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.

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.