January 11, 2008


Category: Miscellaneous :: Permalink

One of the anticipatory criticisms on Mr. Stephen Phillips’s “Nero,” a criticism in a daily paper, says, among other things, the following: “Mr. Phillips has not drawn him as an inhumn monster, mad with the lust of blood, and fiendish in his cruelty.  Inhuman monsters do not really exist among men, but only in fairy-tales and folk-lore.”

Of all sentences I have ever read, that seems to me the most astonishing.  And yet it is more astonishing still in that it comes in a daily paper.  In the police news on the other side of the page you might read every other day of an inhuman monster.  You may read of a man who marries a long catalogue of women, destroying them with poison like rats.  You may read of a man who invents new tortures for his own infants as a man might invent new metres or new combinations in music.  But it is the comfortable doctrine of the paper that we are all inevitably mild.  We cannot be monsters of vice.  We need not be monsters of virtue.  And everyone loses sight of the true and terrible and inspiring doctrine — the old doctrine that unless we strive every instant to be monsters of virtue, we ourselves may easily be monsters of vice.  There is nothing nearer to us than madness; as every man knows who recalls some one moment of his life.

“Inhuman monsters do not really exist, except in fairy-tales”!  There are plenty of inhuman monsters in the modern world; inhuman monsters control commerce and rule continents.  The only real difference between fairy-tale and modern fact is this: that in fairy-tales the monsters are fought.  That is one of the very many superiorities of fairy-tales. — G. K. Chesterton, “Plain-Speaking in Elections; Art and Artists,”  Collected Works 27: The Illustrated London News 1905-1907, pp. 119-120 (paragraph breaks added in spite of Chesterton’s preference for writing everything in one long paragraph).

Posted by John Barach @ 1:05 pm | Discuss (1)

One Response to “Monsters”

  1. Angie Says:

    Great quote.

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