Gilchrist was born in Sheffield, England, the second son of Robert Murray Gilchrist and Isabella. He was educated at Sheffield Royal Grammar School and later privately. He never married. He worked briefly for noted editor William Ernest Henley (1849–1903) at National Observer (formerly The Scots Observer). He lived for much of his life in the North Derbyshire village of Holmesfield, living with his mother and a male companion at Cartledge Hall. From 1893-97, he lived in a remote part of the Peak District and some sources say he lived a few months in Paris, France. He began his writing career during 1890 with the publication of his first novel, Passion The Plaything. He contributed short stories to many periodicals, including The Temple Bar, Home Chimes and The Yellow Book. A productive writer, he published 22 novels, six short story collections, four regional interest books and one play (posthumously). During World War I, he was noted for his charitable assistance to Belgian refugees, many of whom attended his funeral during 1917.