John Monsignor O’ Connor Biography

John Monsignor O’Connor was born on 5 December 1870 in Tipperary, Ireland (“Father Brown’s Mixed Memories” 1), was educated under different Catholic religious orders (Wikipedia, “John O’Connor [priest]),” and was ordained on 30 March 1895 as the parish priest of St. Anne’s in Keighley, when he met the writer GK Chesterton in 1904 (Father Brown on Chesterton 1).

*Kindly refer to the page “The Real Father Brown” for more details on their meeting.

Photograph of microfiche of “Father Brown on Chesterton” by John Monsignor O’Connor

One can see some of the expression by which he captured GK Chesterton’s imagination and was translated into one of Fr. Brown’s characteristics, that of inductive introspection: “In children, intuition is supreme, but it is ruined by grown-up interference.” (O’Connor)

He had not first realized he was Father Brown (O’Connor), and when asked how it felt like, said: “Like an enormous practical joke that doesn’t hurt. I’ve never attempted to live up to it, so that relieves the tension.”

Undated and unattributable clippings on Monsignor O’Connor and his alter ego.

Monsignor O’Connor had some written records as well, and he took it upon himself to tell some stories of his ancestry (O’Connor).

His lack of success in publishing his book Father Brown on Chesterton in America was revealed in this letter from his publisher (O’Connor). A quick investigation reveals that this period is during the Great Depression of 1929-1939, which appears to be a reason given by his UK publisher – see the last line in the first paragraph (“…America has been going through a pretty bad time.). It had been published in the UK in 1937, and was also fortunately made available online* by Project Gutenberg as Project Gutenberg Canada ebook #407 on 25 Oct. 2009. It is definitely easier reading than the microfiche. A brief reading of it will give one an idea of why Chesterton and O’Connor had become such “bosom buddies,” as both were loquaciously genial and fond of poetry.

* Caveat: This work is in the Canadian public domain, but may be under copyright in some countries. If you live outside Canada, check your country’s copyright laws. If the book is under copyright in your country, do not download or redistribute this file.

Letter from Monsignor O’Connor’s publisher

Father Brown on Chesterton was published in the UK in 1937. It is available in microfiche at the US Library of Congress.

Father Brown on Chesterton was published in the UK in 1937. It is available in microfiche at the US Library of Congress. Monsignor O’Connor dedicated it to Frances Chesterton.

While not as successful as GK Chesterton, he certainly had Father Brown as his mouthpiece (O’Connor). One can see some similarity in attitude and antagonism between the (Catholic) Church and the State when comparing the typewritten manuscript by Monsignor O’Connor, and the following pages from Fr. Brown’s stories, “The Curse of the Golden Cross”(Chesterton, 164-5) and “The Secret Garden” (Chesterton, 196-7).


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