There is at the back of all our lives an abyss of light, more blinding and unfathomable than any abyss of darkness; and it is the abyss of actuality, of existence, of the fact that things truly are, and that we are ourselves incredibly and sometimes almost incredulously real.
—G. K. CHESTERTON
These were some of the most beautiful and life-affirming words that Chesterton ever wrote. They were a kind of centerpiece to one of the great works of his later career, Chaucer (published in 1932).
In Chapter 23 of Defiant Joy, author Kevin Belmonte writes that G.K. Chesterton’s Chaucer is “a book that continues to be much appreciated by some of the best writers and literary critics living today. Garry Wills quoted from it in several moving passages in his memoir Why I Am a Catholic. Harold Bloom wrote that his “favorite Chaucer critic still remains G. K. Chesterton.” Peter Ackroyd, in his acclaimed biography of Chaucer, wrote appreciatively of Chesterton’s reflections on the author of The Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde.
“Much has been said,” Ackroyd wrote,
concerning Chaucer as the “father of English poetry,” so much in fact that it has become something of a literary and cultural platitude; but Chaucer has become representative of so much else that, for writers like G. K. Chesterton, he turns into the figure of England or the face of Albion. He is the genial and smiling emblem of Englishness.
What is your favorite Chaucer story?
L E A R n M O R E
Kevin Belmonte holds a BA in English from Gordon College, an MA in Church History from Gordon-Conwell Seminary, and a second master’s degree in American and New England Studies from the University of Southern Maine. He has twice been a finalist for the prestigious John Pollock Award for Christian Biography, and in 2003, his biography, “William Wilberforce,” won that award. On several occasions, he has served as a script consultant for the BBC, and also for the PBS documentary, “The Better Hour.” For six years, he was the lead script and historical consultant for the critically-acclaimed film, “Amazing Grace.” He has spoken in a wide array of noteworthy settings, from the Houses of Parliament in London, and gatherings of legislators in Washington, D.C., to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. For several years, his biography of Wilberforce has been required reading for a course taught by David Gergen on leadership and character formation at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Sources & Resources
Introduction to Harold Bloom, ed., Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, part of Bloom’s Modern Critical Views series (New York: Infobase Publishing, 2008)
Peter Ackroyd, Chaucer (New York: Nan A. Talese, 2005)
Kevin Belmonte, Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life & Impact of G. K. Chesterton (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011).