Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Strange Use of a Chesterton Quote

(Click on the picture to enlarge)
But as I sat scrawling these silly figures on the brown paper, it began to dawn on me, to my great disgust, that I had left one chalk, and that a most exquisite and essential chalk, behind. I searched all my pockets, but I could not find any white chalk. Now, those who are acquainted with all the philosophy (nay, religion) which is typified in the art of drawing on brown paper, know that white is positive and essential. I cannot avoid remarking here upon a moral significance. One of the wise and awful truths which this brown-paper art reveals, is this, that white is a color. It is not a mere absence of color; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black. When, so to speak, your pencil grows red-hot, it draws roses; when it grows white-hot, it draws stars. And one of the two or three defiant verities of the best religious morality, of real Christianity, for example, is exactly this same thing; the chief assertion of religious morality is that white is a color. Virtue is not the absence of vices or the avoidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell. Mercy does not mean not being cruel, or sparing people revenge or punishment; it means a plain and positive thing like the sun, which one has either seen or not seen.
This quote is from the essay "A Piece of Chalk" from an essay in TREMENDOUS TRIFLES. The original essay appeared in the DAILY NEWS, November 4, 1905, according to the ACS web site.

I don't know, this commercialization of his words just seems strange, although given the long history of this company (started in 1892, the year Chesterton won his Milton prize for the poem St. Francis Xavier on Apposition Day), I suppose it's slightly better than finding his words on a StuffMart ad.


  1. Given the recent history of this company and its marketing campaigns, it is strange. Hope may be found everywhere. I would love to know who did the ad and do they know anything else of Chesterton? If they do, I wonder how long they would stay in advertising ...

  2. +JMJ+

    If they had wanted any suitable quote with "red" in it, they must have had scores from which to choose. So I, too, wonder about the one who threw this ad together. Was this a random selection or is there a deeper connection to Uncle Gilbert?

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  4. This is one of a number of quotations being used in their current ad campaign featuring totally out-of-context quotes from, among others, William Shakespeare, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Winston Churchill along with GKC. The quotations all use the word "Fierce" which is the name of Abercrombie's signature cologne for men... Unfortunately, the dark reality is that to review any of the shredded goodness, truth or beauty used in the ad campaign quotes, one would have to expose oneself to the customary A&F soft-core teen porn... paradoxical at best...

  5. This reminds me of a quotation from the young Chesterton that I've encountered in the Oddie biography. "Purity and simplicity are essential to passions-- yes, even to vile passions. Even vice demands virgins".

  6. At least there isn't a Gap commercial with a bunch of shrill models tap-dancing and chanting a Chesterton poem... Yet...

    -Chris Chan

  7. I recently saw an ad in Sky magazine on a flight that had a quote from Hilaire Belloc as the centerpiece of the ad design. There's no such thing as bad publicity?

  8. I am thrilled the quote is there. Who knows how it got there!?!? wow. Very funny. I think GKC is laughing heartily at this.

    The irony is pretty large, especially since I know that GKC detested "the big shop" as opposed to small businesses, and found the industry of advertising to be a bad profession. Later maybe I'll post some quotes on GKC's thoughts on these topics. Thanks for the post!


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