man is the man who makes every man feel great.
Angels fly because they take themselves lightly.
We ought to see far enough into a hypocrite to see even his sincerity.
The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist see what he has come to see.
The family is the test of freedom; because the family is the only thing that the free man makes for himself and by himself.
I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.
It is not funny that anything else should fall down; only that a man should fall down. Why do we laugh? Because it is a gravely religious matter: it is the Fall of Man. Only man can be absurd: for only man can be dignified.
When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.
Merely having an open mind is nothing; the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.
Education is the period during which you are being instructed by somebody you do not know, about something you do not want to know.
An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.
You can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it.
The only way of catching a train I have ever discovered is to miss the train before.
The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. He is the man who has lost everything except his reason.
A woman uses her intelligence to find reasons to support her intuition.
Man is an exception, whatever else he is. If he is not the image of God, then he is a disease of the dust. If it is not true that a divine being fell, then we can only say that one of the animals went entirely off its head.
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.
When you have really exhausted an experience you always reverence and love it. The two things that nearly all of us have thoroughly and really been through are childhood and youth. And though we would not have them back again on any account, we feel that they are both beautiful, because we have drunk them dry.
The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.
A yawn is a silent shout.
I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act.
Marriage is an adventure, like going to war.
People generally quarrel because they cannot argue.
Most Americans are born drunk, and really require a little wine or beer to sober them. They have a sort of permanent intoxication from within, a sort of invisible champagne. Americans do not need to drink to inspire them to do anything, though they do sometimes, I think, need a little for the deeper and more delicate purpose of teaching them how to do nothing.
Youth is the period in which a man can be hopeless. The end of every episode is the end of the world. But the power of hoping through everything, the knowledge that the soul survives its adventures, that great inspiration comes to the middle-aged.
The average man votes below himself; he votes with half a mind or a hundredth part of one. A man ought to vote with the whole of himself, as he worships or gets married. A man ought to vote with his head and heart, his soul and stomach, his eye for faces and his ear for music; also (when sufficiently provoked) with his hands and feet. If he has ever seen a fine sunset, the crimson color of it should creep into his vote. The question is not so much whether only a minority of the electorate votes. The point is that only a minority of the voter votes.
My country wrong or right, is like saying my mother, drunk or sober.
If I had only one sermon to preach it would be a sermon against pride.
You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution.
Our civilization has decided that determining the guilt or innocence of men is a thing too important to be trusted to trained men. When it wants a library catalogued, or the solar system discovered, or any trifle of that kind, it uses up its specialists. But when it wishes anything done which is really serious, it collects twelve of the ordinary men standing round. The same thing was done, if I remember right, by the Founder of Christianity.
Journalism consists largely in saying Lord James is dead to people who never knew Lord James was alive.
Happiness is a mystery, like religion, and should never be rationalized.
The golden age only comes to men when they have forgotten gold.
Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.
I believe in getting into hot water. I think it keeps you clean.
A turkey is more occult and awful than all the angels and archangels. In so far as God has partly revealed to us an angelic world, he has partly told us what an angel means. But God has never told us what a turkey means. And if you go and stare at a live turkey for an hour or two, you will find by the end of it that the enigma has rather increased than diminished.
Psychoanalysis is confession without absolution.
There is nothing the matter with Americans except their ideals. The real American is all right; it is the ideal American who is all wrong.
Variability is one of the virtues of a woman. It avoids the crude requirement of polygamy. So long as you have one good wife you are sure to have a spiritual harem.
When we really worship anything, we love not only its clearness but its obscurity. We exult in its very invisibility.
No man knows he is young while he is young.
If you do not understand a man you cannot crush him. And if you do understand him, very probably you will not.
We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next door neighbor.
In matters of truth the fact that you don't want to publish something is, nine times out of ten, a proof that you ought to publish it.
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 egoistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it.
Some men never feel small, but these are the few men who are.
To be clever enough to get all the money, one must be stupid enough to want it.
The aim of life is appreciation; there is no sense in not appreciating things; and there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them.
Journalism is popular, but it is popular mainly as fiction. Life is one world, and life seen in the newspapers another.
Man does not live by soap alone; and hygiene, or even health, is not much good unless you can take a healthy view of it -- or, better still, feel a healthy indifference to it.
Democracy means government by the uneducated, while aristocracy means government by the badly educated.
Courage is getting away from death by continually coming within an inch of it.
The perplexity of life arises from there being too many interesting things in it for us to be interested properly in any of them.
We call a man a bigot or a slave of dogma because he is a thinker who has thought thoroughly and to a definite end.
One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.
The vulgar man is always the most distinguished, for the very desire to be distinguished is vulgar.
The world will never starve for want of wonders, but for want of wonder.
The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land.
Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes -- our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking around.
Once I planned to write a book of poems entirely about the things in my pocket. But I found it would be too long; and the age of the great epics is past.
Men always talk about the most important things to perfect strangers. In the perfect stranger we perceive man himself; the image of a God is not disguised by resemblances to an uncle or doubts of wisdom of a mustache.
They have given us into the hand of new unhappy lords. Lords without anger and honor, who dare not carry their swords. They fight by shuffling papers; they have bright dead alien eyes; They look at our labor and laughter as a tired man looks at flies.
The most dangerous criminal now is the entirely lawless modern philosopher. Compared to him, burglars and bigamists are essentially moral men.
Science in the modern world has many uses; its chief use, however, is to provide long words to cover the errors of the rich.
A man does not know what he is saying until he knows what he is not saying.
People accuse journalism of being too personal; but to me it has always seemed far too impersonal. It is charged with tearing away the veils from private life; but it seems to me to be always dropping diaphanous but blinding veils between men and men. The Yellow Press is abused for exposing facts which are private; I wish the Yellow Press did anything so valuable. It is exactly the decisive individual touches that it never gives; and a proof of this is that after one has met a man a million times in the newspapers it is always a complete shock and reversal to meet him in real life.
A large section of the intelligentsia seems wholly devoid of intelligence.
Fable is more historical than fact, because fact tells us about one man and fable tells us about a million men.
The timidity of the child or the savage is entirely reasonable; they are alarmed at this world, because this world is a very alarming place. They dislike being alone because it is verily and indeed an awful idea to be alone. Barbarians fear the unknown for the same reason that Agnostics worship it --because it is a fact.
It is as healthy to enjoy sentiment as to enjoy jam.
There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person.
With any recovery from morbidity there must go a certain healthy humiliation.
Being contented ought to mean in English, as it does in French, being pleased. Being content with an attic ought not to mean being unable to move from it and resigned to living in it; it ought to mean appreciating all there is in such a position.
True contentment is a thing as active as agriculture. It is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it. It is arduous and it is rare.
I've searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.
The doctrine of human equality reposes on this: that there is no man really clever who has not found that he is stupid.
Chastity does not mean abstention from sexual wrong; it means something flaming, like Joan of Arc.
Boyhood is a most complex and incomprehensible thing. Even when one has been through it, one does not understand what it was. A man can never quite understand a boy, even when he has been the boy.
A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.
The mere brute pleasure of reading --the sort of pleasure a cow must have in grazing.
The dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world. In this long vigil he often has to vary his methods of stimulation; but in this long vigil he is also himself striving against a continual tendency to sleep.
Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere.
Do not free the camel of the burden of his hump; you may be freeing him from being a camel.
Man seems to be capable of great virtues but not of small virtues; capable of defying his torturer but not of keeping his temper.
The chief assertion of religious morality is that white is a color. Virtue is not the absence of vices or the avoidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell.
People in high life are hardened to the wants and distresses of mankind as surgeons are to their bodily pains.
Truth must necessarily be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind and therefore congenial to it.
The man who throws a bomb is an artist, because he prefers a great moment to everything.
Artistic temperament is the disease that afflicts amateurs.
We are justified in enforcing good morals, for they belong to all mankind; but we are not justified in enforcing good manners, for good manners always mean our own manners.
The Museum is not meant either for the wanderer to see by accident or for the pilgrim to see with awe. It is meant for the mere slave of a routine of self-education to stuff himself with every sort of incongruous intellectual food in one indigestible meal.
Your next-door neighbor is not a man; he is an environment. He is the barking of a dog; he is the noise of a piano; he is a dispute about a party wall; he is drains that are worse than yours, or roses that are better than yours.
Nothing is poetical if plain daylight is not poetical; and no monster should amaze us if the normal man does not amaze.
My country, right or wrong is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying My mother, drunk or sober.
But we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet. Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget.
If the barricades went up in our streets and the poor became masters, I think the priests would escape, I fear the gentlemen would; but I believe the gutters would simply be running with the blood of philanthropists.
A new philosophy generally means in practice the praise of some old vice.
The true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground.
Half a truth is better than no politics.
The honest poor can sometimes forget poverty. The honest rich can never forget it.
New roads; new ruts.
Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it.
A puritan is a person who pours righteous indignation into the wrong things.
Facts as facts do not always create a spirit of reality, because reality is a spirit.
A cosmic philosophy is not constructed to fit a man; a cosmic philosophy is constructed to fit a cosmos. A man can no more possess a private religion than he can possess a private sun and moon.
The worst of work nowadays is what happens to people when they cease to work.
The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all.
Ritual will always mean throwing away something: destroying our corn or wine upon the altar of our gods.
The ordinary scientific man is strictly a sentimentalist. He is a sentimentalist in this essential sense, that he is soaked and swept away by mere associations.
Silence is the unbearable repartee.
All slang is metaphor, and all metaphor is poetry.
Women prefer to talk in twos, while men prefer to talk in threes.
A teacher who is not dogmatic is simply a teacher who is not teaching.
But there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.
One may understand the Cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star.
The old idea that the joke was not good enough for the company has been superseded by the new aristocratic idea that the company was not worthy of the joke. They have introduced an almost insane individualism into that one form of intercourse which is specially and uproariously communal. They have made even levities into secrets. They have made laughter lonelier than tears.
There are no uninteresting things, there are only uninterested people.
The greenhorn is the ultimate victor in everything; it is he that gets the most out of life.
What people call impartiality may simply mean indifference, and what people call partiality may simply mean mental activity.
One of the great disadvantages of hurry is that it takes such a long time.
Evil comes at leisure like the disease. Good comes in a hurry like the doctor.
The full value of this life can only be got by fighting; the violent take it by storm. And if we have accepted everything we have missed something -- war. This life of ours is a very enjoyable fight, but a very miserable truce.
The present condition of fame is merely fashion.
Experience which was once claimed by the aged is now claimed exclusively by the young.
Brave men are all vertebrates; they have their softness on the surface and their toughness in the middle.
The cosmos is about the smallest hole that a man can hide his head in.
Compromise used to mean that half a loaf was better than no bread. Among modern statesmen it really seems to mean that half a loaf ;is better than a whole loaf.
White is not a mere absence of color; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black. God paints in many colors; but He never paints so gorgeously, I had almost said so gaudily, as when He paints in white.
Buddhism is not a creed, it is a doubt.
Those thinkers who cannot believe in any gods often assert that the love of humanity would be in itself sufficient for them; and so, perhaps, it would, if they had it.
Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.
The artistic temperament is a disease that affects amateurs. Artists of a large and wholesome vitality get rid of their art easily, as they breathe easily or perspire easily. But in artists of less force, the thing becomes a pressure, and produces a definite pain, which is called the artistic temperament.
Soldiers have many faults, but they have one redeeming merit; they are never worshippers of force. Soldiers more than any other men are taught severely and systematically that might is not right. The fact is obvious. The might is in the hundred men who obey. The right (or what is held to be right) is in the one man who commands them.
A building is akin to dogma; it is insolent, like dogma. Whether or no it is permanent, it claims permanence, like a dogma. People ask why we have no typical architecture of the modern world, like impressionism in painting. Surely it is obviously because we have not enough dogmas; we cannot bear to see anything in the sky that is solid and enduring, anything in the sky that does not change like the clouds of the sky.
All architecture is great architecture after sunset; perhaps architecture is really a nocturnal art, like the art of fireworks.
Insincere pessimism is a social accomplishment, rather agreeable than otherwise; and fortunately nearly all pessimism is insincere.
Many clever men like you have trusted to civilization. Many clever Babylonians, many clever Egyptians, many clever men at the end of Rome. Can you tell me, in a world that is flagrant with the failures of civilisation, what there is particularly immortal about yours?
There are many definite methods, honest and dishonest, which make people rich; the only instinct I know of which does it is that instinct which theological Christianity crudely describes as the sin of avarice.
If prosperity is regarded as the reward of virtue it will be regarded as the symptom of virtue.
The only argument against losing faith is that you also lose hope and generally charity.