Hilaire Belloc bought King's Land (in Shipley, Sussex), 5 acres and a working windmill for £1000 in 1907 and it was his home for the rest of his life. Belloc loved Sussex as few other writers have loved her: he lived there for most of his 83 years, he tramped the length and breadth of the county, slept under her hedgerows, drank in her inns, sailed her coast and her rivers and wrote several incomparable books about her. "He does not die that can bequeath Some influence to the land he knows, Or dares, persistent, interwreath Love permanent with the wild hedgerows; He does not die, but still remains Substantiate with his darling plains."

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Thursday, 13 August 2020

Lucy Broadwood Celebration – Saturday 22nd August 2020...


To celebrate her life and to mark 91 years since her passing.

We are delighted to confirm that we will be gathering together in the grounds of St. Mary Magdalene’s Church at Rusper Church on Saturday 22nd August 2020 to celebrate Lucy Broadwood and to delight in picnicking together and revelling in some lovely singing and music – All at appropriate social distances of course!

We will be unveiling the new information sign about her, as we did for Belloc at Shipley, at 2pm and then, if the weather is good we will be in the churchyard for music and singing till about 4pm.

You and your family and friends are all most welcome. Please fill out the form below and include the names of all those in your party so that we have a clear record of who is attending.


There is a free car park by the church and unrestricted on-street parking in the village.


If you would like to have lunch first please feel free to arrive at 1pm instead. We can picnic anywhere around the church. Please bring folding chairs, picnic blankets and anything else for outdoor comfort!
The Plough will be open for lunch with a revised menu and if you would like to eat lunch there do book in advance.

Social distancing:

We are very aware of keeping within the recommended safety guidelines. Please be sure to maintain the 6ft distance from all of those not in your bubble.
Performances will be by individuals or duos and there will be no formal gathered choir singing though we will definitely be singing a few of our project songs from our safe distances!
If it rains we are able to go into the church 30 people at a time. The Plough will also be open so those of us who don’t fit into the church can go there!

Unlike the Belloc celebration, this time we have made a programme of the entertainment for the afternoon and Chris has invited some other musicians into our midst to share their music and song. If you would like to sing a song or read something please do let us know. There will be time afterwards for a free performance session!

Programme of entertainment for the afternoon:

2pm – Plaque unveiling – Chris, Nick and Emily to say a few words.

2.20pm – Our choice of two songs from the project to all sing together (at appropriate distances)

2.35pm – Martyn Wyndham Reed

Some of you may know Martyn from his long and illustrious career as a folk singer and musician. Chris certainly was influenced by his album ‘Ned Kelly and that Gang.’ You can find out more about his music here. Martyn has the most natural of singing voices, unaffected and true. His singing revives and animates old songs and gives them life again.

2.50pm – Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll

Chris first came across the fiddle playing of Nick and Becki when he was living in Devon nearly 20 years ago and has invited them to perform for this event as they are great musicians and know many of the songs collected by the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould who was also a friend of Lucy Broadwood and a fellow collector of folk songs.

Nick Wyke & Becki Driscoll are highly respected fiddle-players and composers firmly rooted in North Devon. Their unique sound is a joyful collision of English traditional music and contemporary bowed strings. Their music blends melodic, emotive violin and viola with driving fiddle chords and powerful vocals and will take you on a journey from the dark side of English ballad to toe-tapping tunes and songs.

“folk music at its best” – The Living Tradition

“bursting with vitality” – Musicians Union Magazine

3.05pm – us to sing a BBB song of our choice!

3.10pm Chris and Steve sing some songs Lucy Broadwood may not have approved of!

3.20pm – Chris talk: Lucy Broadwood and Hilaire Belloc, what did they have in common?

3.30pm – Nick and Becki perform their set of music and songs

The Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould was a well-known author and prominent folk song collector in the late nineteenth century. He collected nearly 2000 songs from local singers around Devon and Cornwall, and in 1889 published the first part of ‘Songs and Ballads of the West’ – a collection made from “the mouths of the people…” Baring-Gould was keen to encourage female song-collectors, especially as he felt they would be successful in collecting songs from female singers. In 1893, he took his friend Lucy Broadwood on a collecting trip where they met Jane Jeffrey of Dunterton and Mary Fisher of Lifton, both of whom gave songs to the two collectors.

Baring-Gould also visited a local fiddler, one William Andrew of Sheepstor from whom he collected many instrumental melodies.

Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll will perform a mixture of tunes and songs collected by Baring-Gould, woven together with anecdotes and histories of the time to evoke a fascinating portrayal of life in the West Country. Imagine the lanes and byways of Devon rolling past as you immerse yourself in these beautiful pieces, collected from the pubs and the fields, the mouths and the hands of these 19th Century farming folk.

4pm – Official end to the musical programme, we all sing another BBB song and the start of relaxed free for all songs and poems from anyone who would like to offer one!

Please register here if you would like to attend. 

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

'ON MAKING THE BEST OF A BAD JOB' - Roderick Blyth (Belloc's great grandson)


Out of my father’s copy of A.N.Wilson’s biography of Hilaire Belloc slips a cutting from ‘The Tablet’ dated 21/28 April 1984. The reviewer there writes:
‘I first met Belloc when I was 19 and he was in his fifties [between 1920/1930]. He seemed to me then immensely aged and awesome. I had read most of his travel books which at the time were an inspiration to any adventurous youth and wrote to him as a total stranger to tell him that I wanted to walk across the Pyrenees and would like further guidance after reading his book on the subject. He invited me to the Reform Club and drew careful sketch maps of mountain paths leading to a certain inn on the border of Andorra, where, he said, the mention of his name would work wonders.
‘It did, but not in the way he expected. ‘Ah!’ said the host, ‘Mr Belloc - that charming German gentleman’. Belloc, whose views about Germans derived from the Franco-Prussian war, would have exploded. I never told him of the incident or how his sketch maps had later misled me into regions where I was alone and totally lost. In my inexperience I had not taken a compass, so I did not blame my revered cartographer. Years later, at Sheed & Ward, I had frequent contact with him in the course of publishing. As his views on matters religious and political became increasingly unattractive and irrelevant to me, so a certain affection and admiration grew for the man himself.
‘He was ever pressed for time and money, working against the clock, irritable, obtuse, savage in his dislikes, and even cruel in his condemnations, but to me he also had his endearing qualities. A faraway look often came to his pale blue eyes, as if he were elsewhere in reality and it was long ago. There is no nearer nearness than the felt absence of a loved one and the letters to his wife before and after their marriage of 17 years, newly published in this book, give a hint of a great love, and of a sombre condition following its loss, which explains so much about his excesses. At heart he was solitary and in deep melancholy but on the slightest pretext he would bustle into cheerfulness and be the best of companions.
‘Once I remember, he treated me to oysters at Bentleys and a fine dinner at the Escargot Bienvenu in Soho and an endless flow of stories. He had just delivered the typescript of ‘Essays of a Catholic’ and had handed it over at the Cafe Royal ‘as a preliminary to good dinner’, as he said with his rolling R’s. On the title page he had wrote ‘Truth comes by conflict’ in inverted commas. I personally doubted the validity of the dictum and asked him who said it. “I do,” he replied. “But why the inverted commas?” “They will think it is quoting Tertullian”.
(T.F (‘Tom’) Burns (1906-1995) was a publisher and journalist - his first meeting with Belloc would therefore have taken place in 1925. ‘Essays of a Catholic’ was published in 1931, which helps date the anecdote set at the ‘Escargot Bienvenu’. Burns was later associated with Hollis & Carter, and later still, I imagine, with the well known Catholic publishers, Burns and Oates. My guess is that in the Spanish Civil War, that watershed of Catholic Opinion, he would have been more inclined to the Republican than the Nationalist cause: most of his generation were.
This humanely appreciative review, written by an 84 year old Catholic, includes the following:
‘There are some remarks and conversations.... reported at second and third hand which, I would say, were quite uncharacteristic of the man and inconsistent with his views. Perhaps his biographer should have omitted them. In any case anybody so full of vitality, so gifted with words, with such a sense of fun, so volatile and passionate as Belloc, would be bound to let slip words and phrases and even random ideas unweighed, and in a sort of code to friends. To pin all this down like a collection of dead butterflies gives no indication of the true significance of the words in flight... There is a general tendency nowadays to disregard the sanctity of private talk and letters and to ignore the fact that a man’s words to a friend are meant to be received ‘secundum modum recipientis’ as the Dumb Ox would sagely say.’
Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt.


Sunday, 9 August 2020

'Belloc and Jews' - letter in the Tablet...

Before entirely dismissing Hilaire Belloc for anti-Semitism, it might be wise for A.N.Wilson (''A cautionary tale'', 25 July) and Melanie McDonagh (Notebook, 1 August) to reread the chapter on anti-semitism in his book, The Jews, incidentally a book dedicated to a Jewish woman, his personal secretary. 

''The Anti-Semite admires, for instance, a work of art; [but] on finding the authour to be a Jew it becomes distasteful to him though the work remains exactly as it was before.'' Belloc then warns that: ''Anti-Semitic feeling...is speading with alarming rapidity. In a field where passion is already so wild, God help its victims.''

His conclusion that a solution to anth-Semitism would be found in the establishment of an independent Jewish nation state is, however, now seen to be sadly optimistic.

The Jews ends with the sentence, ''For my part, I say, 'Peace be to Israel.' ''

Paul Moir

Corrandulla, Co Galway, Ireland.

Letter to the The Tablet - 08.08.2020

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Roderick Blyth comments on the A N Wilson Belloc piece in the Tablet...

A friend has drawn my attention to this week’s ‘Tablet’ which features an article by A.N. Wilson on Hilaire Belloc. Unhappily there is something wrong with the online registration process which should have allowed me to look at the article pro bono. I won’t subscribe to a paper which I gave up reading years ago for what I thought good reasons even then.
I have met A.N.Wilson more than once and I have followed his literary, intellectual, and spiritual progress for at least 40 years. 

I am therefore not in the least surprised when I read an editorial introduction which states:

‘Hilaire Belloc is on our cover this week, his stare as starchy as his winged collar. He was a better writer in every way then his chum Chesterton [two sneers for the price of one], but, as A.N. Wilson writes, his Catholic apologetics were rotten to the core with casual anti-Semitism, odious falsehoods and sheer nastiness...’

Belloc composed an epitaph for himself which read:

‘When I am dead, I hope it may be said
His sins were scarlet, but his books were read’.

Rather than engage with this digging up and stoning of the dead, I’d like to suggest to such of my friends as may be interested why HB’s books repay Reading- whatever the sins in which he. Is said to offend.

* Firstly, his verse - it’s sometimes forgotten just how original this was: Belloc discovered his gift for verse in the 1890s, and it bloomed completely otherwise than in the orchid hothouse of Swinburne and the buttonhole of Oscar Wilde. In the elegance of his cautionary tales, the muscularity of his satire, and the pointed wit of his epigrams, Belloc looks back to the CXVIII and especially Prior - a poet whose quick wit, lapidary style and keen eye for human folly is close to Belloc’s own; in lyric, Belloc introduced into English verse the vernal freshness of the CXIII Provençal poets - a preference which was enthusiastically but less convincingly adopted in the strained archaisms of Ezra Pound; in his sonnets, Belloc's model is Joachim du Bellay, whose rigorous intellect, formal discipline, and elegiac tone is distinctly shared by the later poet; and there are two or three lyrics of such brilliance and originality that they deserve a place in the most exclusive anthologies of English verse - of these the most uncontroversial is ‘Ha’nacker Mill’: movingly set by Ivor Gurney, it is one of the most evocative elegies for a rural England that was passing out of existence even as Belloc wrote its epitaph immediately before the Great War;
* Second, is Belloc’s history, which was a witheringly polemical response to the vanity, pride and provincialism of the Whig interpretation of history - until the death of G.M Trevelyan the official voice of English academic history. With his half-French parentage, extensive travel and wide reading, Belloc understood the historical significance of the classical, mediaeval and Christian mindset for the European history of which Britain was part. He had an unusual sense of how Church and Monarchy had worked as complementary forces in curbing the elites which ultimately triumphed over both - to the abiding benefit of the few, and the continuing prejudice of the many. Here the models are Cobbett and Lingard, but the dramatisation of events, the psychological penetration, and the play of ideas derives from Toqueville, Taine and Michelet. Belloc’s analysis of English history between 1399-1688 outraged academic opinion in his day, but is now recognised as substantially accurate. It is clear, compelling and absolutely unimpressed by the Whig environment in which it was composed - only a rash or courageous man could have written it, for no one dependent on the patronage of the establishment would have dared to do so. it testified to Belloc’s hatred of the oppression exercised by the strong over the weak, the rich over the poor, and the worldly over the innocent - it evinced a wholly ‘modern’ contempt for the money-power, colonialism and philistine materialism as they then existed but whose persistence is easily identified in modern equivalents, notwithstanding the pool of cant in which they comfortably paddle about.
* Third - the ‘dialogues’ - Belloc’s completely original itinero-monologues , written with a Rabelaisian gusto but a Montaignard sensitivity to the transitoriness if human life and the vanity of human wishes. With the exception of Stevenson, there is nothing like them in English literature, and the Stevenson of ‘Travels With a Donkey’ admirable though he is for his combination of unblunted appetite and reflective sensibility nevertheless lacks the learning, the experience and the wonderful variety of voices which Belloc brought to ‘The Path to Rome’, ‘Thr Four Men’ and ‘The Cruise of the Nona’;
* Finally there are the Essays - occasional, humorous, appraising, polemical, evocative and whimsical by turns - full of astute comment on the patterns and trends of our time - the tendency towards self-dissolution in the protestant collision with biblical scholarship; the inadequacy of scientific materialism as against human, moral and religious truth; the corruption of parliament and the press stemming from their subjection to patronage, party, business and money; the sleight of hand whereby the state substituted an undeclared serfdom in which the individual trades dignity and self-determination for the serfdom of a pensioner - and, most percipently a prediction of the ultimate resurgence of Islam - here ‘Survivals and New Arrivals’, ‘Essays of a Catholic’ and ‘The Servile State’ are most characteristic of the polemicist; while ‘Hills and the Sea’ and ‘Conversations with a Cat’, represent the unbuttoned, Johnsonian Belloc at his ease and amusing himself quite as much as anyone for whom he might be writing.

This was a great man and a great defender of the Faith: A.N.Wilson, and the editor of the 'catholic' magazine who commissioned this 'damnatio memoriae' should be deeply ashamed of traducing his memory... but perhaps they have done no more than make a shrewd judgment as to the limitations of their readership for it is difficult to see how any reasonably intelligent and educated man could otherwise write as they have.

Roderick Blyth

Monday, 20 July 2020

150th anniversary of the birth of Hilaire Belloc...

Monday 27th July marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Hilaire Belloc. No one has written with greater love for the county of Sussex than he and it is right and proper we should celebrate the great man’s centenary and a half! An all-weather information sign will be ‘unveiled’ at Shipley at 7pm on 27th July. All who follow social-distancing rules are welcome to attend.

Refreshments will be available in the grounds of Shipley School. Individuals may like to sing or read a poem, but there can be no group singing as this is clearly forbidden by current regulations.

If you would like to attend then please follow this link. 

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Laughing at the Microbe - Sean Fitzpatrick...

Covid-19 will most likely prove one of those demarcating events in history that will be prefixed with “pre” and “post.” Until then, these are without doubt days of blind trust. No one is quite sure what is going on, but doubt is not a popular public disposition. With sorrow for those who have suffered due to the virus, is it too early to chuckle at pandemic absurdities?

A friend told me recently, “It’s okay to laugh at our tragicomic world. That’s how the Anglo-American mind best deals with absurdity. The French scoff; the Spanish weep; the Russians brood; the Irish sing; the Italians fight. We chuckle.” And so, with a healthy, Anglo-American, Catholic chuckle, let us turn to a tiny poem of titanic import by Hilaire Belloc, entitled “The Microbe.”

The Microbe is so very small
You cannot make him out at all,
But many sanguine people hope
To see him through a microscope.
His jointed tongue that lies beneath
A hundred curious rows of teeth;
His seven tufted tails with lots
Of lovely pink and purple spots,
On each of which a pattern stands,
Composed of forty separate bands;
His eyebrows of a tender green;
All these have never yet been seen—
But Scientists, who ought to know,
Assure us that they must be so…
Oh! let us never, never doubt
What nobody is sure about!

Never, ever doubt Mr. Belloc’s clairvoyance for our calamities—from Islamic extremism to the New Paganism, and now Covidism.

Socrates said somewhere that the humor associated with the ridiculous denotes self-ignorance. I’m not a virologist; neither am I a humorist. But I think I do have a sense of humor. If this virus is bringing anything out in its more ridiculous manifestations, it is the ignorance people have of who they are and what life is all about. As Belloc’s poem amusingly captures, these are days of doubt, of profound self-ignorance. It is no wonder, then, that so much of our newly adopted behaviors seem ridiculous.

G. K. Chesterton weighs in with his bulky brilliance on what’s wrong with the world—and it’s us. “Man is an exception,” Chesterton writes, “whatever else he is. If he is not the image of God, then he is a disease of the dust. If it is not true that a divine being fell, then we can only say that one of the animals went entirely off its head.”

Let’s not go off our heads and allow this disease to make diseases out of us.

Are the orders, the closures, the distancing, the isolating, and the hysteria all for the sake of the right thing? Is the focus on the value of life, or the fear of death? To be, or not to be? No one is sure—yet the question remains. Uncertainty is airborne, just like the microbe. Blessed are they that have not seen yet believe. Covid-19 has brought out something like faith in an invisible earthly entity even as it shuttered the churches. Man seems to have found wisdom in the fear of the microbe instead of the Lord.

Again, from Chesterton: “Death, disease, insanity, are merely material accidents, like a toothache or a twisted ankle. That these brutal forces always besiege and often capture the citadel does not prove that they are the citadel.”

The reactions to the current microbial crisis are augmented by a growing doubt concerning the meaning of life itself. Human society is not necessarily built upon health. “The most dangerous thing in the world,” says Chesterton, “is to be alive; one is always in danger of one’s life.” But that doesn’t mean we should live in fear of losing our lives. It’s ridiculous to live that way, and Catholics should respond with a chuckle.

It may be ridiculous—even funny, in some ways—but humor is, by some theories, the recognition of incongruity. For all the uncertainty, there is certainly a good deal of contagious incongruity going around. The coronavirus might make its survivors both stronger and stranger. Or perhaps just more estranged.

You thought cellphones were atomizing? Try adding a mask to that picture, as well as personal space lines painted on the floor like traffic lines and the abolition of the handshake. How much further can we go? (W.H.O. knows.) In the meantime, never doubt the limits of man’s unsurety.

The microbe has shown us that we are becoming a people of the government, by the government, and for the government in the misunderstanding that big government will somehow keep us from perishing from the earth. Though all of this is an error of materialism, based on over-reliance, secularism, and spiritual and intellectual social distancing, the funny thing is that there is a type of materialism that we must all live with and be sick with together, according to G.K.C., if we are to thrive as a culture:

No one has even begun to understand comradeship who does not accept with it a certain hearty eagerness in eating, drinking, or smoking, an uproarious materialism which to many women appears only hoggish. You may call the thing an orgy or a sacrament; it is certainly an essential. It is at root a resistance to the superciliousness of the individual. Nay, its very swaggering and howling are humble. In the heart of its rowdiness there is a sort of mad modesty; a desire to melt the separate soul into the mass of unpretentious masculinity. It is a clamorous confession of the weakness of all flesh. No man must be superior to the things that are common to men. This sort of equality must be bodily and gross and comic. Not only are we all in the same boat, but we are all seasick.

All things should be taken with a sense of humor, which is to say, with common sense. Humor is a basis for sanity as it provides relief and balance. It keeps us healthy. The populace is refreshed more readily by arrant absurdities than academic analyses. Chestertonian hat-chases in the wind bestow the hilarious and humbling reminder that though man is the steward of nature, he is subject to it at the same time. This is one of the deftest jokes of humanity. And one of the deepest jokes of humanity is death, as Mr. Chesterton reminds us in his poem “The Skeleton.”

Surely, friends, I might have guessed
Death was but the good King’s jest,
It was hid so carefully.

As we all know, there’s no getting out of this alive. Scientists will not find the meaning of life under their microscopes, and we should face death without a metaphorical mask so our smile can be seen. There are certainly things in life that we should never doubt even though nobody is sure about them—and we should also not be afraid that we will never be sure. Some things, like life and death, are meant to be mysteries.

We’re all sick. We’re all dying. And that’s alright. It’s even amusing. We should be prudent, of course, in these dangerous days and be a good neighbor to all. At the same time, though, let’s not forget this: it’s not a sin to laugh, knowing that the microbe will not laugh last. The last word, however, goes to Mr. Belloc:

Physicians of the Utmost Fame
Were called at once; but when they came
They answered, as they took their Fees,
“There is no cure for this disease.”

Sean Fitzpatrick is a senior contributor to Crisis. He's a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and the Headmaster of Saint Gregory the Great Academy. He lives in Scranton, Penn. with his wife and family of four.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

A strange Belloc experience...

In 1985 A.N.Wilson published his biography of Hilaire Belloc. As part of his research he visited Julian Jebb (Belloc’s grandson) who was then living at Belloc’s old home, Kingsland. Wilson arrived with a BBC camera crew. Jebb allowed them full access to the house, including Belloc’s private chapel:

There are few houses in England, certainly few writers’ houses, which have a more potent atmosphere than King’s Land, with its chapel on the first floor, where he so often prayed, and where the Mass was so often said. The wall is papered with those little cards given out at Requiems, asking for prayers for the repose of the departed. And central to the chapel is the old piece of black-rimmed writing paper on which Belloc has inscribed his wife’s name. It is grimy with his frequent fingering, for he touched and kissed it as often as he prayed here.
The camera crew came into the house. I felt awkward about their going anywhere near the chapel, but Julian, who felt in some degree oppressed by his grandfather, as by the Catholic faith, was all the more eager to bring to that hallowed place the glare of artificial light and the intrusion of a microphone. However often they tried to make their electrical equipment in the chapel at King’s Land work, it failed. Either the lights popped, or the sound failed, usually both. The electricity of HB and of Elodie was much stronger than the electricity of the BBC. I felt, too, not merely the Bellocs, but the old Catholic Thing fighting back against the intrusion of the modern.