Author and poet Hilaire Belloc died on this day in 1953 at his home, "Kingsland," in Sussex, England. Born in France, he was educated at Oxford and became a British citizen--eventually serving in Parliament from 1906 to 1910. A good friend of G.K. Chesterton, they edited a weekly journal for many years which espoused their conservative, "Distributivist," social views.
He was amazingly prolific, writing more than a hundred volumes in his life--in every genre and on every subject imaginable including fiction, poetry, social criticism, history, philosophy, economics, politics, biography, science, military strategy, travel, art, geography, cooking, gardening, engineering, sailing, and theology. I've been reading and collecting out-of-print Belloc books for twenty years now and have yet to exhaust their rich mines.
His best works include On Nothing (1908), The Bad Child's Book of Beasts (1896), Hills and the Sea (1906), Richelieu (1930), the six-volume History of England (1925). His text The Servile State (1912) was a profoundly influential analysis of Catholic economics, which provided a devastating free market critique of both mercantilist socialism and monopolist capitalism. The Path to Rome (1902) is a brilliant and beautiful paean to Western Civilization in its Catholic expression.
But my favorite of Belloc's books is his novel, The Four Men (1908). It is a wide-ranging farrago investigating all the various aspects of his own interests, which is to say, all the various aspects of Christendom’s glorious cultural flowering in the West. It is a work of stunning originality and creativity. In fact, just writing about it here makes me want to reread it even though I am currently in the middle of yet another book by Belloc, his French Revolution (1912).