Biography of Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936)

Poet, Narrator, essayist and British journalist, born in Campden Hill (London) in 1874 and died in Beaconsfield (Buckinghamshire) in 1936. Author of an extensive and detailed literary production that, using a plain and straightforward style that came easily to all kinds of readers, addressed - from traditional ideological values accented by his conversion to Catholicism-the criticism of the materialism of the modern industrial societies, was one of the most popular authors of English letters in the first third of the 20th century. His series of detective stories starring the father Brown - a priest serving as the hound enthusiast, and showing more interest in saving the souls of criminals who seek his detention--enjoyed numerous following among English readers of his time and was one of the great successes of the time sales.

Life and work

Encouraged since his early youth by a marked literary vocation, studied at the famed St. Paul's School, which soon came to be known by his fondness for writing, first expressed in a lyrical composition that The Debater, was awarded with Milton's poetry prize, and shortly after the Foundation of the student newspaper in whose pages began to appear some of the main signs of identity that would later characterize the whole of his work (trend mental abstraction, gentle but tenacious firmness in defending his ideas and values, and keen interest by the major issues discussed by the philosophical currents that were in vogue at the time). Already in those years of his adolescence were also patents the physical traits that would sharpen that image of man grandon, corpulent and lanky with which then it would happen to the Gallery of portraits of world literature, image whose rarity and extravagance is were progressively accentuated with the scruff apparels that cultivated throughout his life.

After brilliantly completing its secondary formation in the aforementioned St. Paul completo School for five years (1887-1892), showed a special interest in the arts led him to the Slade School of Art, where he acquired a range of knowledge that soon would be very useful to practice as an art critic in different Rotary and magazines. At the same time, he enrolled at the University of London to study literature, as his fondness for the arts could not hide that innate literary vocation which, in those years, found a suitable channel for expression in journalistic writing. In quality of artistic and literary critic, began to contribute regularly to The Bookman magazine, which became, at the end of the 19th century, the staff of The Speaker, where it was finally consolidated as one of the brightest feathers of English journalism of his time. By then, the young Gilbert Keith Chesterton - as the rest of the collaborators of The Speaker - toward a liberal ideology that nothing gala could preludiar the conservative and traditionalist values characteristic of his literary production of maturity.

In the last year of the 19th century, the young London writer gave to press his first two books of poems, The Wild Knight (1900) and Greybeards at Play (1900), in which the presentation of the literary concerns of Chesterton ran partner to display their artistic, well obvious skills in own drawings that illustrated two books of poetry. Since then, and the first decade of the next century, Chesterton fought a fertile creative activity which allowed him to write - only during the period of 1900 to 1910 - some twenty books, as well as thousands of newspaper articles that already not was satisfied with to review the world of the arts, because it covered all aspects of contemporary society (policy on them(, religion, thought, etc.). In 1901, year where he married Frances Bolgg - daughter of a wealthy merchant of diamonds-London, published a first collection of his journalistic writings under the significant title of The defendant (the respondent, 1901), works in which the dominant common note was criticism of Chesterton to the pessimism that had taken over the Victorian conservatives newly reline century late. Other relevant titles of this fruitful literary period of G. K. Chesterton are the Napoleon's Notthing Hill Gate (1904), one of his most memorable novels; Heretics (1905), where it appears a fierce censorship of the work of Kipling and the ideology of the imperialists; Robert Browning (1903) and Charles Dickens (1906), in which the London writer boasted of its ability to the biographical genre and its sharpness and insight into the analysis of literary texts; The man who was Thursday (1908), also reputed among their more fortunate narrations, and form very prominent, Orthodoxy (orthodoxy, 1908), one of the most significant works in the particular evolution spiritual Chesterton towards Christianity, doctrine that appears here as the only one able to offer a universally valid for any attitude to life response. In view of its modern editors in Spanish (Barcelona: high Fulla, 1988), "is, without a doubt, the book intellectually more representative of G. K. Chesterton [...], a kind of autobiography roves conceived in the polemical style that characterizes it as a collection of essays about the obvious and what is permanent, that only can be in the middle of the paradox, because for Chesterton «Christianity is represented by the man at the crossroads" and orthodoxy comes to be «» "the only possible freedom, innovation, advancement guarantee». This vision ironically curator of the world, peculiar of the edwardianos Catholic converts, and has done that not infrequently considered the author of the man who was Thursday and the Napoleon of Notthing Hill Gate, fine humorist of the novel and scathing essayist, as a simple reactionary. Nothing but away from it, however, the longing for the past, though the present him was no less unbearable".

A second stage in the literary of Gilbert Keith Chesterton production can be located between 1911 and the beginning of the first world war, when, having founded the weekly G. K. and started its regular in the prestigious Illustrated London News collaboration, further accentuated its presence in the media British by way of the Foundation of the magazine New Witness (1912)an initiative that he shared with the poet, prose writer and politician Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953). Both writers, who were a beloved friends, agreed in his conversion to Catholicism and its firm rejection of the dehumanization imposed by the overwhelming implementation of the capitalist system. The influence of Belloc - author as prolific and versatile as the own Chesterton, but much more serene in the exposure of their ideas - it was crucial not only in the subsequent conversion of his friend to Catholicism (which would not become a reality until 1922), but also in the attitude adopted by Chesterton as a result of this spiritual evolution, which became one of the most vehement apologists of the faith that had just embrace and prompted him to intervene in all societal debate (divorce, the birth control etc.) always from the more conservative perspective.

The already extensive Biographical Repertoire of Gilbert Keith Chesterton increased, at this second stage, with a new volume of poems entitled The Ballad of the white horse (1911), which coincided with the first installment of this series of detective stories that would win him a universal literary recognition on the shelves of bookstores. It's The Innocence of Father Brown (the innocence of Father Brown, 1911), work in which it appears for the first time in the prose of fiction of the London writer friendly and sympathetic figure of the father Brown - inspired by the Catholic priest O'Connor, friend of the writer, more worried about the morale of the criminals than by cases that occupy him. This attitude to life of the father Brown allows Chesterton to deploy all his detective novels by this peculiar amateur detective protagonists an easy, simple and good-natured moralism that, despite this ideological ballast that threatens to drag them towards excessively retrograde positions, does not detract one iota of force and intrigue to the narration of the facts.

The detective series starring the literary transcript of the father O'Connor, continued throughout the second stage (the wisdom of Father Brown, 1914), prolonged their titles during the rest of the creative path of Chesterton (the secret of Father Brown, 1927; The scandal of Father Brown, 1935; etc.). Other works of the London author published before World War I were the novels the field and cross (1914) and the hospitality steering wheel (1914), as well as its magnificent literary essay entitled The Victorian Age in Literature (the Victorian era in literature, 1913).

Collective pessimism generated by the outbreak of the armed conflict international joined, in the particular case of Chesterton, a serious deterioration in his health due to the hectic life that had been leading up to then, when his tireless dedication to literary creation and journalistic writing was no obstacle for the Commission of numerous excesses in food intake and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Seriously ill, he sought refuge and consolation in their increasingly pointed Christianity, and following the publication of a Short History of England (brief history of England, 1917) was already clearly expressed in writing his approach to Catholic doctrine. In July 1922 - year which gave to press another of his great poetic works, the Ballad of Santa Bárbara - was finally baptized by father O'Connor, and since most of the works of Chesterton - as St. Francis of Assisi (1923) and The Everlasting Man (1925)-, tried to convince his wide legion of faithful readers that Christianity wasin the 20th century, all the strength and purity of the message of Christ, and all his primary ability to solve spiritual problems of the human being in the middle of the hostility of the modern societies industrialized. During the last years of his life, the London writer kept alive his astonishing capacity for work - which flourished in other works as notable as the beautiful extensive poem Lepanto (1929), one of the leading dimensions of contemporary narrative poetry - at the time was still ongoing intense intellectual activity which led him to make extended tours of the United States of America and Canadagiving lessons and lectures. Always dump, in addition, to his role as journalist, he excelled also in this last stretch of his life by his brilliant radio collaborations at the BBC

The Barcelona editor label Plaza & Janés published in Spain, throughout the 1960s, the complete works of Chesterton, printed in four volumes. Other works poured yours into Spanish and not mentioned so far in this brief sketch bio-literature are the titled adventures of the father Brown: the head of the César (Buenos Aires: Argentina R.E.I., 1992); Adventures of Father Brown: The paradise of thieves (Buenos Aires: Argentina R.E.I., 1993); Adventures of Father Brown: The purple wig (Madrid: European company of communication and information, 1991); The case of the strange visitor (Buenos Aires: Coquena Group Editor, 1996); Lectures (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1972); Rare business club (Barcelona: Ediciones the Cotal, 1980); Blue Cross and other Tales (Madrid: Hyspamerica editions Argentina, 1988); Tremendous trifles (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1975); Essays on the man and the woman, love and family (Barcelona: Planeta-De Agostini, 1996); The secret garden (Buenos Aires: new century, 1997); The common man (Buenos Aires: Lumen, 1996); The eye of Apollo (Madrid: Ediciones Siruela, 1988); The paradoxes of Mister Pond (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1979); The poet and the lunatics (Santa Fé de Bogotá: Editorial Panamericana, 1997); Santo Tomás de Aquino (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1985); and the superstition of divorce (Buenos Aires: Club de readers, 1986).


ALLEGRI, Eduardo B. M. approximation to Chesterton (Buenos Aires: Ed. Universitas, 1996).FELIU, Didac PARELLADA. Recordatori to Chesterton (Barcelona: Editorial Portic, 1974).PEARCE, Joseph. G K Chesterton (Madrid: Ed. Encuentro, 1998).DRY GARCÍA, Luis Ignacio. Chesterton: a writer for all times (Madrid: Ediciones Word, 1988).WOODRUFF, Douglas. Newman, Chesterton and the English Catholics of today (Madrid: Ediciones Rialp, 1980).