Ben Crowder

Archive: G. K. Chesterton


Three years after G. K. Chesterton published Heretics, he wrote Orthodoxy. It’s a great book, including one of my favorite Chesterton pieces, The Ethics of Elfland.

As for why he wrote a second book (it’s sort of a sequel to Heretics), he explains why in the preface:

This book is meant to be a companion to Heretics, and to put the positive side in addition to the negative. Many critics complained of the book called Heretics because it merely criticised current philosophies without offering any alternative philosophy. This book is an attempt to answer the challenge. It is unavoidably affirmative and therefore unavoidably autobiographical. . . . It is the purpose of the writer to attempt an explanation, not of whether the Christian Faith can be believed, but of how he personally has come to believe it. The book is therefore arranged upon the positive principle of a riddle and its answer. It deals first with all the writer’s own solitary and sincere speculations and then with all the startling style in which they were all suddenly satisfied by the Christian Theology.

As usual, it’s available to read online or download in EPUB or Kindle formats.


I’ve wanted to get back into reading G. K. Chesterton, but I wasn’t very happy with any of the EPUB editions of Heretics out there, so I’ve made my own. Since, um, that’s what I do. At least with public domain books.

Anyway, head on over to the book page to read it online or download it in EPUB or Kindle formats.

I should also add that this is my first release in a new category, Inklings. Many of the Inklings’ books are still under copyright (C.S. Lewis only has Spirits in Bondage in the public domain, for example), but there are still authors and books that influenced them or that they mentioned in essays or letters, and that’s what I’ll be publishing in that category — G. K. Chesterton’s works, George MacDonald’s works, A Voyage to Arcturus, The Worm Ouroboros, etc. Basically, anything related to the Inklings that’s in the public domain.

A collection of quotes

I love good quotes. I also love the work of C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, and G.K. Chesterton — all three being religious writers who’ve influenced me a lot over the years.

Here, then, are some of my favorite quotes from them. (I thought about tracking down sources for all of them but decided to take the lazy route instead, sacrificing the joy of the hunt to you, dear reader, should you so desire to do source checking. :))

Oh, and they’re in no particular order. (Well, generally short to long, but that’s about it.)

C.S. Lewis

“Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours.”

“All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.”

“Nothing is yet in its true form.”

“The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

“You and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness.”

“Hell was not made for men. It is in no sense parallel to heaven: it is ‘the darkness outside’, the outer rim where being fades away into nonentity.”

“You will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John.”

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.”

“The whole story, paradoxically enough, strengthens our relish for real life. This excursion into the preposterous sends us back with renewed pleasure to the actual.”

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time — waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God — it changes me.”

“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

“It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.”

“No man would find an abiding strangeness on the Moon unless he were the sort of man who could find it in his own back garden.”

“It is a good rule…to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.”

“The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.”

“This is one of the miracles of love: It gives a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.”

“It is hard to have patience with people who say ‘There is no death’ or ‘Death doesn’t matter.’ There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn’t matter.”

“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”

“Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding.”

“The neat sorting-out of books into age-groups, so dear to publishers, has only a very sketchy relation with the habits of any real readers. Those of us who are blamed when old for reading childish books were blamed when children for reading books too old for us. No reader worth his salt trots along in obedience to a time-table.”

“He died not for men, but for each man. If each man had been the only man made, He would have done no less.”

“But how can the characters in a play guess the plot? We are not the playwright, we are not the producer, we are not even the audience. We are on the stage. To play well the scenes in which we are ‘on’ concerns us much more than to guess about the scenes that follow it.”

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

“The safest road to hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

“God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself.”

“A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is… A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.”

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

“[The fairy tale] is accused of giving children a false impression of the world they live in. But I think no literature that children could read gives them less of a false impression. I think what profess to be realistic stories for children are far more likely to deceive them. I never expected the real world to be like the fairy tales. I think that I did expect school to be more like the school stories. The fantasies did not deceive me: the school stories did. All stories in which children have adventures and successes are possible, in the sense that they do not break the laws of nature, but almost infinitely improbable, are in more danger than the fairy tales of raising false expectations.”

“In a sense a child does not long for fairy land as a boy longs to be the hero of the first eleven. Does anyone suppose that he really and prosaically longs for all the dangers and discomforts of a fairy tale? — really wants dragons in contemporary England? It is not so. It would be much truer to say that fairy land arouses a longing for he knows not what. It stirs and troubles him (to his life-long enrichment) with the dim sense of something beyond his reach and, far from dulling or emptying the actual world, gives it a new dimension of depth. He does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods: this reading makes all real woods a little enchanted.”

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

“The value of the myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by ‘the veil of familiarity’. The child enjoys his cold meat (otherwise dull to him) by pretending it is buffalo, just killed with his own bow and arrow. And the child is wise. The real meat comes back to him more savoury for having been dipped in a story; you might say that only then is it the real meat. If you are tired of the real landscape, look at it in a mirror. By putting bread, gold, horse, apple, or the very roads into a myth, we do not retreat from reality: we rediscover it. As long as the story lingers in our mind, the real things are more themselves.”

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

“I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story…. This canon seems to me most obviously true of that particular type of children’s story which is dearest to my own taste, the fantasy or fairy tale. Now the modern critical world uses ‘adult’ as a term of approval. It is hostile to what it calls ‘nostalgia’ and contemptuous of what it calls ‘Peter Pantheism’. Hence a man who admits dwarfs and giants and talking beasts and witches are still dear to him in his fifty-third year is now less likely to be praised for his perennial youth than scorned and pitied for arrested development…. They accuse us of arrested development because we have not lost a taste we had in childhood. But surely arrested development consists not in refusing to lose old things but in failing to add new things? … I now enjoy Tolstoy and Jane Austen and Trollope as well as fairy tales and I call that growth: if I had to lose the fairy tales in order to acquire the novelists, I would not say that I have grown but only that I had changed.”

George MacDonald

“No story ever really ends, and I think I know why.”

“All that is not God is death.”

“Afflictions are but the shadows of God’s wings.”

“Philosophy is really homesickness.”

“Attitudes are more important than facts.”

“Fear is faithlessness.”

“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.”

“How strange this fear of death is! We are never frightened at a sunset.”

“Our life is no dream; but it ought to become one, and perhaps will.”

“Brothers, sisters, have you found our King? There he is, kissing little children and saying they are like God.”

“Doing the will of God leaves me no time for disputing about His plans.”

“I do not myself believe there is any misfortune. What men call such is merely the shadowside of a good.”

“It is not in the nature of politics that the best men should be elected. The best men do not want to govern their fellowmen.”

“There are thousands willing to do great things for one willing to do a small thing.”

“God is not a God that hides himself, but a God who made all that he might reveal himself.”

“Age is not all decay; it is the ripening, the swelling, of the fresh life within, that withers and bursts the husk.”

“A beast does not know that he is a beast, and the nearer a man gets to being a beast, the less he knows it.”

“It is our best work that God wants, not the dregs of our exhaustion. I think he must prefer quality to quantity.”

“Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because He would give the best, and man will not take it.”

“God left the world unfinished for man to work his skill upon. He left the electricity still in the cloud, the oil still in the earth. How often we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource! We go to Him because we have nowhere else to go. And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us, not upon the rocks, but into the desired haven.”

“No, there is no escape. There is no heaven with a little of hell in it — no place to retain this or that of the devil in our hearts or our pockets. Out Satan must go, every hair and feather.”

“Annihilation itself is no death to evil. Only good where evil was, is evil dead. An evil thing must live with its evil until it chooses to be good. That alone is the slaying of evil.”

“The world is full of resurrections. Every night that folds us up in darkness is a death; and those of you that have been out early, and have seen the first of the dawn, will know it — the day rises out of the night like a being that has burst its tomb and escaped into life.

G.K. Chesterton

“Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.”

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

“If there were no God, there would be no atheists.”

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

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.”

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

“In prosperity, our friends know us. In adversity, we know our friends.”

“There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people.”

“How you think when you lose determines how long it will be until you win.”

“I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean.”

“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.”

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be defeated.”

“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”

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

“Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honour should decline.”

“Just going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.”

“It [feminism] is mixed up with a muddled idea that women are free when they serve their employers but slaves when they help their husbands.”

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

“Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.”

“‘Free verse’? You may as well call sleeping in a ditch ‘free architecture’.”

“Love means to love that which is unlovable; or it is no virtue at all.”

“Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.”

“The function of the imagination is not to make strange things settled, so much as to make settled things strange.”

“Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.”

“I regard golf as an expensive way of playing marbles.”

“Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.”

“The dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world.”

“All government is an ugly necessity.”

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

“Once abolish the God, and the government becomes the God.”

“The only defensible war is a war of defense.”

“We do not need to get good laws to restrain bad people. We need to get good people to restrain us from bad laws.”

“To complain that I could only be married once was like complaining that I had only been born once.”

“The State did not own men so entirely, even when it could send them to the stake, as it sometimes does now where it can send them to the elementary school.”

“When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”

“[To an atheist] the universe is the most exquisite masterpiece ever constructed by nobody.”

“These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own.”

“Journalism largely consists in saying ‘Lord James is dead’ to people who never knew Lord James was alive.”

“Lying in bed would be an altogether supreme experience if one only had a colored pencil long enough to draw on the ceiling.”

“The things we see every day are the things we never see at all.”

“The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice.”

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

“It has been often said, very truly, that religion is the thing that makes the ordinary man feel extraordinary; it is an equally important truth that religion is the thing that makes the extraordinary man feel ordinary.”

“Fairy tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.”

“The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children’s games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up.”

“Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.”

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

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

“Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a face? If we could only get round in front—”

“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.”

“Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of 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 about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death.”

“If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might not the heart of man become in its long journey toward the stars?”

“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.”

“We should always endeavor to wonder at the permanent thing, not at the mere exception. We should be startled by the sun, and not by the eclipse. We should wonder less at the earthquake, and wonder more at the earth.”

“A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.”

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

“The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice.”

“There are no chains of houses; there are no crowds of men. The colossal diagram of streets and houses is an illusion, the opium dream of a speculative builder. Each of these men is supremely solitary and supremely important to himself. Each of these houses stands in the centre of the world. There is no single house of all those millions which has not seemed to someone at some time the heart of all things and the end of travel.”

“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.”

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. ‘He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,’ is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book. This paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if we will risk it on the precipice. He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine. No philosopher, I fancy, has ever expressed this romantic riddle with adequate lucidity, and I certainly have not done so. But Christianity has done more: it has marked the limits of it in the awful graves of the suicide and the hero, showing the distance between him who dies for the sake of living and him who dies for the sake of dying.”

In sickness and in health

My cold-from-Styx is nocturnal. It’s still awful during the day, mind you, but around ten o’clock each night it flares up into a hideous, shrieking banshee with blood on its agenda, tormenting me all night long with spasms of coughs that furrow my throat with glass-sharded sickles, snagging my bronchioles on their way up in preparation for embalmment and mummification. And it doesn’t end till the sun comes up. Seriously, my night life has become the stuff of horror flicks. Sleep holds no solace, only misery.

And so I’ve taken up break dancing.

Perhaps it’s a sad state of affairs that anyone who knows in me person would know almost immediately that there’s no way that could ever be true, and the joke is lost on them. :P Break dancing looks cool, but I don’t have enough motivation to put in the practice required to get my body to make those moves.

Heck, I can’t even get my body to spew out this virus and breathe in some good health. The funny thing about being sick is that as soon as you fall ill, you almost immediately forget what it was like to be hale and hearty. And vice versa. Right now I feel like this cold has been my traveling companion through all twenty-four years of my life, like I’ve been apartment-ridden all my life. And as soon as I’m better, I can pretty much guarantee that this sickness will flake off of my memory faster than butter melts on a hot stove.

It’s also a curiosity that the body seems to know what it ought to eat and what it oughtn’t. It’s not like the stomach sends up a menu to the brain, but somehow my body’s known that it should be eating light foods this past week, lots of fruit, not so much on the breads and other sticky, stuffy foods. Sure, my brain knows that too, but my body automatically reassigns its cravings so I don’t even want the “dangerous” food anymore. (That’s one of the things I’m counting on to let me know I’m getting better — when I start craving mashed potatoes, I’ll know I’m on the uphill. ;))

I can’t help but wonder if my imagination is one of the fiends wining and dining this cold — if somehow my thinking about being sick is in some small way helping to keep me sick. And, more pertinently, if thinking about health would make a difference in the positive direction. On the face of it, it sounds kind of hokey, but you never know. (In fact, I was just reading Lewis Thomas’s The Medusa and the Snail last week, and it turns out that in a majority of cases, you can get rid of warts through the powers of thought. It’s pretty much proven. So this isn’t just wishful thinking. :P)

On a more serious note, while this sickness does consume much of my thoughts (which is dratted annoying), I keep reminding myself that I have it easy. There are so many people out there with far greater medical challenges — asthma, paralysis, cancer or any other terminal illness, you name it — that I have no grounds for complaint. They redefine the word “suffering” — I cheapen it. Sure, the sickness seems to expand in my own sphere to fill the available space, but it could be so much worse. And so I feel bad drawing any attention to it. But I still do.

The nightly decision draws nigh: do I try to sleep, hoping against the evidence that I’ll actually sleep and won’t tear my body inside out with my coughing, or do I stay up as late as I can and then wake up at 2 or 3 a.m. so as to minimize my misery? (The corollary is that I would then sleep during the next day to make up for it. Speaking of which, I forgot to do that today. Whoops.)

Nobody wants to read more than a page about sickness, so I’ll stop here. :P Actually, I won’t: here are some health-related quotes I’ve found in my journeys. (Meaning a quick poke around the Quote Garden five seconds ago. ;))

“The trouble with always trying to preserve the health of the body is that it is so difficult to do without destroying the health of the mind.” — G.K. Chesterton

“Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.” — Mark Twain

“Our body is a machine for living. It is organized for that, it is its nature. Let life go on in it unhindered and let it defend itself, it will do more than if you paralyze it by encumbering it with remedies.” — Leo Tolstoy

“Men make use of their illnesses at least as much as they are made use of by them.” — Aldous Huxley

“Health is merely the slowest way someone can die.” — Anonymous

The democracy of the dead

I’ve been reading “Ethics in Elfland,” one of the chapters in G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. Quite interesting reading. :) You can read it on Blank Slate. For example:

If we attach great importance to the opinion of ordinary men in great unanimity when we are dealing with daily matters, there is no reason why we should disregard it when we are dealing with history or fable. Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. 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 about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death.
I found the whole modern world talking scientific fatalism; saying that everything is as it must always have been, being unfolded without fault from the beginning. The leaf on the tree is green because it could never have been anything else. Now, the fairy-tale philosopher is glad that the leaf is green precisely because it might have been scarlet. He feels as if it had turned green an instant before he looked at it. He is pleased that snow is white on the strictly reasonable ground that it might have been black. Every colour has in it a bold quality as of choice; the red of garden roses is not only decisive but dramatic, like suddenly spilt blood. He feels that something has been done. But the great determinists of the nineteenth century were strongly against this native feeling that something had happened an instant before. In fact, according to them, nothing ever really had happened since the beginning of the world. Nothing ever had happened since existence had happened; and even about the date of that they were not very sure.

It’s a madcap dash through language and logic, and Chesterton succeeds in tossing everything upside down and inside out, in his classic manner. The book (including this essay/chapter) is not to be read lightly — be prepared to hang on for one heck of a ride. :)

Those of you who end up reading the essay, what are your thoughts?

The poetics of revolt

This morning as I made breakfast, I decided to try listening to the The Man Who Was Thursday instead of to music. And I did, for about 20 minutes, and it was better than I expected (the experience, that is — I’ve already read the book). Listening to audiobooks is like being a kid again and snuggling up with Mommy or Daddy while they read to you. Except without the snuggling. :)

Anyway, I haven’t really read any Chesterton in the last four years, so it was nice to remember how great he is. I really had to concentrate to keep up with the story, though, because it’s deep. Here’s one of my favorite quotes so far, pulling from the Bartleby edition:

Gregory wagged his heavy, red head with a slow and sad smile. “And even then,” he said, “we poets always ask the question, ‘And what is Victoria now that you have got there?’ You think Victoria is like the New Jerusalem. We know that the New Jerusalem will only be like Victoria. Yes, the poet will be discontented even in the streets of heaven. The poet is always in revolt.” “There again,” said Syme irritably, “what is there poetical about being in revolt? You might as well say that it is poetical to be sea-sick. Being sick is a revolt. Both being sick and being rebellious may be the wholesome thing on certain desperate occasions; but I’m hanged if I can see why they are poetical. Revolt in the abstract is — revolting. It’s mere vomiting.” The girl winced for a flash at the unpleasant word, but Syme was too hot to heed her. “It is things going right,” he cried, “that is poetical! Our digestions, for instance, going sacredly and silently right, that is the foundation of all poetry. Yes, the most poetical thing, more poetical than the flowers, more poetical than the stars — the most poetical thing in the world is not being sick.”

That’s Chesterton for you. :)

All mimsy were the borogoves

I’ve started reading Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and it’s good (though it seems to have a slightly different tone from Alice in Wonderland — I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I like it). The absurdity is very well-done, in a Chestertonian fashion. With things absurd you have to be very careful, because it’s easy to blow it and come out as just stupid. But when it’s done right, it’s hilarious, and it makes you think. I love all the wordplays, by the way. So far there aren’t as many in Looking-Glass as in Wonderland, but that’s okay.

As far as the title of this post goes, we visited Tryst Press (a local fine printing shop here in Provo, though the website appears to be rather out-of-date) on Tuesday for my History of the Book class, and one of the books we got to see was a small edition of “Jabberwocky.” Quite cool. While reading it last night, I got a hankering to make my own edition, illustrated and all. We’ll see… Speaking of which, I’ve got to get started with some Riverglen Press editions. Having my laptop break has been a temporary obstacle, but I think I’ll still be able to make things happen.

Chesterton on journalism

From the blog of the American Chesterton Society, this bit by Chesterton on journalism:

“Nothing looks more neat and regular than a newspaper, with its parallel columns, its mechanical printing, its detailed facts and figures, its responsible, polysyllabic leading articles. Nothing, as a matter of fact, goes every night through more agonies of adventure, more hairbreadth escapes, desperate expedients, crucial councils, random compromises, or barely averted catastrophes. “Seen from the outside, it seems to come round as automatically as the clock and as silently as the dawn. Seen from the inside, it gives all its organisers a gasp of relief every morning to see that it has come out at all; that it has come out without the leading article upside down or the Pope congratulated on discovering the North Pole.”