For nearly a century, Frances [Chesterton]’s story has been hidden amongst the pages of the poetry Gilbert wrote, Christmas cards sent to friends, letters to priests and relatives stored in library special collections, out-of-print biographies written by literary contemporaries, in boxes in the attics and garages of her grandnephews, and in scattered periodicals and books. Few people are now familiar with the details of Frances’s own writing career; few have read her published works.
It is, of course, a story intimately woven with the story of Gilbert. This is, after all, a love story. Frances and Gilbert worked as a team; they were lovers and friends, writing coaches and companions. They worked, ate, laughed, and slept together for thirty-five years, dependent on each other physically, emotionally, and intellectually. The love between them defined her life – and his. She was his first and biggest fan; his most successful marketer, and his most devoted cheerleader. She was the first to laugh at his jokes. She took dictation, dusted his hat, and tied his shoes. She clung to him when her life seemed out of control. She cherished the love poetry he wrote her, treasuring the words tenderly in her heart, never sharing the most intimate specimens with anyone. It is not an exaggeration to say that she was the person who would affect Gilbert’s life more profoundly than anyone. He was totally dependent on her for his happiness.
Nancy Carpentier Brown, The Woman Who Was Chesterton (2015)