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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Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Belloc and His World - November/December issue of STAR...

I highly recommend the November/December 2015 edition of STAR. It's pretty much a feast for Bellocian eyes. Full marks to the Editor Joe Pearce. Here is an extract from an article, by Tod Worner, entitled “On Pilgrimage and Sacramentality: Hilaire Belloc’s The Four Men” (and the rest follows below):

''Recently, upon reading Hilaire Belloc’s classic The Four Men, I came to a new appreciation: the virtue of “re-reading”. The first read, I have learned, always tells you what happened, but each subsequent read tells you what it means. There is no better work to re-read than a book about a pilgrimage. Especially one described by Hilaire Belloc. We care where the pilgrimage takes us. But we care even more what the pilgrimage means.

Belloc opens his extraordinary journey having found himself in a state—a funk—in which we all may find ourselves sooner or later. It is the bittersweet position of taking stock in our life when, in a moment of naked honesty and true poignancy, we find we have strayed from our intended path. Belloc’s moment came on the twenty-ninth of October, 1902 to be exact. He was in an English inn known as the “George” at Robertsbridge. Nursing port and staring at the fire, the intense, brooding Belloc arrived at a harsh conclusion: You are missing what matters...''

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

When Jesus Christ was four years old...

Set to music by Peter Warlock...

When Jesus Christ was four years old,
The angels brought Him toys of gold,
Which no man ever had bought or sold.

And yet with these He would not play.
He made Him small fowl out of clay,
And blessed them till they flew away:
Tu creasti Domine

Jesus Christ, Thou child so wise,
Bless mine hands and fill mine eyes,
And bring my soul to Paradise.

From Songs - 1923

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Waiting for Christmas with Belloc...

For some years, I have set aside time during Advent to read Hilaire Belloc’s short essay, “A Remaining Christmas.” First published 80 years ago next year, it has been worth my annual rereading. It is an extended reflection on the mystery of the Incarnation and of each person’s earthly journey.

Even now, Belloc (1870-1953) arouses strong opinions. Conventionally paired with his lifelong friend G. K. Chesterton, Belloc was the more combative and sour part of that creature Bernard Shaw called the Chesterbelloc. The two of them fought a rearguard action against the evils of the age with rhetorical skill. Belloc was the Catholic apologist without apology. Famous for declaring that “the Faith is Europe, and Europe is the Faith,” Belloc combined a keen historical sense with a sharp analytic mind. He was convinced that the Reformation had ruptured the continuity of Europe in general and of England in particular. In particular, the religious break, compounded with the dramatic changes brought about by industrialism, had separated Europeans from their full history. While some of his writing errs on the cantankerous side, at his best Belloc is a graceful and wide-hearted stylist.

The son of a French father and English mother, Belloc was educated at the famous Oratory, where when still a student he met the aged John Henry Cardinal Newman. After serving a tour in the French military (he was a French citizen), Belloc went on to Balliol College, Oxford, where he served as president of the Oxford Union. Angered at not receiving a prestigious appointment as a Fellow to All Souls College (which he attributed, not entirely incorrectly, to anti-Catholic bigotry), Belloc turned to writing and journalism, finding time also for standing a few years as a Liberal member of Parliament for Salford South. Among his more than 100 books and thousands of shorter pieces, he is perhaps best known for his travelogue, Path to Rome; his critique of capitalism,The Servile State; his sailing book The Cruise of the Nona; and his books of children’s poetry. He was also a biographer of note, writing — for example — lives of major figures of the Reformation.

Charles Taylor has written in his book A Secular Age that among its other effects, modernity has shattered the religious sense of time, which is not horizontal — one thing following another, but non-linear — connecting the sacred with the mundane, where the eternal can touch the temporal. Belloc’s Christmas essay is a throwback to this traditional Christian way of thinking. The essay recounts the traditions of Christmastide as observed in Belloc’s home in Sussex, King’s Land. The essay opens with Belloc declaring the problem and the purpose of the essay:

The world is splitting more and more into two camps, and what was common to the whole of it is being restricted to the Christian, and soon will be to the Catholic half.

What was “common” are the traditions and customs of the Christian world.

One cannot avoid those traditions in a house such as King’s Land, the older part of which “grew up gradually” over the past five centuries. When Belloc speaks of the great dining room table in his house, for example, he connects the centuries with the stuff of history, which are infused into this common object: The table

came out of one of the Oxford colleges when Puritans looted them three hundred years ago . . . . It passed from one family to another until at last it was purchased [in his youth and upon his marriage] by the man who now owns this house. . . . It was made, then, while Shakespeare was still living, and while the faith in England still hung in the balance.

History is not, in other words, something that is past. History is something we live with now. With the Incarnation, Christianity has infused history with a sacred meaning. Tradition binds us to our beginnings and enables us to weather the changes of fortune and the losses in human existence. Some might dismiss this kind of language as needlessly florid or triumphalist. As it happens, although discredited at the time, Belloc’s interpretation of the hold of Catholicism on England after the Reformation has been confirmed by historians such as Eamon Duffy. Belloc’s point here, however, is to remind us that every physical object can be charged with meaning and can remind us of the larger traditions of which we are a part.

After describing his house and the surroundings, Belloc details how he and his family celebrate Christmas and the full season through Epiphany, with an account of the old custom of opening doors and windows shortly before midnight New Year’s Eve to let out the old year and its troubles, and bring in the new one with hope. The language on occasion rises to the lyrical, and is in any event hard to summarize other than directly quoting large chunks of the essay. We read of the game-songs played by the village children, Midnight Mass being said in the house, the tree brought in with proper ceremony; in short, “everything conventional, and therefore satisfactory, is done.” And the power of Belloc’s language is such that, whatever your own Christmas traditions, they too begin to seem like his; that is, we can begin to see the commonality in the different ways of celebrating the birth of Jesus in the very physicality of existence, sacralized by this one Birth.

In the conclusion, Belloc summarizes the importance of these traditions in the life of his house, and their connections with the wider world. For these customs are not just for children, and not just for indulging in nostalgia; they form something larger altogether:

This house where such good things are done year by year has suffered all the things that every age has suffered. It has known the sudden separation of wife and husband, the sudden fall of young men under arms who will never more come home, the scattering of the living, and their precarious return, the increase and the loss of fortune, all those terrors and all those lessenings and haltings and failures of hope which make up the life of man. But its Christmas binds it to its own past and promises its future; making the house an undying thing of which those subject to mortality within it are members, sharing in its continuous survival.

That undying house, of course, is meant to remind us not only of the Church but of that other, more spacious House in whose rooms we are promised rest and in which our past and our future will be one. Best wishes for a blessed Christmas.

By Gerald J. Russello

Gerald J. Russello is a Fellow of the Chesterton Institute at Seton Hall University and editor of The University Bookman. He is also the editor of a forthcoming edition of Christopher Dawson’s Religion and Culture from Catholic University of America Press.

This article was originally printed on the Crisis magazine web site

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Event Postponed! Performance of 'The Mowing of a Field'...


Harry Verey and his Classical Guitar

An evening of entertainment including new music inspired by Hillaire Belloc’s 'The Mowing of a Field.'

After presenting his new work inspired by writer Hillaire Belloc, Harry continues the evening of entertainment with a wide-ranging selection from his repertoire of pieces for classical guitar.

Harry is from a long-established Island family. His mother was instrumental in setting up the Quay Arts Centre. He has recorded a series of very popular CDs and was a resident musician at the Spyglass Inn, Ventnor, for 12 years.

Tickets £10, to include tea/coffee and biscuits. Available from Dimbola or by calling 01983 756814.

Dimbola Museum & Galleries,
Terrace Lane,
Freshwater Bay,
Isle of Wight
PO40 9QE

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Chris Hare is folk singing in Shipley on Thursday...

Chris Hare addressing the Belloc Society in Sussex

One doesn't need an excuse to drive down to Sussex, but here is a good one anyway.

Despite the fact this is ridiculously short notice I'm going to mention that the Sussex folk-musician Chris Hare, and his delightful wife Ann, are singing in Shipley Village Hall this Thursday at 7.30pm. Chris tells me that he 'will doing all the traditional stuff including Belloc songs.' If you haven't heard Chris sing, not forgetting his better half, he's certainly worth a diversion to Shipley on Thursday evening.

The event is organised by the Shipley Local History Society.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

DAVID JONES – The Battle of Mametz Wood 1916...

Sketch drawing in pencil by David Jones inscribed ‘March 1916 / Front line trench on the La Bassée front’.

David Jones was a member of The Ditchling Community, which partially took its inspiration from the Distributist writings of Belloc and Chesterton. Father Vincent McNabb, famously berated them for not getting their hands dirty. He considered them to be too artistic and not agricultural enough.
On the 14th of November, at Ditchling Parish church, there will be an event to commemorate Jones along with a musical performance.

6pm concert in St Margaret’s Church, Ditchling
7.30pm-9.30pm drinks and talks at the museum
£22 inc. concert, talks at the museum (dedicated to the Ditchling Community) and drinks.

Opus Anglicanum’s narrator Zeb Soanes (BBC Radio 4) tells the story from Part 7 of David Jones’ In Parenthesis describing the battle in which he took part; the five singers perform music of Schubert, Palestrina, soldiers songs, and Cheryl Frances-Hoad In the crypt of the wood, inspired by David Jones’ drawing ‘Vexilla Regis’ in Kettles Yard and commissioned by Opus Anglicanum for this sequence.

After the concert the evening will continue at the museum with drinks and a chance to see our David Jones exhibition and hear talks by Ewan Clayton and Dr Hope Wolf.

 BOOKING: www.ditchlingmuseumartcraft.org.uk

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Belloc at the Westminster Catholic Federation - March 1909...



A large and influential meeting of the Westminster branch of the Catholic Federation was held in the Canon Hall on Wednesday evening. The Archbishop, who was to have presided, was prevented from being present by reason of the obsequies of Bishop Johnson, at which he presided at St. Edmund's, where the interment took place. His Grace was represented by Mgr. Howlett. He was supported on the platform by Mgr. Canon Moyes, Mgr. Grosch, Fathers Evans, M. Edwards, McKenna, Reany, and Prevost, Messrs. Hon. Charles Russell, Hilaire Belloc, M.P., Lister Drummond, Alderman Everitt, Dr. Counsell, R. S. Nolan, M. J. Fitzgerald, Guy Ellis, Dr. Finucane, W. Mara, and others. Alderman Everitt, J. P., proposed, Mgr. Grosch seconded, and Hon. Charles Russell and Mr. Hilaire Belloc supported a resolution, "That this meeting of the Westminster Cathedral Branch of the Catholic Federation calls upon all Catholics of the City of Westminster, irrespective of their political views, to unite in the Federation for the protection of Catholic interests." Mgr. Moyes proposed, Mr. Lister Drummond seconded, and Dr..Counsell supported the resolution pledging the meeting to "support the Bill now before Parliament for the removal of Roman Catholic disabilities, and the 'amendment of the Declaration made by the Sovereign on accession to the throne, and calls upon the Government to facilitate the passing of such Bill." The Westminster Boys' Brigade acted as stewards, and an interesting programme of music was provided.

From the Tablet - 3rd April 1909

More here on the Westminster Catholic Federation.