[Chesterton] had, said Mr. Eccles, an intuitive mind. He had, too, read more than was realized.
—MAISIE WARD (1943)
Mr. Chesterton’s little volume makes one of the pleasantest introductions to St. Thomas that could be desired.
—TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT(1933)
It would be easy to say that Chesterton was drawn to Saint Thomas Aquinas because they were much alike.
In Chapter 24 of Defiant Joy, author Kevin Belmonte discusses G.K. Chesterton’s landmark work on St Thomas Aquinas. Though Chesterton had no formal training in philosophy, his writing displayed uncanny insight which was conveyed in his unique literary style. Chesterton claimed little in terms of insight, but rather that “This book makes no pretence to be anything but a popular sketch of a great historical character who ought to be more popular.” Aquinas was a man greatly admired by Chesterton, but they were far from similar.
As Kevin Belmonte wrote:
…there were stark differences between Chesterton and Aquinas. Where Aquinas was taciturn, Chesterton was outgoing and gregarious. Where one (Aquinas) preferred to be alone with his thoughts and to pursue unfettered scholarship, the other (Chesterton) loved to write and think in the midst of a restaurant or tavern. Aquinas was a deeply disciplined man — in terms of both his intellectual pursuits and his personal habits. He was a focused man, if ever there was one. Chesterton was famously unkempt in appearance, and though a dedicated writer, was often spendthrift in his use of time, his intellectual energy, and in taking on a staggering workload throughout his professional life. Aquinas poured a lifetime of study and reflection into his Summa Theologica. Chesterton poured himself into many books simultaneously.
The two men were in this sense an odd couple, but they had one great thing in common. As Chesterton said of St. Thomas in Chapter 1 of his book: “Thomas was a very great man who reconciled religion with reason . . . who insisted that the senses were the windows of the soul and that the reason had a divine right to feed upon facts, and that it was the business of the Faith to digest the strong meat of the toughest and most practical of pagan philosophies.”
Have you read St. Thomas Aquinas’ work?
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
Kevin Belmonte, Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life & Impact of G. K. Chesterton (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011).