G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown

I’m sure many of you enjoy the now many seasons of the BBC’s adaptation of G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown stories. Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was an interesting person who was also an articulate Christian apologist in the early 20th century. Two of his books about Christian theology, Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man are still regarded as significant in understanding the core principles of Christian faith. Chesterton himself, as he delved more deeply into it all, eventually moved from the Church of England to Roman Catholicism. It is thought that the parish priest the Rt Rev. Msgr. John O’Connor, who was significant in Chesterton’s shift in 1922, was the priest upon whom Father Brown was modeled.

Chesterton really enjoyed writing about this priest who could see clearly the good and evil in people and circumstance, and so sort out the situations. If you’ve watched the television series, you know how closely Father Brown observes everyone and everything. The humor in these stories, and the excellent mystery plots are all part of Chesterton’s broad view of life and the world.

He was the first president of The Detection Club, a group formed in 1930 that included Agatha Christie, Marjorie Allingham, and Dorothy L. Sayers, to name a few. Chesterton, who was a very large man, wore flowing robes and had new initiates place their hand on a skull and recite this oath: Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God? Despite the tomfoolery, these authors were deadly serious about their craft, and they did it very well.

Reading the Father Brown stories is a real treat, and would certainly be an anecdote to the current world crisis. There were five volumes and many stories. Penguin still publishes a collection of all the stories.

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