The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton

(London: Saturday Evening Post, 1911), 268

Father Brown (Complete Collection)

The Blue Cross

  • The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen. (2)
  • He was not "a thinking machine"; for that is a brainless phrase of modern fatalism and materialism. A machine only is a machine because it cannot think. But he was a thinking man, and a plain man at the same time. All his wonderful successes, that looked like conjuring (2)
  • But exactly because Valentin understood reason, he understood the limits of reason. Only a man who knows nothing of motors talks of motoring without petrol; only a man who knows nothing of reason talks of reasoning without strong, undisputed first principles. (2)
  • "The criminal is the creative artist; the detective only the critic" (3)
  • He had already decided that in the universal darkness of his mind he could only follow the first odd finger that pointed; and this finger was odd enough. (3)
  • He had come to the end of his chase; yet somehow he had missed the middle of it. (6)
  • "Reason is always reasonable, even in the last limbo, in the lost borderland of things. I know that people charge the Church with lowering reason, but it is just the other way. Alone on earth, the Church makes reason really supreme. Alone on earth, the Church affirms that God himself is bound by reason." The other priest raised his austere face to the spangled sky and said: "Yet who knows if in that infinite universe—?" "Only infinite physically," said the little priest, turning sharply in his seat, "not infinite in the sense of escaping from the laws of truth." (7)
  • "Oh, by being a celibate simpleton, I suppose," he said. "Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men's real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil? But, as a matter of fact, another part of my trade, too, made me sure you weren't a priest." "What?" asked the thief, almost gaping. "You attacked reason," said Father Brown. "It's bad theology." (9)

The Secret Garden

  • He was one of the great humanitarian French freethinkers; and the only thing wrong with them is that they make mercy even colder than justice. (9)
  • He had this great quality, which very few of us can claim, that his presence was as big as his absence. (10)

The Queer Feet

  • His head was always most valuable when he had lost it. In such moments he put two and two together and made four million. Often the Catholic Church (which is wedded to common sense) did not approve of it. Often he did not approve of it himself. But it was real inspiration—important at rare crises—when whosoever shall lose his head the same shall save it. (21)
  • It may be (so supernatural is the word death) that each of those idle men looked for a second at his soul, and saw it as a small dried pea. (23)
  • Father Brown got to his feet, putting his hands behind him. "Odd, isn't it," he said, "that a thief and a vagabond should repent, when so many who are rich and secure remain hard and frivolous, and without fruit for God or man? But there, if you will excuse me, you trespass a little upon my province. If you doubt the penitence as a practical fact, there are your knives and forks. You are The Twelve True Fishers, and there are all your silver fish. But He has made me a fisher of men." (24)
  • "A crime," he said slowly, "is like any other work of art. Don't look surprised; crimes are by no means the only works of art that come from an infernal workshop. But every work of art, divine or diabolic, has one indispensable mark—I mean, that the centre of it is simple, however much the fulfillment may be complicated. (25)

The Flying Stars

  • "Well," said the young man, "if you're born on the wrong side of the wall, I can't see that it's wrong to climb over it." (27)
  • The clown and pantaloon made themselves white with flour from the cook, and red with rouge from some other domestic, who remained (like all true Christian benefactors) anonymous. (29)
  • "Which is turning out his pockets," said Father Brown, and proceeded to do so, displaying seven and sixpence, a return ticket, a small silver crucifix, a small breviary, and a stick of chocolate. (30)
    • →what kind of pocket-sized breviary did Chesterton have in mind here?
  • An interlude ensued, during which the millionaire stared at the priest, and the priest at his breviary; (30)

The Invisible Man

  • Isidore Smythe (33)
  • All language is used like that; you never get a question answered literally, even when you get it answered truly. (39)

The Honour of Israel Gow

  • Ten false philosophies will fit the universe; ten false theories will fit Glengyle Castle. But we want the real explanation of the castle and the universe. (42)
  • "Sleep!" cried Father Brown. "Sleep. We have come to the end of the ways. Do you know what sleep is? Do you know that every man who sleeps believes in God? It is a sacrament; for it is an act of faith and it is a food. And we need a sacrament, if only a natural one. (44)

The Wrong Shape

  • He dealt much in eastern heavens, rather worse than most western hells (47)
  • The modern mind always mixes up two different ideas: mystery in the sense of what is marvellous, and mystery in the sense of what is complicated. That is half its difficulty about miracles. A miracle is startling; but it is simple. It is simple because it is a miracle. It is power coming directly from God (or the devil) instead of indirectly through nature or human wills. (52)

The Sins of Prince Saradine

  • Like a true philosopher, Flambeau had no aim in his holiday; but, like a true philosopher, he had an excuse. He had a sort of half purpose, which he took just so seriously that its success would crown the holiday, but just so lightly that its failure would not spoil it. (54)
  • "Never mind; one can sometimes do good by being the right person in the wrong place." (56)
  • He had that knack of friendly silence which is so essential to gossip; and saying scarcely a word, he probably obtained from his new acquaintances all that in any case they would have told. (56)
  • He discovered that two enemies are better than one. (61)

The Hammer of God

  • Aristocrats live not in traditions but in fashions. (63)
  • "If you do not fear God, you have good reason to fear man." (63)
  • For no man is such a legalist as the good Secularist. (65)
  • "Moderate the Bible's language, and I'll moderate mine. (66)
  • Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak." (69)
  • "I am a man," answered Father Brown gravely; "and therefore have all devils in my heart. (69, cf. ~The Gulag Archipelago)

The Eye of Apollo

  • "What on earth is that?" asked Father Brown, and stood still. "Oh, a new religion," said Flambeau, laughing; "one of those new religions that forgive your sins by saying you never had any." (70)
  • "Can it cure the one spiritual disease?" asked Father Brown, with a serious curiosity. "And what is the one spiritual disease?" asked Flambeau, smiling. "Oh, thinking one is quite well," said his friend. (70)
  • Oh, if these new pagans would only be old pagans, they would be a little wiser! The old pagans knew that mere naked Nature-worship must have a cruel side. (76)
  • "These pagan stoics," said Brown reflectively, "always fail by their strength. (77)

The Sign of the Broken Sword

  • Why the deuce should he diabolically revenge himself only once in his life; and that for the one particular blow that could not have hurt him? (78)
  • "Sir Arthur St. Clare, as I have already said, was a man who read his Bible. That was what was the matter with him. When will people understand that it is useless for a man to read his Bible unless he also reads everybody else's Bible? A printer reads a Bible for misprints. A Mormon reads his Bible, and finds polygamy; a Christian Scientist reads his, and finds we have no arms and legs. St. Clare was an old Anglo-Indian Protestant soldier. Now, just think what that might mean; and, for Heaven's sake, don't cant about it. It might mean a man physically formidable living under a tropic sun in an Oriental society, and soaking himself without sense or guidance in an Oriental Book. Of course, he read the Old Testament rather than the New. Of course, he found in the Old Testament anything that he wanted—lust, tyranny, treason. Oh, I dare say he was honest, as you call it. But what is the good of a man being honest in his worship of dishonesty? (82)
  • This is the real case against crime, that a man does not become wilder and wilder, but only meaner and meaner. (82)
  • "The traitors," said Flambeau, and shuddered. As he looked around at the inhuman landscape of trees, with taunting and almost obscene outlines, he could almost fancy he was Dante, and the priest with the rivulet of a voice was, indeed, a Virgil leading him through a land of eternal sins. (82, cf The Inferno)
  • There is so much good and evil in breaking secrets, (84)

The Three Tools of Death (84)

  • "People like frequent laughter," answered Father Brown, "but I don't think they like a permanent smile. Cheerfulness without humour is a very trying thing." (86)
  • "Private lives are more important than public reputations. I am going to save the living, and let the dead bury their dead." (89)
  • Even the most murderous blunders don't poison life like sins (90)

Topic: Short Stories

Created: 2023-11-01-Wed
Updated: 2023-12-04-Mon