Hilaire Belloc

Franco-English writer (1870–1953)

Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc (27 July 187016 July 1953) was a Franco-English writer and poet, known chiefly for his essays and children's books; he was sometimes referred to by the nickname "Old Thunder". Belloc was also an orator, poet, sailor, satirist, writer of letters, soldier, and political activist.

In soft deluding lies let fools delight. A shadow marks our days, which end in Night.

Quotes edit

I have wandered all my life, and I have also traveled; the difference between the two being this, that we wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.
  • Whatever happens, we have got
    The Maxim gun, and they have not.
    • The Modern Traveller (1898)
  • Gentlemen, I am a Catholic. As far as possible, I go to Mass every day. This [taking a rosary out of his pocket] is a rosary. As far as possible, I kneel down and tell these beads every day. If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God that He has spared me the indignity of being your representative.
    • Speech to voters of South Salford (1906), quoted in Robert Speaight, The Life of Hilaire Belloc (London: Hollis & Carter, 1957), p. 204
    • Response to his Tory opponent's slogan, "Don't vote for a Frenchman and a Catholic". On polling day, 13 January 1906, Belloc, standing as a Liberal, overturned a Conservative majority to win by 852 votes, winning again four years later, though by an even slimmer margin.
  • Is there no Latin word for Tea? Upon my soul, if I had known that I would have left the vulgar stuff alone.
    • "On Tea", On Nothing and Kindred Subjects (1908)
  • It is the best of all trades, to make songs, and the second best to sing them.
    • "On Song", On Everything (1909)
  • It is sometimes necessary to lie damnably in the interests of the nation.
    • Letter to G.K. Chesterton (12 December 1917), quoted in Robert Speaight, The Life of Hilaire Belloc (London: Hollis & Carter, 1957), p. 355
  • I'm tired of Love; I'm still more tired of Rhyme.
    But money gives me pleasure all the time.
    • "Fatigued", Sonnets and Verse (1923)
  • How did the party go in Portman Square?
    I cannot tell you; Juliet was not there.
    And how did Lady Gaster's party go?
    Juliet was next me and I do not know.
    • "Juliet", Sonnets and Verse (1954)
  • The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.
    • Remark (undated) to William Temple, quoted in Robert Speaight, The Life of Hilaire Belloc (London: Hollis & Carter, 1957), p. 383
  • I have wandered all my life, and I have also traveled; the difference between the two being this, that we wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.
    • As quoted in Lifetime Speaker's Encyclopedia (1962) edited by Jacob Morton Braude, p. 829
    • Variant: I have wandered all my life, and I have traveled; the difference between the two is this — we wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.
      • As quoted in Traveling for Her: An Inspirational Guide (2008) by Amber Israelsen, p. 2
  • Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
    There’s always laughter and good red wine.
    At least I’ve always found it so.
    Benedicamus Domino!
    • "The Catholic Sun"
  • It was my shame, and now it is my boast,
    That I have loved you rather more than most.
    • "Time Cures All"
  • The world is full of double beds
    And most delightful maidenheads,
    Which being so, there’s no excuse
    For sodomy or self-abuse.
    • "The world is full of double beds"

The Bad Child's Book of Beasts (1896) edit

  • [M]others of large families (who claim to common sense)
    Will find a Tiger well repay the trouble and expense.
    • "The Tiger"
  • I shoot the Hippopotamus
    With bullets made of platinum,
    Because if I use leaden ones
    His hide is sure to flatten 'em.
    • "The Hippopotamus"
  • When people call this beast to mind,
    They marvel more and more
    At such a LITTLE tail behind,
    So LARGE a trunk before.
    • "The Elephant"
  • The Big Baboon is found upon
    The plains of Cariboo:
    He goes about with nothing on
    (A shocking thing to do).
    But if he dressed respectably
    And let his whiskers grow,
    How like this Big Baboon would be
    To Mister So-and-so!
    • "The Big Baboon"

More Beasts for Worse Children (1897) edit

  • What! Would you slap the Porcupine?
    Unhappy child — desist!
    Alas! That any friend of mine
    Should turn Tupto-philist.
    • "The Porcupine"
  • The Llama is a wooly sort of fleecy hairy goat,
    With an indolent expression and an undulating throat
    Like an unsuccessful literary man.
    • "The Llama"
  • The Microbe is so very small
    You cannot make him out at all,
    But many sanguine people hope
    To see him through a microscope.
    • "The Microbe"
  • Oh! let us never, never doubt
    What nobody is sure about!
    • "The Microbe"

The Path to Rome (1902) edit

Write as the wind blows and command all words like an army!
London: George Allen & Unwin, 1902
  • '… and as to what may be in this book, do not feel timid nor hesitate to enter. There are more mountains than molehills …'
    • caption to the frontispiece, p. ii
  • Write as the wind blows and command all words like an army!
    • p. xi
  • Then let us love one another and laugh. Time passes, and we shall soon laugh no longer—and meanwhile common living is a burden, and earnest men are in siege upon us all around. Let us suffer absurdities, for this is only to suffer one another.
    • p. xv
  • I found myself entering that pleasant mood in which all books are conceived (but none written); I was "smoking the enchanted cigarettes" of Balzac, and if this kind of reverie is fatal to action, yet it is so much a factor of happiness that I wasted in the contemplation of that lovely and silent hollow many miles of marching. I suppose if a man were altogether his own master and controlled by no necessity, not even the necessity of expression, all his life would pass away in these sublime imaginings.
    • p. 23
  • I sincerely hope, trust, and pray that this part of my journey will not seem as dull to you as it did to me at the time, or as it does to me now while I write of it. But now I come to think of it, it cannot seem as dull, for I had to walk that wretched thirty miles or so all the day long, whereas you have not even to read it; for I am not going to say anything more about it, but lead you straight to the end.

    Oh, blessed quality of books, that makes them a refuge from living! For in a book everything can be made to fit in, all tedium can be skipped over, and the intense moments can be made timeless and eternal.

    • p. 201
  • Death […] people nowadays seem to regard as something odd, whereas it is well known to be the commonest thing in the world.
    • p. 258
  • Man may […] be master of his fate, but he has a precious poor servant. It is easier to command a lapdog or a mule for a whole day than one's own fate for half-an-hour.
    • p. 299
  • And what is there else but pleasure, and to what else does beauty move on?
    • p. 421

Cautionary Tales for Children (1907) edit

  • [A]lways keep a-hold of Nurse
    For fear of finding something worse
    • "Jim, Who Ran Away From His Nurse, and Was Eaten by a Lion"
  • Physicians of the Utmost Fame
    Were called at once; but when they came
    They answered, as they took their Fees,
    "There is no Cure for this Disease."
    • "Henry King, Who Chewed Bits of String, and Was Early Cut off in Dreadful Agonies"
  • Oh, my friends, be warned by me,
    That Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch, and Tea
    Are all the Human Frame requires.
    • "Henry King, Who Chewed Bits of String, and Was Early Cut off in Dreadful Agonies"
  • Matilda told such Dreadful Lies,
    It made one Gasp and Stretch one's Eyes;
    Her Aunt, who from her Earliest Youth,
    Had kept a Strict Regard for Truth,
    Attempted to Believe Matilda:
    The effort very nearly killed her.
    • "Matilda, Who Told Lies, and Was Burned to Death"

Verses (1910) edit

Of courtesy it is much less
Than courage of heart or holiness
Yet in my walks it seems to me
That the Grace of God is in courtesy.
There's nothing worth the wear of winning, But laughter and the love of friends.
  • From quiet homes and first beginning,
    Out to the undiscovered ends,
    There's nothing worth the wear of winning,
    But laughter and the love of friends.
    • "Dedicatory Ode", stanza 22
  • The tender Evenlode that makes
    Her meadows hush to hear the sound
    Of waters mingling in the brakes,
    And binds my heart to English ground.

    A lovely river, all alone,
    She lingers in the hills and holds
    A hundred little towns of stone,
    Forgotten in the western wolds.

    • "Dedicatory Ode", stanzas 31–32
  • Child! Do not throw this book about;
    Refrain from the unholy pleasure
    Of cutting all the pictures out!
    Preserve it as your chiefest treasure.
    • "Dedication on the Gift of a Book to a Child"
  • I said to Heart, "How goes it?" Heart replied:
    "Right as a Ribstone Pippin!" But it lied.
    • "The False Heart"

The Four Men: A Farrago (1911) edit

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984 (Twentieth-Century Classics)
  • [N]othing is worthwhile on this unhappy earth except the fulfilment of a man's desire.
    • p. 4
  • When friendship disappears then there is a space left open to that awful loneliness of the outside which is like the cold of space between the planets. It is an air in which men perish utterly. Absolute dereliction is the death of the soul.
    • p. 27
  • [M]an knows his own nature, and that which he pursues must surely be his satisfaction? Judging by which measure I determine that the best thing in the world is flying at full speed from pursuit, and keeping up hammer and thud and gasp and bleeding till the knees fail and the head grows dizzy, and at last we all fall down and that thing (whatever it is) which pursues us catches us up and eats our carcasses. This way of managing our lives, I think, must be the best thing in the world—for nearly all men choose to live thus.
    • pp. 31–2
    • The "thing" which pursues us, we subsequently learn, is either "a Money-Devil" or "some appetite or lust" and "the advice is given to all in youth that they must make up their minds which of the two sorts of exercise they would choose, and the first [i.e. pursuit by a Money-Devil] is commonly praised and thought worthy; the second blamed." (p. 32)
  • Now the Faith is old and the Devil is bold,
    Exceedingly bold indeed;
    And the masses of doubt that are floating about
    Would smother a mortal creed.
    But we that sit in a sturdy youth,
    And still can drink strong ale,
    Oh—let us put it away to infallible truth,
    That always shall prevail.
    And thank the Lord
    For the temporal sword,
    And howling heretics too;
    And all good things
    Our Christendom brings,
    But especially barley brew!
  • Then he added, as men will who are of infinite imagination and crammed with desires, 'My wants are few.'
    • p. 78
  • May all good fellows that here agree
    Drink Audit Ale in heaven with me,
    And may all my enemies go to hell!
    Noël! Noël! Noël! Noël!
    May all my enemies go to hell!
    Noël! Noël!
    • drinking song, p. 126
  • There is nothing at all that remains: nor any house; nor any castle, however strong; nor any love, however tender and sound; nor any comradeship among men, however hardy. Nothing remains but the things of which I will not speak, because we have spoken enough of them already during these four days. But I who am old will give you advice, which is this—to consider chiefly from now onwards those permanent things which are, as it were, the shores of this age and the harbours of our glittering and pleasant but dangerous and wholly changeful sea.
    • pp. 157–8
    • By this, we are then told, "he meant Death." (p. 158)
  • I recognised that I was (and I confessed) in that attitude of the mind wherein men admit mortality; something had already passed from me—I mean that fresh and vigorous morning of the eyes wherein the beauty of this land had been reflected as in a tiny mirror of burnished silver. Youth was gone out apart; it was loved and regretted, and therefore no longer possessed.
    • p. 159
  • I put my pencil upon the paper, doubtfully, and drew little lines, considering my theme. But I would not long hesitate in this manner, for I knew that all creation must be chaos first, and then gestures in the void before it can cast out the completed thing.
    • p. 160

This and That and the Other (1912) edit

  • The Barbarian hopes — and that is the very mark of him — that he can have his cake and eat it too. He will consume what civilisation has slowly produced after generations of selection and effort but he will not be at pains to replace such goods nor indeed has he a comprehension of the virtue that has brought them into being. Discipline seems to him irrational, on which account he is for ever marvelling that civilisation should have offended him with priests and soldiers.
  • In a word, the Barbarian is discoverable everywhere in this that he cannot make; that he can befog or destroy, but that he cannot sustain; and of every Barbarian in the decline or peril of every civilisation exactly that has been true.
    We sit by and watch the Barbarian, we tolerate him; in the long stretches of peace we are not afraid.
    We are tickled by his irreverence, his comic inversion of our old certitudes and our fixed creeds refreshes us: we laugh. But as we laugh we are watched by large and awful faces from beyond: and on these faces there is no smile.
    • Ch. XXXII : The Barbarians , p. 282

The Jews (1922) edit

Houghton Mifflin, 1922, 308 p.
  • There is already something like a Jewish monopoly in high finance. (...) There is the same element of Jewish monopoly in the silver trade, and in the control of various other metals, notably lead, nickel, quicksilver. What is most disquieting of all, this tendency to monopoly is spreading like a disease.

Economics for Helen (1924) edit

  • The Economic definition of Wealth is subtle and difficult to appreciate, but it is absolutely essential to our study to get it clear at the outset and keep it firmly in mind.
    • Ch. 1 : What is Wealth?
  • It is this worth, that is, this ability to get other wealth in exchange, which constitutes true Economic Wealth.
    • Ch. 1 : What is Wealth?
  • Wealth, for the purposes of economic study, is confined to those values attaching to material objects through the action of man, which values can be exchanged for other values.
    • Ch. 1 : What is Wealth?
  • The Science of Economics does not deal with true happiness nor even with well-being in material things. It deals with a strictly limited field of what is called "Economic Wealth," and if it goes outside its own boundaries it goes wrong.
    • Ch. 1 : What is Wealth?

Hilaire Belloc (1925) edit

Hilaire Belloc (Augustan Books of Modern Poetry). London: Eyre & Spottiswode, no date [1925]. 29pp.
  • You shall receive me when the clouds are high
    With evening and the sheep attain the fold.
    This is the faith that I have held and hold,
    And this is that in which I mean to die.
    • "Ballade to Our Lady of Czestochowa"
  • When I am dead, I hope it may be said:
    'His sins were scarlet, But his books were read'.
    • "On His Books"
  • Of three in One and One in three
    My narrow mind would doubting be
    Till Beauty, Grace and Kindness met
    And all at once were Juliet.
    • "A Trinity"
  • Here richly, with ridiculous display,
    The Politician's corpse was laid away.
    While all of his acquaintance sneered and slanged
    I wept: for I had longed to see him hanged.
    • "Epitaph on the Politician Himself"
  • 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).
    • "On a Great Election"

The Cruise of the 'Nona' (1925) edit

The Cruise of the 'Nona', Penguin 1958 edition
  • The profound thing which Cardinal Manning said to me was this: all human conflict is ultimately theological.[…]

    This saying of his (which I carried away with me somewhat bewildered) that all human conflict was ultimately theological: that is, that all wars and revolutions, and all decisive struggles between parties of men arise from a difference in moral and transcendental doctrine, was utterly novel to me. To a young man the saying was without meaning: I would almost have said nonsensical, save that I could not attach the idea of folly to Manning. But as I grew older it became a searchlight: with the observation of the world, and with continuous reading of history, it came to possess for me a universal meaning so profound that it reached to the very roots of political action; so extended that it covered the whole.

    It is, indeed, a truth which explains and co-ordinates all one reads of human action in the past, and all one sees of it in the present.[…] All tragedy is the conflict of a true right and a false right, or of a greater right and a lesser right, or, at the worst, of two false rights. Still more do men pretend in this time of ours, wherein the habitual use of the human intelligence has sunk to its lowest, that doctrine is but a private individual affair, creating a mere opinion. Upon the contrary, it is doctrine that drives the State; and every State is stronger in the degree in which the doctrine of its citizens is united. Nor have I met any man in my life, arguing for what should be among men, but took for granted as he argued that the doctrine he consciously or unconsciously accepted was or should be a similar foundation for all mankind. Hence battle.

    • pp. 48-9
    • Belloc writes that Cardinal Manning said this sentence to him "when I was but twenty years old" (p. 47), i.e. in 1890 or 1891.
  • I have noticed that this kind of fanatic, like every other kind, is in two species: the species which too clearly thinks out its own insane theory, and the species which remains perfectly muddle-headed.
    • p. 83
  • [P]rofessional politics is a trade in which the sly outweigh the wise.
    • p. 116
  • It is in the irony of Providence that the more man comes to control the material world about him, the more does he lose control over the effects of his action; and it is when he is remaking the world most speedily that he knows least whither he is driving.
    • p. 177
  • It is a consolation to remember that corruption pushed beyond a certain point provides its own remedy, and that this sort of thing cannot indefinitely continue; but it is less consoling to remember another truth, to wit, that the correction of political and social evil may come in the form of irremediable catastrophe, and that the innocent, who are the greater number, would then suffer most. It is still less consoling to remember the universal human experience that when evil is redressed by the only partly conscious force of reaction, it is not succeeded by a corresponding good, but by some other new and unexpected evil.
    • pp. 248–9

Survivals and New Arrivals: The Old and New Enemies of the Catholic Church (1929) edit

  • The object of a religion or a philosophy is not to make men wealthy or powerful, but to make them, in the last issue, happy: that is, to fulfil their being.
    • Ch. III Survivals (iii) The "Wealth and Power" Argument
  • Even where the Faith is preserved men pursue wealth and power inordinately. Where the Faith is lost they pursue nothing else.
    • Ch. III Survivals (iii) The "Wealth and Power" Argument
  • For the line of cleavage does not fall between the various groups, Catholic, Agnostic, Evangelical, or what not, but between the Catholic Church and all else. She is unique, and at issue with the world.
    • Ch. IV The Main Opposition (ii) Anti-Clericalism
  • It is not insignificant that the Church, in the rare places and times when she had power to do so, did not compel the mind. During all that intense intellectual life of the thirteenth century instruction was by choice: endowed—so that the poorest could reach the highest inspiration, but at the choice of the individual or family will, to be taken or left.
    • Ch. IV The Main Opposition (iii) The "Modern" Mind
  • All teaching is dogmatic. Dogma, indeed, means only "a thing taught," and teaching not dogmatic would cease to be teaching and would become discussion and doubt.
    • Ch. IV The Main Opposition (iii) The "Modern" Mind
  • Logically the Neo-Pagan should get rid of the institution of marriage altogether; but the very nature of human society, which is built up of cells each of which is a family, and the very nature of human generation, forbid such an extreme. Children must be brought up and acknowledged and sheltered, and the very nature of human affection, whereby there is the bond of affection between the parent and the child, and the child is not of one parent but of both, will compel the Neo-Pagan to modify what might be his logical conclusion of free love and support some simulacrum of the institution of marriage.
    • Ch. V New Arrivals

A Conversation with a Cat, and Others (1931) edit

  • [I]n words lie the seeds of all dissension, and love at its most profound is silent.
    • I. A Conversation with a Cat
  • Be content to remember that those who can make omelettes properly can do nothing else.
    • IV. On Making an Omelette
  • Any subject can be made interesting, and therefore any subject can be made boring.
    • XIII. A Guide to Boring

An Heroic Poem in Praise of Wine (1932) edit

By thee do seers the inward light discern;
By thee the statue lives, the Gods return.
  • To exalt, enthrone, establish and defend,
    To welcome home mankind's mysterious friend
    Wine, true begetter of all arts that be;
    Wine, privilege of the completely free;
    Wine the recorder; wine the sagely strong;
    Wine, bright avenger of sly-dealing wrong,
    Awake, Ausonian Muse, and sing the vineyard song!
  • By thee do seers the inward light discern;
    By thee the statue lives, the Gods return.
  • When the ephemeral vision's lure is past
    All, all, must face their Passion at the last.
  • So touch my dying lip: so bridge that deep:
    So pledge my waking from the gift of sleep,
    And, sacramental, raise me the Divine:
    Strong brother in God and last companion, Wine.

Sonnets and Verse (1938) edit

New edition of the 1923 collection of the same name, with many new poems
  • That I grow sour, who only lack delight;
    That I descend to sneer, who only grieve:
    That from my depth I should contemn your height;
    That with my blame my mockery you receive;
    Huntress and splendour of the woodland night,
    Diana of this world, do not believe.
    • "Sonnet: Do not believe when lovely lips report"
    • To Lady Diana Cooper. See her memoir, The Light of Common Day (Boston: Houghton, 1959), pp. 27–28
  • Torture will give a dozen pence or more
    To keep a drab from bawling at his door.
    The public taste is quite a different thing—
    Torture is positively paid to sing.
    • "On Torture: A Public Singer"
  • In soft deluding lies let fools delight.
    A shadow marks our days, which end in Night.
    • "On a Sundial"
  • How slow the Shadow creeps: but when 'tis past,
    How fast the Shadows fall. How fast! How fast!
    • "On the Same" (On a Sundial II)
  • Loss and Possession, Death and Life are one.
    There falls no shadow where there shines no sun.
  • Pale Ebenezer thought it wrong to fight,
    But Roaring Bill (who killed him) thought it right.
    • "The Pacifist"
  • Kings live in Palaces, and Pigs in sties,
    And youth in Expectation. Youth is wise.
    • "Habitations"

The Great Heresies (1938) edit

The Silence Of The Sea and Other Essays (1940) edit

  • Of all fatiguing, futile, empty trades, the worst, I suppose, is writing about writing.
    • "On Books"
  • Statistics are the triumph of the quantitative method, and the quantitative method is the victory of sterility and death.
    • "On Statistics"
  • All men have an instinct for conflict: at least, all healthy men.
  • The moment a man talks to his fellows he begins to lie.

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