The wit and wisdom of GK Chesterton: 10 quotes to make you think

GK Chesterton at work.

GK Chesterton was born today in 1874. A novelist, journalist, theologian, broadcaster and orator, he was a great Christian apologist whose works included Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man, credited with making the Christian faith understandable and appealing to millions. His gripping Father Brown stories, about an unassuming but fiercely intelligent Catholic priest, contain profound insights about human nature and have been televised several times.

Chesterton was also known for his absent-mindedness and for his outsize personality: he was six feet four inches tall, usually had a cigar hanging out of his mouth, wore a cape and carried a swordstick.

1. (In a telegram to his wife Frances): "Am in Market Harborough. Where ought I to be?" ("Home", she replied).

2. He weighed about 20 stone. When during the Great War a lady asked him why he wasn't out at the front, he replied: "If you go round to the side, you will see that I am" (AN Wilson, Hilaire Belloc).

3. "The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected" (Illustrated London News, 1924).

4. "Moderate strength is shown in violence, supreme strength is shown in levity" (The Man Who Was Thursday).

5. "To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it" (A Short History of England).

6. "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried" (What's Wrong With The World, 1910).

7. "One of the chief uses of religion is that it makes us remember our coming from darkness, the simple fact that we are created" (The Boston Sunday Post, 1921)

8. "The Bible tells us to love our neighbours, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people" – (ILN, 1910).

9. "Liberty has produced scepticism, and scepticism has destroyed liberty. The lovers of liberty thought they were leaving it unlimited, when they were only leaving it undefined. They thought they were only leaving it undefined, when they were really leaving it undefended" (Eugenics and Other Evils).

9. "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 that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around" (Orthodoxy).

10. "The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him" (ILN, 1911).