GK Chesterton on Joan of Arc

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G.K. Chesterton:

“Joan of Arc was not stuck at the cross-roads, either by rejecting all the paths like Tolstoy, or by accepting them all like Nietzsche. She chose a path, and went down it like a thunderbolt. Yet Joan, when I came to think of her, had in her all that was true either in Tolstoy or Nietzsche, all that was even tolerable in either of them.

I thought of all that is noble in Tolstoy, the pleasure in plain things, especially in plain pity, the actualities of the earth, the reverence for the poor, the dignity of the bowed back. Joan of Arc had all that and with this great addition, that she endured poverty as well as admiring it; whereas Tolstoy is only a typical aristocrat trying to find out its secret. And then I thought of all that was brave and proud and pathetic in poor Nietzsche, and his mutiny against the emptiness and timidity of our time. I thought of his cry for the ecstatic equilibrium of danger, his hunger for the rush of great horses, his cry to arms. Well, Joan of Arc had all that, and again with this difference, that she did not praise fighting, but fought. We know that she was not afraid of an army, while Nietzsche, for all we know, was afraid of a cow.


Tolstoy only praised the peasant; she was the peasant. Nietzsche only praised the warrior; she was the warrior. She beat them both at their own antagonistic ideals; she was more gentle than the one, more violent than the other. Yet she was a perfectly practical person who did something, while they are wild speculators who do nothing.

It was impossible that the thought should not cross my mind that she and her faith had perhaps some secret of moral unity and utility that has been lost.”

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  1. Good evening Mr. Martin

    I was happy to find youur website the same day I was writing an essay about St.Jean d’Arc, comparing her with St.Therese de Lisieux!
    We are now preparing a radio translation about Joan of Arc together with my friend Julius Sasnauskas, Catholic priest and writer. I am Thomas Chepaitis, translator and also essayist (Catholic-Orthodox). We dwell in Vilnius, Lithuania, work for “A Little Studio” – Franciscan radio.
    Can you please guide us on G.K.Chesterton’s quotation (he is my best author:) – is it a part of an essay – then of which one – or is it a separate piece?

    Thank you in advance,

    Thomas John Chepaitis

    1. Greetings Thomas!

      I am happy to get to know you. Thank you for dropping by my site!

      That sounds very exciting. I would love to hear the radio show and to read your essay. If you have links to your work, please let me know. I would also be happy to share those links here on St. Joan and St. Thérèse if you desire.

      I am sorry that I do not know more about the Chesterton quote. I wish I did. I took the quote from the American Chesterton Society, http://www.chesterton.org/wordpress/. I would advise contacting them, as I am sure they could help you.

      Sorry I could not be more helpful on Chesterton. Please let me know what you find, and stay in touch. I would be fascinated to know more about your work!

      God bless,

      S.T. Martin

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