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 8 November 2018

Belloc, Broadwood and Beyond...

Lost lady found - English folk song

Belloc, Broadwood and Beyond is a Heritage Lottery Fund project run through Rusper Parochial Church Council. The project is researching the life and times of Lucy Broadwood (1858 – 1929), the folk song collector, who is buried in Rusper; and the writer and poet, Hilaire Belloc (1870 – 1953), who lived for most of his life at Kingsland near Shipley. Belloc, wrote ‘Sussex songs’ in the folk style.

Monthly workshops, teaching some of the songs collected by Lucy Broadwood and the songs written by Hilaire Belloc, are currently running. These will continue until April 2019, from 10.30am till 4.30pm.

As well as the songs, the Project is also exploring the lives of these two colourful personalities with particular attention to their local connections.

Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) these courses are free and spaces will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. The workshops are being held in Rusper at St. Mary’s Church, and in Worthing at Broadwater Parish Rooms.

Details of dates can be viewed here.


Tuesday 18 September 2018

The Four Men by Hilaire Belloc Performed at the Capitol Theatre, Horsham on Thursday 26th October 2017...

The opening lines, with their almost Virgilian strain, give one a sense of the whole:

''My country, it has been proved in the life of every man that though his loves are human, and therefore changeable, yet in proportion as he attaches them to things unchangeable, so they mature and broaden.On this account, Dear Sussex, are those women chiefly dear to men who, as the seasons pass, do but continue to be more and more themselves, attain balance, and abandon or forget vicissitude. And on this account, Sussex, does man love an old house, which was his father’s, and on this account does a man come to love with all his heart, that part of earth which nourished his boyhood. For it does not change, or if it changes, it changes very little, and he finds in it the character of enduring things.''

On one level, Belloc sought to capture an aspect of southern English rural culture that was fast fading even in his day. On another, deeper, level The Four Men reveals a Christianized pagan melancholy and resignation.

Thursday 30 August 2018

Remembering Louis Belloc...

Memorial plaque to him in Cambrai Cathedral

Louis Belloc:

Second Lieutenant, Royal Air Force, 209th Sqdn., and Royal Engineers.

Died on the 26th August 1918 aged 20, bravely dive bombing a German ammunition train.

Commemorated on the Arras Flying Services Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.

Son of Hilaire Belloc and Elodie Agnes Hogan Belloc, of King's Land, Shipley, Horsham, Sussex.
Born 23rd September 1897

Brother: Peter Gilbert Marie Sebastian Belloc (fell in the 1939 - 1945 War).


Thursday 16 August 2018

''Belloc and Wine''

Mike in full flow; as the wine flows...

''Belloc and Wine'' 

-A talk given by Mike Hennessy, the Chairman of the Hilaire Belloc Society, to a meeting of the Hilaire Belloc Society which was held at the John Harvey Tavern in Lewes (Sussex) on Saturday the 28th of July 2018.  

“To exalt, enthrone, establish and defend, 
To welcome home mankind's mysterious friend 
Wine, true begetter of all arts that be; 
Wine, privilege of the completely free; 
Wine the recorder; wine the sagely strong; 
Wine, bright avenger of sly-dealing wrong, 
Awake, Ausonian Muse, and sing the vineyard song!” 

There are a good number of reasons why I have chosen to speak on the subject of Hilaire Belloc and wine. A few of those reasons are obvious ones; at least one is personal. A few weeks ago, as I began to think through my remarks today, I warmed thoroughly to my theme; the evening grew late, my candles burned lower, my glass, filled to stimulate thought, had finally drained the bottle – and then my spirits began to wane. For how to encompass this subject in one address? How to say anything that could not be conveyed simply by reciting aloud his Heroic Poem in Praise of Wine and salient essays and passages from his voluminous books? What role had I other than wretchedly to dilute the Master’s works? I fell into despair – and then I opened another bottle and gradually all became clear.

What then actually became clear that night, I can no longer recall. But a promise is a promise – I had told the Secretary of the Society, my friend Gerard, that I would speak upon Belloc and wine; and so here I am.

Wine, of course, features regularly in Belloc’s writings, often as much symbolically as actually. The Master, as I call Hilary, was clearly fond of the stuff, but he also knew that it carried in itself something eternal, much broader and deeper and richer and more significant than the delight it can bring to body, soul and mind. He wrote of it practically, and he wrote of it as a cultural artefact, heavy with meaning.

“The first, the most essential canon, is that wine of every sort so long as it is pure, must be taken seriously as a chief element in life. It is the concomitant, and perhaps the foundation, of all our culture. ‘Man without wine is an ox,’ said the wise man – and he was right. Man without wine is a boor.”

Secondly, wine is of course in itself a delightful subject for speaking on, second only to the delight it gives in the drinking. And what better subject might there be for an afternoon such as this? Belloc and beer I might leave for another day; but today we will touch on beer, albeit in passing. It would seem wrong not to speak of it in an English pub, in Sussex of all places!

Thirdly, wine thematically connects all sorts of strands of Belloc’s life – his French nationality, his travels, his love of history, poetry and song, his musings on the Catholic Faith and Christian culture, his devotion to the liturgy and to Holy Mass; it even connects with his sailing, and not only because of the wine-dark sea upon which he sailed.

So, through the medium of wine we will not only get to know each other a little better this afternoon, but hopefully we shall also draw closer to our real subject, Belloc, and learn more of the man and his thought.

Wine is of course an evocation of place. The French insistence upon a wine’s terroir is saying no more than that the vine draws in the genius loci of a place, so that the grapes it carries there, and the precious liquid then pressed from those grapes, is a unique and local thing. And the local was so important to Belloc. A man so widely travelled, often on foot, but who loved each and every place he saw because it was local and particular, because he felt the presence of that genius loci and drew it into his lungs (and drained it from a glass wherever possible). And how the Heroic Poem incants that love of particular place, even while taking us on journey from Asia to the Atlas, and almost everywhere in between in a classical travelogue sans pareil:

“Sing how the Charioteer from Asia came, 
And on his front the little dancing flame 
Which marked the God-head. Sing the Panther-team, 
The gilded Thrysus twirling, and the gleam 
Of cymbals through the darkness. Sing the drums. 
He comes; the young renewer of Hellas comes! 
The Seas await him. Those Aegean Seas 
Roll from the dawning, ponderous, ill at ease, 
In lifts of lead, whose cresting hardly breaks 
To ghostly foam, when suddenly there awakes 
A mountain glory inland. All the skies 
Are luminous; and amid the sea bird cries 
The mariner hears a morning breeze arise. 
Then goes the Pageant forward. The sea-way 
Silvers the feet of that august array 
Trailing above the waters, through the airs; 
And as they pass a wind before them bears 
The quickening word, the influence magical. 
The Islands have received it, marble-tall; 
The long shores of the mainland. Something fills 
The warm Euboean combes, the sacred hills 
Of Aulis and of Argos. Still they move 
Touching the City walls, the Temple grove, 
Till, far upon the horizon-glint, a gleam 
Of light, of trembling light, revealed they seem 
Turned to a cloud, but to a cloud that shines, 
And everywhere as they pass, the Vines! The Vines! 
The Vines, the conquering Vines! And the Vine breathes 
Her savour through the upland, empty heaths 
Of treeless wastes; the Vines have come to where 
The dark Pelasgian steep defends the lair 
Of the wolf's hiding; to the empty fields 
By Aufidus, the dry campaign that yields 
No harvest for the husbandman, but now 
Shall bear a nobler foison than the plough; 
To where, festooned along the tall elm trees, 
Tendrils are mirrored in Tyrrhenian seas; 
To where the South awaits them; even to where 
Stark, African, informed of burning air, 
Upturned to Heaven the broad Hipponian plain 
Extends luxurious and invites the main. 
Guelma's a mother: barren Thaspsa breeds; 
And northward in the valleys, next the meads 
That sleep by misty river banks, the Vines 
Have struck to spread below the solemn pines. 
The Vines are on the roof-trees. All the Shrines 
And Homes of men are consecrate with Vines.” 

From a personal perspective, Belloc led me to wine – which is a more pleasant way of saying that he drove me to drink. And not just me. While I had stumbled upon some of his writings before I left school, it was when I arrived at university that, one Sunday morning, in the draughty and ugly space of Didcot railway station foyer, I read the introduction to The Hills and the Sea and the spirit of Belloc truly entered my soul.

My university town was festooned with second-hand book-shops (these were the days before the internet and rising cultural illiteracy killed most of them off) and I quickly amassed a collection of his books which surpassed that of my earlier literary hero, G.K. Chesterton. I entered university a beer and cider drinker – and by the end of my first year had become a devotee of the grape. I aped the Master, a bottle of wine in one pocket, bread and cheese in the other. Friends read The Path to Rome and The Four Men on my advice (the latter more a beer than a wine book); we held competitions for who could keep the last note of ‘Golier!’ going longest. We roused porters from their slumber, and annoyed fellow students abed. The Heroic Poem in Praise of Wine was recited frequently, even only if in slurred part. The hallways of our digs were soon lined with empty wine bottles as we ranged across countries and continents in search of new oenological delights. We drank deeply, sometimes around a fire, on which we would throw the dregs of our wine with a shout of ‘Cottabus!’ (as recommended by Belloc, of course).

For those unaware of the ancient Sicilian drinking game, Kottabos, which spread like wildfire across the classical Mediterranean world in the fifth and fourth centuries BC, it is referenced by Dionysius Chalcus, Alcaeus, Anacreon, Pindar, Bacchylides, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, and – of course – Antiphanes.

The object of the game was for a player to cast a portion of wine left in his drinking cup, in such a way that it doesn't break bulk in its passage through the air, towards a bronze lamp stand with a tiny statuette on top with outstretched arms delicately holding a small disc: the statuette was called a plastinx. Halfway down the stand was a larger disc called the manes. To be successful the player had to knock off the plastinx in such a way that it would fall to the manes and make a bell like sound. Both the wine thrown and the noise made were called latax. The thrower, in the ordinary form of the game, was expected to retain the recumbent position that was usual at table, and, in flinging the kottabos, to make use of his right hand only.

It is my life’s ambition to return Kottabos to the sporting stature it demands. In Athens, expert Kottabos players were held in as high esteem as were those who excelled at the javelin. The training was, shall we say, less onerous – and those training often tipsier.

I often muse that the well of joy within Belloc that never yet was dried was probably full of wine, although whether full of his beloved wines of the Rhone, or Burgundy, or even of Orvieto hill – of which but two glasses taken chilled “are enough to make man immortal for a short time” – I cannot say. He drank by choice from a silver goblet at home, something with shame I admit to never having done. There is almost something liturgical in that image, to which we will of necessity return when we come to consider the grape sub specie aeternitatis. On board the Nona or the Jersey he would as often as not drink from a chipped enamel mug, something I have done, more often than I would like to admit. “Needs must,” as my mother would say.

Belloc was, of course a Frenchman by birth and – to some extent – by upbringing. He was naturalised as a British citizen only as late as 1902, at the age of 32. The Belloc of The Path to Rome was French. The Belloc of Danton and Robespierre was – appropriately – French. But so was the Belloc of The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts. He probably became British principally so that he could seriously consider a career in politics and stand for Parliament. But to his political enemies he would always be French.

Unsurprisingly, it is of French wine that he most often speaks – and I here do not just refer to that delightful and weaving excursus on the wine of Brûlé that adorns the opening parts of The Path to Rome. Even when he muses on wine further afield, it is often of north Africa, to which the French had returned the vine – as the Romans had brought it there so many centuries before – and where the glory of the French Republic born ironically of an imperial dream was manifest in newly-planted vineyards as in brand new railways and roads.

He revels in the red wines of Burgundy, particularly Corton, Vosne Romanée, Richebourg and Nuits St Georges; he appears almost to scorn the white wines there (for which I have to forgive him – it’s a blemish on his record which in my eyes is significant – but then Evelyn Waugh did say that Belloc’s opinions on wine were “strong and idiosyncratic to the verge of perversity”).

He claims no specialist knowledge of clarets – or the ‘wines of the Garonne’ as he calls them – but states that he is fond of them. (No man who has fallen in love with red Burgundy can ever love another red as he loves the wines of the Côte d’Or.) But he does have this to say about them:

“Claret is a doubtful thing. All the wines of the Garonne and of the Dordogne are as diverse as the souls and bodies of men. Some will live it out prodigiously for years, increasing in virtue with time – a process quite against the general order of things. Some die young, and are soured by the wickedness of the world in their first bloom. Some with precocity attain ripeness early like the poets, and hang on like the poets doubtfully, preserving their main quality on into middle age, and then, like the poets, rapidly becoming intolerably dull, downright bad, and worthy of destruction: sometimes calling for vengeance. Others have so little substance in them, that they rot from the first. Some few, some very few, are worthy to be called contemporaries with man himself.”.

Rhône wines he adores (even if he did blend them with Algerian red…). Of whites, he prefers them sweeter than drier, but not too sweet, although he does express a deep admiration for the drier wines of Faye on the Loire. Of sparkling wines he will only admit those of Angers, Saumur and Vouvray to be veritable wines – Champagne is to him a drug not a wine. He says it is “invaluable when tired” and he drinks it to raise himself “from the dead” – “a thing I constantly need”, he adds.

And the most French wine of all? It is that which is connected to perhaps one of the most French writers of all. I speak of Francois Rabelais, Abstractor of the Quintessence, surgeon, monk, satirist, runaway friar, humanist and writer of Gargantua and Pantagruel, one of the works of literature (in five volumes, although some doubt the authorship of the last two) most beloved of the Master. Rabelais’s style, both as expressed in the original and as polished, prettified, glossed upon, adorned, enlarged, revivified, be-lustred, bejewelled, damascened and rendered positively rococo by his first English – or should I say Scottish – translator (Sir Thomas Urquhart, a Royalist who fought at the battle of Worcester and wrote his translation from prison) can be found imitated throughout Belloc’s oeuvres, most notably in essays such as On the Approach of an Awful Doom, and of course in the prologue to The Path to Rome.

As Belloc put it, writing of this astonishing man:

“Know that I take you now into the lecture-hall and put you at the feet of the past master of all arts and divinations (not to say crafts and homologisings and integrativeness), the Teacher of wise men, the comfort of an afflicted world, the uplifter of fools, the energiser of the lethargic, the doctor of the gouty, the guide of youth, the companion of middle age, the vade mecum of the old, the pleasant introducer of inevitable Death, yea, the general solace of mankind. Oh! what are you not now about to hear! If anywhere there are rivers in pleasant meadows, cool heights in summer, lovely ladies discoursing upon smooth lawns, or music skilfully befingered by dainty artists in the shade of orange groves, if there is any left of that wine of Chinon from behind the Grille at four francs a bottle (and so there is, for I drank it the last Reveillon by St Gervais) – I say if any of the comforters of the living anywhere grace the earth, you shall find my master Rabelais giving you the very innermost and animating spirit of all these good things, their utter flavour and their saving power in the quintessential words of his uncontestably regalian lips.” 

For the wine of Rabelais is Chinon, a red to be drunk cellar cool, or after a short dip in the waters of the Loire (the wine, not the drinker thereof). Find a bottle tomorrow, drink it. Failing that, find a bottle of Bourgeuil or St Nicholas de Bourgeuil, from the next town along the river bank, and revel in it. Your quest for Bacbuc, keeper of the oracle; of la dive bouteille, will then be over.

It is also here worth remarking that the Heroic Poem is itself inspired, I believe, by Marot’s ‘Vineyard Song’ (one of his 42 Chansons – the fourth or the thirty-second, depending which edition of those songs you hold). Marot wrote in the early sixteenth century – just before the Pléiades rose to fame – Ronsard, du Bellay and company, and was a near contemporary of Rabelais. This is how Belloc introduces that song of Marot’s in Avril:

“[This poem] is a tapestry of the Renaissance; the jolly gods of the Renaissance, the old gods grown Catholic moving across a happier stage. Bacchus in long robes and with solemnity blessing the vine, Silenus and the hobbling smith who smithied the Serpé, the Holy Vineyard Knife in heaven, all these by their diction and their flavour recall the Autumn in Herault and the grapes under a pure sky, pale at the horizon, and labourers and their carts in the vineyard, and these set in the frame of that great time when Saturn did return.

All the poem is wine. It catches its rhymes and weaves them in and in again, and moves rapid and careless in a fugue, like the march from Asia when the Panthers went before and drew the car. The internal rhythm and pulse is the clapping of hands in barns at evening and the peasants' feet dancing freely on the beaten earth. It is a very good song; it remembers the treading of the grapes and is refreshed by the mists that rise at evening when the labour is done.”

Perhaps that familiarity with Marot’s poem gave birth not just to the Heroic Poem, but to Tarantella.

“And now the task of that triumphant day 
Has reached to victory. In the reddening ray 
With all his train, from hard Iberian lands 
Fulfilled, apparent, that Creator stands 
Halted on Atlas. Far Beneath him, far, 
The strength of Ocean darkening and the star 
Beyond all shores. There is a silence made. 
It glorifies: and the gigantic shade 
Of Hercules adores him from the West. 
Dead Lucre: burnt Ambition: Wine is best.” 

Belloc wrote that “making a custom of wine breeds an appreciation of truth, goodness and beauty”, so he construed the ideological rejection of wine – and indeed of alcoholic beverages more broadly – as a sign of the Devil’s mischief, of Man’s fallen nature, his vility and wretchedness, of something crooked in his very being that led him to despise a gift of God. And yet he had to some extent to accommodate himself to people with such views in order to further his political career.

His decision to seek the parliamentary constituency of South Salford as a Liberal candidate was taken in all probability in 1904, two years before the eventual election in which he won that seat. I believe that, notwithstanding his deep political interests, he also saw it as means of making a better living for his family and of selling more books. He had a lot of winning-over to do in his proposed constituency, not least from the core of Liberals who were non-conformists in religion and supporters of the Temperance movement, for many of whom consumption of alcohol was not just a potential occasion of sin (as Catholics might put it) but evil in itself. Just as he famously placated those of them who were anxious about his Catholic Faith, he managed to placate those who suspected him of inebriety, maintaining that he would fight against the big brewing industry (backed by his Conservative opponent) but would also fight for more relaxed opening hours and purer beer for the working man.

He knew that the temperance movement was an over-fastidious relic of puritanism become a bourgeois fad and luxury – and the working man needed a good drop regularly to leaven his often difficult life. He was almost alone in his party in supporting the Pure Beer Bill, a private Member’s Bill which the Liberal Government squashed (a familiar tale today); he regularly spoke in other debates on licensing laws, opening hours and pure beer, noting how easy it was for the rich to drink champagne at any time and in any place, whereas a glass of good beer for the working man was becoming more penned in by government regulation and capitalist control.

His support for the poor man’s drop ate into his support in the constituency party – he had to fight hard to keep his nomination for the South Salford seat for the first 1910 election, not least because he had also lost favour on account of his opposition to women’s suffrage (which you will be glad to hear I do not plan to speak about today). At the election he retained his seat, with a reduced majority (although the party lost 110 seats across the country – so Belloc did significantly better than most Liberals), but decided not to contest his seat again when another election was called later that year. Famously he said: “I am glad to be rid of the dirtiest company it has ever been … my misfortune to keep.”

“But what are these that from the outer murk 
Of dense mephitic vapours creeping lurk 
To breathe foul airs from that corrupted well 
Which oozes slime along the floor of Hell? 
These are the stricken palsied brood of sin 
In whose vile veins, poor, poisonous and thin, 
Decoctions of embittered hatreds crawl: 
These are the Water-Drinkers, cursed all! 
On what gin-sodden Hags, what flaccid sires 
Bred these White Slugs from what exhaust desires? 
In what close prison's horror were their wiles 
Watched by what tyrant power with evil smiles; 
Or in what caverns, blocked from grace and air 
Received they, then, the mandates of despair? 
What! Must our race, our tragic race, that roam 
All exiled from our first, and final, home: 
That in one moment of temptation lost 
Our heritage, and now wander, hunger-tost 
Beyond the Gates (still speaking with our eyes 
For ever of remembered Paradise), 
Must we with every gift accepted, still, 
With every joy, receive attendant ill? 
Must some lewd evil follow all our good 
And muttering dog our brief beatitude? 

A primal doom, inexorable, wise, 
Permitted, ordered, even these to rise. 
Even in the shadow of so bright a Lord 
Must swarm and propagate the filthy horde 
Debased, accursed I say, abhorrent and abhorred.
Accursed and curse-bestowing. For whosoe'er 
Shall suffer their contagion, everywhere 
Falls from the estate of man and finds his end 
To the mere beverage of the beast condemned. 
For such as these in vain the Rhine has rolled 
Imperial centuries by hills of gold; 
For such as these the flashing Rhone shall rage 
In vain its lightning through the Hermitage 
Or level-browed divine Touraine receive 
The tribute of her vintages at eve. 
For such as these Burgundian heats in vain 
Swell the rich slope or load the empurpled plain. 
Bootless for such as these the mighty task 
Of bottling God the Father in a flask 
And leading all Creation down distilled 
To one small ardent sphere immensely filled. 
With memories empty, with experience null, 
With vapid eye-balls meaningless and dull 
They pass unblest through the unfruitful light; 
And when we open the bronze doors of Night, 
When we in high carousal, we reclined, 
Spur up to Heaven the still ascending mind, 
Pass with the all inspiring, to and fro, 
The torch of genius and the Muse's glow, 
They, lifeless, stare at vacancy alone 
Or plan mean traffic, or repeat their moan. 
We, when repose demands us, welcomed are 
In young white arms, like our great Exemplar 
Who, wearied with creation, takes his rest 
And sinks to sleep on Ariadne's breast. 
They through the darkness into darkness press 
Despised, abandoned and companionless. 
And when the course of either's sleep has run 
We leap to life like heralds of the sun; 
We from the couch in roseate mornings gay 
Salute as equals the exultant day 
While they, the unworthy, unrewarded, they 
The dank despisers of the Vine, arise 
To watch grey dawns and mourn indifferent skies. 

Forget them! Form the Dionysian ring 
And pulse the ground, and Io, Io, sing.” 

I am sure he took wine in the House of Commons, although he often lunched and dined down Whitehall at the National Liberal Club. It was probably the one thing that made much of his time there palatable. I can detect in the Hansard record at least one occasion when he seems to have spoken in the Chamber after, shall we say, too much wine; although accusations of being tipsy were often levelled at him by his political opponents.

I don’t know what the quality of the stuff in the wine cellars in Parliament was then. I know that when Robert Maxwell (MP!) was Chairman of the Catering Committee in the 1960s, he (allegedly) snaffled a lot of the good stuff (claiming it was past its prime) and replaced it with poor wine. Some restocking has since taken place, although demand for fine wine has plummeted as fewer people lunch or dine properly any more, and the reign of ghastly prosecco and other over-rated drinks means that finding a good bottle in one of the subsidised bars is harder than I would like. I could go on, in something of a rage, about the frightful effect of fashion upon wine – and the grisly triumph of one-dimensional varietal wines over the traditional blends which were the fruit of much patience, a great deal of trial and error, and which were sealed with the note of tradition. But I won’t.

It is worth bearing in mind that Belloc was no wine-snob – he often recites that one should ‘drink the wine that pleases you, not that which other people say is great but which you find not to your taste’. But wine has now become so commodified and commercialised that, both for better and for worse, it is very distant in image to what it was in his day.

Belloc of course famously felt called to warn against certain alcohols as being from the Devil, viz., this tale from The Path to Rome:

“I knew a man once that was given to drinking, and I made up this rule for him to distinguish between Bacchus and the Devil. To wit: that he should never drink what has been made and sold since the Reformation. – I mean especially spirits and champagne. Let him (said I) drink red wine and white, good beer and mead – if he could get it – liqueurs made by monks, and, in a word, all those feeding, fortifying, and confirming beverages that our fathers drank in old time; but not whisky, nor brandy, nor sparkling wines, not absinthe, nor the kind of drink called gin. This he promised to do, and all went well. 

He became a merry companion, and began to write odes. His prose clarified and set, that had before been very mixed and cloudy. He slept well; he comprehended divine things; he was already half a republican, when one fatal day – it was the feast of the eleven thousand virgins, and they were too busy up in heaven to consider the needs of us poor hobbling, polyktonous and betempted wretches of men – I went with him to the Society for the Prevention of Annoyances to the Rich, where a certain usurer's son was to read a paper on the cruelty of Spaniards to their mules. As we were all seated there round a table with a staring green cloth on it, and a damnable gas pendant above, the host of that evening offered him whisky and water, and, my back being turned, he took it. Then when I would have taken it from him he used these words – ‘After all, it is the intention of a pledge that matters;’ and I saw that all was over, for he had abandoned definition, and was plunged back into the horrible mazes of Conscience and Natural Religion.”

While Belloc was a Frenchman, he was also a classicist – not in the professional sense – he of course read History and not Greats at Balliol – but by education and cultural affinity. The knowledge of Europe’s classical heritage lies deep at the root of much of what he believed, understood and wrote about, although its influence is not as first always apparent. In this respect it echoes much of what he would write as an historian, of the role of Rome in establishing, defending and defining the European thing, and giving to the civilisation to which we still – at least at times – cling the form and functions with which we are familiar – not least in law, but also in politics (of a sort), in war-making, in technology and in the plastic arts.

Where cities were built, where roads led and bridges were fashioned are all part of the Roman work of Europe with which we still live. But much of this lies hidden. Not far from where I live was raised the second largest basilica in Roman Britain – at Calleva Atrebatum, Silchester – it lies hidden from view beneath grassy hillocks where cows now graze, inside the broken-down walls of that now deserted city. The largest basilica in Roman Britain was in London (one of the largest in Europe), and lies now, also invisible, beneath Leadenhall Market. But Belloc knew that the Roman thing was largely a thing of continuity. Silchester, like Wroxeter, or Viriconium, as it was known, was a statistical outlier, an anomaly, a Roman city that failed. Most of what Rome made we still have, even if we don’t know it.

But it wasn’t just the history of the classical world with which Belloc was familiar – it was the culture of the worlds of Greece and Rome; and, as any fule kno, culture is founded upon cultus, religion. We will touch upon the successor religion to classical paganism a little later, that now little understood but much misunderstood phenomenon, the Catholic Faith, but no-one could have written the opening stanzas of the Heroic Poem in Praise of Wine without being steeped in the myths and weltanschauung of that world of antiquity. So many of the references, now to us obscure, would have been known, and not just amongst the most highly educated, for centuries on end. And some of what he wrote is now for us difficult to grasp, shrouded in that obscurity which we have created with our ignorance.

I remember reading how, before a voyage, or each time when he left harbour, upon the decks of his ship the Master would pour a libation of wine to the gods, often accompanied by the recitation of a couplet from Homer or from Virgil. This might seem an odd thing for a devout Catholic to do, but there are many strands to the life of the Faith which reach back to what one might call noble pagan instinct – and we will come upon them later in this talk. Classical texts are of course as replete with references to wine as they are to the sea – and all of those voyages in the great literary works of the Greek and Roman worlds, the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Aeneid to name the three most obvious (the cry ‘Thalassa! Thalassa!’ also comes to me – from Xenophon’s Anabasis) are full of nautical journeying, where landfall at home is often signalled by the sight of vines ashore, the vine being the manifestation of home and civilisation.

For the vine represented longevity of settlement, order, and the hearth; where people tilled the soil for generations to draw from it the lifeblood for those who were to follow. Much as the vine symbolised to the Christian world the homeland of the Faith outside of which was the disorder of the vagrant barbaroi, the silent emptiness of the desert nomads or the alien order of those civilisations of the East, which had forsaken wine, so the vine to classical man was the sign of home, and of the cultus of his patria.

When I was interviewed for my job in the House of Commons in April 1992, I was asked whether one could correlate or neatly map the progress of the Protestant reformation by the tradition of beer-brewing over cultivation of the vine across Europe. The question took me rather by surprise; but I argued that one in part could, for while beer has its own noble traditions, its making is transient in a way that it cannot be for wine. More obviously, had I thought of it myself (which I hadn’t), I would have opined that classical Rome’s deepest roots were evident where the vine too had deep roots. Societies of brewing people which ran to Protestant seed were in large part (I except anomalous Belgium) places where Roman society ran skin deep as it were, or which were added onto the Empire late in the day. The places where the classical world was most itself were those places where vines were reared and the Faith was preserved.

How long does a newly-planted vine need before it can produce wine really worth drinking? How long can a vine last, and at what stage in its life does it produce its most concentrated grape juices, albeit from a dwindling annual harvest? These are things beyond a generation, for a vine truly to express itself from the terroir in which it grows, things of two, more likely three generations. Add to that the tradition of laying down wines for one’s children or grand-children, of clearing land so that your children can plant their vines for wine for their grand-children, and it is easy to see how deep the roots of that culture need to be to sustain the vine – a culture that was spread by Rome (and Greece before it) even if its origins lie murky further east.

Wine is home, wine is civilisation, wine is continuity with tradition and order – wine is also companionship: inns, taverns, friends beside a roaring hearth, or at table.

As the phenomenon of wine stands on the classical origins of ‘the West’, of Europe (which in Belloc’s time was seen as embracing the north African littoral, between the Atlas and Middle Sea, as it had in Roman times), so Belloc’s interest in history was an interest in the story of ‘the West’, of how that classical civilisation morphed into the world he knew.

There has probably never been an historical writer in this country so able as Belloc to conjure up time and place, and to set before the reader with such vividness a scene of long past as though it were one remembered not fashioned – the sights, the sounds, the smells – and all drawn from contemporary texts, proximate narrative accounts, and from his understanding of the time, and often of the place where that scene was set. It’s not my task now to speak of ‘Belloc and History’ (I hope to return to that theme some other time); but his capacity to see the world now, and to see it then, to make connections between the two, to escry similarity and difference, and to gauge the whys and wherefores for those likenesses and dissimilarities, is a key part of his genius as a writer and a thinker.

Were I now to set before you a bottle of Clos de Vougeot (were I fortunate enough to have such a bottle!), what would you see? Here is a wine, even beyond the expense of most other burgundies, fashioned from grapes grown in land enclosed by the monastic wall of a Cistercian holding, managed by the monks of Cîteaux, that Order’s mother-house. The land was passed to that Order in the twelfth century, and was land already planted with vines on a site that dates back for such viticultural use to the Merovingian period (and probably anterior to that).

When I see that wine, when I pull the cork and pour the liquid – say a white Clos, golden and buttery – into my glass, I can hear the chanting of the monks I can see their robed figures among the vines, while below, on the road from Beaune to Dijon march armies Merovingian, then Carolingian, Burgundian, royal then Republican French – I see the chain mail, the guerdons, then the plate armour and chivalric colours and the blossoming of heraldry; I see the white frock-coats of the Frederician wars of the so-called Enlightenment and then the vivid blue of the Republican armies. How expressive is just that one glass! Imagine what a whole bottle would do! And so was wine to Belloc, a messenger from Clio, Muse of History. 

And then we come to the hill of Corton, and to Charlelmagne.

“When he with his wide host came conquering home
From vengeance under Roncesvalles ta’en” 

It’s not always possible to distinguish legend from history, nor is it always desirable. As the Master so often pointed out, local folk-tales about a place often record, in embellished form, something which sober narratives of the time omit or speak about only in adumbration, but which is true in its own way. Charlemagne stood atop Corton hill – some say it was already royal land, having been Imperial land under Rome – on his way back from fighting the Saracen (as the Chanson de Roland records). Vines were already there, not covering all the hill – they are recorded in a chronicle dated to c696 AD and no doubt were Roman in origin. He stood, the wind in his white beard and hair, and in a vox clara et alta – the voice high and clear, as Joinville has it, a description that makes me think of the voice of the Master too – declared the wine of that hill to be his favourite, and ordered casks of it to be brought to his train before setting off for the north, for Aix, his capital.

If you win the lottery, seek out a bottle of Corton-Charlemagne, or Charlemagne: they are not inexpensive, as perhaps befits a wine fashioned for an Emperor – they are white wines, although reds, designated as Corton or Aloxe-Corton, are also grown lower on that hill. His wife, it is said, preferred him to drink the white, as it would not then fleck his beard with red.

“Or when his bramble beard flaked with foam 
Of bivouac wine-cups on the Lombard plain 
What time he swept to grasp the world at Rome…” 

And when, as I was saying, you drink that white, think of him atop that hill, on his horse, Tencendur, with his sword, Joyeuse, at his side – Carolus Magnus, great king and war-leader, first Holy Roman Emperor, the greatest figure of his generation, and of many generations to either side of his.

“Father Lenaean, to whom our strength belongs, 
Our loves, our wars, our laughter and our songs, 
Remember our inheritance, who praise 
Your glory in these last unhappy days 
When beauty sickens and a muddied robe 
Of baseness fouls the universal globe. 
Though all the Gods indignant and their train 
Abandon ruined man, do thou remain! 
By thee the vesture of our life was made, 
The Embattled Gate, the lordly Colonnade, 
The woven fabric's gracious hues, the sound 
Of trumpets, and the quivering fountain-round, 
And, indestructible, the Arch, and, high, 
The Shaft of Stone that stands against the sky, 
And, last, the guardian-genius of them, Rhyme, 
Come from beyond the world to conquer time: 
All these are thine, Lenaean. 

By thee do seers the inward light discern; 
By thee the statue lives, the Gods return; 
By thee the thunder and the falling foam 
Of loud Acquoria's torrent call to Rome; 
Alba rejoices in a thousand springs, 
Gensano laughs, and Orvieto sings... 
But, Ah! With Orvieto, with that name 
Of dark, Etrurian, subterranean flame 
The years dissolve. I am standing in that hour 
Of majesty Septembral, and the power 
Which swells the clusters when the nights are still 
With autumn stars on Orvieto hill.” 

For to drink wine is to drink history.

Think of the wines of the Rhône valley, quite possibly the first part of France to be brought vines by the Greeks, perhaps by the Phoenicians before them; on the steep baked hills of Cornas and Côte Rôtie, the vintners still use caves there delved wherein are stone vats to store and then press the grape, vats that were there at least in Roman times, perhaps before (the label of one such wine is in Latin, and named after the Roman military officer who we know grew vines there!).

Think of Châteauneuf du Pape, which speaks explicitly of a more recent phenomenon, the Avignonese Papacy, called at its time by those who lamented the departure of the Popes from Rome the ‘new Babylonian captivity’ – a phenomenon of the fourteenth century which blessed, if that is the term, a part of what is now France, then the Holy Roman Empire, with the seat of the Popes for some 67 years (and to which Popes or Anti-Popes, I forget which, returned during the Great Schism of the fifteenth century). Among those earlier Popes was John XXII, known to his enemies as ‘the fat Pope of Cahors’ (history records him as being thin and ascetic), who brought to the area his local grape variety, Tannat, in order to have close to hand the ‘black wine’ of his youth.

I will not speak now of Orvieto, except to mention that, unlike other wines I have mentioned, it is cheap and frankly not usually worth the purchase. Moreover, the Orvieto wine that Belloc drank was not that commonly associated with it today (or indeed throughout its recent history) which is dry and often rather flat; that which Belloc so memorialised was, by modern standards, sweet, and indeed often botrytised (like Sauternes).

If Belloc opined that Europe is the Faith and the Faith Europe, this was for a number of reasons. My old tutor, Dr Alexander Murray, once said that when Rome fell to the barbaroi (who, let us not forget, spoke Latin and wore Roman military gear), the Emperor just turned his collar around and became the Pope. And there is great (obviously not literal) truth in this. When Charlemagne sought to become Holy Roman Emperor – and recall that he had to journey to Rome, to be crowned by the Pope at St Peter’s Basilica (the place of the crowning is still marked upon the Cosmati tiles there) – this led to the great medieval feud between Papacy and Empire (which provided part-inspiration for Dante’s Divina Commedia), a feud in which Emperors were placed under excommunication and interdict, Henry IV famously falling at the feet of Pope Innocent II in the snow at Canossa, Frederick II, his successor, stupor mundi, as he was known, taking up the Imperial cudgels again – a fight of the secular sword against the spiritual which inspired other kings in other realms, and which – one can say with some confidence – led to Pope Boniface VIII being head-butted at his Palace in Anagni by Guillaume de Nogaret, servant of King Philippe le Bel and (it was rumoured) the grandson of a Cathar heretic, an assault from which the Pope died days later. Breathless stuff.

But that is an aside. 

For the Catholic Church and the history of Europe are of course interwoven; and the Church and wine likewise, more existentially still.

The White Monks and their lay-brothers toiling in the vineyards at Clos de Vougeot were an off-shoot of the Black Monks, the Benedictines, who were themselves possibly the primary inheritors of the Roman thing in Europe: learning, rhetoric, reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, agriculture, science. As the power of local Imperial rule weakened, that rule in the cities passed to the local bishop, who took over management of the dioceses which the Romans had ruled (thus the term). The great rural estates, the latifundia, increasingly were passed on to the new monastic houses which sprung up through the seventh and eighth centuries (which we didn’t have in Britain in the same way, as Imperial land tenure here seems to have been slight) or to the canonries of the cathedral towns.

The word basilica denoted where a Roman magistrate would sit to hear cases and give judgment: it is now associated with the Church, as so many of those basilicae became churches as the Empire became Christian and the Church replaced the Empire. Just as the central doors of St John Lateran were taken from the old Senate House in the Forum, and the Pantheon renamed and remade as the Church of Mary and the Martyrs, so the ceremonies of a Pontifical Mass in the ‘extraordinary’ form (as some now call it) mirror Imperial ceremonial, with possible Gallican additions from the time of – you guessed it – Charlemagne.

As Dom Gregory Dix put it, the famed author of The Shape of the Liturgy:

“It is because it [the Holy Mass] became embedded deep down in the life of the Christian peoples, colouring all the via vitae of the ordinary man and woman, marking its personal turning points, marriage, sickness, death and the rest, running through it year by year with the feasts and fasts and rhythm of the Sundays, that the Eucharistic action became inextricably woven into the public history of the Western world. The thought of it is inseparable for its great turning points also. Pope Leo doing this in the morning before he went out to daunt Attila, on the day that saw the continuity of Europe saved; and another Leo doing this three and a half centuries later when he crowned Charlemagne Roman Emperor, on the day that saw that continuity fulfilled. Or again, Alfred wandering defeated by the Danes staying his soul on this, while medieval England struggled to be born.[...]. At Constantinople they “do this” yet with the identical words and gestures they used while the silver trumpets of the Basileus still called across the Bosphorus in what seems to us now this strange fairy-tale land of the Byzantine Empire. In ...[the] twentieth century Charles de Foucauld in his hermitage in the Sahara “did this” with the same rite as Cuthbert twelve centuries before in his hermitage on Lindisfarne in the Northern seas.” 

And to think that, as Belloc noted acerbically, the donnish Cambridge History of the Middle Ages makes no reference to the Mass…

The classical thing became the Roman Imperial thing which became the Catholic thing which became the European thing. What that thing has now become I will leave you all to ponder.

But wine is intrinsically necessary to the Catholic religion and its liturgical practice. Not only is its use attested to (and hallowed) by references in Sacred Scripture, but the centre-piece of each Catholic’s life, the Holy Mass, could not be celebrated without it. Where the Church goes, the vine goes – a lot of the earliest estates in New Zealand, Australia, America, north and south, and even South Africa, began under ecclesiastical aegis – to produce wine for the Mass (and, after Mass, for the priest’s refreshment!). The same is no doubt true in earlier centuries, as the Faith spread across eastern Europe and to places further afield.

And for a brief while, amidst the aridity and desolation of Tamanrasset, amidst the Sahara, vines grew. Blessed Charles de Foucauld, ex-aristocratic playboy and French hussar, raised these vines: as a priest he needed wine for Holy Mass, and supplies from the nearest French garrison were not always to be relied upon. Even if they had been, Blessed Charles saw the importance of growing grapes around his hermitage. It is appropriate for the dwelling of a priest to be surrounded by the drooping clusters and gentle tendrils of the vine.

“Though Man made wine I think God made it too; 
God, making all things, made Man make good wine. 
He taught him how the little tendrils twine 
About the stakes of labour close and true. 
Then next, with intimate prophetic laughter, 
He taught the Man, in His own image blest, 
To pluck and waggon and to – all the rest! 
To tread the grape and work his vintage after. 

So did God make us, making good wine's makers; 
So did He order us to rule the field. 
And now by God are we not only bakers 
But vintners also, sacraments to yield; 
Yet most of all strong lovers. Praised be to God! 
Who taught us how the wine-press should be trod!” 

And let us not forget that Belloc also used to baptise some of his wine:

“All – nearly all – Red wine is the better for having just one or two drops of water poured into the first glass only. Why this should be so I know not, but so it is. It introduces it. This admirable and little know custom is called ‘Baptising’ wine.” 

The ecclesiastical traditions of course extend beyond wine. Dom Perignon was said to be the first person properly to develop manageable fermentation of wine in a bottle (hotly contested by fellow monks from Limoux in the Languedoc where they make their rightly lauded Blanquette). The monks of Belgium are in particular noted for their brewing: so strong are some of the Trappist ales that there is no wonder that the monks are speechless. Then there is Chartreuse, Frigolet (a little-known Premonstratensian liqueur spirit from Provence), and Benedictine. Distillation itself was developed in monastic houses (the Church was for a long while the guardian of science, and its foremost proponent – the Cistercian houses of the north of England refined metal-working skills which allowed Henry VIII, of all people, to cast larger and more reliable cannon). 

Wine and religion have a relationship which predated the Church – I have already mentioned Belloc imitating the actions of a Roman sailor (or Greek before him, or even Phoenician before them both?), pouring out an offering upon the deck of the Nona. The legions carried the vine wherever they went – they required wine for the oathtaking of new recruits, which they called the sacramentum, from where we derive our word sacrament. Wine, as an accompaniment to religious ritual, is particularly prevalent in the works of Virgil. The wine that was poured out in oblation was said to be the very god, Bacchus Lenaeus, himself.

In the Mass, the wine is transubstantiated into Christ’s blood, shed for all men – Christ the vine and thus the grape, trod upon in the wine-press of the Passion to provides new wine to sanctify the plebs sancta dei. In that sense, wine becomes God, and the classical and the Christian unite. And in drinking it, His Blood, we ourselves share in that Divinity.

So in that goblet, that glass, that you or I can hold, that we can share with family and friends, wine encapsulates so much of Belloc, because it encapsulates so much of the West, of the European thing, those traditions and the history he loved, whose culture he defended and which he himself had inherited and desired to see passed on. It truly is “leading all Creation down distilled/ To one small ardent sphere immensely filled.”

“Had these been mine, Ausonian Muse, to know 
The large contented oxen heaving slow; 
To count my sheaves at harvest; so to spend 
Perfected days in peace until the end; 
With every evening's dust of gold to hear 
The bells upon the pasture height, the clear 
Full horn of herdsmen gathering in the kine 
To ancient byres in hamlets Appenine, 
And crown abundant age with generous ease: 
Had these, Ausonian Muse, had these, had these... 

But since I would not, since I could not stay, 
Let me remember even in this my day 
How, when the ephemeral vision's lure is past 
All, all, must face their Passion at the last 

Was there not one that did to Heaven complain 
How, driving through the midnight and the rain, 
He struck, the Atlantic seethe and surge before, 
Wrecked in the North along a lonely shore 
To make the lights of home and hear his name no more. 
Was there not one that from a desperate field 
Rode with no guerdon but a rifted shield; 
A name disherited; a broken sword; 
Wounds unrenowned; battle beneath no Lord; 
Strong blows, but on the void, and toil without reward. 

When from the waste of such long labour done 
I too must leave the grape-ennobling sun 
And like the vineyard worker take my way 
Down the long shadows of declining day, 
Bend on the sombre plain my clouded sight 
And leave the mountain to the advancing night, 
Come to the term of all that was mine own 
With nothingness before me, and alone; 
Then to what hope of answer shall I turn? 
Comrade-Commander whom I dared not earn, 
What said You then to trembling friends and few? 
"A moment, and I drink it with you new: 
But in my Father's Kingdom." So, my Friend, 
Let not Your cup desert me in the end. 
But when the hour of mine adventure's near 
Just and benignant, let my youth appear 
Bearing a Chalice, open, golden, wide, 
With benediction graven on its side. 
So touch my dying lip: so bridge that deep: 
So pledge my waking from the gift of sleep, 
And, sacramental, raise me the Divine: 
Strong brother in God and last companion, Wine.” 

Thank you!

Tuesday 26 June 2018

The first meeting of the revived, and rejuvenated, Hilaire Belloc Society will take place in Lewes on Saturday the 28th of July...

We are very pleased to announce that the first meeting of the revived, and rejuvenated, Hilaire Belloc Society will take place in Lewes on Saturday the 28th of July at the John Harvey Tavern. Our esteemed, and distinguished, Chairman Mike Hennessy will be giving a presentation on Belloc and Wine. This will be a multi-faceted talk with all sorts of cultural, historical and alcoholic dimensions.

The agenda will be as follows:

1PM - assemble in the meeting room, of the John Harvey Tavern, for lunch (please order your food in advance by contacting the Pub directly - not me!).

2PM - the talk commences followed by questions and answers.

3.30 PM - a walk around Lewes, led by Chris Hare (historical sites and hostelries).

6.00 PM - re-assemble at the John Harvey Tavern for the annual commemorative Hilaire Belloc dinner (65th anniversary) followed by a sing-song (instruments are most welcome).

Please feel free to come along at any stage in the proceedings. If you do intend to join us it would be useful to have some idea of numbers and so please do send a message to thehilairebellocblog@gmail.com
This is not obligatory, but it would be helpful.

The venue location and contact details are as follows:

Address: Bear Yard, Cliffe High Street, Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 2AN.
Telephone: 01273 479 880
Parking: There is no parking on site. Argos car park is opposite the pub, however this is for Argos customers.
Please find a map of available parking here: https://en.parkopedia.co.uk/parking/lewes/
Public Transport: Lewes Train station is a 10 minute walk from the pub, and a town centre bus stop is a 5 minute walk away, located at the front of Waitrose.

Mike in a reflective mood. Do I perceive a superficial resemblance?

Monday 25 June 2018

Henry Douglas RIP

Dr Grahame Clough, the former Chairman of the Hilaire Belloc Society, has some unwelcome news for us. He writes:

''The sad news to report is that our good friend and originator of The Hilaire Belloc Society, back in 1996, Henry Douglas has passed away. Henry never missed a committee meeting and thank goodness for that because he was the epitome of calmness and was always able to quench even the most heated debates on every subject and would you believe that even included the genius of Buffy the Vampire Slayer versus that of Charlie Chaplin - there were many other obscure subjects that got out of hand but dear old Henry shepherded us into order. The Belloc Society meetings were always held in Guildford and many thought that this because that is where Hilaire Belloc died - that is not true, the real truth is that I did not want to give Henry any excuse! He never knew I had an ulterior motive but although I did I just loved his company. Henry very kindly donated his entire collection of books, by Belloc, to the Hilaire Belloc Society and I am absolutely certain that he will be so pleased that his collection now resides at Kings Land and with his own bookplate. From a personal point of view Henry's journalistic skills were very welcome and are what made The Bellocian newsletter so well received because although perfectly polite he would never shy from telling me that I was wrong and so for that Henry, I will raise a glass of red, toast a very good friend and make sure that this obituary is grammatically incorrect so that I can imagine that last rye smile.''

Tuesday 6 March 2018

The Hilaire Belloc Society has been re-founded...

I am pleased to announce that the Hilaire Belloc has been re-founded, after having fallen into abeyance in recent years. The re-launch took place at The Bridge Inn (on Saturday the 24th of February) : a hostelry with strong Bellocian associations. 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. 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."

Our new Chairman is Mike Hennessy (the former Secretary). He wears many hats, one of them being Deputy Head of the Table Office in the House of Commons. As a Parliamentary Official for over twenty five years he is well placed to call us to order. He will be ably assisted by Dr Chris Hare as Vice Chairman. Chris has previously held this role. Many people, involved in Heritage projects in Sussex, will be familiar with Chris' huge contribution to our understanding of Sussex's historical identity. His wife, Ann, has written a dramatic adaptation of the Four Men which was, recently, performed all over Sussex to significant acclaim. I am very pleased to say that Anne has also joined the Committee.

It would be very remiss of me not to mention that Dr Grahame Clough, the founding Chairman of the Society, was elected Honorary President and has also volunteered his services as Treasurer. This gives us very tangible continuity with what has gone before. Grahame laboured in the vineyard for years, publishing seemingly endless editions of the The Bellocian. Most of the published material hadn't seen the light of day for a long time and a lot of the commentaries on Belloc's writings were highly original. It was, and is, a great resource for scholars wishing to deepen their understanding of his great soul and intellect.

The Society plans to hold several events in Sussex this year. We will keep you posted. In the meantime:

'The dank despisers of the Vine, arise
To watch grey dawns and mourn indifferent skies. 

Forget them! Form the Dionysian ring 
And pulse the ground, and Io, Io, sing.' 

(an excerpt from Heroic Poem in Praise of Wine by Hilaire Belloc)

Wednesday 24 January 2018

A convivial evening of timeless satire, wit and rhyme featuring the life and work of Hilaire Belloc....

West London Action for Children
Invite you to
An Evening with Belloc
A convivial evening of timeless satire, wit and rhyme featuring the life and work of Hilaire Belloc
Wednesday 31 January 2018
Presented by John Julius Norwich, John Bromley-Davenport & LAMDA actors
Directed by Judy Bromley-Davenport
Singing Hall, St Paul’s Girls’ School, Brook Green, W6 7BS
Doors open at 6.30pm
Performance starts at 7.15pm and ends at 9pm
Suggested donation £30 per head
Or for more information contact Gazala at team@wlac.org.uk or on 020 7352 1155
All donations go directly to support the vital work of
West London Action for Children
with grateful thanks to our sponsors
Bective Leslie Marsh
T: 020 7352 1155 F: 020 7351 2739 E: team@wlac.org.uk W: www.wlac.org.uk
West London Action for Children is a charitable company limited by guarantee
Registered in England and Wales     Registered charity number 1135648       Registered company number 07181950