On Guy Fawkes’ Day

Guy Fawkes’ Day is not only in some rude sense a festival, and in some rude sense a religious festival; it is also, what is supremely symbolic and important, a winter religious festival. Here the 5th of November, which celebrates a paltry Christian quarrel, has a touch of the splendour of the 25th of December, which celebrates Christianity itself. Dickens and all the jolly English giants who write of the red firelight are grossly misunderstood in this matter. Prigs call them coarse and materialistic because they write about the punch and plum pudding of winter festivals. The prigs do not see that if these writers were really coarse and materialistic they would not write about winter feasts at all. Mere materialists would write about summer and the sun. The whole point of winter pleasure is that it is a defiant pleasure, a pleasure armed and at bay. The whole point is in the fierce contrast between the fire and wine within and the roaring rains outside. And some part of the sacredness of firelight we may allow to fireworks.

G.K. Chesterton in The Observer

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Homesick at Home

The modern philosopher had told me again and again that I was in the right place, and I had still felt depressed even in acquiescence. But I had heard that I was in the wrong place, and my soul sang for joy, like a bird in spring. The knowledge found out and illuminated forgotten chambers in the dark house of infancy. I knew now why grass had always seemed to me as queer as the green beard of a giant, and why I could feel homesick at home.

G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy was first published in 1908.
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Destruction Too New to be Noticed

The world-wide power of trusts, for instance, is a thing that is never attacked and never defended. It seems to have been completed without ever having been proposed; we might say without ever having been begun. The small shopkeeper has been destroyed in the twentieth century, as the small yeoman was destroyed in the eighteenth century. But for the yeoman there was protest and regret; great poets sang his dirge, and great orators like Cobbett died trying to avenge his death. But the modern destructive changes seem to be too new to be noticed. Perhaps they are too enormous to be seen. No; I do not think it can be fairly said that I have neglected the most recent realities of the real world. It seems rather the real world that neglects them.

G.K. Chesterton in On Philosophy Versus Fiction

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Equality of Men

Here are two things in which all men are manifestly and unmistakably equal. They are not equally clever or equally muscular or equally fat, as the sages of the modern reaction (with piercing insight) perceive. But this is a spiritual certainty, that all men are tragic. And this again is an equally sublime spiritual certainty that all men are comic.

G.K. Chesterton in Charles Dickens

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The Catholic Saint is Always Possible

You cannot deny that it is perfectly possible that to-morrow morning in Ireland or in Italy there might appear a man not only as good but good in exactly the same way as St. Francis of Assisi. Very well; now take the other types of human virtue: many of them splendid. The English gentleman of Elizabeth was chivalrous and idealistic. But can you stand still in this meadow and be an English gentleman of Elizabeth? The austere republican of the eighteenth century, with his stern patriotism and his simple life, was a fine fellow. But have you ever seen him? Have you ever seen an austere republican? Only a hundred years have passed and that volcano of revolutionary truth and valour is as cold as the mountains of the moon. And so it will be with the ethics which are buzzing down Fleet Street at this instant as I speak. What phrase would inspire a London clerk or workman just now? Perhaps that he is a son of the British Empire on which the sun never sets; perhaps that he is a prop of his Trades Union, or a class-conscious proletarian something or other; perhaps merely that he is a gentleman, when he obviously is not. Those names and notions are all honourable, but how long will they last? Empires break; industrial conditions change; the suburbs will not last for ever. What will remain? I will tell you the Catholic saint will remain.

G.K. Chesterton in The Ball and the Cross

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Turnips and Turnip Ghosts

If  we ever get the English back on to the English land they will become again a religious people, if all goes well, a superstitious people. The absence from modern life of both the higher and the lower forms of faith is largely due to a divorce from nature and the trees and clouds. If we have no more turnip ghosts it is chiefly from the lack of turnips.

G.K. Chesterton in Heretics

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Meaning in the Lantern

Do you see this lantern? Do you see the cross carved on it and the flame inside? You did not make it. You did not light it. Better men than you, men who could believe and obey, twisted the entrails of iron, and preserved the legend of fire. There is not a street you walk on, there is not a thread you wear, that was not made as this lantern was, by denying your philosophy of dirt and rats. You can make nothing. You can only destroy. You will destroy mankind; you will destroy the world. Let that suffice you. Yet this one old Christian lantern you shall not destroy. It shall go where your empire of apes will never have the wit to find it.

G.K. Chesterton in The Man Who Was Thursday

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