On the feast of St. Hilary...
Hilaire Belloc: Defender of the Faith
by FREDERICK D. WILHELMSEN
...A. N. Wilson in his biography of Belloc wrote: “If I created a character in a novel as Hilaire Belloc, people would not believe it.” Belloc was a paradox: a lyrical poet who never read any contemporary poetry; a rhymester whose high finks still charm children; an artilleryman on bivouac at Toul who smelled the Revolution as “France went by”; an aging monarchist who savored the last charge of Charles I at Naseby; the most versatile and certainly the finest English prose stylist in this and possibly any century, who grumbled from the liberty of his battered old boat, the Nona, “dear reader, read less and sail more” even as he lusted for bigger and better-paying audiences; the perpetual wanderer tramping Europe, burning for adventures even as he sang the praises of a rooted peasantry and a hearth steeped in seasonable traditions that “halted the cruelty of time”; the enemy of the rich and of capitalist greed, who once asked for a bucket of money as a birthday gift; the passionate advocate of Truth, who once groused, however, “that the truth always limps”; the drummer boy of an English-speaking Catholicism he helped make proud of itself.
...Belloc did not give a damn for what anybody thought of him. He wrote his life of King James II in a hotel on the edge of the Sahara in ten days: “It is full of howlers and is the fruit of liberty.” He walked to Rome as a young man, coming in upon the Appian Way on a mule drawn cart — but with his feet dragging on the road so his vow would not be broken.
His vigor was legendary, and I have mentioned as well his lust for life. Belloc — and this is a key to understanding his role as a Catholic apologist — was a man totally at home in this world, but one who knew it was an illusion to be so at home. There was not a trace of Manicheanism in him, and he called puritanism, in his biography of Louis XIV, an “evil out of the pit”, meaning the pit of hell.
The rest is here.