Canada's Premier Hub For Faith In Common Life
 
Chesterton on SuccessChesterton on Success

Chesterton on Success

"On every bookshelf, in every magazine, you may find works telling people how to succeed. They are showing men how to succeed in everything; they are written by men who cannot even succeed in writing books. To begin with, of course, there is no such thing as Success. Or, if you like it so, there is nothing that is not successful. That a thing is successful merely means that it is; a millionaire is successful at being a millionaire and a donkey in being a donkey."

1 minute read
Print
Topics: Literature
Chesterton on Success May 13, 2010  |  By Christina Crook
Like Convivium? , our free weekly email newsletter.
 

Success. The pursuit and desire of it has so permeated our culture, it's difficult to imagine a time without self-help titles and multi-level marketing. Most of the time it runs amuck, unchallenged. But there was a time, not so long ago, that a British columnist named Gilbert Keith Chesterton questioned the new success 'literature' of the day:

"On every bookshelf, in every magazine, you may find works telling people how to succeed. They are showing men how to succeed in everything; they are written by men who cannot even succeed in writing books.

To begin with, of course, there is no such thing as Success. Or, if you like it so, there is nothing that is not successful. That a thing is successful merely means that it is; a millionaire is successful at being a millionaire and a donkey in being a donkey."

Donning cape, crumpled hat, cigar in mouth and swordstick in hand, few can top Chesterton's condescending ease. He finishes the thought:

"At least, let us hope that we will all live to see these absurd books about Success covered with a proper derision and neglect... They do not teach people to be successful, but they do teach people to be snobbish; they do spread a sort of evil poetry of worldliness."

And this is 1908.

What do you think of Chesterton's thoughts?

JOIN CONVIVIUM

Convivium means living together. Unlike many digital magazines, we haven’t put up a digital paywall. We want to keep the conversation regarding faith in our common and public life as open as possible.

Like Convivium?

, our free weekly email newsletter.