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Boston College collection of G. K. Chesterton

Collection MS-1986-012: Boston College collection of G. K. Chesterton


  • Creation: 1886-1939, 1979
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1886 - 1939

Scope and Contents

This collection contains materials by and about Catholic British author and artist G. K. Chesterton. Contents include correspondence, some with Hilaire Belloc, Kenelyn Foss, and John Lane as well as drawings, ephemera, novels, plays, nonfiction works, essays, and poetry by Chesterton. This includes chapters from his book Orthodoxy. Additional materials include correspondence and graphic materials about Chesterton.


Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical note

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, known as G. K. Chesterton, was born on May 29, 1874 in London to Edward Chesterton and Marie Louise Grosjean. Chesterton had a younger brother, Cecil Edward, who was born in 1879.

Chesterton attended Colet Court, Hammersmith, and St. Paul’s School in London. He then enrolled in the Slade School of Fine Art at University College, London. He considered becoming a professional artist, but ultimately pursued a career as a writer.

After leaving college without a degree in 1895 Chesterton worked at the publisher Redway and soon became a reviewer and essayist for both The Speaker and The Daily News. In 1900 he published "The Donkey", a collections of poems. In the early 1900s, Chesterton also produced several collections of essays and met Hilaire Belloc, who became one of Chesterton’s greatest friends and literary allies. In 1901 Chesterton married Frances Alice Blogg.

In 1903 Chesterton published a study of Robert Browning and while the book received popular praise, Browning scholars objected to its many biographical inaccuracies. Chesterton’s carelessness regarding factual details soon became habitual in his writing.

Chesterton published his novel The Napoleon of Notting Hill in 1904, which attracted much positive critical attention. Chesterton’s next novel, The Man who was Thursday (1908) went largely unnoticed at the time of its publication, but remains among his most popular works today. Subsequently, Chesterton wrote several other novels including The Ball and the Cross (1910), Manalive (1912), and The Flying Inn (1914). Chesterton’s best-known works are his Father Brown stories which he began publishing in 1911, some of which have been adapted for film and television.

In addition to writing fiction, Chesterton also wrote philosophical and religious texts. In 1905 Chesterton published Heretics, followed by Orthodoxy in 1908. In 1909 Chesterton moved to Beaconsfield, England, where he continued to write and lecture.

After World War I Chesterton became the president of the Distributist League, promoting the idea that land should be divided into the smallest possible holdings and then distributed equally throughout society. During this time Chesterton wrote much about his dislike of government and modern progress, and his views were often considered ruralist, anti-modernist, and Victorian.

After the death of his brother Cecil in 1918 during active military service, Chesterton continued working on Cecil’s weekly publication, New Witness, which ultimately became G. K.’s Weekly. He also worked as a radio lecturer, engaging in a series of famous debates with Bernard Shaw.

In 1922 Chesterton converted to Roman Catholicism. Shortly following his conversion he wrote several theologically oriented works, including biographies of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thomas Aquinas. In 1934 he received the honor of Knight Commander with Star, Order of St. Gregory the Great.

Chesterton died on June 14, 1936, at his home in Beaconsfield, England.


Bergonzi, Bernard. “Chesterton, Gilbert Keith (1874–1936).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. 9 Nov. 2005


4 Linear Feet (5 containers)

Language of Materials



Collection of materials concerning the life and work of early twentieth-century Catholic British author and artist G. K. Chesterton. Included are correspondence, drawings, ephemera, writings, and materials about Chesterton.


This collection is arranged into five series: I. Correspondence; II. Drawings; III. Ephemera; IV. Writings; V. About Chesterton.


Because the current accessioning system was not used until January 1986, it is not possible to know exactly the dates of acquisition of materials received before that time. However, information on file indicates that portions of the collection were purchased from Sotheby's, Serendipity Books, John Wilson and Son, Bertram Rota, Ltd., and George Robert Minkoff, Inc, as well as gifts from the Bernard Shaw Society.

Related Materials

Belloc Family correspondence, MS.1996.028, MS.2007.007, and MS.2007.008, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Belloc Family correspondence and Administrative Documents, MS.2007.009, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Elodie (Hogan) Belloc correspondence, MS.2007.005, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Hilaire Belloc papers, MS.2005.002, MS.2005.003, and MS.2007.012 John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Patrick Cahill Collection of Belloc and Chesterton Materials, MS.1986.138, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Separated Materials

Published works associated with this collection have been transferred within the Burns Library and can be found in the Boston College Library catalog.


Boston College Collection of G. K. Chesterton
1886-1979 (bulk 1886-1939)
Stephanie Hall
October 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States