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."

Search This Blog

Monday 18 February 2013

The Folk music evening - change of venue...

The venue for the Folk music, on Saturday the 23rd of February, will NOW be The George and Dragon in Houghton from Seven Thirty onwards. This is where the talk will be taking place earlier in the afternoon. 

Sunday 17 February 2013

The 'Belloc' Day in Amberley, Sussex...

This notice regards the forthcoming 'Belloc' day in Amberley on the 23rd of February.

If you haven't booked to attend the talk I regret to say that it is too late as the function room cannot accommodate any more people. However, you are welcome to participate in the Amberley walk, which will start after the talk given by Chris Hare ('Belloc and Sussex' at One Thirty), and the 'Folk' evening in The George and Dragon (please note the change of venue) from Seven Thirty onwards. Please assemble at the George and Dragon, in Houghton (over the bridge from Amberley Railway Station), for the walk at Three o'clock. 

If you are attending the talk, and have booked, please don't remind me as this will just confuse me! If you are booked for the talk, and not for food, please do so now or you will NOT be fed. But if you have sent me a notification, regarding food, please do not remind me for the aforementioned reason. 

Furthermore, if you do intend to eat you must turn up at Twelve in order for the George and Dragon to get everyone fed, on time, for the talk. 

Finally, it promises to be a splendid day out and I suspect that much fun will be had by all. 

Amberley Castle and Gardens

Wednesday 13 February 2013

The Bridge Inn - courtesy of The Four Men...

'Mr Duke's parlour at The Bridge Inn'

We will be singing some Sussex folk songs (courtesy of Chris Hare), in The Bridge Inn, on the evening of the 23rd of February after our Belloc 'walk' around Amberley village.

The Bridge is mentioned on day five of 'The Four Men' (Belloc's literary pub crawl across Sussex). In this 'Farrago' the four featured travelling companions journeyed the twelve miles from Storrington to Duncton. On this leg, Belloc featured four inns: The Sportsman (just outside Amberley and where we will be having afternoon tea) and The Black Horse (now sadly closed) plus The Bridge Inn (next to Amberley railway station) and The George & Dragon in Houghton  (where our meeting will be held at 1.30 PM). Belloc, as "Myself", the narrator remarks:

"We came at last past the great chalk pit to the railway, and to the Bridge Inn which lies just on this side of the crossing of the Arun. When we had all four come into Mr. Duke’s parlour at the Bridge Inn, and ordered beer and had begun to dry ourselves at the fire, the Sailor said: ’Come, Grizzlebeard, we promised to tell the stories of our first loves when we came to Arun; and as you are much the oldest of us do you begin’".

Bob Copper (the famous, and now sadly deceased, Sussex folk song revivalist) in his book 'Across Sussex  with Belloc' continues:

"Let us press forward over Arun, and pursue our westward way beneath the hills. On the sturdy, stone bridge I paused to watch the dark waters glide smoothly below me, eddying round the cut-waters and carrying clumps of grass and river weed along the current. The meadows at the side were grazed down close, leaving only small patches of yellow ragwort here and there. I walked along the causeway and felt a strange satisfaction in seeing the speeding motor cars brought to a standstill by a herd of cows coming in from the field".

Set in the stunning Arun Valley, in the South Downs National Park, The Bridge Inn with its lovely beer garden is a delightful traditional English Pub, serving well kept real ales and delicious, locally sourced, home cooked food. Belloc stopped here in 1902. The Post Office Directory of 1890 and 1905 show that the Mr. Duke, who he makes reference to, was Walter Duke the landlord here during that time. The census of 1901 lists other residents of the house as Esther, his wife, plus sons Clarence and Frederick and three daughters Eva, Maria and Mabel.

After the The Bridge Inn Belloc pressed on to the George and Dragon in Houghton:

'So we did as he bade us, crossing the long bridge and seeing the water swirling through on the strong brown tide, and so along the causeway, and up the first ride into Houghton, where is that little inn, ''St. George and the Dragon'', at which King Charles the Second, the first King of England to take a salary and be a servant, drank as he fled from Worcester many years ago.'

Tuesday 5 February 2013

On the Fate of Academics, James V. Schall, S. J.

In the Dent 1957 enlarged edition of J. B. Morton's 1938 edition of Hilaire Belloc: Stories, Essays, and Poems, we find an excerpt from The Path to Rome. This edition identifies Belloc in the following manner: "Hilaire Belloc, born on 27th July 1870. Educated at The Oratory School, Edgbaston. After leaving school served as a driver in the 8th Regiment of French Artillery at Toul. Matriculated at Balliol College, Oxford, in January 1893 (Brackenbury History Scholar, and 1st Class in Honour History Schools in June 1895). Died in 1953." Between 1895 and 1953, nothing is mentioned. We find no reference to Belloc's stint in the House of Commons, nothing of his family, of his sailing, of Chesterton, of what he wrote. To the British mind, perhaps, all that is important about a life is the date of birth, the date of death, and, in between, what schools attended, what academic honours received, and in what regiment served, even if in a foreign army. Perhaps that is enough.

The eleven page extract from The Path to Rome, begins with Belloc, very hungry, just over a crest of the mountains. He is looking back down the Rhône Valley. He has managed to find an Inn called "The Bear," in the town of Ulrichen. Therein he is met by a middle aged lady, "one of the women whom God loves." Belloc addresses her in French. She answers him in a "rustic" version of the same tongue. She looks at him in the eye as she speaks to him.

It was this straight-forward, untroubled gaze that incited Belloc to thinking about academics, not his favourite folk, to say the least. "Beware of shifty-eyed people," he begins. Their nervousness reveals a kind of "wickedness." No doubt what will happen to the shifty-eyed. "Such people come to no good." Belloc then asks the most marvellous question -- he is speaking to himself, one of his "Lector"- "Auctor" passages. "Why the greatest personages stammer or have St. Vitus' dance, or jabber at lips, or hop in their walk, or have their heads screwed round, or tremble in the fingers, or go through life with great goggles like a motor car?" He adds, for emphasis, "Eh?"

We have all met the man with the goggles, the one with the hop in his walk, the one with his head screwed round. From them we never got a straight answer. "I will tell you," Belloc informs us why. We are hardly prepared for the reason he gives for such stammerers, jabbers, and hoppers. "It is the punishment of their intellectual pride, than which no sin is more offensive to the angels."

All of this began, recall, when Belloc met the lady with the clear gaze in the Great Bear Inn. Suddenly, we are confronted in this unlikely spot with intellectual pride, surely the sin of the fallen angels. Who are these prideful ones? They are the ones who do not notice all the wonder to be found about them. A human being is more than a mind. Unless he is more, his mind is quite a dangerous thing. The angels are pure spirits; we are the rational animals, body and soul.

Belloc describes the situation of the mind-only-gentleman in this fashion:
What! here are we with the jolly world of God all round us, able to sing, to draw, to paint, to hammer and build, to sail, to ride horses, to run, to leap; having for our splendid inheritance love in youth and memory in old age, and we are to take one miserable little faculty, our one-legged, knock-kneed, gimcrack, grumpy intellect, or analytical curiosity rather (a diseased appetite), and let it swell till it eats up every other function?
What does the sane man do when this happens? He yells, "Away with such foolery."

Who is it, we might ask, that thinks the world of God to be jolly, who sings, draws, paints, hammers, sails, rides horses, runs, leaps? Who has love in youth and memory in old age? Who tells us it is a "splendid inheritance"? Why, it is Belloc himself, of course, perhaps still a bit annoyed that he did not himself end up as a very pedant, though this is hard to imagine. He knew the dangers of his own "grumpy intellect," for it could lead him to this very pride from which he was perhaps saved when he could not stay at Oxford.

The "Lector" wants to get on with the walk and quit these dreary philosophical musings. But the "Auctor" has a few more things to say. He repeats, "Away with such foolery." He decides to explain the problems we have with the pedants. They "lose all proportion." Worse, "they can never keep sane in a discussion." Belloc gives us an amusing example. The pedants "go wild on matters they are wholly unable to judge, such as Armenian Religion or the Politics of Paris or what not."

A man with a steady and balanced mind, with a clear gaze, on the other hand, has three questions to ask that keep him sane. These are 1) "After all it is not my business." 2) "Tut! tut! You don't say so!". And 3) "Credo in Unum Deum Patrem Omnipotentem Factorem omnium visibilium et invisibilium." In these last lines from the Creed, Belloc thinks, all the analytical powers of the pedants, the professors, are jammed "into dustheaps," by comparison.

Belloc then stops to add, as if it is preposterous, "I understand that they (the professors) need six months' holiday a year." If Belloc had his preferences, he would give them "the whole twelve, and an extra day on leap years." If they are on vacation all year long, they cannot do much damage. The "Lector" is anxious to get back to the story of the woman in the inn. And Belloc is willing to return to her. In fact, he has never left her example in all this chiding of prideful academics who need six months' vacation a year. The sin of pride reminds him of the Day of Judgement. "(On this day), St. Michael weighs souls in his scales, and the wicked are led off by the Devil with a great rope, as you may see them over the main porch of Notre Dame (I will heave a stone after them myself I hope), all the souls of the pedants together will not weigh as heavy and sound as the one soul of this good woman at the inn." I saw Notre Dame a couple of times, but never noticed above the main porch the Devil with a great rope leading startled pedants to their doom. But, of course, I did not know Belloc then.

Belloc finally sat down to eat. The good lady brought him food and wine. He found the wine good. However, the food had in it a "fearful herb," a spice or scent, "a nasty one." "One could taste nothing else, and it was revolting; but I ate it for her sake." The whole point of the redemption may be in these lines.
"We have for our splendid inheritance, love in youth and memory in old age."

These are the things that the biographical sketch of Belloc did not mention. They do make it possible for us to say, with him, "Credo in unum Deum, Patrem Omnipotentem, Factorem omnium visibilium et invisibilium," for these are the things that confound the pedants and cause us to look "to see the jolly world of God all about us."

'Schall on Belloc' from Generally Speaking, October, 1996. James V. Schall, S. J.