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G.  K.   CHESTERTON                             13
The original of Father Brown was Monsignor John
O'Connor, a Yorkshire priest and a great friend of Chester-
ton, who in 1922 received him into the Catholic Church.
Ever since Conan Doyle had published his Sherlock Holmes
stories at the beginning of the century, the detective story
had been—as indeed it still is—one of the most popular sorts
of book on the English bookstall. Detective stories varied
and vary in merit from lowest to highest—from the crudest
murder or from a story which merely sets out a simple
problem of ' Who Done it ?' without any attempt at
literary merit, upwards ; but a very high proportion of
England's leading men of letters over the last fifty years have
tried their hand at a detective story at one time or the other.
Chesterton's Father Brown certainly differed from the
detectives of the unliterary writers in that it was the character
and features of the detective—his round, smiling, baby-like
face—which impressed itself on the public and won the
books their popularity. Father Brown's detection differs
from that of his rivals, the creations of other authors, in that
it is, characteristically, always some psychological and often
indeed some theological slip by which the criminal betrays
himself, as when the murderer, disguised as a priest, is heard
to say that there are some things above reason and Father
Brown knows from his heresy that he is no true priest.
Or many of the plots turn on characteristically Chestertonian
criticisms of the modern world, as when a witness says that
no one has been to a certain house and it turns out afterwards
that the milkman and the postman have been there. The
modern man, Chesterton thought, in the vast anonymity
of our metropolitan life would easily not notice a milkman
or a postman and not think of them as persons.
This same year, 1911, was chiefly notable in Chesterton's
story for the appearance of his long ballad-poem, The
Ballad of the White Horse—one of the two or three out-
standing ballads in modern English literature. English
poetry in this century has produced a number of ballad
poems—or stories written in verse—written as if they were