May 28, 2008

The Long-Winded Man

Category: Miscellaneous :: Permalink

In honor of his birthday, which is today, here’s a quotation from G. K. Chesterton:

Neither in public nor in private life, indeed, is it at all true that the man who talks a great deal is necessarily an offensive person.  It is an entire mistake, for instance, to imagine that the man who monopolises conversation is a conceited fellow.  The man who monopolises conversation is almost always modest.  The man who talks too much generally has a great deal of humility.  Nay, even the man who talks other people down, who argues them down, who shouts them down, does not in the least necessarily think himself better than they are.

It may seem a contradiction, yet the truth and reason of it are really very obvious.  The man who talks too much, talks too much because he is interested in his subject.  He is not interested in himself: if he were he would behave better.  If he were really an egoist he would think of what effect his ego was producing; and a very mild degree of mental perception would enable him to realise that the chief effect his ego was producing was a unanimous human aspiration to hurl him out of the window.

A man who fills a drawing-room for two or three hours (say) with a monologue on bulbs, is the very reverse of a selfish man.  He is an unselfish hero, courting the scorn and contumely of men in the great cause of bulbs, objects which are hardly likely to offer him in return any active assistance or even any animated friendship.  He is a Martyr, like Stephen or Joan of Arc: and we know that the blood of the martyrs is the seed (or bulb) of the Church.

No; the really selfish men are the silent men, those wicked and sinister fellows.  They care more for their own manners (a base individualistic asset) than for conversation, which is social, which is impersonal, which is divine.  The loud talker is humble.  The very phrase you use about him proves this.  If a man is rude, and bawls and blunders, the snub given to him would be “You forget yourself.”  It is the very ecstasy of altruism — an impersonal apotheosis.  You say to the cad, “You forget yourself.”  What better, what higher, could you say to the saint than that “You forget yourself”? — G. K. Chesterton, “On Long Speeches and Truth,”  Collected Works 27: The Illustrated London News 1905-1907, pp. 132-133 (paragraph breaks added).

Posted by John Barach @ 2:51 pm | Discuss (3)

3 Responses to “The Long-Winded Man”

  1. Mason McElroy Says:

    I really appreciate that quote. Being a talker myself, I have known this intuitively for a long time, but I have never been able to put it into words so eloquently.

    Mason McElroy

  2. Christopher Says:

    If only it were easy to truly forget one’s self. By what miracle or intervention can this happen?

    Is that sacrifice of martyrdom still relevant for the Church today? If not, what sacrifices of self are?

  3. The Humility of the Big Mouth | Says:

    […] Chesterton writes these things in his “On Long Speeches and Truth”, which was shared in an old blog post by John Barach, on Kata Iwannhn. […]

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