We need, I think, to more properly introduce Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) at this website – that is, say more than we did recently here – given that we will be saying so much more about him.
Accordingly, I offer a little further introduction below (while I also prepare to write a forthcoming, longer introduction to his profoundly Catholic life and thinking).
But before that further introduction below, I want to note something regarding Belloc and this website.
First, I will say that discovering Belloc has been a profoundly joyous, yet also eerie experience for me …
It is joyous, inasmuch as I have discovered a very dear friend, a life-long friend I think, even if my new dear friend died in 1953.
It is eerie, inasmuch as I see parallels, which are somewhat unsettling to me.
They are parallels between my own writing and what Belloc said many years before me.
For I see now that what I am trying to say – here at this website and in my upcoming book – Belloc has often already said, but far better than I could do.
Or to put it another way: it is like finding out that in my own fumbling way, I have been walking in the footsteps of a giant who preceded me …
And yet a giant whose footsteps I never really recognised before – although I had read and acknowledged Belloc a little (as for example, his thoughts on Ireland here).
For this reason, we will soon feature extracts from Belloc, which correspond to particular themes at this website.
I hope that regular readers will recognise these themes. But perhaps it is useful, if I indicate a few of these now, giving a foretaste of what is to come…
For example, Belloc evidently felt the need, the burning need, to illustrate how imprisoned we are by the ‘Modern Mind’ (as he called it).
I cannot help but feel that same burning need and have been trying to say, how very provincial that modern mind is.
For example in a weblog entry (here), I indicated how provincial that modern mind is, in terms of both space and time.
There I spoke of:
The very significant divide between our contemporary “Americanised” world and that of Catholic France over a century ago [and how] struck [I am] by the sense of limitation, not only in space but also in time.
In space, I am referring of course to a certain cultural geography – one of Anglophone, secular and Protestant heritage.
But what of provincialism in time?
Here I confess a known friend of mine rises in my awareness.
Known friend: How you strike me as acutely reflective and moral! You were born in 1970, friend and forgive me, if I should offend.
But how profoundly it seems to me that your assumptions can be shaped by four decades of mainstream British culture bracketed: 1970 – 2010.
Like so many others, your harried, hectic life will not easily permit the reading of history and your media does little or nothing to compensate.
Known Friend – I address you in these pages and I do not think that you will object.
For you stand for countless others, including many unseen friends, who are also filled with heartfelt idealism.
Friends seen and unseen, I see your horror of the world, your sincere longing to find solutions, and I see your despair.
How I want to cry out loud: do not allow yourself to bracketed by a narrow slice of culture in time and space!
Do not let yourself be limited to Anglophone assumptions, circa 1970-2010. For otherwise there may be nothing left to do, but despair indeed.
Yes, here is something from my own pen that aims at exactly what Belloc (I now see) was doing far better than me, decades ago.
For Belloc was not only very concerned by provincialism in time, but also by the provincialism of ‘Little England’.
Belloc had been raised in England, but he was of French birth and had a French father.
Continuously his mind saw beyond ‘Little England’ to France, and indeed to Europe and Christendom as a whole.
Indeed, his writing features a powerful vision invoking the Soul of Europe, the Soul of Christendom (sundered).
Fumbling, I grope my way towards the same vision.
For although I am in no way French (save for just a little French blood) my life has been changed forever by the short time (less than three years) that I lived and travelled in France.
This website owes a tremendous debt to not only France, but also Spain and Ireland – three countries of once-Catholic Europe.
Through living in these lands of Catholic heritage – by the Grace of God! – many of my own Anglo-American prejudices were burst wide-open.
Anglo-American, I say, because as I have said before, I am an Englishman from California. (I was born in Los Angeles – but both my parents were British.)
And as a teenager, I came to live in my ancestral land.
Thus I came to see first-hand, both cultures which have dominated the modern world and the modern mind: what was once the British Empire and the present American Empire …
And I see now how trapped I was, for years, in the assumptions of those cultures, steeped as they are in Protestant and Secular conjectures.
Belloc had a great deal to say, a very great deal about the Protestant and Secular assumptions of the ‘Little England’ in which he lived.
It earned him many enemies.
I write this weblog, sadly realising that I will be acquiring enemies as well.
I write this weblog, preparing to self-publish a book that I know will be very controversial.
It is controversial for the challenge it tries to mount towards our so-provincial Zeitgeist, which is, in so many ways, an English Zeitgeist …
For as the English language proceeds to dominate the world, it inevitably carries with it Anglo-American literature, Anglo-American thinking, Anglo-American attitudes along with it …
O Hilaire Belloc!
It seems to me that we need your powerful vision, now more than ever!
Thus in upcoming entries, we will be featuring extracts from Belloc’s thought about these things above …
But I must say the above represents only a small slice of Belloc’s thought.
I have emphasised some few things, where my own thinking parallels his, in ways, which, yes, I find a little eerie.
But there is so much more to Belloc than this. I am reeling at the sheer breadth of his vision.
We will not detail this vision, at least not here, not yet …
Hilaire Belloc in Bullet Points
However, let us offer some Bullet-Points that may indicate a little more the thinking of this great man.
Belloc’s vision elaborated on:
- The Crisis of the materialistic Modern World
- That Crisis being rooted in Plutocratic Capitalism and the reaction to Plutocratic Capitalism
- That reaction being Socialism and Communism
- The roots of Capitalism in Calvinism, usury and unrestricted competition following the Reformation
- The Reformation as an immense and tragic catastrophe, sundering the Soul of Europe, of Christendom
- Thus, the creation of a tyrannical, modern, abstract world divorced from the land, increasingly divorced from tradition, divorced from human ties and local affections
- The arrogance, the sheer arrogance of the modern world view, powered by mindless reiteration through the media and advertising
- The need for healing all of this, through an uncompromising return to the Catholic Faith, which lay at the centre of Christendom
- The need for this to be complemented by Distributism – a third way beyond capitalism and socialism, which aimed for the wide distribution of property and the breaking down of large concentrations of wealth and power in the banks, corporations and so forth
And Belloc can hardly be limited to this! We have for example said nothing of his historical work, his poetry, his travel-writing about Catholic Europe etc.
But we must start somewhere.
And soon, very soon, we shall continue plunging into Belloc …