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, 7 July 2016

The next walk in Belloc's Sussex...

An invitation from the veteran Bellocian Chris Hare:

''How would you like to come on a walk to one of the most beautiful, remote and mystical points on the South Downs and then end our ramble with some songs in a real country pub?

I am hoping that your answer to these questions is a rousing 'yes'!

This is my plan: we meet in the car park of the Royal Oak pub at Hooksway north of Chichester at 4pm on Sunday 31st July.

From here we walk the two miles or so to the Devil's Jumps. And what, I hear you ask, are the Devil's Jumps? They are a series of Bronze Age burial mounds that are aligned to face the setting sun on the summer solstice. I say they are burial mounds, but actually only one of the mounds contains a burial, so the other mounds are probably ceremonial markers. This part of the Downs is steeped in folklore and literary associations. Hilaire Belloc, W.H.Hudson and Arthur Beckett all walked this way.

Although the walk is not long in distance it is steep in places, so please bear this in mind before taking part!

On our return to the pub car park we can sing songs, have a drink or two and even enjoy a meal. Dave at the Royal Oak is kindly opening just for us (they do not normally open on Sunday or Monday evenings).

If you have been to Hooksway and the Devil's Jumps before you will know how glorious the Downs are at this point. If it is your first visit you will be in for a treat I promise you! I will talk about the history and folklore at various points on the walk. The Rev. Nick Flint, Vicar of Rusper, who has written a book following in the footsteps of Hilaire Belloc will also be joining us.

If you would like to book a table and order a meal, please contact Dave at the Royal Oak. Their menu is on the pub website - www.royaloakhooksway.co.uk and you can call the pub on 01243 535257.

I would expect us to be back at the pub by 6/ 6.30pm. Some people may like to go home at this point or stay for convivial company - the choice is yours!

I do hope you can join us. Late afternoon/ early evening is the most atmospheric time to visit the Devil's Jumps. Keep an eye out for gamboling fairies!''

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Another Review for Jim Malia's book 'In Belloc's Steps'...

Grimsell Pass

Jim Malia read Hilaire Belloc's Path to Rome under the desk at school aged 16 and decided that one day he would follow Belloc's own pilgrimage of a century earlier. Unlike Belloc, who managed this feat in 29 days - including wheeled transport  when desperate - Malia took four years, starting in the year 2000, breaking off for a funeral back in Britain and then resuming in 2003. Anyone who has undertaken a similar project will recognise the blisters, the rain, the pleasure of good wine, the rigours of tent life and the relief of an occasional lift by car. Malia is an entertaining writer. He includes maps and details of welcoming hostelries along the way for those who want to emulate him.

Francis Phillips - Catholic Herald April the 8th 2016.

Monday, 18 April 2016

'An Audience With Belloc in Words, Song and Music' at his home Village of Shipley...

SUNDAY 1ST MAY 6.30pm Shipley Church RH13 8PH 

‘An Audience with Hilaire Belloc in Words, Song and Music’. 

The programme will include Shipley 2016 commission ‘Goodwood by the Sea,’ past Shipley Arts commission Cecilia McDowall’s ‘Great Hills,’ J.S.Bach Brandenburgh Concerto no.4, Stephanie Cant’s ‘Wedding Songs’ performed by the composer, and Belloc’s poems and readings recited by actor David Stephens in a theatrical interpretation directed by Ann Feloy.

The price is £18 but there are a limited number of discounted tickets. I may, also, be able to give a few people a lift from London. Please e-mail me to find out more:

On a personal note Ann Feloy writes:

''I have chosen poems and songs that reflect the diverse character of Belloc and his passions - from his love of the Sussex countryside and the sea to his witty verses and humorous 'folk' songs and his deep spirituality.

I collaborated with Andrew Bernardi, who himself is a virtuoso violinist and will be playing his Stradivarius during the evening, when choosing the musical pieces we felt reflected Belloc - Vaughan William, Elgar etc. 

We hope we have crafted a magical and unforgettable evening that will summon the spirit of Belloc.''

Thursday, 10 March 2016

"In Belloc's Steps" by Jim Malia...

Château de Joux in the Juras

Hilaire Belloc set off for Rome at the turn of the nineteenth century from the garrison town of Toul on the banks of the Moselle, determined to reach the Eternal City within one month, in time that is, for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. He succeeded and wrote up the experience in his beloved 'Path to Rome'. Jim Malia, a devoted literary disciple of Hilaire, followed in his master's steps from Toul to Rome and wrote up the experience in his recently published work: 'In Belloc's Steps'. Therein Jim describes in some detail the various towns, villages, mountain heights and valleys he passed through in the imagined company of his literary friend, over the Vosges, the Juras, the Alps, by the Lakes, across the Apennines to Rome. A major difference in the two books is that whereas Belloc took twenty nine days to complete the walk, Jim took four years - whereby hangs a tale.

Both pilgrims suffered severe setbacks on the walk. Driven back by Arctic blizzards, raging winds and whirling snow, Belloc was denied the Gries Pass. Forced off the direct line to Rome he made his way sullenly along the Furka Pass into Italy - 'as easy as going up Saint James's Street and down Picadilly'. Jim on the other hand conquered the Gries Pass in glorious sunshine and entered Italy triumphantly by the Formazza Valley. That however was as far as the Fates would allow. Misfortune followed misfortune climaxing in the freezing chill of the Apennines forcing Jim to take wheeled transport and to enter Rome like a common tourist.

The weather however favoured him. Whereas Belloc plodded in mud and rain Jim made his way along the mountain range in continuing sunshine, Viterbo, Siena, Piza, Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. It was not the cities or even the villages however that interested Jim so much as the people he met on his odyssey: the fisherman of Villey le Sec, the young reporter at Charmes, the pious people of Undervelier, the kindly innkeeper at Riale, the friendly villagers of Castagne, the delightful family of Viterbo.

Interesting, exciting even dangerous at times though his path to Rome had been, it was the last episode which provided a fitting climax: Jim's visit to La Celle Saint Cloud, the village church and the statue of Our Lady, one of such beauty, Hilaire remarked, that it had moved him to go on pilgrimage to Rome and see all Europe which the Christian faith had saved. Which he did.

"In Belloc's Steps" by Jim Malia. Obtainable at:

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