Burrow, Merrick (2013) Queer Clubs and Queer Trades: G.K. Chesterton, Homosociality and the City. In: G.K. Chesterton, London and Modernity. Bloomsbury Studies in the City . Bloomsbury, London. ISBN 9781780937069

‘No one can have failed to notice,’ writes Chesterton in his ‘Defence of Detective Stories,’ ‘that in these stories the hero or the investigator crosses London with something of the loneliness and liberty of a prince in a tale of elfland’. For the detective, he suggests, the metropolis is an enchanted landscape in which even ‘the casual omnibus assumes the primal colours of a fairy ship’. And, Chesterton insists, it was above all in this low-status form of popular romance, the detective story, that such enchantment was to be found at the end of the nineteenth century because it ‘declines to regard the present as prosaic or the common as commonplace’. The fictional detective, for Chesterton, pursues a ‘queer trade’ and the aim of the present discussion is to unpick what that means. I am interested in why, for Chesterton, such a quintessentially modern, urban and, indeed, disenchanted genre as detective fiction becomes the privileged locus for such an ‘elvish’ vision. In seeking to answer this I pursue the hypothesis that the ‘queer trade’ of the detective serves to distance another, more troubling sense of queerness that Chesterton experienced while he was a student during the 1890s, and to which his writings return over and over—that bohemian subculture of the fin de siècle that he sometimes alluded to via the Wildean motif of the Green Carnation.

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