Quotes from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

G.K. Chesterton ·  182 pages

Rating: (24.7K votes)


“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--”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“Always be comic in a tragedy. What the deuce else can you do?”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“Your offer," he said, "is far too idiotic to be declined.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“The Iliad is only great because all life is a battle, The Odyssey because all life is a journey, The Book of Job because all life is a riddle.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“Moderate strength is shown in violence, supreme strength is shown in levity.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare



“If you'd take your head home and boil it for a turnip it might be useful. I can't say. But it might.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“Thieves respect property; they merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“Why does each thing on the earth war against each other thing? Why does each small thing in the world have to fight against the world itself? Why does a fly have to fight the whole universe? Why does a dandelion have to fight the whole universe? For the same reason that I had to be alone in the dreadful Council of the Days. So that each thing that obeys law may have the glory and isolation of the anarchist. So that each man fighting for order may be as brave and good a man as the dynamiter. So that the real lie of Satan may be flung back in the face of this blasphemer, so that by tears and torture we may earn the right to say to this man, 'You lie!' No agonies can be too great to buy the right to say to this accuser, 'We also have suffered.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“I am more than a devil; I am a man. I can do the one thing which Satan himself cannot do— I can die.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“Well, if I am not drunk, I am mad," replied Syme with perfect calm; "but I trust I can behave like a gentleman in either condition.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare



“You have not wasted your time; you have helped to save the world. We are not buffoons, but very desperate men at war with a vast conspiracy.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“Through all this ordeal his root horror had been isolation, and there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one. That is why, in spite of a hundred disadvantages, the world will always return to monogamy.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“The most poetical thing in the world is not being sick.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“I could forgive you even your cruelty if it were not for your calm.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“I shall approach. Before taking off his hat, I shall take off my own. I shall say, "The Marquis de Saint Eustache, I believe." He will say, "The celebrated Mr. Syme, I presume." He will say in the most exquisite French, "How are you?" I shall reply in the most exquisite Cockney, "Oh, just the Syme."'

'Oh shut it...what are you really going to do?'

'But it was a lovely catechism! ...Do let me read it to you. It has only forty-three questions and answers, some of the Marquis's answers are wonderfully witty. I like to be just to my enemy.'

'But what's the good of it all?' asked Dr. Bull in exasperation.

'It leads up to the challenge...when the Marquis as given the forty-ninth reply, which runs--'

'Has it...occurred to you...that the Marquis may not say all the forty-three things you have put down for him?'

'How true that is! ...Sir, you have a intellect beyond the common.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare



“I seem to remember only centuries of heroic war, in which you were always heroes--epic on epic, Iliad on Iliad, and you always brothers in arms. Whether it was but recently (for time is nothing), or at the beginning of the world, I sent you out to war. I sat in the darkness, where there is not any created thing, and to you I was only a voice commanding valour and an unnatural virtue. You heard the voice in the dark, and you never heard it again. The sun in heaven denied it, the earth and sky denied it, all human wisdom denied it. And when I met you in the daylight I denied it myself...But you were men. You did not forget your secret honour, though the whole cosmos turned an engine of torture to tear it out of you.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“You've got that eternal idiotic idea that if anarchy came it would come from the poor. Why should it? The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists; they have more interest than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn't; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“The suburb of Saffron Park lay on the sunset side of London, as red and ragged as a cloud of sunset. It was built of a bright brick throughout; its sky-line was fantastic, and even its ground plan was wild. It had been the outburst of a speculative builder, faintly tinged with art, who called its architecture sometimes Elizabethan and sometimes Queen Anne, apparently under the impression that the two sovereigns were identical. It was described with some justice as an artistic colony, though it never in any definable way produced any art. But although its pretensions to be an intellectual centre were a little vague, its pretensions to be a pleasant place were quite indisputable. The stranger who looked for the first time at the quaint red houses could only think how very oddly shaped the people must be who could fit in to them. Nor when he met the people was he disappointed in this respect. The place was not only pleasant, but perfect, if once he could regard it not as a deception but rather as a dream. Even if the people were not "artists," the whole was nevertheless artistic. That young man with the long, auburn hair and the impudent face -- that young man was not really a poet; but surely he was a poem. That old gentleman with the wild, white beard and the wild, white hat -- that venerable humbug was not really a philosopher; but at least he was the cause of philosophy in others. That scientific gentleman with the bald, egg-like head and the bare, bird-like neck had no real right to the airs of science that he assumed. He had not discovered anything new in biology; but what biological creature could he have discovered more singular than himself? Thus, and thus only, the whole place had properly to be regarded; it had to be considered not so much as a workshop for artists, but as a frail but finished work of art. A man who stepped into its social atmosphere felt as if he had stepped into a written comedy.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“He wondered why the pelican was the symbol of charity, except it was that it wanted a good deal of charity to admire a pelican.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare



“Oh, most unhappy man,' he cried, 'try to be happy! You have red hair like your sister.'
My red hair, like red flames, shall burn up the world,' said Gregory.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“We say that the most dangerous
criminal now is the entirely lawless modern philosopher. Compared
to him, burglars and bigamists are essentially moral men; my heart
goes out to them. They accept the essential ideal of man; they
merely seek it wrongly. Thieves respect property. They merely wish
the property to become their property that they may more perfectly
respect it. But philosophers dislike property as property; they
wish to destroy the very idea of personal possession. Bigamists
respect marriage, or they would not go through the highly
ceremonial and even ritualistic formality of bigamy. But
philosophers despise marriage as marriage. Murderers respect human
life; they merely wish to attain a greater fulness of human life in
themselves by the sacrifice of what seems to them to be lesser
lives. But philosophers hate life itself, their own as much as
other people's.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“What are we going to do?" asked the Professor.
"At this moment," said Syme, with a scientific detachment, "I think we are going to smash into a lamppost.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“No man should leave in the universe anything of which he is afraid.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“Listen to me," cried Syme with extraordinary emphasis. "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 -”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare



“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...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...the most poetical thing in the world is not being sick.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“Who would condescend to strike down the mere things that he does not
fear? Who would debase himself to be merely brave, like any common
prizefighter? Who would stoop to be fearless--like a tree? Fight the
thing that you fear. You remember the old tale of the English clergyman
who gave the last rites to the brigand of Sicily, and how on his
death-bed the great robber said, 'I can give you no money, but I can
give you advice for a lifetime: your thumb on the blade, and strike
upwards.' So I say to you, strike upwards, if you strike at the stars.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“That young man with the long, auburn hair and the impudent face - that young man was not really a poet; but surely he was a poem.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“Even the moon is only poetical because there is a man in the moon.”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare


“We must have several word-signs," said Syme seriously -- "words that we are likely to want, fine shades of meaning. My favourite word is 'coeval.' What's yours?"
"Do stop playing the goat," said the Professor plaintively. "You don't know how serious this is."
"'Lush,' too, " said Syme, shaking his head sagaciously, "we must have ' lush' -- word applied to grass, don't you know?"
"Do you imagine," asked the Professor furiously, "that we are going to talk to Dr. Bull about grass?"
"There are several ways in which the subject could be approached," said Syme reflectively, "and the word introduced without appearing forced. We might say, ' Dr. Bull, as a revolutionist, you remember that a tyrant once advised us to eat grass; and indeed many of us, looking on the fresh lush grass of summer--"'
"Do you understand," said the other, "that this is a tragedy?"
"Perfectly," replied Syme; "always be comic in a tragedy. What the deuce else can you do? I wish this language of yours had a wider scope. I suppose we could not extend it from the fingers to the toes? That would involve pulling off our boots and socks during the conversation, which however unobtrusively performed -- "
"Syme," said his friend with a stern simplicity, "go to bed!”
― G.K. Chesterton, quote from The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare



About the author

G.K. Chesterton
Born place: in Kensington, London, England
Born date May 29, 1874
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