Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

G. K. Chesterton, fully Gilbert Keith Chesterton

English Journalist, Humorist, Essayist, Novelist and Poet

"All men are ordinary men; the extraordinary men are those who know it."

"All that we call common sense and rationality and practicality... only means that for certain dead levels of our life we forget that we have forgotten. All that we call spirit and art and ecstasy only means that for one awful instant we remember that we forget."

"Cruelty is perhaps the worst kind of sin. Intellectual cruelty is certainly the worst kind of cruelty."

"Dogma does not mean the absence of thought, but the end of thought."

"Falsehood is never so false as when it is nearly true."

"If you do not understand a man you cannot crush him. And if you do understand him, very probably you will not."

"It is always the secure who are humble."

"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."

"Some men never feel small; but these are the men who are."

"The reason angels can fly is that they take themselves so lightly."

"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."

"There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person."

"Virtue is not the absence of vices or the voidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell."

"We do not get good laws to restrain bad people. We get good people to restrain bad laws."

"We must be fond of the world, even in order to change it."

"You can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it."

"All conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. but you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change."

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

"Angels fly because they take themselves lightly."

"Artistic temperament is a disease that afflicts amateurs."

"Boys like romantic tales; but babies like realistic tales - because they find them romantic. In fact, a baby is about the only person, I should think, to whom a modern realistic novel could be read without boring him."

"Coincidences are spiritual puns."

"A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame and money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well."

"All slang is metaphor, and all metaphor is poetry."

"Democracy means government by the uneducated, while aristocracy means government by the badly educated."

"Digestion exists for health, and health exists for life, and life exists for the love of music or beautiful things."

"Facts as facts do not always create a spirit of reality, because reality is a spirit."

"Gullibility is the key to all adventures. The green horn is the ultimate victor in everything; it is he that gets the most out of life."

"Hope is the last gift given to man, and the only gift not given to youth. Youth is pre-eminently the period in which a man can be lyric, fanatical, poetic; but 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."

"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."

"It is the test of a good religion whether you can make a joke about it."

"Nothing sublimely artistic has ever arisen out of mere art, any more than anything essentially reasonable has ever arisen out of the pure reason. There must always be a rich moral soil for any great aesthetic growth."

"One of the great disadvantages of hurry is that it takes such a long time."

"People generally quarrel because they cannot argue."

"Progress is the mother of problems."

"Psychoanalysis is confession without absolution."

"Silence is the unbearable repartee."

"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."

"The disadvantage of men not knowing the past is that they do not know the present. History is a hill or high point of vantage, from which alone men see the town in which they live or the age in which they are living."

"The dreary thing about most new causes is that they are praised in such very old terms. Every new religion bores us with the same stale rhetoric about closer fellowship and the higher life."

"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 man who cannot believe his senses, and the man who cannot believe anything else, are both insane."

"The miser is the man who starves himself, and everybody else, in order to worship wealth in its dead form, as distinct from its living form."

"The moment you step into the world of facts, you step into the world of limits. You can free things from alien or accidental laws, but not from the laws of their own nature."

"The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen."

"The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose, new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a man starts on the strange assumption that he has never existed before, it is quite certain that he will never exist afterward."

"The trouble about always trying to preserve the health of the body is that it is so difficult to do without destroying the health of the mind."

"The true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground."

"The way to love anything is to realize it might be lost."

"The world will never starve for want of wonders, but for want of wonder."