Happy 140th birthday, Hilaire Belloc

Posted by Tory Historian Tuesday, July 27, 2010 , ,

The poet, essayist, MP, irascible Catholic, Hilaire Belloc was born on July 27, 1870 in France but became a British subject in 1902.

There are so many aspects to Belloc's life, some less pleasant than others that only a very long posting would do anything like justice to the man. It seems wrong on his birthday to do anything but to celebrate him as a poet but it is difficult to decide on the poems, those well-known and delightful children's ones or one of the West Sussex ones?

As this is the Conservative History blog, perhaps one should stick to the political poems, few of whom are better than Lord Lundy [scroll down], who
from his earliest years
Was far too freely moved to Tears.
Well, we know what happened to Lord Lundy:
It happened to Lord Lundy then,
As happens to so many men:
Towards the age of twenty-six,
They shoved him into politics;
In which profession he commanded
The Income that his rank demanded
In turn as Secretary for
India, the Colonies, and War.
But very soon his friends began
To doubt is he were quite the man:
It was that terrible tendency to be far too freely moved to tears.
They let him sink from Post to Post,
From fifteen hundred at the most
To eight, and barely six--and then
To be Curator of Big Ben!. . .
And finally there came a Threat
To oust him from the Cabinet!

The Duke -- his aged grand-sire -- bore
The shame till he could bear no more.
He rallied his declining powers,
Summoned the youth to Brackley Towers,
And bitterly addressed him thus--
"Sir! you have disappointed us!
We had intended you to be
The next Prime Minister but three:
The stocks were sold; the Press was squared:
The Middle Class was quite prepared.
But as it is! . . . My language fails!
Go out and govern New South Wales!"
What could be more conservative and, therefore, anti-utopian and anti-political than Belloc's famous quatrain about an election:
The accursed power which stands on Privilege
(And goes with Women, and Champagne and Bridge)
Broke and Democracy resumed her reign:
(Which goes with Bridge, and Women and Champagne)
Readers of the blog may well have other favourites. They are welcome to post them.


  1. Forgive my ignorance, but who is the gentleman standing in that lovely portrait which includes Belloc and Chesterton?

  2. Apologies. That should have been noted. The gentleman in question is Maurice Baring, the novelist, essayist, diplomat, reporter and travel writer. Quite a fascinating man in his own right. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maurice_Baring

  3. Stephen Says:
  4. Many thanks!

  5. anagasto Says:
  6. I am re-reading Belloc on Richelieu, and especially the first few pages are worth learning by heart, if only to compare his view to others.

    Basically he thought that the split between Catholicism and Protestantism was a threat to civilization made possible by Richelieu.

    Richelieu, a Catholic and a Cardinal, helped the Protestants all over Europe in order to strengthen France against Catholic Spain.

    His work of splitting Christianity was later made final by Bismarck.

    Since I don't know much about history, Belloc's clear presentation is the best possible introduction.

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