This June I read The Path to Rome as I always do during the anniversary of Belloc’s great walk but in a slightly different way. Instead of simply reading the book I read it out aloud. Every morning, I join my mother for breakfast. While she eats, I read for her. We take it in turns to decide on a book and, after we finished her choice of Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe in May, I began my choice: The Path to Rome. I knew from my previous readings of the book how important friendship was to Belloc but reading it aloud really brought the fact home. When you speak words, you dwell on them that little bit longer, and as a result, give them an opportunity to make a home in you that bit more. If you ask why was it Belloc and friendship that stuck with me, above and beyond anything else that he talks about, I would reply that it is because (the idea of) friendship is important to me, too, so the passages came as seed onto fertile ground.

Here are a few times that Belloc mentions friendship, or as he puts it, companionship:

On arriving in Flavigny: ‘There, by a special providence, I found the entertainment and companionship whose lack had left me wrecked all these early hours.” (p.37)

Belloc reflects on his friendship with two soldiers: ‘… I never see a powder-magazine without being filled at once with two very good feelings – laughter and companionship.’ (p.112)

On the way to Radicofani: ‘… not far from the climb up to Radicofani… I saw lights shining in a large farmhouse, and though it was my business to walk by bight, yet I needed companionship, so I went in.’ (p.407)

Before finishing, I should add that the page numbers relate to the 2003 Ignatius Press edition of The Path to Rome.

Decision on Belloc’s Windmill Deferred

Two days ago, I wrote (here) that Horsham District Council had given its qualified permission to Charles Eustace, Hilaire Belloc’s great-grandson, for the conversion of his windmill into a dwelling.

However, I have just discovered that at its meeting on 1st December, the council DEFERRED its decision on the planning application. You can read about what happened in this West Sussex County Times report.

After reading the report, I wondered how I managed to get the facts wrong. I think I mistook the Planning Committee’s Report (here) for the Council’s decision. Mea Culpa: I should have known better – especially since the report is titled ‘Planning Committee Report’! So, apologies to anyone who was misled.

In light of the above, what to do about my my previous post? Delete it? No. I would like this blog to be an account of my journey with Hilaire Belloc. If I get something right about him – brilliant. If I get something wrong – I will write a correction rather than delete and pretend it never happened. This, of course, applies to matters relating to Belloc as well, such as in this case.

Once I have published this post, therefore, I will just update the previous post so that anyone who reads it will know that it isn’t correct and may come here for an explanation.

Belloc on Usury

In an article on President-Elect Joe Biden’s ‘consistent support for usury and the people and organizations that benefit from it.’ the Church Militant website references Hilaire Belloc’s views on usury. As you might expect, they reflect the beliefs of the Church.

You can read the full article here.

Now, I have to be honest, I am not a fan of Church Militant. When it comes to liturgy, we are probably on the same page, but in respect of other Church teachings, especially social ones, I imagine I am as liberal as Church Militant is conservative. With that said, it’s good to see them mention Belloc, and isn’t it wonderful that he can draw people from opposite wings of the Church together? I think so.

Belloc’s Windmill to be Converted into a Home

UPDATE (3.12.20)
The information below is not correct – Horsham District Council deferred it’s decision. For more information, see my post here

A few days ago, the West Sussex County Times reported local ‘anger’ over plans by Hilaire Belloc’s grandson [sic], who lives at the author’s Kingsland home, to convert the windmill there into a two bedroom house. You can read the report here.

The decision on whether or not to grant planning permission was put before Horsham District Council yesterday, and by the looks of this report it has been granted – on condition that financing ‘for the ongoing maintenance of the windmill’ is obtained within the next three months.

By way of a correction, I believe that Charles Eustace, referred to in the West Sussex County Times report as Belloc’s grandson is actually his great-grandson.

My interest in Hilaire Belloc is principally in his life and times so I don’t have an opinion on whether or not Kingsland’s windmill should be kept in its original state or converted. I do hope, however, that if it is turned into a home, as much as possible of its original character will be maintained.

Apologies and Outlines

Catching Up
When I created this blog in August, I didn’t think it would take me until December to write my third post.

What I did have in mine was that I would immediately start writing if not learned then interesting and in-depth posts about Belloc and his books.

After reading The Road to Rome in June, Old Thunder in July and Europe and the Faith in September – that was that. I chose The Servile State for my next book but it just never took off. I got lazy, distracted; life intervened, etc etc. Mea culpa. I’m sorry about that.

At the start of this week, I lamented to a friend that I had done hardly any reading this year. I sold myself short on this but the truth is 2020 has been a bad reading year. Again, mea culpa.

The conversation made me determined to do something about it. There were four books on my desk that I started a while ago, so I took each one and started reading a little of each. One of the books was The Servile State.

The Servile State
I read the first three chapters, or ‘sections’ as Belloc calls them.

I have to admit, I found the book heavy going. It’s about economics so rather outside of my comfort zone and contains a healthy dose of definitions and arguments which does not sit well with my mind more used, as it is, to stories.

The funny thing is, that’s a lie. I am more used to history nowadays thanks to all the reading I do as part of my love of Alexander the Great. For some reason, though, reading military history is easier than economic history. Well, there we are.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that earlier today I read Section IV of The Servile State. Midway through, something changed: I started being able to follow Belloc’s writing so much more easily. From that point onwards, it felt like I was reading a university lecture.

What I hope to do is this: keep reading The Servile State over the next few days. It isn’t very long (I am on p.57 of 113), so I hope I can finish it within the next two weeks. As soon as I do so, I will start it again and this time take notes for my Belloc Twitter account (@theservilestate) and one or more posts on this blog. The first time round, though, I just want to read and get familiar with it.

Old Thunder Blog
In the meantime, what to do with the blog? Again, earlier today I said on Twitter that I did not want my Belloc account to lie dormant until I was ready to tweet about the book. The same applies to the blog. I wondered what I could use the Twitter account for to stop this from happening. I then spent a few minutes using the search function to see what people were saying about Belloc and retweeting them with comments. So, what I think I will do with the blog is this (a) a catch up post between Friday-Sunday every week and (b) occasional posts inspired by Twitter, Google Alerts or anything else that occurs to me. Please pray for me that I will be able to deepen my knowledge of Belloc and share it with you.

Do you like

… the header image on the blog? It is a detail from a late seventeenth century map of Sussex by Robert Morden. Here is the whole image.

When setting up this blog I really wanted to use an image of Belloc and his wife, Elodie; although they never co-wrote any books, Elodie was as – if not more – important to Belloc as G. K. Chesterton.

Unfortunately, I was not able to format the one image I found of them together so had to look elsewhere. This lead me to Morden’s illustration. It appears on the Wikipedia page for Halnacker Hill (here). I chose it for two reasons. Firstly, because on Halnacker Hill is the windmill that inspired Belloc’s famous poem, Ha’nacker Mill, which you can see just to the left of Ertham in the centre of the map; and secondly, for Slindon, which is a little to Ertham’s right.

You can read Ha’nacker Mill on the Poetry by Heart website here.

Slindon is a significant place in Hilaire Belloc’s life. As Joseph Pearce notes in Old Thunder, the Belloc family moved there in 1878, just a few days before Hilaire’s eighth birthday. Elizabeth Belloc took her son for long walks in the Sussex countryside. The path to Rome and a great many other places undoubtedly began from their Slindon doorstep.

In 1903, Hilaire returned to Slindon for a summer holiday with Elodie and their children – Louis, Eleanor, Elizabeth, and Hilary (that summer, Elodie was pregnant with their fifth child, Peter). This holiday is notable for being the period that they met Reginald and Charlotte Balfour. Charlotte converted to the Catholic Faith the following year.

In 1904, Louis Belloc served Mass for the first time at Slindon’s Catholic church. Here’s how Eleanor remembered the occasion,

‘It gave my father such pleasure that Sunday,’ recalled Eleanor, ‘that he seemed overjoyed and, following Louis into the sacristy after Mass, brought him out into the church and gave him a golden sovereign…’” 

Joseph Pearce Old Thunder p.103

The Bellocs returned to Slindon during the Easter of 1905, this time to live there on a stopgap basis while they looked for a permanent residence. They would find it the following year at King’s Land, Shipley.

I have admired Hilaire Belloc’s faith and writing

… for over twenty years. To my shame, however, I have in that time only read a handful of his books. To be fair, I have for the last five or six years read The Path to Rome every year (during the period that Belloc undertook his famous pilgrimage) but given how much I like him, I could and should have read more.

Therefore, as I set out to read The Path to Rome again this year – June 2020, if you are reading this from 2021 onwards – I decided that enough was enough: it was time to start reading more of his books – not just every so often but regularly, perhaps as often as one book a month.

To prepare myself for this, I spent July 2020 reading Old Thunder, Joseph Pearce’s 2002 biography of Belloc. In August, I got going properly with the latter’s Europe and the Faith (1920).

It’s one thing to start reading, entirely another to keep at it. To motivate myself to do so, therefore, I started a Twitter account so that I could provide updates to anyone who might be interested regarding how I was getting on. That Twitter account is @SineAuctoritate.

I haven’t yet decided how I will use this blog. I hope that in time it will find its place. I don’t know how long I will keep it or the Twitter account going. I do know that I am burning to read more by Belloc so I hope both will be around for a while. I’m going to set myself a target, though: a minimum of one post a week between now and the end of August 2021. If I can make it to September next year, I’ll sit down with myself then and decide on the next move.

Back to the present, I would like to write posts about The Path to Rome, Old Thunder, and Europe and the Faith. I need to think about what shape they will take so I will go away and do that now. Thank you for reading. Please pray for me.