G. K. Chesterton’s fictional detective Father Brown is one of his most popular fictional creations. While initially produced as contributions to periodicals like the Pall Mall Magazine and McClure’s Magazine, the Father Brown stories soon gained great popularity and were later compiled into anthologies.
The hero of the stories – a short, squat, helpless appearing Catholic priest – was based on an actual priest, Father John O’Connor. O’Connor was a lifelong friend of Chesterton and contributed to his conversion to the Catholic faith.
The original inspiration for the stories was Chesterton’s discovery of Fr. O’Connor’s profound knowledge of the depths of human depravity. This came about through a conversation at a dinner party at which two Cambridge University students commented sarcastically about the naïveté of modern Christian priests. Chesterton was struck by the paradox of the outwardly innocent appearance of his priest friend and a his friend’s deep understanding of sin and evil.
Father Brown’s detective pursuits are truly Chestertonian in that they shun the techniques of science and the undiluted rational powers of man. “Mere facts are commonplace,” says Father Brown. The sleuth depends on a deep knowledge of the human heart instead of methodical observation to solve mysteries.
The Chesterton-Belloc Collection housed the Department of Special Collections features over 1200 works by the English author G. K. Chesterton (1874 – 1936). Among the materials in this collection, you will find a variety of editions of works from his Father Brown detective series.