I ran across this opening line in a Fr. James V. Schall essay: "Hilaire Belloc is the greatest essayist in the English language." The University Bookman, Volume 41, 2001.
A bit of an exaggeration? The words of a someone who hasn't read enough, of someone not to be taken seriously?
I am personally acquainted with Fr. Schall, having worked with him at Gilbert Magazine, communicated with him many times by e-mail, and had lunch with him at Georgetown University on a nice spring day. He doesn't strike me as a man that exaggerates, few have read more than him, and he is to be taken seriously—mostly because he doesn't take himself too seriously. A fine man. I recommend all his writing for its Chestertonian perspective, especially Another Sort of Learning and On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs.