Gilbert Keith Chesterton


(1874 - 1936)

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born on May 29, 1874 in London. He attended the prestigious St. Paul's School and studied to be an illustrator at the Slade School of Art, also taking classes in literature, but not attaining a degree. He began working at a London publisher called Redway, and T. Fisher Unwin in 1896 and married Frances Blogg in 1901. In 1902, he began writing a weekly opinion column in the "Daily News". In 1905, he began writing a weekly column in "The Illustrated London News".

Chesterton became involved in the occult and with his brother Cecil, experimented with Ouija boards. He gradually moved away from the occult and towards orthodox Christianity, eventually converting to Catholicism in 1922. In his late twenties and early thirties, Chesterton put on considerable weight, but kept a sense of humor about it. During World War I a lady in London asked why he was not 'out at the Front'; he replied, 'If you go round to the side, you will see that I am.'

He enjoyed debating, often engaging people like George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Bertrand Russell and Clarence Darrow. His famous work "Orthodoxy" was written as a rebuttal to George Slythe Street, who had challenged him on the matter of his faith.

Throughout his life, he published approximately 80 books, hundreds of poems, about 200 short stories, several plays, and 4000 essays. His favorite subjects to write about included philosophy, ontology, apologetics, literature, and journalism. Chesterton is often referred to as the "prince of paradox". Time magazine, in a review of a biography of Chesterton, described his writing style in this way: "Whenever possible Chesterton made his points with popular sayings, proverbs, allegories - first carefully turning them inside out." Chesterton was well known for his excellent apologetics work. Some of his works such as Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man are quite famous and considered classics. One of his most famous quotes was "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried".

Chesterton expressed well-developed views on many topics, including politics, where he criticized both progressivism and conservatism, saying, "The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected". His views of economic theory also included criticisms of both socialism and capitalism, instead promoting an economic theory called "distributism", which is based on the social doctrine of the Catholic Church.

Chesterton died of heart failure in 1936, at his home. His last known words were a greeting spoken to his wife. The homily at Chesterton's Requiem Mass in Westminster Cathedral, London, was delivered by Ronald Knox, who said, "All of this generation has grown up under Chesterton's influence so completely that we do not even know when we are thinking Chesterton."


Books by Gilbert Keith Chesterton

ItemPublishedDescription
Greybeards at Play: Literature and Art for Old Gentlemen
Rhymes and Sketches
1900Greybeards at Play: Literature and Art for Old Gentlemen - Rhymes and Sketches by G.K. Chesterton is a collection of poetry written in Chesterton's early career.
The Wild Knight: And Other Poems1900The Wild Knight By G.K. Chesterton is a collection of poems from Chesterton's early career as a writer.
Nonsense Rhymes: Illustrated by G.K. Chesterton1900Nonsense Rhymes by Cosmo Monkhouse with illustrations by G.K. Chesterton is a book of ridiculous rhymes.
The Defendant1901The Defendant by G.K. Chesterton is a series of essays defending various ideas or things that are disregarded or disrespected by society. Written over 100 years ago, this book holds valuable insights useful even today.
Thomas Carlyle: With Numerous Illustrations1902Thomas Carlyle by G.K. Chesterton and J. E. Hodder Williams is a commentary on the ideas of the 18th Century British Conservative, Thomas Carlyle, with a short short biography at the end.
Twelve Types1902Twelve Types by G.K. Chesterton is a collection of essays written on prominant people. Each of the subjects of his articles express certain characteristics that stand out and upon which Chesterton elaborates and examines critically.
Robert Louis Stevenson: With Numerous Illustrations1902Robert Louis Stevenson by G. K. Chesterton is a literary critique of the famous Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer.
Robert Browning1903Robert Browning by G.K. Chesterton is a biography of the Poet with commentary on his poetry.
Charles Dickens: With Numerous Illustrations1903Charles Dickens: With Numerous Illustrations by G.K. Chesterton and Frederic George Kitton is a literary biography wherein Chesterton provides commentary on Dickens' ideas. Included is a short biography by F.G. Kitton. This is one of the lesser-known works by Chesterton on Dickens, preceding his more famous work, "Charles Dickens: A Critical Study" by about 3 years.
Tennyson: With Numerous Illustrations1903Tennyson: With Numerous Illustrations By G.K. Chesterton is a critique and commentary on Alfred Tennyson's ideas and life. A short biography is included.
Thackeray: With Numerous Illustrations1903Thackeray by G. K. Chesterton is a literary critique of the English novelist of the 19th century.
Leo Tolstoy: With Numerous Illustrations1903Leo Tolstoy: With Numerous Illustrations by G.K. Chesterton is a literary critique of the Russian writer.
Varied Types1903Varied Types by G.K. Chesterton is a collection of essays on prominent people. Some of the essays were previously published, though many are new to this book.
The Napoleon of Notting Hill1904The Napoleon of Notting Hill is a novel written by G. K. Chesterton in 1904, set in a nearly unchanged London in 1984. Although the novel is set in the future, it is, in effect, set in an alternate reality of Chesterton's own period, with no advances in technology or changes in the class system or attitudes. This story is centered on public apathy, corruption of the ruling class, and the collapse of local traditions.
G. F. Watts1904G. F. Watts by Gilbert Keith Chesterton is a commentary on the work of the artist George Frederick Watts.
Heretics1905Heretics by G. K. Chesterton was written in 1905 as a means of calling out prominent heresies of his day and exposing their flaws using Chesterton's cleaver wit and solid logic. This book is as useful today as it was in 1905.
The Club of Queer Trades1905The Club of Queer Trades is a collection of stories by G. K. Chesterton first published in 1905. Each story in the collection involves a person who is making his living by some novel and extraordinary means (a "queer trade").
Charles Dickens: A Critical Study1906Charles Dickens: A Critical Study by G. K. Chesterton is a literary ctritique of the works of Charles Dickens tinged with Chesterton's great respect and admiration for the famous author.
Orthodoxy1908Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton is one of the most popular and well-written books on Christian apologetics. Chesterton considered it an explanation, not of whether the Christian faith can be believed, but of how he personally has come to believe it.
All Things Considered1908All Things Considered is a collection of essays by GK Chesterton on a wide range of topics. As the title indicates, all things are considered. These essays appeared in the London Daily News in the years before World War I. Chesterton described the book in
The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare1908The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare by G.K. Chesterton is a novel, which Chesterton described in this way: "It was not intended to describe the real world as it was, or as I thought it was, even when my thoughts were considerably less settled than they are now. It was intended to describe the world of wild doubt and despair which the pessimists were generally describing at that date; with just a gleam of hope in some double meaning of the doubt, which even the pessimists felt in some fitful fashion."
George Bernard Shaw1909George Bernard Shaw by G.K. Chesterton is a book about the famous Irish playwright. It includes background and some biographical perspective on Shaw and of course some witty commentary on Shaw's flawed notions.
Tremendous Trifles1909Tremendous Trifles by G.K. Chesterton is a collection of essays on various topics that were published in the "Daily News".
The Ball and the Cross1909The Ball and the Cross by G.K. Chesterton is a novel which involves a dispute between two Scotsmen - a Roman Catholic, and an atheist.
Alarms and Discursions1910Alarms and Discursions by G.K. Chesterton is a collection of essays showcasing the classic wit and humor of the Apostle of Common Sense.
Five Types: A Book of Essays1910Five Types by G.K. Chesterton is a collection of essays written on prominant people. Each of the subjects of his articles express certain characteristics that stand out and upon which Chesterton elaborates and examines critically. These essays were selected from Chesteron's earler work: Twelve Types.
William Blake1910William Blake by G. K. Chesterton is a biography of the poet. In this book, Chesterton provides a detailed look at Blake's life, philosophy, and religion.
What's Wrong with the World1910What's Wrong with the World by G. K. Chesterton is a witty and insightful analysis of the moral and social issues in the world.
The Innocence of Father Brown1911Twelve short mysteries involving the priest-detective Fr. Brown. The first in the series of Fr. Brown by G. K. Chesterton.
Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens1911Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens is a collection of introductions that G. K. Chesterton was asked to write for each of the 25 volumes in the Everyman edition of Dickens.
The Ballad of the White Horse1911The Ballad of the White Horse is a poem by G. K. Chesterton about the idealized exploits of the Saxon King Alfred the Great.
The Wit and Wisdom of G. K. Chesterton1911The Wit and Wisdom of G. K. Chesterton is collection of writings by Chesterton originally found in "The Defendant", "Varied Types", and "Tremendous Trifles".
Manalive1912Manalive by G. K. Chesterton is a novel that focuses on one of Chesterton's favorite themes, the "holy fool". The book contains two parts. The first part details the arrival of a man named "Innocent Smith", at a London boarding house, where he excites the tenants with his amusing behavior. He is then identified as a wanted criminal and placed on trial. The second part details the trial.
A Miscellany of Men1912A Miscellany of Men by G. K. Chesterton is a collection of short essays examining social customs and touching on such topics as religion, philosophy, politics, and history.
Simplicity and Tolstoy1912Simplicity and Tolstoy by G. K. Chesterton is a collection of essays on 4 prominant historical figures: Leo Tolstoy, St. Francis of Assissi, William Morris, and Thomas Carlyle.
Magic: A Fantastic Comedy1913Magic by G. K. Chesterton is Chesterton's first play and includes his insights on skepticism and belief.
The Victorian Age in Literature1913The Victorian Age in Literature by G. K. Chesterton is a summary of several genres of Victorian literature with Chesterton's thought on each.
The Flying Inn1914The Flying Inn by G. K. Chesterton is a novel set in a future England where the Temperance movement has allowed a form of Islam to control the country. Because of this, alcohol sales are prohibited. The two main characters travel the country with rum in an attempt to evade Prohibition, exploiting loopholes in the law. Later, the heroes and foil a coup by an Islamic military force.
The Wisdom of Father Brown1914The Wisdom of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton is a collection of twelve stories about the crime-solving priest, Father Brown.
Trial of John Jasper, Lay Precentor of Cloisterham Cathedral in the County of Kent, for the Murder of Edwin Drood1914Trial of John Jasper, Lay Precentor of Cloisterham Cathedral in the County of Kent, for the Murder of Edwin Drood by G. K. Chesterton is a continuation of the unfinished work "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" by Charles Dickens.
London1914London by G. K. Chesterton is a short book containing an essay about the City of London including it's history, geography, way of life, politics, and religion from Chesterton's perspective.
The Barbarism of Berlin1914"The Barbarism of Berlin" by G. K. Chesterton is an essay written at the start of World War I defending the decision by the U.K. to engage in the war against Germany.
Poems1915Peoms by G. K. Chesterton is a collection of over 50 poems written by the witty and insightful British author.
Wine, Water and Song1915Wine, Water and Song by G. K. Chesterton is a collection of 16 poems.
The Appetite of Tyranny1915The Appetite of Tyranny by G. K. Chesterton is defense of the British involvement in World War I.
The Crimes of England1915The Crimes of England by G. K. Chesterton is an explaination of the reasons for Chesterton's support of the English involvement in World War I.
Divorce vs. Democracy1916Divorce vs. Democracy by G. K. Chesterton is a short essay written to rally support for England in World War I.
Introduction to the Book of Job1916In 1916, a version of the Book of Job was published with an introduction by G. K. Chesterton. In this introduction, Chesterton describes his thoughts on the Book of Job, the Old Testament and Scriptural interpretation in general.
A Shilling for my Thoughts1916A Shilling for my Thoughts by G. K. Chesterton is a collection of essays by the British author.
Temperance and the Great Alliance1916Temperance and the Great Alliance by G. K. Chesterton is a pamphlet produced by the True Temperance Association, detailing Chesterton's beliefs on the temperance movement.
Utopia of Userers1917Utopia of Userers is a collection of writings by G. K. Chesterton laying out his position against Capitalism from a Christian perspective. Though he doesn't believe capitalism is the best system, he doesn't advocate for socialism or Marxism either.
Lord Kitchener1917Lord Kitchener by G. K. Chesterton is a short biography of the British colonial administrator and army officer who conducted several imperial campaigns and later was invovled in the early part of the First World War.
A Short History of England1917A Short History of England by G. K. Chesterton is as the title indicates, a historical account of England from his perspective, filled with wit and compelling observations.
Germany and Alsace-Lorraine: How to Help Annexation1918Germany and Alsace-Lorraine: How to Help Annexation by G. K. Chesterton is an article written in 1918 conveying his opinions on the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine.
Irish Impressions1919Irish Impressions by G. K. Chesterton is a book published in 1919 comparing Ireland and England's culture and history.
The Superstition of Divorce1920The Superstition of Divorce by G. K. Chesterton is a collection of essays explaining his views on divorce and the damage it causes.
The Uses of Diversity1920The Uses of Diversity by G. K. Chesterton is a collection of essays from his weekly columns in The Illustrated London News and the New Witness.
The New Jerusalem1920The New Jerusalem by G. K. Chesterton is a depiction of the characteristics and history of the Middle-East region.
The Ballad of St. Barbara1922The Ballad of St. Barbara by G. K. Chesterton is a collection of poems examining themes such as religion and romance, at times funny, and at other times witty and insightful.
The Man Who Knew Too Much1922The Man Who Knew Too Much by G. K. Chesterton is a collection of detective stories.
Eugenics and Other Evils: An Argument Against the Scientifically Organized State1922Eugenics and Other Evils: An Argument Against the Scientifically Organized State By G. K. Chesterton is a brilliant and visionary exposition of the terrible consequences of Eugenics, which gave rise to the legalization of abortion as well as the horrors of Nazi Germany.
What I Saw in America1922What I Saw in America is G. K. Chesterton's record of the experiences he had while visiting America. Included are his usual poignant social commentary and characteristic wit.
St. Francis of Assisi1923St. Francis of Assisi by G. K. Chesterton is a biography of the great saint.
Fancies Versus Fads1923Fancies Versus Fads by G. K. Chesterton is a collection of essays, from the London Mercury, the New Witness, and the Illustrated London News. Chesterton attacks varios fads of his time (and ours) as narrow and a form of mindless servitude. He singles out such fads as Feminism, Prohibition, and Vegetarianism.
The Everlasting Man1925The Everlasting Man by GK Chesterton is a history of mankind and a rebuttal of H. G. Wells' Outline of History.
Tales of the Long Bow1925Tales of the Long Bow by G. K. Chesterton is a collection of stories that concern the doing of things recognised as impossible to do; impossible to believe. Intertwined throughout the stories are Chesterton's political, religious, and economic views.
William Cobbett1925William Cobbett by G. K. Chesterton is a biography of the author, journalist, politician and editor of the Political Register.
The Queen of Seven Swords1926The Queen of Seven Swords by G. K. Chesterton is a collection of poems about the Blessed Virgin Mary, with a focus on the Seven Sorrows of Mary.
The Outline of Sanity1926The Outline of Sanity by G. K. Chesterton is a collection of essays that appeared in hi newspaper, the G. K. Weekly in 1925 explaining his economic model of distributism, which is neither captialism nor socialism.
The Incredulity of Father Brown1926The Incredulity of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton was the thrid of five books about the priest-detective. It is the most detailed about the priest himself of all the books.
The Catholic Church and Conversion1926The Catholic Church and Conversion by G. K. Chesterton is a defense of the Catholic Church in which Chesterton answers the most common questions and criticisms of those who doubt or attack the Church. His approach as always is the use of wit and common sense.
Robert Louis Stevenson1927Robert Louis Stevenson by G. K. Chesterton is a literary criticism of the work of the famous author.
The Secret of Father Brown1927The Secret of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton is the fourth of five collections of stories about the crime-solving priest, Fr. Brown.
The Return of Don Quixote1927The Return of Don Quixote by G. K. Chesterton is Chesterton's last novel, thematically similar to Don Quixote with Chesterton's own style.