Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born on May 29, 1874, in London of middle-class parents. Between 1887 and 1892, he attended St. Paul’s School, a private day school for boys. From 1892 to 1895, he studied at the Slade School of Art, a part of the University of London.
Chesterton did not distinguish himself academically, although evidence of his future greatness was present. When only sixteen, he organized a debating club, and in March of 1891 he founded the club’s magazine, The Debater. His limited talent as an artist bore fruit later in life, when he often illustrated his own books and those of close friends.
Prior to publication of his first two books in 1900, Chesterton contributed verse, book reviews, and essays to various periodicals, including the Bookman. He also did editorial work for two publishers between 1895 and 1901.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, Chesterton was widely recognized as a serious journalist. Throughout his life, despite his fame as a novelist, literary critic, poet, biographer, historian, playwright, and even philosopher-theologian, he never described himself as anything other than a journalist.
In 1901, Chesterton married Frances Blogg, the eldest daughter of a London diamond merchant. Shortly thereafter, they moved to Beaconsfield, where they lived until his death on June 14, 1936. Chesterton published his first mystery collection, The Club of Queer Trades, in 1905. The first collection of Father Brown detective stories appeared in 1911. He was elected the first president of the Detection Club, an association of mystery writers, at its founding in 1929. The mystery and detective tales were but a small part of an immense and varied literary output. Chesterton published around one hundred books during his lifetime. His autobiography and ten volumes of essays were published posthumously. His journalistic pieces number into the thousands.
Chesterton was a colorful figure. Grossly overweight, he wore a black cape and a wide-brimmed floppy hat; he had a bushy mustache and carried a sword-stick cane. The public remembers him as the lovable and whimsical creator of Father Brown; scholars also remember him as one of the most prolific and influential writers of the twentieth century.