Authors: Hilaire Belloc

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English poet, historian, and essayist

Author Works

Poetry:

Verses and Sonnets, 1896

The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts, 1896

More Beasts for Worse Children, 1897

The Modern Traveller, 1898

A Moral Alphabet, 1899

Cautionary Tales for Children, 1907

Verses, 1910

More Peers, 1911

Sonnets and Verse, 1923, 1938

New Cautionary Tales, 1930

Sonnets and Verse, 1954 (Reginald Jebb, editor)

The Verse, 1954 (W. N. Roughead, editor)

Nonfiction:

Danton, 1899

Paris, 1900

Robespierre, 1901

The Path to Rome, 1902

Avril, 1904

The Catholic Church and Historical Truth, 1908

Marie Antoinette, 1909

The Pyrenees, 1909

The French Revolution, 1911

The Four Men, 1912

The Servile State, 1912

The Cruise of the “Nona,” 1925

A History of England, 1925-1941

The Catholic Church and History, 1926

Milton, 1935

On the Place of Gilbert Chesterton in English Letters, 1940

Biography

One of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century, Joseph Hilaire Pierre Belloc (BEHL-ahk) was the son of a French father and an English mother. After his early childhood in France, he was sent to Cardinal John Henry Newman’s Oratory School in England. After serving in the French military service, he entered Balliol College, Oxford, graduating in 1895 with first-class honors in history. He remained in England most of his life and became a British subject in 1903.{$I[AN]9810000669}{$I[A]Belloc, Hilaire}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Belloc, Hilaire}{$I[geo]FRANCE;Belloc, Hilaire}{$I[tim]1870;Belloc, Hilaire}

Belloc began writing poems and essays at an early age. His first two books, volumes of children’s poetry, Verses and Sonnets and The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts, were published in 1896, the same year he married Elodie Hogan. In 1899 he published the first of his biographies, Danton. Always interested in politics, he was elected to Parliament as a Liberal from South Salford in 1906 and again in 1910. He abandoned active politics to begin, with two lifelong friends, G. K. Chesterton and Cecil Chesterton, a new political review called Eye-Witness, which first appeared in 1911. In the review they attacked the English governmental system and promoted ideas for a unified Europe. (Belloc always revered Napoleon for his effort to create a unified Europe.)

Besides his ties to France and to the Continent, Belloc was an ardent Roman Catholic. For thirty years or more he and G. K. Chesterton worked to argue the merits of Roman Catholicism to the intellectuals of England. Belloc began his intellectual crusade with The Path to Rome, an account of a walking trip he took from Toul, in northern France, through Switzerland and northern Italy to Rome. In this book he tried to demonstrate the importance and relevance of the Catholic faith. His view of history, in his many biographies and historical works, was strongly infused with a Roman Catholic point of view. Belloc treated the Reformation as an unfortunate accident and the Enlightenment as a serious mistake, but he venerated the Middle Ages. His four-volume A History of England was written to correct the biased and inaccurate portrayals given by most British historians. In spite of his proselytizing, Belloc pleaded his case with extraordinary knowledge and charm, as well as humor; he once claimed that the fact that most British public lavatories were built underground could be attributed to the ultimate effects of the Reformation.

Belloc’s lighter side was usually expressed in his verse, especially in his humorous poems for children. His prose style was distinguished by enormous clarity and lucidity; despite a total output of 153 books, he took pains with every sentence and word. He was interested in the derivations of words and in the many connections between French and English.

Belloc was also one of the most provocative essayists of the first half of the twentieth century. His home in the English countryside was often full of young intellectual visitors. His writing and his conversation covered the full range of political, social, and religious experience, and he stood out as one of the most vigorous, energetic, and lucid minds of his age, even though many of his doctrines and ideas were not followed by the young intellectuals who succeeded him.

BibliographyCheyette, Bryan. Constructions of “the Jew” in English Literature and Society. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993. Less focused on such overtly prejudiced writers as Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis, Cheyette concentrates on Matthew Arnold, Anthony Trollope, George Eliot, John Buchan, Rudyard Kipling, George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Hilaire Belloc, G. K. Chesterton, James Joyce, and T. S. Eliot. Includes an extensive bibliography of published and unpublished material.Corrin, Jay P. G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc: The Battle Against Modernity. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1981. Two champions of “democratic anarchy” are juxtaposed as writers and polemicists in an exploration that illuminates both of their careers. Corrin ably demonstrates the near inseparability of intellect and theological commitment of the two allies, while offering good expositions of the histories, fiction, and poetry of the lesser known Belloc.McCarthy, John Patrick. “Hilaire Belloc and the French Revolution.” Modern Age 35, no. 3 (Spring, 1993): 251-257. The appraisal of Belloc as a champion of the counter-revolution is generally accepted by scholars, but McCarthy challenges that assumption, citing Belloc’s belief in first principles and in democracy and asserting that he was sympathetic even to violent revolution.McCarthy, John Patrick. Hilaire Belloc: Edwardian Radical. Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1978. McCarthy’s concern is to elucidate Belloc’s career as a political conservative who opposes statism and the growing intervention of government in the private lives of individuals. This resourceful volume explains the relationship between Belloc’s politics and economics, and his poetics, while offering an apologia for reading Belloc in the present.Markel, Michael H. Hilaire Belloc. Boston: Twayne, 1982. Markel provides a sympathetic overview of Belloc’s life and a mostly thorough exposition of his major and minor works. This source is the best starting place for gaining a sense of the breadth of Belloc’s writing career and political commitments. Markel’s bibliography of primary and secondary sources is succinct, but valuable.Wilson, A. N. Hilaire Belloc. New York: Atheneum, 1984. A renowned novelist and biographer, Wilson provides researchers with an impeccable source of critical biographical material. Using Belloc’s letters and manuscripts previously unavailable, Wilson places Belloc and his writing within his historical milieu with affection and candor, refusing to ignore the darker side of Belloc’s sympathies with the anti-Semitism of the 1930’s and 1940’s.
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