The Ideal Detective Story

There has been some renewal of debate on the problem of the problem story; sometimes called the police novel, because it now consists chiefly of rather unjust depreciation of the police. I see that Father Ronald Knox has written a most interesting introduction to a collection of tales of the kind; and Mrs. Carolyn Wells, [...]

The Blue Cross

Between the silver ribbon of morning and the green glittering ribbon of sea, the boat touched Harwich and let loose a swarm of folk like flies, among whom the man we must follow was by no means conspicuous – nor wished to be. There was nothing notable about him, except a slight contrast between the [...]

How to Write a Detective Story

Let it be understood that I write this article as one wholly conscious that he has failed to write a detective story. But I have failed a good many times. My authority is therefore practical and scientific, like that of some great statesman or social thinker dealing with Unemployment or the Housing Problem. I do [...]

Errors about Detective Stories

It is a well-known fact that people who have never succeeded in anything end by writing books about how to succeed; and I do not see why the principle should not be applied to success in the writing of detective tales as well as in lower and less glorious walks of life. Before offering any [...]

A Defence of Detective Stories

In attempting to reach the genuine psychological reason for the popularity of detective stories, it is necessary to rid ourselves of many mere phrases. It is not true, for example, that the populace prefer bad literature to good, and accept detective stories because they are bad literature. The mere absence of artistic subtlety does not [...]


White founts falling in the courts of the sun, And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run; There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared, It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard, It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips, For the inmost [...]

The Song of Right and Wrong

Feast on wine or fast on water And your honour shall stand sure, God Almighty’s son and daughter He the valiant, she the pure; If an angel out of heaven Brings you other things to drink, Thank him for his kind attentions, Go and pour them down the sink. Tea is like the East he [...]

Elegy in a Country Churchyard

The men that worked for England They have their graves at home: And bees and birds of England About the cross can roam. But they that fought for England, Following a falling star, Alas, alas for England They have their graves afar. And they that rule in England, In stately conclave met, Alas, alas for [...]

A Hymn: O God of Earth and Altar

O God of earth and altar, Bow down and hear our cry, Our earthly rulers falter, Our people drift and die; The walls of gold entomb us, The swords of scorn divide, Take not thy thunder from us, But take away our pride.   From all that terror teaches, From lies of tongue and pen, [...]

The Rolling English Road

Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode, The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road. A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire, And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire; A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread The [...]

The Donkey

When fishes flew and forests walked And figs grew upon thorn Some moment when the moon was blood Then surely I was born. With monstrous head and sickening cry And ears like errant wings The devil’s walking parody On all four-footed things. The tattered outlaw of the earth, Of ancient crooked will; Starve, scourge, deride [...]

A Child of the Snows

There is heard a hymn when the panes are dim, And never before or again, When the nights are strong with a darkness long, And the dark is alive with rain. Never we know but in sleet and in snow, The place where the great fires are, That the midst of the earth is a [...]

A Ballade of Suicide

The gallows in my garden, people say, Is new and neat and adequately tall; I tie the noose on in a knowing way As one that knots his necktie for a ball; But just as all the neighbours–on the wall– Are drawing a long breath to shout “Hurray!” The strangest whim has seized me. . [...]

Negative and Positive Morality

A vast amount of nonsense is talked against negative and destructive things. The silliest sort of progressive complains of negative morality, and compares it unfavorably with positive morality. The silliest sort of conservative complains of destructive reform and compares it unfavorably with constructive reform. Both the progressive and the conservative entirely neglect to consider the [...]

On Mending and Ending Things

A certain politician (whom I would not discuss here on any account) once said of a certain institution (which wild horses shall not induce me to name) that “It must be mended or ended.” Few people who use this useful phrase about reform notice the important thing about it. The important thing about it is [...]

The Extraordinary Cabman

From time to time I have introduced into this newspaper column the narration of incidents that have really occurred. I do not mean to insinuate that in this respect it stands alone among newspaper columns. I mean only that I have found that my meaning was better expressed by some practical parable out of daily [...]

A Defence of Rash Vows

If a prosperous modern man, with a high hat and a frock-coat, were to solemnly pledge himself before all his clerks and friends to count the leaves on every third tree in Holland Walk, to hop up to the City on one leg every Thursday, to repeat the whole of Mill’s ‘Liberty’ seventy-six times, to [...]


The two facts which attract almost every normal person to children are, first, that they are very serious, and secondly, that they are in consequence very happy… The most unfathomable schools and sages have never attained to the gravity which dwells in the eyes of a baby of three months old. It is the gravity [...]

A Piece of Chalk

I remember one splendid morning, all blue and silver, in the summer holidays when I reluctantly tore myself away from the task of doing nothing in particular, and put on a hat of some sort and picked up a walking-stick, and put six very bright-coloured chalks in my pocket. I then went into the kitchen [...]