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, 31 January 2013

On Getting Respected in Inns And Hotels - Hilaire Belloc





Belloc's essay is required reading for those of you are who are attending the Belloc Day in Sussex!


To begin at the beginning is, next to ending at the end, the whole art of writing; as for the middle you may fill it in with any rubble that you choose. But the beginning and the end, like the strong stone outer walls of mediaeval buildings, contain and define the whole.

And there is more than this: since writing is a human and a living art, the beginning being the motive and the end the object of the work, each inspires it; each runs through organically, and the two between them give life to what you do.

So I will begin at the beginning and I will lay down this first principle, that religion and the full meaning of things has nowhere more disappeared from the modern world than in the department of Guide Books.
For a Guide Book will tell you always what are the principal and most vulgar sights of a town; what mountains are most difficult to climb, and, invariably, the exact distances between one place and another. But these things do not serve the End of Man. The end of man is Happiness, and how much happier are you with such a knowledge? Now there are some Guide Books which do make little excursions now and then into the important things, which tell you (for instance) what kind of cooking you will find in what places, what kind of wine in countries where this beverage is publicly known, and even a few, more daring than the rest, will give a hint or two upon hiring mules, and upon the way that a bargain should be conducted, or how to fight.

But with all this even the best of them do not go to the moral heart of the matter. They do not give you a hint or an idea of that which is surely the basis of all happiness in travel. I mean, the art of gaining respect in the places where you stay. Unless that respect is paid you you are more miserable by far than if you had stayed at home, and I would ask anyone who reads this whether he can remember one single journey of his which was not marred by the evident contempt which the servants and the owners of taverns showed for him wherever he went?

It is therefore of the first importance, much more important than any question of price or distance, to know something of this art; it is not difficult to learn, moreover it is so little exploited that if you will but learn it you will have a sense of privilege and of upstanding among your fellows worth all the holidays which were ever taken in the world.

Of this Respect which we seek, out of so many human pleasures, a facile, and a very false, interpretation is that it is the privilege of the rich, and I even knew one poor fellow who forged a cheque and went to gaol in his desire to impress the host of the "Spotted Dog," near Barnard Castle. It was an error in him, as it is in all who so imagine. The rich in their degree fall under this contempt as heavily as any, and there is no wealth that can purchase the true awe which it should be your aim to receive from waiters, serving-wenches, boot-blacks, and publicans.

I knew a man once who set out walking from Oxford to Stow-in-the-Wold, from Stow-in-the-Wold to Cheltenham, from Cheltenham to Ledbury, from Ledbury to Hereford, from Hereford to New Rhayader (where the Cobbler lives), and from New Rhayader to the end of the world which lies a little west and north of that place, and all the way he slept rough under hedges and in stacks, or by day in open fields, so terrified was he at the thought of the contempt that awaited him should he pay for a bed. And I knew another man who walked from York to Thirsk, and from Thirsk to Darlington, and from Darlington to Durham, and so on up to the border and over it, and all the way he pretended to be extremely poor so that he might be certain the contempt he received was due to nothing of his own, but to his clothes only: but this was an indifferent way of escaping, for it got him into many fights with miners, and he was arrested by the police in Lanchester; and at Jedburgh, where his money did really fail him, he had to walk all through the night, finding that no one would take in such a tatterdemalion. The thing could be done much more cheaply than that, and much more respectably, and you can acquire with but little practice one of many ways of achieving the full respect of the whole house, even of that proud woman who sits behind glass in front of an enormous ledger; and the first way is this:

As you come into the place go straight for the smoking-room, and begin talking of the local sport: and do not talk humbly and tentatively as so many do, but in a loud authoritative tone. You shall insist and lay down the law and fly into a passion if you are contradicted. There is here an objection which will arise in the mind of every niggler and boggler who has in the past very properly been covered with ridicule and become the butt of the waiters and stable-yard, which is, that if one is ignorant of the local sport, there is an end to the business. The objection is ridiculous. Do you suppose that the people whom you hear talking around you are more learned than yourself in the matter? And if they are do you suppose that they are acquainted with your ignorance? Remember that most of them have read far less than you, and that you can draw upon an experience of travel of which they can know nothing; do but make the plunge, practising first in the villages of the Midlands, I will warrant you that in a very little while bold assertion of this kind will carry you through any tap-room or bar-parlour in Britain.

I remember once in the holy and secluded village of Washington under the Downs, there came in upon us as we sat in the inn there a man whom I recognised though he did not know me--for a journalist--incapable of understanding the driving of a cow, let alone horses: a prophet, a socialist, a man who knew the trend of things and so forth: a man who had never been outside a town except upon a motor bicycle, upon which snorting beast indeed had he come to this inn. But if he was less than us in so many things he was greater than us in this art of gaining respect in Inns and Hotels. For he sat down, and when they had barely had time to say good day to him he gave us in minutest detail a great run after a fox, a run that never took place. We were fifteen men in the room; none of us were anything like rich enough to hunt, and the lie went through them like an express. This fellow "found" (whatever that may mean) at Gumber Corner, ran right through the combe (which, by the way, is one of those bits of land which have been stolen bodily from the English people), cut down the Sutton Road, across the railway at Coates (and there he showed the cloven hoof, for your liar always takes his hounds across the railway), then all over Egdean, and killed in a field near Wisborough. All this he told, and there was not even a man there to ask him whether all those little dogs and horses swam the Rother or jumped it. He was treated like a god; they tried to make him stop but he would not. He was off to Worthing, where I have no doubt he told some further lies upon the growing of tomatoes under glass, which is the main sport of that district. Similarly, I have no doubt, such a man would talk about boats at King's Lynn, murder with violence at Croydon, duck shooting at Ely, and racing anywhere.
Then also if you are in any doubt as to what they want of you, you can always change the scene. Thus fishing is dangerous for even the poor can fish, and the chances are you do not know the names of the animals, and you may be putting salt-water fish into the stream of Lambourne, or talking of salmon upon the Upper Thames. But what is to prevent you putting on a look of distance and marvel, and conjuring up the North Atlantic for them? Hold them with the cold and the fog of the Newfoundland seas, and terrify their simple minds with whales.

A second way to attain respect, if you are by nature a silent man, and one which I think is always successful, is to write before you go to bed and leave upon the table a great number of envelopes which you should address to members of the Cabinet, and Jewish money-lenders, dukes, and in general any of the great. It is but slight labour, and for the contents you cannot do better than put into each envelope one of those advertisements which you will find lying about. Then next morning you should gather them up and ask where the post is: but you need not post them, and you need not fear for your bill. Your bill will stand much the same, and your reputation will swell like a sponge.

And a third way is to go to the telephone, since there are telephones nowadays, and ring up whoever in the neighbourhood is of the greatest importance. There is no law against it, and when you have the number you have but to ask the servant at the other end whether it is not somebody else's house. But in the meanwhile your night in the place is secure.

And a fourth way is to tell them to call you extremely early, and then to get up extremely late. Now why this should have the effect it has I confess I cannot tell. I lay down the rule empirically and from long observation, but I may suggest that perhaps it is the combination of the energy you show in early rising, and of the luxury you show in late rising: for energy and luxury are the two qualities which menials most admire in that governing class to which you flatter yourself you belong. Moreover the strength of will with which you sweep aside their inconvenience, ordering one thing and doing another, is not without its effect, and the stir you have created is of use to you.

And the fifth way is to be Strong, to Dominate and to Lead. To be one of the Makers of this world, one of the Builders. To have the more Powerful Will. To arouse in all around you by mere Force of Personality a feeling that they must Obey. But I do not know how this is done.


Hilaire Belloc (1908)




Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Belloc meeting in Amberley, Sussex...


The George and Dragon

The next Belloc meeting will be in Amberley, Sussex on Saturday the 23rd of February. Chris Hare will be giving a presentation on 'Belloc and Sussex', which promises to be an engaging affair. Chris is currently at the forefront of the Folk Song revival in Sussex:(http://www.southdownssociety.org.uk/news/1649.html)

PLEASE NOTE THAT IN ORDER TO ATTEND THIS EVENT YOU MUST E MAIL:

thehilairebellocblog@gmail.com

There will also be a mini bus departing from Clapham in London. Seats will be allocated on a first come, first serve basis.

The talk will begin at 1.30 PM. Some people will be arriving earlier for lunch. IN FACT IF YOU INTEND TO DINE, AND HAVE CONFIRMED THIS WITH ME, YOU MUST ARRIVE AT THE PUB NO LATER THAN 12.30pm. The George and Dragon is a splendid old pub which dates back to the Middle Ages. We will have exclusive use of the function room.The nearest station is Amberley and although one could walk (ten minutes) the road is busy and so a taxi would be preferable (over the bridge in the opposite direction to the village):

Castle Cars: 01903 884444
Cathedral Cars: 01903 889688
MJ Cars: 01903 745414/01798 874321 (6 seater)

For those Bellocians who prefer more 'action' we will be walking/driving into Amberley after the talk. Amberley is an historical Sussex village which boasts many fine buildings and a splendid castle. Chris has kindly offered to give us a walking tour starting at the Castle.

After 'tea' at The Sports Man in Rackham (which has the finest 'pub view' in Sussex) the plan is to descend on the The Bridge pub next to Amberley station, at around 7.00 PM, for some folk music. The Bridge serves good food. Belloc refers to this pub in the West Sussex Drinking Song:


They sell good Beer at Haslemere
And under Guildford Hill.
At Little Cowfold, as I've been told,
A beggar may drink his fill:
There is a good brew in Amberley too,
And by the bridge also;
But the swipes they take in at Washington Inn
Is the very best Beer I know, the very best Beer I know.

With my here it goes, there it goes,
All the fun's before us;
The tipple's aboard and the night is young,
The door's ajar and the Barrel is sprung,
I am singing the best song ever was sung And it has a rousing chorus.

If I were what I never could be,
The master or the squire:
If you gave me the hundred from here to the sea,
Which is more than I desire:
Then all my crops should be barley and hops,
And should my harvest fail I'd sell every rood of mine acres, I would,
For a bellyful of good Ale, a bellyful of good Ale.

With my here etc.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

More on Roman Sussex...

Ganymede & Eagle mosaic at Bignor Roman Villa
This impressive mosaic was the centrepiece of a dining room, or triclinium. It shows the young Trojan prince Ganymede being abducted by the god Zeus (Roman god is Jupiter) to be his cupbearer on Mount Olympus. Zeus has disguised himself as a large eagle.


A short history of the Romans in West Sussex


From the Romans to the Saxons and later, the Normans, Sussex has always been at the sharp end whenever the British Isles have faced invasion from Europe.

Although being invaded is no-one’s cup of tea, in the long run the invasion of Sussex by the Romans in AD 43 and the 367 year Roman occupation of West Sussex was hugely beneficial to the county.

THE ROMAN INVASION OF SUSSEX

Sussex was invaded by the Romans in AD 43 under the command of Titus Flavius Vespasianus, who later became the Emperor Vespasian. It’s not entirely clear where the Romans landed, although it is possible that Chichester Harbour was used.

The Roman invasion in Sussex is sometimes portrayed as a friendly or invited one, but this glosses over the fighting that took place. It’s true that there wasn’t as much bloodshed as in some other parts of Britain, like East Anglia, though.


ROMAN POLITICS

Once the fighting was over the Romans decided the best way of achieving their objectives was to sponsor a local puppet king who already had authority over the people. Think of this as a tactic rather like the Americans are applying at the moment in Iraq and you’ll realise that this probably wasn’t always plain sailing.

Tognidubnus (whose name is sometimes spelt Cogidubnus), one of the leading lights of the Regnenses tribe who lived in Sussex and Surrey was the man for the job. The Romans decided to build a strong garrison to protect their position and they chose Chichester as the site for it.


ROMAN CHICHESTER

Although it is likely that the Regnenses already had some sort of settlement at Chichester, the Romans first beefed up the defences of the town and later set about expanding Chichester’s facilities. They called their town Noviomagus Reginorum.

Unlike many architectural sites, it’s very hard to be sure about the layout of Roman Chichester because the Norman, Medieval, Georgian and modern cities have successively been built on top of the Roman town. The best Roman buildings to have been identified so far were sited around the area immediately north of Chichester’s Market Cross.

There were Roman baths near West Street, buildings which were probably barracks in Chapel Street and in all likelihood a basilica under the site of Chichester Cathedral. There was also an amphitheatre which was excavated and then built over. This is located partly underneath and partly near the Market car park towards Whyke.

One part of Roman Chichester than can easily be seen is The Cogidubnus Stone recording the erection of a temple to Minerva by the Guild of Smiths. This was excavated in 1723 and is now sited on the outside of the Assembly Rooms in North Street, Chichester.


ROMAN VILLAS AND PALACES IN SUSSEX

Sussex has two great Roman sites.

Fishbourne Roman Palace is probably the best preserved, best presented and largest Roman Palace in Britain. Even though a large part of the original Palace and its estate is buried under the village of Fishbourne and may be lost forever, it’s clear that this was a substantial seat of power and the wealth. It is likely that Togidubnus and his successors lived here.

In Roman times the Birdham Channel of Chichester Harbour would have been navigable right up to Fishbourne Creek and so the Palace was well sited to control all the important international traffic within this small corner of the Roman Empire.

Bignor Roman Villa is another fine Roman building, discovered like so many great archaeological sites by accident. It is now a fine museum, although on a smaller scale than Fishbourne. Bignor is really a farmstead.

But there are plenty of other traces of the Romans in Sussex besides these two great Roman buildings.

There are the remains of Roman villas at Angmering, Arundel, Southwick, West Blatchington, Chilgrove and UpMarden. Many other traces of Roman buildings, plus other artefacts have been excavated or noted too.


STANE STREET

The biggest physical mark the Romans left on Sussex is Stane Street – the great, straight road from Chichester to London.

Stane Street is, like the stereotypical Roman Road, unerringly straight. If you stand on the Downs above Gumber Farm north of Slindon and look along Stane Street it points exactly towards the spire of Chichester Cathedral 10 miles away.

Stane Street was part of a highly efficient military machine. There are the remains of posting stations at Hardham near Pulborough and Alfoldean near Horsham which helped to relay messages along this Roman motorway.

Another posting station has been discovered at Iping west of Midhurst on the Roman road from Chichester to Silchester in north Hampshire.


DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE

As Roman rule became more settled, the need for military might to keep the peace became less. And as the Roman Empire grew rich, fat and lazy it forgot that its armies were the thing that had made it great in the first place.

Sussex was a long way from Rome and by 410 when Sussex folk were starting to worry about the threat of the Saxons to Sussex they were told by the Emperor Honorius to fend for themselves. The Romans were too busy coping with the threat to their lands in Italy to worry about a place as remote as Sussex.

By AD 477 Sussex had entered a new era – that of the Saxons.



Chris Hoult



Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Roman Road (in Sussex!)...


Stane Street - The Slindon estate


The other day (it was Wednesday, and the air was very pure) I went into the stable upon my way toward the wood, and there I saw my horse Monster standing by himself, regarding nothingness. And when I had considered what a shame it was to take one's pleasure in a wood and leave one's helpless horse at home, I bridled him and saddled him and took him out, and rode him the way that I had meant to go alone. So we went together along the Stene under the North Wood until we got to the edge of the forest, and then we took the green Ride to the right, for it was my intention to go and look at the Roman road.

Behind my house, behind my little farm, there are as many miles of turf as one cares to count, and then behind it also, but the other way, there goes this deep and lonely forest. It is principally of beech, which is the tree of the chalk, and no one has cut it or fenced it or thought about it (except to love it), since the parts about my village took their names: Gumber and Fairmile Bay Combe, the Nore, and the stretch called No Man's Land.

Into the darkness of these trees I rode very quietly with Monster, my horse, but whether the autumn air were pleasanter to him or to me neither of us could decide, for there is no bridge between two souls. That is, if horses have a soul, which I suppose they have, for they are both stupid and kindly, and they fear death as though a part, and but a part, of them were immortal. Also they see things in the dark and are cognisant of evil.

When I had gone some hundred yards towards the Roman road I saw, bending lower than the rest on the tree from which it hung, a golden bough, and I said to myself that I had had good luck, for such a thing has always been the sign of an unusual experience and of a voyage among the dead. All the other leaves of the tree were green, but the turn of the year, which sends out foragers just as the spring does, marking the way it is to go, had come and touched this bough and changed it, so that it shone out by itself in the recesses of the forest and gleamed before and behind. I did not ask what way it led me, for I knew; and so I went onwards, riding my horse, until I came to that long bank of earth which runs like a sort of challenge through this ancient land to prove what our origins were, and who first brought us merry people into the circuit of the world.

When I saw the Roman road the sharper influence which it had had upon my boyhood returned to me, and I got off my horse and took his bit out of his mouth so that he could play the fool with the grass and leaves (which are bad for him), and I hitched the snaffle to a little broken peg of bough so that he could not wander. And then I looked up and down along the boles of the great North Wood, taking in the straight line of the way.

I have heard it said that certain professors, the most learned of their day, did once deny that this was a Roman road. I can well believe it, and it is delightful to believe that they did. For this road startles and controls a true man, presenting an eternal example of what Rome could do. The peasants around have always called it the "Street." It leads from what was certainly one Roman town to what was certainly another. That sign of Roman occupation, the modern word "Cold Harbour," is scattered up and down it. There are Roman pavements on it. It goes plumb straight for miles, and at times, wherever it crosses undisturbed land, it is three or four feet above the level of the down. Here, then, was a feast for the learned: since certainly the more obvious a thing is, the more glory there must be in denying it. And deny it they did (or at least, so I am told), just as they will deny that Thomas à Becket was a Papist, or that Austerlitz was fought in spite of Trafalgar, or that the Gospel of St. John is the Gospel of St. John.

Here then, sitting upon this Roman road I considered the nature of such men, and when I had thought out carefully where the nearest Don might be at that moment, I decided that he was at least twenty-three miles away, and I was very glad: for it permitted me to contemplate the road with common sense and with Faith, which is Common Sense transfigured; and I could see the Legionaries climbing the hill. I remembered also what a sight there was upon the down above, and I got upon my horse again to go and see it.

When one has pushed one's way through the brambles and the rounded great roots which have grown upon this street—where no man has walked perhaps for about a thousand years—one gets to the place where it tops the hill, and here one sees the way in which the line of it was first struck out. From where one stands, right away like a beam, leading from rise to rise, it runs to the cathedral town. You see the spot where it enters the eastern gate of the Roman walls; you see at the end of it, like the dot upon an "i," the mass of the cathedral. Then, if you turn and look northward, you see from point to point its taut stretch across the weald to where, at the very limit of the horizon, there is a gap in the chain of hills that bars your view.

The strict design of such a thing weighs upon one as might weigh upon one four great lines of Virgil, or the sight of those enormous stones which one comes upon, Roman also, in the Algerian sands. The plan of such an avenue by which to lead great armies and along which to drive commands argues a mixture of unity and of power as intimate as the lime and the sand of which these conquerors welded their imperishable cement. And it does more than this. It suggests swiftness and certitude of aim and a sort of eager determination which we are slow to connect with Government, but which certainly underlay the triumph of this people. A road will give one less trouble if it winds about and feels the contours of the land. It will pay better if it is of earth and broken stones instead of being paved, nor would any one aiming at wealth or comfort alone laboriously raise its level, as the level of this road is raised. But in all that the Romans did there was something of a monument. Where they might have taken pipes down a valley and up the opposing side they preferred the broad shoulders of an arcade, and where a seven-foot door would have done well enough to enter their houses by they were content with nothing less than an arch of fifty. In all their work they were conscious of some business other than that immediately to hand, and therefore it is possible that their ruins will survive the establishment of our own time as they have survived that of the Middle Ages. In this wild place, at least, nothing remained of all that was done between their time and ours.

These things did the sight on either side of the summit suggest to me, but chiefly there returned as I gazed the delicious thought that learned men, laborious and heavily endowed, had denied the existence of this Roman road.

See with what manifold uses every accident of human life is crammed! Here was a piece of pedantry and scepticism, which might make some men weep and some men stamp with irritation, and some men, from sheer boredom, fall asleep, but which fed in my own spirit a fountain of pure joy, as I considered carefully what kind of man it is who denies these things; the kind of way he walks; the kind of face he has; the kind of book he writes; the kind of publisher who chisels him; and the kind of way in which his works are bound. With every moment my elation grew greater and more impetuous, until at last I could not bear to sit any longer still, even upon so admirable a beast, nor to look down even at so rich a plain (though that was seen through the air of Southern England), but turning over the downs I galloped home, and came in straight from the turf to my own ground—for what man would live upon a high road who could go through a gate right off the turf to his own steading and let the world go hang?

And so did I. But as they brought me beer and bacon at evening, and I toasted the memory of things past, I said to myself: "Oxford, Cambridge, Dublin, Durham—you four great universities—you terrors of Europe—that road is older than you: and meanwhile I drink to your continued healths, but let us have a little room ... air, there, give us air, good people. I stifle when I think of you."



From 'The Hills and the Sea' - Hilaire Belloc, 1906


Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Next Belloc event - Amberley in Sussex...


Amberley Castle


This is an advance notice of a talk on Saturday the 23rd of February at the lovely George and Dragon pub near picturesque Amberley. Chris Hare will be giving a presentation on 'Belloc and Sussex', which promises to be an engaging affair. The talk will begin at 1.30 PM. Some people will be arriving earlier for lunch. The George and Dragon is a splendid old pub which dates back to the Middle Ages. We will have exclusive use of the function room.The nearest station is Amberley and although one could walk (ten minutes) the road is busy and so a taxi would be preferable (over the bridge in the opposite direction to the village). 

For those Bellocians who prefer more 'action' we will be walking/driving into Amberley after the talk. Amberley is an historical Sussex village which boasts many fine buildings and a splendid castle. Chris has kindly offered to give us a walking tour starting at the Castle. 

After 'tea' at The Sports Man in Rackham (which has the finest 'pub view' in Sussex) the plan is to descend on the The Bridge next to Amberley, at around 7.00 PM, for some folk music. The Bridge serves good food. Belloc refers to this pub in the West Sussex Drinking Song:


They sell good Beer at Haslemere 
And under Guildford Hill. 
At Little Cowfold, as I've been told, 
A beggar may drink his fill: 
There is a good brew in Amberley too, 
And by the bridge also
But the swipes they take in at Washington Inn 
Is the very best Beer I know, the very best Beer I know.
 
 With my here it goes, there it goes, 
All the fun's before us; 
The tipple's aboard and the night is young, 
The door's ajar and the Barrel is sprung, 
I am singing the best song ever was sung And it has a rousing chorus.

 If I were what I never could be, 
The master or the squire:
 If you gave me the hundred from here to the sea, 
Which is more than I desire:
 Then all my crops should be barley and hops, 
And should my harvest fail I'd sell every rood of mine acres, I would,
 For a bellyful of good Ale, a bellyful of good Ale. 

 With my here etc.


But please note that for catering purposes we need to know exactly who is coming.So if you intend to come please send a message to this blog.




The George and Dragon





Wednesday, 2 January 2013

James V. Schall S.J. - 'On Endurance and Fortitude'...




In an essay, "On Fortitude", in the Penguin edition of his Selected Essays (J. B. Morton, Editor, 1958, pp. 215-18), Belloc tells of the unusual cathedral of Périgueux, its massive, sheer stones. But it was not the Cathedral itself that he wrote of here. It was something, years later, that he recalled. He had once seen something in the Cathedral that struck him. He still remembers his being moved by what he saw, something that seems so incidental, so insignificant in itself, that he is surprised to remember it. He wondered a bit about how we could suddenly find ourselves meditating on some odd incident of our life, something that apparently made no visible difference, yet it kept coming back.

Indeed, Belloc took some time to reflect on how chance things can often change our lives It is a beautiful passage:

It has been remarked by men from the beginning of time that chance connections may determine thought: a chance tune heard in unexpected surroundings, a chance sentence not addressed perhaps to oneself and having no connection with the circumstances around, the chance sight of an unexpected building appearing round the corner of a road, the chance glance of an eye that will never meet our eyes again -- any one of these things may establish a whole train of contemplation which takes root and inhabits the mind forever.

We have no doubt that each of these items -- the tune, the sentence, the building, the glance -- were incidents in Belloc's life, things he never quite forgot.

The chance event that remained to inhabit his mind "forever", of which he writes here, took place in the very massive and strangely cupola-ed, almost Byzantine or Moorish Cathedral in this city in southwestern France, in the Department of Périgord. On the right side of the northern transept of this Cathedral -- he does not explain how he happened to be there -- there was a bare, gigantic arch with a mosaic of an Elephant under which was found the word "Fortitude". The Elephant was immense too, like the stones in the Cathedral. The Elephant, like the huge stones, seemed the perfect symbol of this virtue.

Fortitude is found there enshrined in a Christian Church because "it is one of the great virtues." What does fortitude imply? It implies "endurance: that character that we need the most in the dark business of life." Belloc reminds us that sometimes, often perhaps, the "the business of life" is "dark", unpleasant, dire. Terrible things sometimes have to be faced, have to be borne with.

Several words cluster about this notion of fortitude -- which itself means patience courage, not just courage, but patient courage. Courage itself indicates the habit by which we rule our fears and pains so that we can reach our end. This is Aristotle and Aquinas. Courage is necessarily at the basis of all the other virtues because it is directed to life itself, to existence and its preservation. But it has the connotation of a life standing for something. Courage is the opposite of cowardice. The courageous man endures; the coward gives up. If the courageous man dies, the principle for which he dies remains. If he stays alive no matter what, he stands only for himself, for an existence that means nothing but itself.

Bravery adds to courage a certain daring, a boldness in the face of a threat to life or honor. Valor means the continuous presence of bravery, the lofty quality of being brave not just once but over time in the face of many hardships and dangers. But, as St. Thomas said, the primary act of courage is not to attack but to endure, even to suffer. This does not mean that courage is a kind of silly pacifism. It means the courage of the martyr, as Josef Pieper pointed out, the one who endures what can no longer be avoided, endures in what he affirms.

Fortitude, Belloc remarked, must be not just endurance but "creative endurance." It involves some memory of a better time and some hope of its return. Belloc, we know, was a military man in his youth. He loved to follow the lines of battle, to reflect on the course of war in the very place of combat. He understood that with no fortitude, there would be no civilization. "The thing, Fortitude, is the opposite of aggressive, flamboyant courage, yet it is the greater of the two, though often it lacks action. Fortitude wears armor and holds a sword, but it stands ready rather than thrusts itself forward." The phrase "lacks action" said of fortitude needs reflection. Belloc's passage is at first sight a version of "if you want peace, prepare for war." It is also contains a sense of caution, a restraint on any untoward eagerness to "thrust forward." It contains the experience of mankind. If it uses the sword, it does so reluctantly, knowing what is at stake.

Belloc then spent a page in recounting the effects of this enduring fortitude during the dark and middle ages, when it looked like all was lost for Christendom. In the ninth and tenth centuries, with enemies on its south, east, and north, Europe should not have survived. But it did largely because of the Elephant of Périgueaux, because of Fortitude. "The West rose up again in glory, having been saved by Fortitude."

At the very end of the Twentieth Century, it seems almost eccentric to attribute anything to a virtue, to a virtue whose act is to rule our fears and our pains. Belloc did not write of arms or of strategy; he wrote of a virtue. "Fortitude does not envisage new things, rather does it tenaciously preserve things known and tried." Thus, fortitude implies that there are things worth preserving. Without this latter sense, there can be no proper fortitude, no endurance, no resistance. Fortitude for its own sake is in fact a vice. Fortitude is for a reason, for a purpose, for the highest reason and purpose of all, the reason of why we exist and what is true, of what has been handed down to us that is worth our keeping. "A whole train of contemplation that takes root and inhabits the mind forever" -- of such is the Elephant of the Périgueux Cathedral..


From Schall on Belloc, Generally Speaking, December, 1996.