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, 31 August 2011

Land and Water - August 29th, 1914

Belloc was invited to the paper by Jim Allison, then advertisement manager of The Times, who initiated it. Belloc made numerous trips to the Western Front on behalf of the paper, and also collected information from well-placed friends in the ranks of the Army. The journal gained quick popularity and within a short time of being launched its circulation passed the hundred thousand mark.

Belloc, always a forthright and bellicose writer, excelled in warlike editorials and stirring articles. He had always had considerable dislike for the Germans, going back to his French antecedents and to having served in the French Army at the time when French bitterness over the loss of Alsace-Lorraine was at its peak. During the war, this was very much in tune with prevailing British attitudes. In various articles Belloc characterised the war being fought as a duel between "Pagan Barbarism" and "Christian Civilization", ignoring the fact that the opposite side was quite as Christian as Britain and France and that numerous fellow-Catholics were fighting on the opposite side, especially from thoroughly Catholic Austria.

The journal was charged with highly inflated estimates of enemy casualties, and Belloc's over-optimistic estimates of when the war would end with an Allied victory were several times proved premature - which did not harm its popularity.

During the war the magazine also employed Arthur Pollen as writer on naval issues.
After the end of the war, the journal continued covering world events, such as the Treaty of Versailles and the Russian Civil War, where Belloc strongly supported an intervention to crush the Bolsheviks. However, in 1920 it ceased publication.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Worthing Downlanders' 'Belloc Supper' - Chris Hare writes...


Worthing Downlanders (www.worthingdownlanders.org.uk) held a very successful 'Belloc Supper' on Wednesday, 27th July (Belloc's birthday), at which there were Bellocian readings - both prose and poetry - and the singing of Belloc's songs. About 40 members attended and the evening was judged a great success. I was particularly pleased that several younger people joined us (in this context 'young' being under 35), which was very encouraging. The event was held at the Beechwood Hotel at Worthing, and many people expressed the view that it should become an annual event.


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The Hilaire Belloc Blog makes it into the press...

Local Source
From the Mail
A View From England

Wanderer reader from England recently tipped off From the Mail to a wonderful new web site devoted to Hilaire Belloc, which, for the first time so far as FTM knows, provides direct links to just about everything Belloc ever wrote as well as to commentaries on Belloc’s work. Readers can see it here: http://thehilairebellocblog .blogspot.com/.

asked this longtime foreign friend what he thought of the riots sweeping England, and he replied: “ Riots reinforce our cry for ‘ Parents as the primary educators and protectors of our chil­dren’!”

This longtime Catholic activist added: “I think almost every one of our government ministers is divorced, living in sin, or ‘ gay’…. So much for supporting the family.”

The Defect Of Tyranny Within Us

Among Belloc’s writings that
FTM had never seen before, which appears on this new Belloc blog, is an essay he wrote for the Cath­olic Truth Society in March 1918 titled, “ Religion and Civil So­ciety.”

Belloc was responding to an article published a month earlier by England’s leading atheist, Mrs. Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, called “ Christianity Versus Liberty,” in which she advocated ( suc­cessfully) for the repeal of a British law which prohibited the Ra­tionalist Press Association from inheriting money from wills and trusts, because it propagandized against Christian doctrines.

In this brilliant essay — which every U. S. Catholic should read this political season when so much of what our government does is under review — Belloc tells us what the purpose of a state is: “The authorities of the community exist for the purpose of main­taining the community, that is, of maintaining 1) its material ex­istence, and 2) the character or tradition which makes it what it is. This end to their action gives those actions all their validity. You could not have a community in which civil authorities did not exercise power of restraint over the members thereof. In the absence of such, the mere material framework of the community would fall to pieces, and it is an implied injunction upon the au­thorities which civilly govern the community that they should pre­serve not only its material structure, but its character or soul. In proportion as this end is perfectly attained we speak of the com­munity as politically free, although the restraints to which mem­bers therein are put by the common authority may be very severe. “ For instance, in time of war, when the community is threat­ened with foreign conquest, the authorities may compel the full service of any man, including the sacrifice of life itself, in the defense of the state; yet the man so conscripted is politically free, and the state to which he belongs is essentially a free state.

“If such orders came from a foreigner, compelling a man to such sacrifices for a community that was not his own, then that man would be unfree, and the community thus subjected to alien au­thority would be unfree also. But this ‘ Political Liberty,’ the most necessary form of liberty, is only a condition of the narrower thing which we call especially ‘Civil Liberty.’ A community must be free from alien government for its citizens to be free at all, and must have the right to preserve its own character by the extrusion of practices which it feels fatal to that character. . . .

“ In practice the area of such ‘ civil liberty’ in a healthy and prac­tically free state, the proportion of acts which the individual or the corporation may perform at will, without restriction by the state, is always very large. It always includes by far the greater part of one’s daily activities, at any rate of normal times; and we regard the extension of this ‘ civil liberty,’ quite apart from national or political liberty, as a good; we jealously watch encroachments upon it as dangerous, that is, as liable to produce great evil, for four reasons: “ First, we know by our reason that the state is not an end in itself, but only exists for the happiness of its members — real bodies and souls — that make it up. Therefore each must have the power of testifying to the success or failure of state measures toward that end, and of himself furthering it.

“ Secondly, we discover by experiment and from the example of history how necessary to the health of the state as a whole, how necessary to its vigorous common life, is this power of reaction to it.

“ Thirdly, we know that there is in human nature a defect of tyr­anny — the love of ‘ running other people,’ of seeing them obey you. Therefore, the human agent of civil authority must be sub­ject himself to restriction and limits as of appointment or custom. “ Lastly, one of the attributes of a conscious individual being is the desire and instinct, or what might be called ( without too much exaggeration), the sheer necessity for self- expression. An undue restriction exasperates this instinct and forbids satisfaction of this desire. In so much it warps and weakens and inflames the individ­ual, makes him unhappy and defeats the end for which the state exists, which is the happiness of its members.

“ Now civil liberty being of this nature, and being by common consent a good, and any unnecessary loss of it an evil, it will at once be granted that the imposition of a special form of thought or philosophic express upon the mass of free men against their will, is a restriction of the gravest kind. In common (and true) language, it is tyranny.”

In other words, Belloc prophesized against the then coming “dic­tatorship of relativism” that penalizes Christian thought and ac­tion, and wars against both personal and civil liberty.

What’s In Your Beer?

Fans of Belloc will also find on this new blog all of his inter­ventions in Parliament, where he served as a Liberal member from Salford from 1906 to 1910, as recorded by Hansard, Britain’s equivalent of the Congressional Record.

In 1906, Belloc stood in support of the Pure Beer Bill, intro­duced by Sir George Courthope of Sussex, after a number of his constituents died from arsenic- laced beer.

The entire debate is utterly fascinating, pitting as it did the ad­vocates of “ healthy” beer made of barley malt, hops, water, and yeast — really a “ whole food” — and “ chemical” beer made of sugar, arsenic, and whatever else the industrial beer manufactur­ers wanted to put into it.

In pushing his bill, Sir Courthope argued that chemical beer was not only increasing drunkenness, but was also a major cause of disease and ill health.

In support of this Pure Beer Bill, Belloc argued, according to Hansard’s account, “ that in the constituency which he represented a number of people had died from drinking impure beer. What was still more important, for electoral purposes, a great number survived. So far as his memory served, something like this hap­pened. When the friends of those who died from arsenical poison­ing brought an action, the brewer said, ‘ I am innocent. I used glu­cose.’ They then brought an action against the glucose manufac­turer. He said, ‘ I am innocent. I used pure sulphuric acid.’ The sulphuric acid manufacturer said that there was ‘ no more than the usual proportion of arsenic.’ “ Unfortunately there was, and by the use of these three differ­ent ( or identical) substances used in the making of beer a large number of people suffered acute agony. He stood there for those people. Those who listened to the debate on the address would know that they had all been returned for a large number of dif­ferent reasons, but among the other questions was the question of
pure beer. He wanted to insist upon the fact that they were a rep­resentative as well as a deliberative body, and there was not the slightest doubt that if they put this bill to the votes of the people they would get an overwhelming majority in its favor. They were told that the populace did not understand the deep chemical mys­teries by which the preparation of beer was ruled. The financial secretary to the Treasury had said with some force that it was im­possible to tell the difference between beer brewed from malt and hops and beer brewed in other fashions.”

What’s in your beer? Maybe that question should be part of the public debate.

Nothing Less Than An Attack Upon The Church

Another Belloc essay
FTM was not aware of posted on the Belloc blog is a March 1910 Catholic Truth Society publication: “ The Ferrer Case.”

Francisco Ferrer was a Spanish anarchist who went from hum­ble beginnings to a top position in international Freemasony, ac­cumulating extreme wealth along the way and developing contacts among all the wealthiest Church- haters in major European cities. Among Ferrer’s special interests was publishing children’s school­books for use in government schools. While Ferrer was in London in June 1909, his handlers suddenly called him back to his home city of Barcelona to foment riots against the Spanish government’s unpopular military action in north Africa — riots which he direct­ed against the Church in a precursor to the Spanish Civil War of 1936. After that, Ferrer was arrested, tried, and executed.

Who could read this section and not think about how “ conspira­cies” against the Church really do work? Belloc opened: “ The readers of the following lines may remember the excite­ment in the month of October of the year 1909, an explosion of excitement and anger took place simultaneously in a certain num­ber of great towns with regard to the execution of a Spanish crim­inal of the name of Francisco Ferrer.

“ This man’s name had been hitherto unfamiliar to all but a nar­row circle of people, who were interested in his educational work and in his remarkable personality. He was very well known in the town of Barcelona, near which he had been born, in the suburbs of which he resided, and which latterly had been the scene of his political efforts. But he was not in any sense a public figure in Europe, nor were the public in general acquainted with his name.

“ Of a sudden, within two days, that name was talked and shout­ed about in Paris, in London, in Rome, and one or two other great cities where secret organization can be prompt and thorough in ac­tion; and it filled public attention to the exclusion of every other subject. In Pisa an attempt was made to burn down the cathedral. In London a hostile demonstration was made outside the cathedral of Westminster; in Paris a large mob was gathered, great injury was done to municipal and private property, many policemen were wounded, and one was killed. . . .

“ Now that we can look back upon that strange episode, we see it marked by certain characters which every man of independent judgment and common sense, no matter what his philosophical or religious opinion, must recognize.

“ In the first place it was organized; it was not spontaneous. It is self- evident that a spontaneous explosion of sympathy with an un­known person cannot take place. It is further self- evident that a spontaneous explosion does not take place in five or six widely sep­arated centers at the same moment. That the movement was orga­nized artificially is further proved by the fact that it was put an end to as secretly, as suddenly, and as abruptly as it was aroused. The moment the facts began to leak out, the moment the truth about Ferrer’s life became known, the same power which had spoken in Rome, in Paris, and in London discovered the topic to be uninter­esting and dropped it. . . .

“ Now, not only did this incident bear the plain character of or­ganization, and of secret organization: It bore a character which very often accompanies phenomena of that sort in Europe — to wit, that its whole energy and meaning were an attack upon the Catholic Church. The cry in favor of the condemned criminal was identically the same as the cry against the faith. No one joined in it save from hatred of the Catholic Church, or under orders from, or duped by those, who hate and would destroy the Catholic Church. Conversely, no Catholic, not even those isolated and ill­informed Catholics who in Protestant countries are so easily de­ceived by the falsehoods ’ round them, joined in that demonstra­tion.

“It was nothing more nor less in its inception, character, and mean­ing than an attack upon the Church. The weapon used was a fa­miliar one. First, the assertion that a great injustice had been done — and that presented in a light which made the deed seem inhu­manly wicked; next it was suggested or asserted that the authors of this monstrous iniquity were the priests of the Catholic Church. In precisely the same manner are the events of the past of Europe presented by those who hate Jesus Christ and the Institution He founded. The mark of persecution — and especially of persecu­tion by falsehood — was stamped upon the whole business.”

After detailing Ferrer’s rise from poverty to wealth, and his aban­donment of his family which he left in dire poverty for a succes­sion of mistresses, Belloc turned to Ferrer’s abrupt return to Spain while in England, and his activities there: “ Official buildings were spared and the persons connected with the unpopular government and its action were not attacked. Though the movement was nominally proletarian, neither the goods of the capitalist class nor their palaces, which are many and sumptuous in Barcelona, suffered. The whole movement was canalized against the Church, which had nothing to do with the African Expedition nor with any part of the quarrel! The poorest parish churches as well as the greatest and wealthiest of the monastic foundations were sacked and burnt, and the movement was organized with as much method as might be the movement of an army.

“Picked men went from place to place conveying the instructions of the hidden organizers; petroleum and firearms were always found ready for these attacks upon the clergy and the churches. The only efforts made against the military were made with the object of pre­venting them from defending the churches, the nuns, and the priests. In a word, the rising which had begun as a vague, sponta­neous, and general protest against the military expedition, against unpopular officialdom, and against the capitalism which was sup­posed to inspire it, was directed, when once organization and meth­od appeared, not against army, officials, or capitalists, but solely against the Church, upon the lines with which Ferrer’s name was locally chiefly connected, and in the interests of that section of opinion of which he was locally the acknowledged head.”

Reading this leads one to think how easily public opinion can be directed against the Church, does it not?

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Pope St Pius X and Hilaire Belloc

It is often remarked that when Pope St Pius X died shortly after the outbreak of the First World War it was from a broken heart.  This should not be surprising: a Pope who had fought continuously, with tremendous energy and courage, to “restore all things in Christ” during his eleven year Papacy found himself confronted in his last days by a war whose eventual quasi-apocalyptic qualities were already adumbrated at its onset by the ferocity of the German onslaught: “all things were to be destroyed in Man”.

Just a few months before he died, and before the War began, the saintly Pope was visited by a man who likewise saw that the world, always a battleground between God and Satan, between the Church and the non-Catholic powers of the day, was balanced upon a knife-edge.  And indeed, the man concerned, Hilaire Belloc, was himself also in his personal life standing upon a very precipice of desperate unhappiness.  On February 2nd 1914, the feast of the Purification, Elodie, his American wife of nearly 18 years, had died.  In the immediate aftermath of that death, Belloc later claimed that he had only been kept from utter despair by the ministrations of the remarkable Dominican, Father Vincent McNabb.  In his barely mitigated misery, he had then decided to set off for the Eternal City, a city Elodie had loved but which they had never visited together.  Belloc’s state of mind was still critical: as he wrote the month of his journey to Rome to a close friend, John Phillimore – “I am in peril of my intelligence and perhaps of my conduct and therefore of my soul.  I am like a man shot in the stomach and through the spine.”

In Rome Belloc managed to obtain an audience with the Holy Father.  It was not his first with that Pope.  Some years earlier, in April 1906, he had been sent on behalf of the English episcopacy to explain to the Vatican the difficult situation that then obtained in his country with regard to Catholic education.  At that time Belloc had just become a Liberal Member of Parliament and was directly engaged in visibly opposing his own Party in the matter of the provision of confessional education.  The Pope then, very interested as he was in attempts by secular powers across Europe to reduce or neutralize the influence of the Church, was keen to hear of how secularization in education was being pushed in England: and Belloc was seen as the man who better than anyone else could explain the nature of this political combat.  The audience in 1914 was obviously of a very different sort.  It was brief, if also – to use Belloc’s word – “splendid”.  The Holy Father blessed several medals for the Belloc children.  Belloc later remarked, perhaps surprisingly, that “the Pope is looking older but less unhappy than when I saw him eight years ago”.  This audience seems to have represented something of a turning point in Belloc’s psychological – indeed spiritual – recovery.  He always carried the sadness of Elodie’s death with him, and the outward signs of his permanent mourning were always there clearly to see.  But he was no longer faced by the black gulf of incomprehension that had threatened to swallow him up.

Belloc always set great store on the corporate, visible nature of the Church, and on Her Visible Head on Earth.   Belloc revered Pope St Pius X’s predecessor, Pope Leo XIII, as “the greatest Pope since the Reformation”, and was always keen to meet future Popes in person: which he managed with regard to Popes Benedict XIV, Pius XI and Pius XII, as well as Pope St Pius X.  Meeting the Vicar of Christ was ever a great consolation and inspiration for Belloc, who in his constant struggle against his natural spirit of pagan scepticism required some tangible sight and presence to sustain the Act of Will which, under God, preserved his Faith.

It is unsurprising that the Pope’s death a few months later came as a shock to Belloc as indeed it did to the whole Catholic world.  Some short time after that death, Belloc wrote an article on the Pope for “The British Review” (it was reprinted in “The Tablet” in 1951, from whence I have it).  In it, after lamenting the general failure amongst non-Catholics in England to see the Pope’s demise as the significant political event it indeed was, he assesses the comparatively short reign of St Pius X.  Two things he considered of most vital importance: one was the Pope’s refusal to cede the rights of the Church in France to the French government, which led to the confiscation of French ecclesiastical property by the secular authorities - and the other was the Pope’s combat against modernism.  One represented the Church’s fight against the enemy without, against the political forces generated since 1789 in support of “the Rights of Man” and in defiance of the Rights of God.  The second represented the Church’s fight against the enemy within, against a spiritual malaise, born of the intellectual anarchy of the Reformation, weaned by the Enlightenment, and brought to its coming of age by the Revolution.  One was a fight for the Church’s practical powers and privileges, for her temporal survival: the other was a fight for the very Truth which animated Her.

Of these two struggles, Belloc thought the former was of greater moment.  There were a number of reasons for this, principal amongst which was Belloc’s underestimate of the guile, contagiousness and serpentine durability of that heresy of heresies, Modernism.   But this particular point we shall touch upon when we come to consider Belloc and Modernism.  Another reason why Belloc considered the political battle in which the Church was engaged to be of principal importance was no doubt connected with the manner in which he would downplay his own private, personal Faith.  He was, by his own admission, one with which all who knew him would happily have concurred, an instinctive, natural sceptic.  His belief in the Church found strongest expression in his belief in Her as a force, a personality, an institution acting upon history and upon men.  His life was spent in the service of the hierarchical, civilizing Church.  The political and cultural attachments of the Church he was in many respects more cognizant of and sensitive to than Her theology or mysticism.  The affair in France struck him as a symptom of the eternal conflict between the Church and the World, and the Pope’s solution to it struck him as a sign of the Church’s eternal strength - in its willingness to sacrifice wealth, worldly, temporal success, respectability and good standing for the Immutable Principles of Her own Divine Constitution.

In short, the situation in France was this (to quote Belloc):  “From a series of historical accidents…, certain of the strongest political emotions in the French people, half their memories of the struggle for national independence, and nearly all their passionate attachment to a democratic form of government had become associated with a quarrel between Church and State; with a quarrel, that is, between the Democratic State and the hierarchic organization of the Catholic Church….In such a circumstance, all that are the organized enemies of the Church, the wealthy Huguenot and the ubiquitous Freemason, the Jewish newspaper owner and financier, combined in a strict alliance and delivered their assault upon the Catholic position…. [The enemy] held out to the Church what was morally the property of the Church as a bribe.  If the Church would accept a form of administration in this property which was not Catholic at all but presbyterian, then the property should be set free, and the Church should have the material means whereby to live.  If she would not so put on her enemies’ uniform, her resources should be taken from her and she would die.”

The Pope remained steadfast before this bribe.  “He resolutely refused anything whatsoever save the full and exact admission of the Church’s rights, and since these were denied he sacrificed against much strong advice from good and devout men, and against all the results of immediate calculation, the bread and meat of the Church in Gaul.”  Belloc considered this action to be as prophetic as it was symbolic.  And to consider today how lightly our current Holy Father seems to lay down the Rights of God and the Church before the Rights of Man!

In singling out as also vital Pope St Pius X’s struggle against Modernism, Belloc was not quite so foresighted.  For Belloc thought, when he penned this article late in 1914, that the Pope had killed Modernism.  Belloc, hard-headed, not given to vague thinking or mystical feeling, or that duplicitous hybrid of the two that wormed its way even into the hearts and minds of good and devout men both during the Pope’s reign and thereafter, could not believe that Modernism had any real strength.  This did not lead him to underestimate the importance of the Pope’s decisive actions against it – but it led him to conclude that such actions had been entirely successful.  He believed that the Pope had killed it, not through brutality or persecution, as others – oversensitive types, largely - might have seen it, but rather through the simple re-statement of Thomistic truths and the clear expression of Catholic Truth.  “[In the Pope’s actions] there was an absence of what friends call breadth and enemies compromise and an absence of what men call subtlety save, indeed, the subtlety that always accompanies clear thinking and whose sharpest manifestation is irony.  This irony was abundantly present in the rejection and swift destruction of the weak-headed modernist folly.”

He thought that Modernism was no more than a muddle-headed stupidity, of the sort that seems to recur in Man from time to time.  Perhaps he under-estimated the virulence of Modernism because he had no time himself for speculative theology.  He saw Modernism simply as an inane attempt to reconcile opposites: “it had its roots…. in the unreasoning speculations of Protestant Germany, and it was stamped throughout with that which the plain man will always call “sentiment” – that is, the desire to have your cake and eat it too.”  (Belloc was wary of sentiment. He would not allow it to muddle his thinking when it came to the Faith. ) He failed to see that coiled at Modernism’s heart, ordering its admittedly often contradictory principles, there was a cunning that spoke with forked tongue and which lay behind all Sin and Error.  The “weak-headed modernist folly” was in fact far too canny, evil and dangerous to die so easily.

The Pope’s great attack on modernism, an intensification of the combat undertaken by his predecessors, began of course with the encyclical “Pascendi” in October 1907.  Belloc was delighted with this attack, even if he felt that Modernism had “only a local and restricted influence”.  In a letter written very shortly after “Pascendi” was issued he rejoiced: “have you seen the Pope’s gentle remarks to the Modernists?  They are indeed noble!  I could not have done it better myself.  He gently hints that they cannot think - which is true.  The old Heretics had guts, notably Calvin, and could think like the Devil, who inspired them.  But the Modernists are inspired by a little minor he-devil with one eye and a stammer, and the result is poor.” 

Even 15 years later, in his book “Survivals and New Arrivals” in which Belloc clearly prophesied the neo-pagan assault of unReason and immorality – indeed perversion – upon civilization and upon the Church, he still thought that “Modernism in the technical sense of the word is pretty well dead”.   Belloc was notably over-optimistic on this point (in contrast to how his views are usually portrayed!), as indeed he was concerning the Fate of the Church in the late Twentieth Century.  In that same book he considers as less likely Maritain’s then current conviction that the Church would shrink to become a small but intense remnant standing apart in an increasing flood of Paganism as unrealistic than his own belief that the Church would continue to grow from strength to strength – as it was indeed so growing when he wrote “Survivals and New Arrivals”. Belloc was convinced that people outside the Church would increasingly see Her for what She really was: the sole effective defender of the common sense and common morality of Man and of Reason.  He thought the assault of neo-Paganism and the solvent influence of “the Modern Mind” would both break upon the impenetrable bulwarks of the Church.  He never dreamt that a Pope, and many bishops in the Church with him, would let them in the through the windows of a reckless and foolhardy “aggiornamento”

While Belloc maintained his opinion of Leo XII as the greatest Pope since the Reformation there can be little doubt he considered Pope St Pius X to be the holiest.  Already in this article of 1914 he refers to the “actions of the Saint” as prophetic.  He speaks of him as “a man inspired by sanctity”.  And Belloc saw as the note of his holiness simplicity.  This simplicity, the hallmark of Pope St Pius X’s reign “stood composed of a few very clear principles like a carefully constructed classical thing of cut stone standing against a flood.  For as the note of that reign was simplicity of principle rigidly applied, so the note of the society which it had to meet and subtly to dominate was one of very rapid and anarchic change.”

Belloc may have got it wrong about Modernism – but he truly appreciated the greatness of the Pope who had dedicated his life to the struggle against it, and to the combat for the Rights of the Church in an increasingly anti-Christian age.   No prophet can be expected to see all eventualities – and how many good Catholics could have dreamt of the horrors that Vatican II has brought in its wake?

Mike Hennessy
Hilaire Belloc and Pope St Pius X

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Hilaire Belloc set to Opera

Published in 1907, and never out of print since, Belloc’s Cautionary Tales Designed for the Admonition of Children between the Ages of Eight and Fourteen Years, to give its full title, has inspired composers from Peter Warlock to Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd. Now Errollyn Wallen has crafted a selection of the stories into a dramatic cantata delivered by a stern quartet of scary schoolmasters...

Courtesy of Opera North...

Cautionary Tales

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Hilaire Belloc MP and the Pure Beer Bill


HC Deb 16 March 1906 vol 153 cc1541-83
Order for Second Reading read.

MR. BELLOC (Salford, S.)
in supporting the Bill, stated that in the constituency which he represented a number of people had died from drinking impure beer. What was still more important, for electoral purposes, a great number survived. So far as his memory served, something like this happened. When the friends of those who died from arsenical poisoning brought an action, the brewer said, "I am innocent. I used glucose." They then brought an action againt the glucose manufacturer. He said, "I am innocent. I used pure sulphuric acid." The sulphuric acid manufacturer said that there was "no more than the usual proportion of arsenic." Unfortunately there was, and by the use of these three different (or identical) substances used in the making of beer a large number of people suffered acute agony. He stood there for those people. Those who listened to the debate on the Address would know that they had all been returned for a large number of different reasons, but among the other questions was the question of pure beer. He wanted to insist upon the fact that they were a representative as well as a deliberative body, and there was not the slightest doubt that if they put this Bill to the votes of the people they would get an overwhelming majority in its favour. They were told that the populace did not understand the deep chemical mysteries by which the preparation of beer was ruled. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury had said with some force that it was impossible to tell the difference between beer brewed from malt and hops and beer brewed in other fashions. So far from that being the case, the hon. Member for Newport stated that he had been at some pains to obtain very good English beer by special contract. The hon. Member asked whether there was anyone else in the same circumstances. There was himself. He went to the town of Arundel, and he asked at the brewery whose honest and familiar smell he had known from childhood, "Can I have English beer made out of English malt and hops?" They said, "You can. It is a little more trouble, and you will have to pay a little more for it, but others are asking for it." Consequently he had it. It was not a question of chemical analysis. That would not tell them the difference between good beer and bad any more than mathematics would tell them the difference between a good picture and a bad. There were very few days when he could not say before he went to bed that he had drunk two pints of beer. Whether he drank beer made out of the elements of which beer had been made for hundreds of years or beer made out of chemical substitutes, made all the difference in the world to his health. No scientist in the world would persuade him out of his personal conclusions, as for instance, his religion, his taste in art, or his palate. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury had said that the Treasury could not enforce the Bill, that they would think it unwise in the interests of public economy to enforce it. The Treasury, he should have thought, existed for the people of England.
Hilaire Belloc "Latin Tea" Stein 

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Hilaire Belloc and Pink Floyd


Matilda Mother

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Matilda Mother"
Song by Pink Floyd from the album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Released5 August 1967
RecordedFebruary 1967
GenrePsychedelic rock
LabelColumbia/EMI (UK) Capitol (US)
WriterSyd Barrett
ProducerNorman Smith
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn track listing
Lucifer Sam
"Matilda Mother"
"Matilda Mother" is a song by British psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd, and is featured on their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967).[1][2] Written by Syd Barrett, the song is sung mostly by Richard Wright with Barrett joining in on choruses and singing the whole last verse.



The lyrics quote fragments of fairy tales as read from a book to the singer by his mother ("read(ing) the scribbly black", referring to writing in a book as a child sees it), and in the chorus he implores her to "tell me more". The song also laments the loss of childhood, indicating these narrations are being recalled years later, and notes that "the words had different meaning", suggesting the child may have misinterpreted the stories at the time.[original research?]
The song begins with an unusual bass and organ interlude. Roger Waters repeatedly plays the B on the 16th fret of the G-string by varying the lower note from D to F sharp on the D string. Unlike many older beat and pop songs, the guitar rarely plays chords, and most unusually for Western music, Richard Wright provides an organ solo in the F# Phrygian dominant scale with a natural sixth instead of its typical flatted counterpart. The song ends with a simple E mixolydian-based waltz with wordless vocal harmonies of Richard Wright and Syd Barrett.
Barrett originally wrote the song around verses from Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales, in which a series of naughty children, including Matilda, receive their (often gruesome) comeuppance. He was forced to rewrite and re-record the track when Belloc's estate unexpectedly denied permission to use these lyrics.[3]
On the Masters of Rock compilation album, the song was misspelled "Mathilda Mother".


Alternative versions

A previously unheard rendition has been released in a 40th anniversary reissue of Piper at the Gates of Dawn; parts of this version's lyrics are also from Belloc's Cautionary Tales, i.e. Jim and Henry King, whereas the chorus is the same as in the standard version.


  1. ^ Strong, Martin C. (2004). The Great Rock Discography (7th ed.). Edinburgh: Canongate Books. p. 1177. ISBN 1-84195-551-5.
  2. ^ Mabbett, Andy (1995). The Complete Guide to the Music of Pink Floyd. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-4301-X.
  3. ^ "Syd's Fractured Fairy Tales". http://sparebricks.fika.org/sbzine16/books.html. Retrieved 2008-03-18.

“….So again good night – if I could follow the night round her long whirl around the bend of the earth – at last I should come to you….” – Hilaire Belloc to Elodie Hogan, August 6, 1890.

Two young sweethearts, at the turn of the nineteenth century, separated by immense distance (and having no internet or telephone to unite them), kindled their romance by love letters and long journeys.

American Elodie Hogan, age 22, met Hilaire Belloc, two years her junior, in London while touring Europe with her mother and elder sister in the summer of 1890. They were introduced there, at the Belloc family home, by mutual friends. By August, though already in love, Elodie was on her way back to her home in California. The couple began exchanging letters, and it was not long before Hilaire began a journey across ocean and continent to be with her again. Short of funds for such a trip, he travelled across the United States by train, paying his way at times by offering sketches in exchange for room and board.

Family objections and practical considerations kept the two from marrying immediately, but although Hilaire returned to Europe, they wrote to one another throughout the intervening years. He returned to California in 1896 and the couple wed in June. The Bellocs had five children -three sons and two daughters. In 1913 Elodie became ill with what was probably cancer, and she died at the family home, King’s Land, in 1914. When she died, Hilaire, heartbroken, closed the door to her room and it was never again opened in his lifetime.

The correspondence of Elodie and Hilaire Belloc is part of the Elodie Belloc Correspondence collection (MS2007-005), one of several Belloc family collections at the John J. Burns Library.
Items are from between 09 Feb 2011 & 10 Feb 2011.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Morris Dance Garden Party - Shipley (Belloc's local)

On Wednesday 10th August, The Countryman Inn [formerly the Blacksmiths Arms - circa 1790], Shipley will be holding their Morris Dance Garden Party. The BBQ will be in the country pub garden from 6.30pm with the singing and dancing of the Sompting Village Morris starting at 8pm.

Full BBQ tickets are just £10, so call us on 01403 741383 to book your place now. In addition to the Morris dancing, Skittles and Giant Connect 4 will be available in the garden all afternoon to add to the fun!
Sompting Village Morris
Sompting Village Morris
Our normal, full restaurant and bar menu will also be available all evening so if you’re not a BBQ fan, you can still order your favourite meals including Vegetarian, Pub Grub and Desserts.
To book a table for the evening, visit our online booking page or call us on 01403 741383 now, we look forward to seeing you at The Countryman Shipley, near Horsham, on Wednesday 10th August.

Belloc as Catholic Historian

Hilaire Belloc

If Belloc most wanted to be remembered for his serious verse – although he thought its quality too slight to merit the devoted attention of posterity (a judgement from which I, for one, demur) – he is perhaps best known today as the author of the humorous “Cautionary Verses for Children”, and for his historical works.  Although he was a historian by training, having read what even then was dubiously referred to as Modern History at Balliol College, Oxford (in between bouts of orating, throwing port, belittling unbelievers, singing, presiding over the Union and walking here and there at tremendous pace with a bottle of wine in one pocket and chunks of bread and cheese in the other), he often felt more duty than pleasure in writing his numerous histories.  Certainly, his very first historical works, on the French revolutionaries Danton and Robespierre, were written with a good degree of enjoyment, but as he went on, often reluctantly, to write more and more histories and biographical studies (mostly of characters from English history during or immediately after the Reformation) he was motivated less by pleasure and more by the desire he felt, the need he realised, to rectify the distortion of official Protestant Whig history in this country and to present to the people at large a history that was real, true (as much as a historian can make it) and proportionate.  On occasion, this writing of history became to him a drudgery, a weary trudging over territory already over-familiar to the writer (and perhaps to the reader!): at times, only encouragement from those who knew the importance of Belloc’s task – such as the great Father Vincent McNabb – made him press on with the task.  This was especially the case once his enemies, often the enemies of Catholic Truth, decided to attack him and his writings with remarkable vehemence.

Of course, to Belloc, being described as a Catholic historian would have seemed something of a tautology.  In an eminently lucid article he wrote in the 1930s (“The Historian”, collected in “One Thing and Another”) he begins a long exposition of the nature of the historian by defining the creature in question as one “who tells a true story in writing”.  This is something of a disappointingly basic definition, on one level.  But as Belloc explains each of the key terms in this clause it becomes clear that he means something very particular indeed.  After setting out that a historian can either write for those who share his world-view or for those who do not, that essential to true history is proportion and factual establishment, he adds: “without a true philosophy – that is a true religion – true history cannot be written”.  And this is the nub of it.  Belloc would admit that non-Catholics could write good history, but it was either accidentally good, that is good despite their own views, or it was history of a period when the “Catholic dilemma” (to revile it, laud it, or treat it – as Belloc did – as it deserved to be treated in its historical context) did not apply.  For Belloc, the end of history was “the establishment of the Truth”.  As this Truth was essentially connected to matters of Theology and to the central fact of the Incarnation, history that failed to recognise the presence of Christ in the world (a presence for Belloc particularly visible in His Mystical Body, the Catholic Church) was false history.  Better that a man should revile it but recognise it than not see it at all or pretend its non-existence.  

Given this signal fact, it is perhaps unsurprising that lazy and sceptical moderns have a very low opinion of Belloc as an historian.  However, it is necessary to say that while suspicion of his Catholic sympathies underlies this low opinion, there is more to it than that. There can of course be no doubt that Belloc had the intellectual apparatus to write what even moderns would currently accept as competent and accurate history.  A first class Honours degree from Oxford University was not given for oratorical abilities or prose skills alone. And there can be no doubt that Belloc was one of the greatest animators of the historical past in the English language. Belloc knew that in the accurate invocation of the past lay as much Truth as in his analysis (his ability to summon up the past belies to some extent the sceptic in him, in the same way that his frequent tears during the last line of the “O Salutaris Hostia” belie his claim to be incapable of religious feeling). Certainly he was the greatest of the animators of the past to escape the ludicrous Whiggisms that so beset Macaulay’s majestically evocative prose.  Macaulay could write beautifully - but Belloc could write just as well, and most historians, even modern ones, would have to concede that Belloc was in general terms more accurate.

The truth is that historians are wary of Belloc.  Many easily disparage him; a good number airily admit his talents but would not admit him to the reading list for their students; few will risk praise. Guedella, a near-contemporary historian of good standing even today, sought Belloc’s advice and research skills on occasion: and Norman Stone (Margaret Thatcher’s favourite historian, some have mischievously claimed) said in a comparatively recent newspaper interview that “in the end, I shall go to Trevelyan’s enemies, Hilaire Belloc and Lord Acton, both Catholics, for an understanding of modern England.”.  No doubt, on a purely academic level even his greatest advocates would advise some caution (which says something about the desiccated nature of academic history).  On a personal note, as I was about to depart for Oxford to read Modern History (sadly not at Balliol - although it was a lesser place in my time) I was warned off Belloc by one tutor, only to find his books on the reading list of another (a rarity!).  “Read him first” I was told by this approving don (who yet did not like Chesterton).  “He is largely right in his conclusions, somewhat over-selective in his facts: most of what you will read thereafter you will find happily fits into his analysis, which is as it should be, because, as I said, he is indeed largely right.”

The reasons for Belloc’s uncertain reputation are principally three: he (they say) wrote history as propaganda, selective, biased history that reflected his own desire to exalt Catholicism; he (they say) made many simple and glaring errors in his books and was lackadaisical about correcting them in subsequent editions - a sure sign of someone who was indifferent to truth; he (they say) didn’t reference his sources and therefore a priori has to be treated as untrustworthy and his books ill-researched.

Firstly, it has to be understood that no history can be written, humanly speaking, with absolute objectivity or lack of bias.  The golden ideal (as some moderns would have it) of “perfect history” is unattainable by man (and therefore, thank God, by machine).  It is impossible for any historian not to be selective in his facts and evidence.  All historians (except some of the moderns who think such things beneath them) attempt to reach conclusions, and in so doing can logically be accused of bias and selectivity in that attempt.  The amusing charge of propaganda I will come to later.

Secondly, Belloc acknowledged his inability to get every fact right all the time, and remarked frequently upon other historians’ failure ever to get anything fundamentally right. Quite how so many more accurate historians could count every single tree and list them by species and size and never see the wood was something that often caused Belloc great mirth.  Belloc was often slapdash (except with regard to his “set-pieces” which I will shortly touch upon), rarely checked his facts once written down, and never checked his publishers’ galley proofs (if he could help it).  In writing his study of James II, in North Africa of all places, with the Sahara as the rather discordant backdrop, a task which he accomplished in ten days, he relied upon a small book of notes and his voluminous but not infallible memory.  What was remarkable about Belloc was the fact that any errors he committed in no way impaired his ability to discern the Truth or seriously undermined the strength of his conclusions.

Thirdly, Belloc loathed the systematic and frequent use of footnotes. I wish I had the space here to quote from some of Belloc’s humorous rants against the use of footnotes.  The prime cause of this loathing was Edward Gibbon who, in his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”, showed rare mastery of the black art of deceitful foot-noting.  Belloc’s loathing was also a reaction against the growing paralysis hindering historical writing with historians often writing only for other historians and consequently keen to devote to each line of their text at least six lines of self-important foot-notes.  This habit particularly beset the French “annaliste” school of social historians whose books often resembled nothing more than a compilation of references, end-notes, foot-notes and bibliographies.  Belloc often remarked that history had to be readable to be history, which would immediately sweep numerous modern histories into the pulper (“that dense phalanx of modern academic historians whose work is as dry and dissociated, as detailed and formless, as sawdust, and properly speaking is not history at all.”). The perverse inwardness and self-congratulatory attitude of over-referenced works Belloc found positively fetishistic.  He believed most foot-notes to be unnecessary: they often referred only to other secondary sources which themselves then did likewise, and one - pursuing the distant hope of a primary source - was often left dismayed.  Often, when followed up, the source referred to was found to contradict the text, or to be entirely outwith its relevance (this was a particular fault - trick! - of Gibbon’s).  Footnotes were seemingly used as academic semaphore, to demonstrate supposed mastery of a period to other insecure historians, and to signal dominance over the hoi polloi who must bow down before the properly indicated learning of the writer in question. 

Belloc understood the importance of the primary sources more than most historians of today.  Indeed he was, more than other historians, forced to rely upon the original evidence since so much of the historical commentary that had been written in English was Whiggish, Protestant bunk.  Even now, historians - yes, modern ones - are discovering just how much of the detail that he put into some of the more descriptive passages of his histories is borne out - is indeed founded upon - the very close study of previously neglected primary sources.

I will now come on to a fourth point, which I think lies behind much of the above criticism of Belloc’s historical writings, and which is touched upon by the accusation of propaganda. Belloc is a deliberately and strenuously didactic historian.  This a great heresy these days, as it was to some degree when he wrote; and is an even greater heresy on account of what Belloc was being didactic about.  In our universities, more frequently than not, history is now written as a bare, turgid stream of data capped with a pleading codicil from the author that the facts are so complicated that he can see no pattern but the hope remains that some pattern may be discerned in the future. (Some hope! Students trained by blind teachers will seldom understand what they see, even if they see it.)  When opinion surfaces at all, it is tentatively held and robustly restrained from being presented as fact.  The only dogmas offered up to the hungry masses are the thin and poisonous gruel of the unsurpassed excellence of liberal, secular, capitalistic democracy (which Belloc saw as the dung it was).  Modern historical study so often languishes blankly in agnosticism: Belloc’s history was certain, decisive, trenchant, the very qualities that weak-willed prevaricators loathe in the Faith.  How absurd it is that so many present-day academic institutions should be so empty of the desire to teach, or of the knowledge of what should be taught.

Belloc would also have laughed at those moderns who sneer at historical biography and consider it as a low form of intellectual work, mainly the province of the amateur rather than academic historian.  Although this view isn’t as widespread amongst academic historians as it was in my own time at University, it still holds sway in many faculties across the land.  Most of Belloc’s histories are in fact biographical studies.  As someone who appreciated the full wickedness of materialistic, monist, pseudo-scientific and proto-Marxist histories, he grasped that Man and not some impersonal (often philosophically convenient) force was, under God’s Will and His Providence, the most important force in history.  As a believer in Free Will (which determinists notoriously take for granted in their personal lives and only dare reject when they preach their deceit from the pulpit) he knew that human motives were crucial to understand any period of history and used the lives of great men to illumine their age.  He would also have reviled the modern trend of psycho-sexual obsessiveness.  Written historical biographies – and, even more noticeably, television and radio documentaries - seem unable to free themselves from the Freudian idée fixe that a man can be best measured by the extent of his sexual appetites or by the “complexity” of his perversities.

 For Belloc, history for history’s sake (indeed, biography for biography’s sake) was as great and dangerous a lunacy as art for art’s sake.  History, as all things, must serve Truth, for all history was the record of conflict of one kind or another, and all conflict was ultimately theological, residing within the frame of the great Truths of the Faith.  In short, the fact that Belloc often did write what moderns would not accept as competent or accurate history is something that redounds to the discredit of the moderns, not of Belloc.  His sights were set very much higher than the sort of thing churned out by the gallon from educational institutions today.

If Belloc were available on prescription he should without hesitation be recommended to every history faculty in the West (and beyond) as an antidote to wretched agnosticism and relativism, and to the ignorant slavery that still ties most historians to the bare few “facts” of contemporary thought that still prevail – the supremacy of democracy, the progressive effects of capitalism, and the abhorrent nature of the old Catholic order.  Belloc taught history as FACT in his books, fact unsullied by the nauseating smugness of the historians of his time (and ours) who worshipped the Money power at the altar of secular, liberal, democracy.  He knew that a true understanding of fact required a true understanding of reality, an understanding almost uniquely preserved within the Faith.  He considered it easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a man with no understanding of the Faith to write true history.  In our age, when reality as understood by the vast majority of our peers seems even further from the teachings of Christ and His Church, who can say that he was wrong?

Michael Hennessy

[adapted from his introduction to Hilaire Belloc’s “Charles I”, recently re-published by IHS Press]

Charles I

Friday, 5 August 2011

Another blog...

Yes, very possibly just another blog but we will see. This blog is dedicated to the living memory of the great Ango-French writer Hilaire Belloc. There is so much of him (and there was physically as well) that it is difficult to know where to start. But he had much to say about many things and many people. From Crecy to Tourcoing, from Wine to Beer and from Catherine of Aragon to Robespierre. So when he was not writing about Something he, invariably enough, was writing about Everything. He even had time to write about Nothing.

I welcome contributions to this site in the form of reasoned submissions (articles and comments). Comments can be added to posts and articles can be sent to

In true Bellocian spirit I will only seek to offend if I feel that it serves some purpose. In the meantime:

May all good fellows that here agree Drink audit ale in heaven with me,
And may all my enemies go to hell!
Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel!
May all my enemies go to hell!
Noel! Noel!

(From The Four Men)

Dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Nives

I humbly invoke the intercession of Our Lady of the Snows (today we commemorate the Dedication of Her Basilica in Rome - Dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Nives). I do this for two reasons. Hilaire Belloc had a great devotion to the Virgin Mary and, of course, one of his most popular books is The Path to Rome. Of course, he travelled across large parts of France and Italy, on his foot-bound pilgrimage, but it was the snow-bound Alps that fired his imagination:

The mountains from their heights reveal to us two truths. They suddenly make us feel our insignificance, and at the same time they free the immortal Mind, and let it feel its greatness, and they release it from the earth. 


If you should ask how this book came to be written, it was in this way. One day as I was wandering over the world I came upon the valley where I was born, and stopping there a moment to speak with them all--when I had argued politics with the grocer, and played the great lord with the notary-public, and had all but made the carpenter a Christian by force of rhetoric--what should I note (after so many years) but the old tumble-down and gaping church, that I love more than mother-church herself, all scraped, white, rebuilt, noble, and new, as though it had been finished yesterday. Knowing very well that such a change had not come from the skinflint populace, but was the work of some just artist who knew how grand an ornament was this shrine (built there before our people stormed Jerusalem), I entered,and there saw that all within was as new, accurate, and excellent as the outer part; and this pleased me as much as though a fortune had been left to us all; for one's native place is the shell of one's soul, and one's church is the kernel of that nut. Moreover, saying my prayers there, I noticed behind the high altar a statue of Our Lady, so extraordinary and so different from all I had ever seen before, so much the spirit of my valley, that I was quite taken out of myself and vowed a vow there to go to Rome on Pilgrimage and see all Europe which the Christian Faith has saved; and I said, 'I will start from the place where I served in arms for my sins; I will walk all the way and take advantage of no wheeled thing; I will sleep rough and cover thirty miles a day, and I will hear Mass every morning; and I will be present at high Mass in St Peter's on the Feast of St Peter and St Paul.'

The Path to Rome