29 August 2022

The First Part of “The Donnington Affair”

In 1914, Max Pemberton published part of a murder mystery in a magazine called The Premier. It was titled “The Donnington Affair.”

Pemberton sent proofs of the story to G. K. Chesterton, inviting him to complete the mystery with a pleasing solution.

Chesterton obliged, bringing in his sleuth Father Brown. The result is an oddity in Chesterton’s oeuvre, not included in the first Father Brown omnibuses.

After Chesterton fans rediscovered the story, anthologists began to include “The Donnington Affair” in collections of the Father Brown stories—but usually only Chesterton’s part. The result is less than fully coherent. (A 2012 edition of The Complete Father Brown is indeed complete.)

Pemberton lived until 1950, so his work remained under copyright protection in the U.K. until 2020. That year, the Chesterton Review published the whole story, but that issue is behind a paywall.

Fortunately for people who like a complete narrative, Metropolitan Magazine bought the U.S. serial rights in the story, and Google has digitized the issue that includes Pemberton’s part. So you can start reading the tale here. There’s even a picture by Dalton Stevens.

The same volume of Metropolitan includes stories by Booth Tarkington, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Richard Harding Davis, Joseph Conrad, E. C. Bentley, and more; nonfiction by John Reed, Lincoln Steffens, Walter Lippmann, Francis Ouimet, and H. G. Wells; and humorous tales each with one illustration (not, unfortunately, comics) by Harry Grant Dart.