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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.

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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.


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Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born on May 29, 1874, in London. He was the second of three children born to Edward and Marie Louise Chesterton. Edward Chesterton was a realtor. Gilbert’s older sister, Beatrice, died at the age of eight, in 1877, and two years later his brother, Cecil, was born. Everything seems to indicate that Edward and Marie Louise were loving parents.

In 1982, Gilbert was graduated from St. Paul’s School in London. For the next three years, he studied at London’s Slade Art School, but he finally realized that he would never develop into a truly creative artist. From 1895 until 1900, he worked for a publishing firm. From 1901 until his death, in 1936, he served as a journalist and editor for various London newspapers and magazines.

In 1901, he married Frances Blogg. Gilbert and Frances had no children. Theirs was a good marriage, each helping the other. Frances survived her husband by two years. During the first decade of the twentieth century, Chesterton met the writers Hilaire Belloc and Shaw, who became his lifelong friends. Although Belloc and Shaw seemed to have little in common because Belloc was an apologist for Catholicism and Shaw was an agnostic, Chesterton liked them both very much. Several times, Belloc organized lively but good-natured debates in which Shaw and Chesterton discussed religion and politics. Throughout his adult life, Chesterton supported the Liberal Party in Great Britain, but gradually he became disillusioned with the leadership of the Liberal prime minister David Lloyd George. After the coalition government run by Lloyd George fell...

(The entire section contains 1768 words.)

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