They would just swallow the skepticism because it was skepticism

From The Hole in the Wall in G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Knew Too Much

You’ve got to understand one of the tricks of the modern mind, a tendency that most people obey without noticing it. In the village or suburb outside there’s an inn with the sign of St. George and the Dragon. Now suppose I went about telling everybody that this was only a corruption of King George and the Dragoon. Scores of people would believe it, without any inquiry, from a vague feeling that it’s probable because it’s prosaic. It turns something romantic and legendary into something recent and ordinary. And that somehow makes it sound rational, though it is unsupported by reason. Of course some people would have the sense to remember having seen St. George in old Italian pictures and French romances, but a good many wouldn’t think about it at all. They would just swallow the skepticism because it was skepticism. Modern intelligence won’t accept anything on authority. But it will accept anything without authority.

By the light of my living common sense

From the conclusion of Chesterton’s Club of Queer Trades:

At last came the moment which I knew must in some way enlighten us, the time of the club speeches and the club toasts. Basil Grant rose to his feet amid a surge of songs and cheers.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “it is a custom in this society that the president for the year opens the proceedings not by any general toast of sentiment, but by calling upon each member to give a brief account of his trade. We then drink to that calling and to all who follow it. It is my business, as the senior member, to open by stating my claim to membership of this club. Years ago, gentlemen, I was a judge; I did my best in that capacity to do justice and to administer the law. But it gradually dawned on me that in my work, as it was, I was not touching even the fringe of justice. I was seated in the seat of the mighty, I was robed in scarlet and ermine; nevertheless, I held a small and lowly and futile post. I had to go by a mean rule as much as a postman, and my red and gold was worth no more than his. Daily there passed before me taut and passionate problems, the stringency of which I had to pretend to relieve by silly imprisonments or silly damages, while I knew all the time, by the light of my living common sense, that they would have been far better relieved by a kiss or a thrashing, or a few words of explanation, or a duel, or a tour in the West Highlands. Then, as this grew on me, there grew on me continuously the sense of a mountainous frivolity. Every word said in the court, a whisper or an oath, seemed more connected with life than the words I had to say. Then came the time when I publicly blasphemed the whole bosh, was classed as a madman and melted from public life.”

Something in the atmosphere told me that it was not only Rupert and I who were listening with intensity to this statement.

“Well, I discovered that I could be of no real use. I offered myself privately as a purely moral judge to settle purely moral differences. Before very long these unofficial courts of honour (kept strictly secret) had spread over the whole of society. People were tried before me not for the practical trifles for which nobody cares, such as committing a murder, or keeping a dog without a licence. My criminals were tried for the faults which really make social life impossible. They were tried before me for selfishness, or for an impossible vanity, or for scandalmongering, or for stinginess to guests or dependents. Of course these courts had no sort of real coercive powers. The fulfilment of their punishments rested entirely on the honour of the ladies and gentlemen involved, including the honour of the culprits. But you would be amazed to know how completely our orders were always obeyed.

We give him back his childhood

From The Tremendous Adventures of Major Brown in G.K. Chesterton’s The Club of Queer Trades:

“Then I must explain with more elaboration,” said Mr Northover, with a sigh. “The Adventure and Romance Agency has been started to meet a great modern desire. On every side, in conversation and in literature, we hear of the desire for a larger theatre of events for something to waylay us and lead us splendidly astray. Now the man who feels this desire for a varied life pays a yearly or a quarterly sum to the Adventure and Romance Agency; in return, the Adventure and Romance Agency undertakes to surround him with startling and weird events. As a man is leaving his front door, an excited sweep approaches him and assures him of a plot against his life; he gets into a cab, and is driven to an opium den; he receives a mysterious telegram or a dramatic visit, and is immediately in a vortex of incidents. A very picturesque and moving story is first written by one of the staff of distinguished novelists …

“How on earth does the thing work?” asked Rupert Grant, with bright and fascinated eyes.

“We believe that we are doing a noble work,” said Northover warmly. “It has continually struck us that there is no element in modern life that is more lamentable than the fact that the modern man has to seek all artistic existence in a sedentary state. If he wishes to float into fairyland, he reads a book; if he wishes to dash into the thick of battle, he reads a book; if he wishes to soar into heaven, he reads a book; if he wishes to slide down the banisters, he reads a book. We give him these visions, but we give him exercise at the same time, the necessity of leaping from wall to wall, of fighting strange gentlemen, of running down long streets from pursuers—all healthy and pleasant exercises. We give him a glimpse of that great morning world of Robin Hood or the Knights Errant, when one great game was played under the splendid sky. We give him back his childhood, that godlike time when we can act stories, be our own heroes, and at the same instant dance and dream.”

Morbidity deliberately encouraged

From G.K. Chesterton’s Club of Queer Trades – the narrators introductory sketch of Basil Grant:

Long ago as it is, everyone remembers the terrible and grotesque scene that occurred in—, when one of the most acute and forcible of the English judges suddenly went mad on the bench. I had my own view of that occurrence; but about the facts themselves there is no question at all. For some months, indeed for some years, people had detected something curious in the judge’s conduct. He seemed to have lost interest in the law, in which he had been beyond expression brilliant and terrible as a K.C., and to be occupied in giving personal and moral advice to the people concerned. He talked more like a priest or a doctor, and a very outspoken one at that. The first thrill was probably given when he said to a man who had attempted a crime of passion: “I sentence you to three years imprisonment, under the firm, and solemn, and God-given conviction, that what you require is three months at the seaside.” He accused criminals from the bench, not so much of their obvious legal crimes, but of things that had never been heard of in a court of justice, monstrous egoism, lack of humour, and morbidity deliberately encouraged. Things came to a head in that celebrated diamond case in which the Prime Minister himself, that brilliant patrician, had to come forward, gracefully and reluctantly, to give evidence against his valet. After the detailed life of the household had been thoroughly exhibited, the judge requested the Premier again to step forward, which he did with quiet dignity. The judge then said, in a sudden, grating voice: “Get a new soul. That thing’s not fit for a dog. Get a new soul.” All this, of course, in the eyes of the sagacious, was premonitory of that melancholy and farcical day when his wits actually deserted him in open court. It was a libel case between two very eminent and powerful financiers, against both of whom charges of considerable defalcation were brought. The case was long and complex; the advocates were long and eloquent; but at last, after weeks of work and rhetoric, the time came for the great judge to give a summing-up; and one of his celebrated masterpieces of lucidity and pulverizing logic was eagerly looked for. He had spoken very little during the prolonged affair, and he looked sad and lowering at the end of it. He was silent for a few moments, and then burst into a stentorian song. His remarks (as reported) were as follows:
“O Rowty-owty tiddly-owty Tiddly-owty tiddly-owty Highty-ighty tiddly-ighty Tiddly-ighty ow.”
He then retired from public life and took the garret in Lambeth.

It is only ceasing to think

From G.K. Chesterton’s St. Thomas Aquinas:


But many modern people talk as if what they call induction
were some magic way of reaching a conclusion, without using
any of those horrid old syllogisms. But induction does not lead
us to a conclusion. Induction only leads us to a deduction.
Unless the last three syllogistic steps are all right, the conclusion
is all wrong. Thus, the great nineteenth century men of science,
whom I was brought up to revere (“accepting the conclusions
of science”, it was always called), went out and closely
inspected the air and the earth, the chemicals and the gases,
doubtless more closely than Aristotle or Aquinas, and then
came back and embodied their final conclusion in a syllogism.
“All matter is made of microscopic little knobs which are indivisible.
My body is made of matter. Therefore my body is made of microscopic
little knobs which are indivisible.” They were not wrong in
the form of their reasoning; because it is the only way to reason.
In this world there is nothing except a syllogism–and a fallacy.
But of course these modern men knew, as the medieval men knew,
that their conclusions would not be true unless their
premises were true. And that is where the trouble began.
For the men of science, or their sons and nephews,
went out and took another look at the knobby nature of matter;
and were surprised to find that it was not knobby at all.
So they came back and completed the process with their syllogism;
“All matter is made of whirling protons and electrons.
My body is made of matter. Therefore my body is made of whirling
protons and electrons.” And that again is a good syllogism;
though they may have to look at matter once or twice more,
before we know whether it is a true premise and a true conclusion.
But in the final process of truth there is nothing else except
a good syllogism. The only other thing is a bad syllogism;
as in the familiar fashionable shape; “All matter is made of protons
and electrons. I should very much like to think that mind is much
the same as matter. So I will announce, through the microphone
or the megaphone, that my mind is made of protons and electrons.”
But that is not induction; it is only a very bad blunder
in deduction. That is not another or new way of thinking;
it is only ceasing to think.

I would rather have that Chrysostom manuscript

From G.K. Chesterton’s St. Thomas Aquinas:

The new Paris ultimately left behind by St. Louis must have been a thing white like lilies and splendid as the oriflamme.  It was the beginning of the great new thing: the nation of France, which was to pierce and overpower the old quarrel of Pope and Emperor in the lands from which Thomas came.  But Thomas came very unwillingly and, if we may say it of so kindly a man, rather sulkily.  As he entered Paris, they showed him from the hill that splendour of new spires beginning, and somebody said something like, “How grand it must be to own all this.”  And Thomas Aquinas only muttered, “I would rather have that Chrysostom manuscript I can’t get hold of.”

This seems a near universal anecdote in the various vitae of Aquinas, though Chesterton, in typical fashion, polishes it up a bit from the drier phrasing of the originals, one of which is as follows:

“Once, coming from Saint Denis with his students, where he had gone to visit the holy relics and that holy college of monks, and when he had seen the city of Paris right at hand, his students said to him, thinking they would hear some edifying reply: “Master, see how beautiful a city Paris is!  Would you wish to be lord of this city?”  He responded: “With more pleasure would I have the homilies of Chrysostom on the Gospel of Saint Matthew.  For this city, if it were mine, would, on account of the concern given to ruling, carry off the contemplation of divine matters and inhibit the consolation of the soul.”(William of Tocco, Ystoria sancti Thome de Aquino 42, written 1323)

“semel ueniens de sancto Dyonisio cum suis studentibus,  quo iuerat sanctorum reliquias et sanctum illud monachorum collegium uisitare, et uidisset de propinquo ciuitatem Parisiensem, dixerunt ei studentes:  ‘Magister, uidete quam pulchra ciuitas est Parisius!  Velletis esse dominus huius ciuitatis?’, credentes ab eo aliquod uerbum edificationis audire.  Qui respondit:  ‘Libentius uellem habere Omelias Chrisostomi super Euangelium beati Mathei.  Ciuitas enim hec si esset mea, propter curam regiminis contemplationem michi diuinorum eriperet et consolationem animi impediret.'”

The homilies on Matthew do exist today, but I haven’t taken the time to figure out whether Aquinas simply couldn’t get a copy or whether (which seems unlikely, given the prominence of Chrysostom) they had been lost to circulation in the period.