Sunday, July 16

Hilaire Belloc

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).

1 comment:

Stacey said...

Hi! I'm reading Crisis of Civilization right now and Belloc is touching on the change in philosophy that rejected good works, so that nothing we did really mattered, and the consequential prioritization of material wealth and practical concerns. Combine that with the destruction of authority and tradition and you have a recipe for greedy looting, right?

I was wondering if you could recommend any more Belloc books dealing with this subject, particularly as pertains to the destruction of status, rising concern for the state of the pocketbook over that of the soul, and what I call the destruction of the sacred. It seems to me as if the rejection of monasticism and utilitarianism preached by Luther has led to all sorts of bad consequences, i.e. considering poverty the greatest evil, and the common prioritization of quality of life and liberty over life itself and moral righteousness.

Thanks for any suggestions!