Discovery Of A Detective
Bradford Priest In Title Role
When the late Mr. G. K. Chesterton wrote his book, The Secrets of Father Brown, he dedicated it to " Father John O'Connor, St. Cuthbert's, Bradford . . . . whose truth is stranger than fiction, with a gratitude greater than the world."
Father O'Connor explains how he came to be the leading character of the story.
" When I first met G. K. Chesterton," he said, " we walked across the moors to Ilkley together. Just about this time he was devoted to detective stories, and we talked about many strange things. I think the shape of 'Father Brown' was dimly forming in his mind.
"He has recently told how, shortly afterwards, he met a young man who said it was impossible for a clergyman to know life intimately, a statement that produced in his mind a strong reaction. He decided ti) disprove the young man's contention— and the result was that I became the ganglion of a series of detective stories.
Umbrella and Parcels
"I had read the first two books about Father Brown before, with one dark hint and another, the truth began to percolate through my obtuseness.
"But finally I was presented to a gathering at Chesterton's house at Beaconsfield as Father Brown.
"The features I recognised were Father Brown's rather eccentric umbrella and his habit of carrying brown paper parcels."
When asked what it felt like to have such a distinguished, if partly fictitious, double, Fr. O'Connor replied: "It feels like an enormous practical joke that doesn't hurt. I have never attempted to live up to it, so that relieves the tension."
First Met at Heckmondwike
It was at Heckmondwike (Yorks), where Fr. O'Connor was parish-priest before his appointment at Bradford, that Mr. Chesterton first met "Father Brown."
"G. K. C." has himself given additional light on the creation of the character: "I happened to ask a passing domestic
to bring me a box of matches. • "Fr. O'Connor cocked an eye towards a remote corner of the long room, where there was a dim and distant shelf with various insignificant dusty objects and said, 'There's a match-box over there.'
"It was a small thing, but it did illustrate a h !bit of noticing a number of quite unnoticeable things. I then proceeded to sit down and compose a crime story about Fat/se r Brown in which a man murdered another man with a box of matches."
It was only a few weeks ago that the Catholic Herald printed an article, on the subject of modern Germany, from the pen of G. K. Chesterton. That article was intended to be but the first of several in which Mr. Chesterton was to have given the readers of this paper his views concerning political and other events in "the day before yesterday."
Alas! that article must now stand by itself as the alpha and omega of the contribution. Gilbert Keith Chesterton is dead. His end, last Sunday, at the age of 62, after only a brief illness, deprives this country of a remarkable personality, certainly one of our most versatile men of letters.
Nor was it in letters alone that Chesterton exercised his powers. A number of separate appreciations might be written of the various fields of activity in which he ranged with success. Putting to one side, for the moment, his high service in the role of a tireless fidei defensor and vindicator of Christian morality, we can think of him not only as a voluminous writer— novelist, poet, critic, historian, journalist, essayist and playwright—but also as an artist, particularly in humorous delineations; as a social reformer, both by voice and pen; and as a lecturer and debater whose name never failed to attract an audience.
The Modern Johnson
As a writer Chesterton has been described as the Dr. Johnson of our own time. The comparison amused him, yet he would not have denied a sense of pleasure at the implied compliment. His own burliness of person, about which so many cheap jests were made, likened him in another respect to the Sage of Lichfield, whom he gladly portrayed, on one occasion, in a reconstruction of famous characters; and he made the Doctor the subject of a play.
But Johnson, for all his wide sweep, was far outdistanced, in the matter of variety, by Chesterton's ready pen. It would serve no useful purpose to set down here in black-and-white a full list of "G. K. C.'s" volumes, literally several scores in number. Some years ago, in East London, admirers got together and presented to a revered priest a full set, to date, of these published works. Chesterton himself was on the platform, faced by what had become, even in those days, a formidable literary pile. Humorously he confessed to the emotion of a man suddenly confronted by all his past crimes.
The Literary Output
A few examples may serve to indicate
the width of his range. The fanciful novels, the "Father Brown" books, and other essays in fiction, represent a wellcultivated but unimportant and light field. For a reflection of Chesterton's literary strength, and of his thought, we must go rather to the striking but altogether unconventional Short History of England; to the volume of Collected Poems in which so much admirable verse is preserved; to The Superstition of Divorce as an instance of his crusading spirit in the cause of social morality; and to such studies as those of Stevenson, Dickens and Shaw in proof of what he could have done as a full-length biographer—studies which went
also beyond these secular subjects, invading hagiography with books about St. Francis and St. Thomas Aquinas.
Volumes such as Orthodoxy and The Ball and the Cross touch other and deep aspects. With these, and passing over a long list of books enshrining short essays 07 impressions, must be mentioned The Resurrection of Rome, based on a visit to Italy, and The Catholic Church and Conversion. It is consoling to know that an
Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born at Kensington in 1874. He was a son of Edward Chesterton and brother to the late Cecil Chesterton, who preceded him into the Catholic Church. For his education he went to St. Paul's School. the Slade School and King's College. His marriage, to Miss Frances Blogg, took place in 1901.
autobiography upon which its author had been engaged for about six months was finished some time before his death.
It is probably by his poetry more than by his prose writings that Chesterton will have his niche with future generations. His quality, in his best and serious pieces, was high: witness the many fine lines in the Ballad of the White Horse. And versemakers might envy him the crystallised felicity of the little stanzas on the Donkey.
In his capacity of artist Chesterton came before the public simply as the creator of sketchy and amusing figure-drawings, wherewith he illustrated books by himself or by his friends Mr. Hilaire Belloc and Mr. C. E. Bentley. But it was only because he gave himself so largely to literature and so little to the graphic arts that he did not do better than that. In early life he studied art at the Slade School, and he might have cultivated the gift of the brush, had time and inclination allowed, as well as that of the pen.
Journalism could claim Dr. Chesterton —both Edinburgh and Dublin had conferred honorary Doctorates upon him—as distinctly a member of its ranks. Not only is it the case that his work went into a great many of the leading periodicals of the day, and that he maintained a regular causerie in the Illustrated London News, but also we must remember that as editor of G.K.'s Weekly he ruled a periodical forum, one in which the note of assertion was constantly on behalf of rightful liberty and of justice to the under-dog.
His Catholic Life
Gilbert Chesterton's reception into the Church took place in 1922; his wife, who can be assured to-day of the prayerful sympathy of her fellow-Catholics, had the happiness, four years later, of following him in that venture of faith.
It is with a thought of Chesterton's zeal as a Catholic that this notice must close. In the aggregate hundreds of thousands will have read, from time to time, the trenchant words by which he met and answered critics of the faith. Multitudes have followed his defensive arguments on the Church's religious and social teaching, arguments whether set forth in the daily press, in Catholic media, in G.K.'s Weekly, in library books, or by word of mouth on the lecture platform. But fewer, necessarily, are those who know also that the man spent himself, over and over again, sacrificing leisure and giving of his energies gladly, in order to help his fellows in faith on occasions which rarely found their way into print.
The Brothers of the Assumption will remember with gratitude the talks enjoyed from his lips. He will be mourned by the Catholic journalistic fraternity of the Keys, who had known his presence and listened to his words. As chairman at a lecture, as opener of a bazaar, as speaker at this or that small Catholic gathering, Gilbert Chesterton was unfailing in the assertion of his faith and in the desire to be of help to it in however humble a way. The distinction of Knight Commander of St. Gregory the Great, conferred upon him two years ago, recognised and honoured a devotion in which there was also a lesson for the timid and less warm.
Those present at the requiem and funeral at Beaconsfield on Wednesday last . included the Archbishop of Westminster, the Bishop of Northampton, the Bishop of Sebastopolis (Mgr. J. Dey. D.S.0.), Mgr. C. W. Smith, D.S.O., Mrs. Chesterton (widow), Mr. Maurice Chesterton, Mr. Sydney Chesterton, Mr. and Mrs. Oldershaw, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Bastable, Miss Rhoda Bastable, Mrs. Cecil Chesterton, Mr. W. R. Titterton. Miss Dorothy Collins, Fr. Hilary Carpenter, 0.P., Fr. W. Weld, S.J. (Rector of Beaumont), Fr. Ronal i Knox, Dr. Fulton J. Sheen, Fr. C. C. Martindale, S.J., Fr. Vincent McNabb 0.P., Dom Ignatius Rice, 0.S.B., Mgr. Collings, Canon Marshall, Fr. Philip Hughes, Lord and Lady Desborough. the High Commissioner for the Irish Free State, Mr. Hilaire Belloc, Mr. and Mrs. Jebb, Mr. Max Beerbohm, Mr. and Mrs. J. L. Garvin, Mr. De La Mare, Mr. and the Hon. Mrs. Douglas Woodruff, Sir John Squire, Mr. Desmond MacCarthy, Mr. E. C. Bentley, Mr. A. G. Gardiner, Mr. Maurice Healey, K.C., Mr. Richard O'Sullivan, K.C., Mr. A Hungerford Pollen, Mr. James Douglas. Mr. Eric Gill, Mr. Aldous Huxley, Mr. G. C. Heseltine, Mr. and Mrs. F. J. Sheed, Mr. D. B. Wyndham Lewis, Mr and Mrs. Emile Cammaerts, Mr. and Mrs. Ellis Roberts, Mr. Gregory MacDonald.
The Rev. J. H. Imkamp
The death occurred on Sunday last of the Rev. Joseph H. Imkamp, parish-priest of St. John's, Normanton, Yorks. He had been in failing health for some time, and had only recently returned from a visit to his home in Holland.
Aged 61, he had spent the whole of his priestly life at Normanton—ten years as curate and twenty-five years as rector.
Fr. Imkamp was a popular figure in Normanton amongst all .classes, and for many years was an active member of the local education committee.
It is a pathetic circumstance of his death that arrangements were being made to honour his jubilee as rector.
Solemn requiem was celebrated on Wednesday.
Motor-Coach for Retreatants
Members of Leeds Council of the Knights of St. Columba held their annual retreat at the Retreat House, Sicklinghall, on Sunday last, under the direction of Fr. Conway, O.M.I.
The journey was made from Leeds by motor-coach, which traversed the city early on Sunday morning, picking up members at selected centres and conveying them to Sicklinghall for Mass at 9 o'clock.
Reports of Corpus Christi processions have reached the Catholic Herald from correspondents in various parts of the country. It is regretted that space is not available for chroniclirg separately these many events.