It is beginning to be realized that the English are the eccentrics of the earth.
They have produced an usually large proportion of what they used to call
Humorists and would now perhaps rather call Characters. And nothing is
more curious about them than the contradiction of their consciousness and
unconsciousness of their own merits. It is nonsense, I regret to say, to claim
that they are incapable of boasting. Sometimes they boast of the more striking
and outstanding virtues they do not possess. Sometimes (I say it with groans
and grovellings before the just wrath of heaven) they sink so low as to boast
of not boasting. But it is perfectly true that they seem to be entirely unaware of
the very existence of their most extraordinary claims to glory and distinction.
One example among many is the fact that they have never realized the nature,
let alone the scale, of the genius of Geoffrey Chaucer.

...that clinging curse of all the criticism of Chaucer; the fact that while the poet is
always large and humorous, the critics are often small and serious. They not only
get hold of the wrong end of the stick, but of the diminishing end of the telescope;
and take in detail when they should be taking in a design.

There is a sort of penumbra of playfulness round everything he ever said or sang;
a halo of humor. Much of his work is marked by what can only be called a quiet
exaggeration, even a quiet extravagance. It is said, in the description of him, that there
was something elvish about his face; and there was something elvish about his mind.

A great poet is alone strong enough to measure
that broken strength we call the weakness of man.

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 are, and that we ourselves are incredibly and sometimes almost incredulously real.
It is the fundamental fact of being, as against not being, it is the unthinkable, yet we cannot
unthink it, though we may sometimes be unthinking about it; unthinking and especially
unthanking. For he or she who has realized this reality knows that it does outweigh, literally
to infinity, all lesser regrets or arguments for negation, and that under all our grumblings
there is a subconscious substance of gratitude...This is something much more mystical and
absolute than any modern thing that is called optimism; for it is only rarely that we realize,
like a vision of the heavens filled with a chorus of giants, the primeval duty of Praise.