G. K. Chesterton, who lived from 1874 to 1936, was first and foremost a writer. From journalism to literary criticism, philosophy to novels, detective stories to apologetics, he produced a mass of literary work. We’re going to share some of the best G. K. Chesterton quotes, but first let’s look at writers he knew and influenced.
Today Chesterton is remembered for his influence upon C. S. Lewis. Lewis read Chesterton, a Catholic, while he was still an atheist and later remarked, “In reading Chesterton, as in reading [George] MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for.”
Even Hemingway admired Chesterton. In one of his short stories, “The Three-Day Blow,” Hemingway has one of his characters wishing to meet Chesterton and remarking, “Chesterton’s a classic.” George Bernard Shaw, with whom Chesterton often clashed is attributed as saying Chesterton was “a man of colossal genius.” Chesterton was also a colossal man, looming over most other men at 6 foot 4 with a substantial girth that amplified his height.
Chesterton’s Most Famous Works
Ask someone today about G. K. Chesterton, and they might remember his detective, Father Brown. The unassuming little priest who solves baffling crimes has been made famous by a British detective show of the same name. (And if you’ve only seen the show, you must read the books which are quite different and excellent.)
In fact, G. K. Chesteron was also the president of The Detection Club, formed in 1930 and containing a cast of golden age mystery greats including Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. Prod a little bit more, and someone will be sure to remember Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. One of its chapters, “The Ethics of Elfland” had an influence upon both Lewis and Tolkien.
But if you ask the internet about Chesterton, you’ll surely stumble upon a quote about dragons. It’s an excellent quote. Ironically, it’s a misquotation, attributed to Chesterton by Neil Gaiman who was relying on his memory and forgot to fact-check before his book went to print. (Writers and editors be warned!)
Chesterton was brilliant and now that you know a little bit about him and his work, let’s take a look at the 10 best Chesterton quotes.
10 Best G. K. Chesterton Quotes
1. “Ordinary things are more valuable than extraordinary things; nay, they are more extraordinary.”
Chesterton understood the value of the ordinary. He would also write:
2. “You say grace before meals. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”
Chesterton was also not without a sense of humor, remarking:
3. “Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”
Human Thoughts and Motives
Chesterton’s humor is evident too in his observations about the world.
4. “A thing may be too sad to be believed or too wicked to be believed or too good to be believed; but it cannot be too absurd to be believed in this planet of frogs and elephants, of crocodiles and cuttle-fish.”
Moving from the world to adventure, he shrewdly remarks:
5. “An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.”
It’s a sentiment many, including J. R. R. Tolkien’s Bilbo Baggins, could agree with. Moving on to stories, Chesterton says:
6. “A detective story generally describes six living men discussing how it is that a man is dead. A modern philosophic story generally describes six dead men discussing how any man can possibly be alive.”
Again, Chesterton brings humor and also combines ideas that aren’t always related. From cuttlefish to belief, detective novels to the question of existence, Chesterton had a knack of drawing ideas together. He valued learning from the past, too.
7. “Real development is not leaving things behind, as on a road, but drawing life from them, as from a root.”
Given this, he was not fooled by cultural trends, observing:
8. “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”
On Fairy Stories
It’s not surprising, given the spread and breadth of his mind, that Chesterton engaged with fairytales and yet pulled them into philosophy.
9. “The old fairy tale makes the hero a normal human boy; it is his adventures that are startling; they startle him because he is normal.”
And lastly, here is his most famous quote about fairytales. Neil Gaiman remembered the dragons, but Chesteron engages not only with dragons, but also with bogeys.
10. “Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”
Where to Go Next
Has this whetted your appetite? You can discover your own favorite quotes now that you’ve read our best G. K. Chesterton quotes. If you’re in the mood for a detective novel, try Father Brown. If you’d like some more reasoning and philosophy, take a look at Orthodoxy. And if you really want to know more about what Chesterton said on cheese, then by all means read this.
Chesterton was a meaty writer. Start reading him, and you might need to re-read some sentences to fully understand them. But if you keep reading, you’ll find yourself appreciating his brilliance and finding your own favorite quotes.