Hilaire Belloc: Walking, Inns, and the Recovery of Europe

On this 64th anniversary of the death of Hilaire Belloc (and fitting Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel), I thought to select a few passages from our beloved friend’s versatile writings both before and shortly after World War I: from the years 1911 and 1919 respectively. For, so much of intimate consequence had happened during that eight-year interval.

Just before the formal, late July outbreak of the momentous and very consequential Great War, Hilaire Belloc’s wife Elodie so unexpectedly died of influenza, and he was as a consequence almost inconsolable. (Her death occurred on 2 February 1914, Candlemas). And Belloc’s oldest son, Louis, a combat aviator as a Second Lieutenant, was to die late in the War (in late August of 1918), and his body was never found. (Belloc was to lose another son, Peter, early in World War II, in 1941. Belloc’s youngest son, Peter Gilbert Belloc, was then a Captain in the Royal Marines and he died after being evacuated with some kind of diseased wound.) We may well imagine what these intimate losses—to include the death of Cecil Chesterton late in World War I—cumulatively did to a whole-hearted and loyally affectionate man like Belloc. Especially after the death of Peter, too.

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  • Thank you Robert. Today is another catch-up day, but I gave priority to reading your Belloc essay. Another masterpiece. From contemplative considerations to history and the Betrayal of Poland. Ambassador Bliss’ book intrigues me, as my knowledge of post WWI and WWII and their aftermaths is so deficient. Belloc explains much in the excerpts you supply, especially regarding the Financial Oligarchy and the Banking Networks and their goal of de-Catholization. The German machine, funded by the Oligarchs (Plutocrats), as Belloc notes changed the culture of the Christian land, as even the Inns became hotels, and farms cities. Attali’s book on Warburg sounds like a good read too.

    So much to ponder Robert. Beginning with “Man lives by friendship” and “a Great Wind”. The wind, no, of Charity, hovering over the waters of creation, forming it out of the void. What sorrows for Belloc. His wife, and three sons, leaving this vale of tears, and how heavy for his sensitive soul.

    I loved reading about the joy of walking, seeing the whole of things, taking it all in, with the “right proportion” instead of “hippographically.” Great word. The walking man does not just “saunter” into town like “someone in a book.” Oblivious to beauty, “enemies of the Inn.” Appreciated, too, the added reflection on “walking away” and the need for solitude and silence. A man who walks right always has a destination, a purpose, even if it is solely contemplative. He ought to be a “pilgrim.” Everything around him is like “a cousin and a brother.” Then he says what a “warped” idea to just walk for exercise. And so humorous, “the stride” as in the Book of Wisdom somewhere “You know a man by his gait.” I cannot walk anymore, but I can imagine and remember. Always almost falling , yet the body commands the equilibrium. 5 degrees off and down we go. The very naturalness of walking, upright, against the wind. And with the Wind as in the clip T”here was a spirit [even Actual Grace, at times?] within you that taught you and that brought you out; and as it is with walking, so it is with speech, and so at last with humour and with irony, and with affection, and with the sense of colour and of form, and even with honour, and at last with prayer.”

    And of course Belloc brings in the SAIL BOAT and even the great tall ships and feeding off the wind. It was, sadly, a very foggy day 30 years ago when I took my parents down to Newport RI to see the tall ships. We went on a tour boat and could hardly see anything. AND I had a sea captain’s cap on for the occasion!!