"Optimist looks at eyes, pessimist at feet" (Chesterton, 1908)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Thu Dec 30 07:17:58 UTC 2004

I looked at the following book quickly, but didn't see the
optimist/pessimist glass half full/half empty quotation. The quotation here is  probably from
G. K. Chesterton.
by J. Harry Jones
London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons Ltd.
Pg. 267:
I strike no pessimistic note. I am an optimist. But no one is entitled to  be
an optimist if he is going nothing about it. The schoolboy said the optimist
was one who looks after your eyes and the pessimist one who looks after your
feet. This reminds me of the Scotch parson who said that he looked up for
guidance and down for safety. But at any rate, he looked.
(Pg. 264: "One of these, being the inaugural lecture at the University
College of Wales, Aberystwyth, 1835, appeared under the title, 'Graduation in
Social Judgment.' The following excerpt from that address seems to me one of the
most important revelations of Stamp's deeper convictions among all the
writings  of one of the most prolific writers of his generation...")

    Author _Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith),  1874-1936._
lbert+keith+1874-1936/-5,-1,0,B/browse)    Title Orthodoxy / by Gilbert  K.
Chesterton.   Imprint New York : John Lane Co. ; London : John Lane, 1909,

Orthodoxy by Gilbert K. Chesterton
V--The Flag of the World
WHEN I was a boy there were two curious men  running about who were called
the optimist and the pessimist. I constantly used  the words myself, but I
cheerfully confess that I never had any very special  idea of what they meant. The
only thing which might be considered evident was  that they could not mean
what they said; for the ordinary verbal explanation was  that the optimist
thought this world as good as it could be, while the pessimist  thought it as bad as
it could be. Both these statements being obviously raving  nonsense, one had
to cast about for other explanations. An optimist could not  mean a man who
thought everything right and nothing wrong. For that is  meaningless; it is like
calling everything right and nothing left. Upon the  whole, I came to the
conclusion that the optimist thought everything good except  the pessimist, and
that the pessimist thought everything bad, except himself. It  would be unfair
to omit altogether from the list the mysterious but suggestive  definition
said to have been given by a little girl, "An optimist is a man who  looks after
your eyes, and a pessimist is a man who looks after your feet." I am  not sure
that this is not the best definition of all. There is even a sort of
allegorical truth in it. For there might, perhaps, be a profitable distinction  drawn
between that more dreary thinker who thinks merely of our contact with the
earth from moment to moment, and that happier thinker who considers rather our
primary power of vision and of choice of road.

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