Chesterton, Gilbert Keith

Chesterton, Gilbert Keith (1874 - 1936)


Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born on 29 May, 1874 at 32 Sheffield Terrace, Campden Hill, London. He was the elder son of Edward Chesterton (an estate agent) and Marie Louise (née Grosjean). As Chesterton would later emphasize in his Autobiography (1936), he had a comfortable upbringing in a middle-class family and a generally happy childhood. Chesterton was somewhat absent-minded in his early years, and was noted to be a slow learner who did not acquire reading skills until he was eight years old. Nevertheless, he eventually became an avid reader, particularly of fairy-tales. Chatterton was also known for his fondness of debating in his youth--he was a dedicated member of of the St. Paul's School debating society. After graduating from St. Paul's School, Chesterton went on to study Latin, English and French at University College, London as well Fine Art at the Slade School of Fine Art, then a part of the college. Not feeling inclined towards academia, Chesterton abandoned post-secondary education in 1895 and worked as a publisher's reader while trying to establish himself as a man of letters. Soon afterward, he began to work as a reviewer and essayist, regularly contributing to the weekly The Speaker and the Daily News. In 1900, Chesterton published two collections of poems, of which "The Donkey" became an instant popular piece. In 1903, Chesterton published a study of Robert Browning, in the prestigious English Men of Letters series, which established him as a notable literary critic. It was during this time that Chesterton also began writing fiction and in 1904, his first novel, The Napoleon of Notting Hill was published. Inspired by Chesterton's pro-Boer stance during the South African War, this fantasy presented serious themes and was well received by reviewers. Four more fantasy novels were published between 1908 and 1914, but it was Chesterton's Father Brown detective stories that found the most success among his audiences. These stories (the first collection, The Innocence of Father Brown, appeared in 1911) follow a Roman Catholic priest whose work as a confessor has granted him excellent powers of observation and insight into the human mind. In later years, Chesterton converted to Roman Catholicism and focused on producing religious writings. At the end of 1918, Chesterton's life was shadowed by the death of his younger brother Cecil. Chesterton vowed to continue his brother's weekly newspaper New Witness (later renamed GK's Weekly) and he did so until his death. During the 1920s he was also active in the distributist movement. Situated between socialism and capitalism, this movement aimed at a middle ground by ensuring the widest possible distribution of property. Chesterton died on 14 June 1936 at his home, Top Meadow, Beaconsfield. Bergonzi, Bernard. “Chesterton, Gilbert Keith (1874–1936).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004.

  • Chesterton, G. K. Greybeards at Play: Literature and Art for Old Gentlemen, Rhymes and Sketches. London: Johnson, 1900; Sheed & Ward, 1930.
  • --.The Wild Knight and Other Poems. London: Richards, 1900; 4th revised ed. New York, N.Y.: Dutton, 1914.
  • --.The Ballad of the White Horse. New York, N.Y.: John Lane, 1911; Ed. by Sister Mary Bernadette, Brother John Totten and Brother George Schuster, ill. by Addison Burbank, Kirkwood, M.O.: Catholic Authors Press, 1950; Ed. by Bernadette Sheridan, ill. by Robert Austin, San Francisco, C.A.: Ignatius Press, 2001.
  • --.Poems. New York, N.Y.: John Lane, 1915.
  • --.Wine, Water and Song. London: Methuen, 1915, 1945.
  • --.A Poem. Privately published, 1915.
  • --.Old King Cole. Privately published, 1920.
  • --.The Ballad of St. Barbara and Other Verses. London: Palmer, 1922; New York, N.Y.: Putnam, 1923.
  • --.Poems. New York, N.Y.: Dodd, Mead, 1922.
  • --.G. K. Chesterton (collected poems). London: E. Benn, 1925; Methuen, 1933.
  • --.The Queen of Seven Swords. London: Sheed & Ward, 1926.
  • --.The Collected Poems of G. K. Chesterton. London: Palmer, 1927; New York, N.Y.: Dodd, Mead, 1932; revised ed., London: Methuen, 1933; New York, N.Y.: Dodd, Mead, 1966, with an introduction by Daniel B. Dodson, 1980.
  • --.Gloria in Profundis. London: Faber, 1927.
  • --.Ubi Ecclesia. London: Faber, 1929.
  • --.Lepanto. New York, N.Y: Federal Advertising Agency, 1929; San Francisco, C.A.: Ignatius Press, 2004.
  • --.The Grave of Arthur. London: Faber, 1930.
  • --.Graybeards at Play and Other Comic Verse. Ed. by John Sullivan. London: Elek, 1974.
Given Name
Gilbert Keith
Family Name
Birth Date
May 29, 1874
Death Date
June 14, 1936
Family Relations
father : Edward Chesterton
mother : Marie Louise Chesterton
brother : Cecil Edward Chesterton
wife : Frances Alice Blogg (from 28 Jun. 1901)
  • Editor

  • Essayist

  • Reviewer

Literary Period
Literary Movement
Cause of Death
First RPO Edition