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GK Chesterton Biography

GK Chesterton

G.K. CHESTERTON 1874-1936

It is, today, perhaps hard to imagine that GK Chesterton's Father Brown was second only to Sherlock Holmes in popularity during the early 1900s. Whilst Father Brown may not have enjoyed the sustained interest amongst readers that has been reserved for the likes of Holmes and Poirot, he remains, still today, highly prized amongst collectors and the initiated reader alike.

Born in London, on 28 May 1874, Gilbert Keith Chesterton was a famously prolific author on many subjects and in many different forms. As with other authors, though, we are confining our interests to his criminious works.
The character of Father Brown was based on an Irish priest living in Yorkshire, John o'Connor. Chesterton was 29 when he met O'Connor and their friendship survived until the author's death in 1936.
Father Brown first appeared in the Storyteller magazine, in September 1910, in a story entitled 'The Blue Cross'. This was followed on a monthly basis by a further 5 stories. These were later published in book form by Cassell in The Innocence of Father Brown.

The character enjoyed immediate success and Chesterton responded by writing twenty-five Father Brown stories over the next four years. This presumably taxed G K Chesterton's devotion to the character and the Norfolk Priest was subsequently 'dropped' for a decade.

He did of course return, finally, though it seems more out of financial necessity and a desire to promote a new magazine, GK's Weekly than any affection for the character on GK Chesterton's part.
Once again, the short stories appeared first in magazines before Cassell published them in book form.
The first two books are the most desirable, both in terms of collectability and literary merit. It is believed that both books had a print run of only 5,000 copies making them relatively scarce today, though not unobtainable. Chesterton did though, to his credit, maintain the quality throughout the stories despite an increasing indifference to the character on his part.
Overall, G.K.Chesterton's Father Brown deserves a place on our shelves today alongside Holmes and Poirot, and is certainly one of the greatest fictional detectives ever.

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See also the GK Chesterton Bibliography

Text © 2003 R.D. Collins

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