Hilaire Belloc - Family and Career

Family and Career

Belloc was born in La Celle-Saint-Cloud, France, to a French father and an English mother, and grew up in England. Much of his boyhood was spent in Slindon, West Sussex, for which he often felt homesick in later life. This is evidenced in poems such as, "West Sussex Drinking Song", "The South Country", and even the more melancholy, "Ha'nacker Mill".

His mother Elizabeth Rayner Parkes (1829–1925) was also a writer, and a great-granddaughter of the English chemist Joseph Priestley. In 1867 she married attorney Louis Belloc, son of the French painter Jean-Hilaire Belloc. In 1872, five years after they wed, Louis died, but not before being wiped out financially in a stock market crash. The young widow then brought her son Hilaire, along with his sister, Marie, back to England where he remained, except for his voluntary enlistment as a young man in the French artillery.

After being educated at John Henry Newman's Oratory School in Edgbaston, Birmingham, Belloc served his term of military service, as a French citizen, with an artillery regiment near Toul in 1891.

After his military service, Belloc proceeded to Balliol College, Oxford, as a History scholar. He went on to obtain first-class honours in History, and never lost his love for Balliol, as is illustrated by his verse, "Balliol made me, Balliol fed me/ Whatever I had she gave me again".

He was powerfully built, with great stamina, and walked extensively in Britain and Europe. While courting his future wife Elodie, whom he first met in 1890, the impecunious Belloc walked a good part of the way from the midwest of the United States to her home in northern California, paying for lodging at remote farm houses and ranches by sketching the owners and reciting poetry.

He was the brother of the novelist Marie Adelaide Belloc Lowndes. In 1896, he married Elodie Hogan, an American. In 1906 he purchased land and a house called King's Land at Shipley, West Sussex, where he brought up his family and lived until shortly before his death. Elodie and Belloc had five children before her 1914 death from influenza. After her death, Belloc wore mourning for the remainder of his life, keeping her room exactly as she had left it.

His son Louis was killed in 1918 while serving in the Royal Flying Corps in northern France. Belloc placed a memorial tablet in the Cathedral at nearby Cambrai. It is in the same side chapel as the noted icon, Our Lady of Cambrai.

Belloc suffered a stroke in 1941 and never recovered from its effects. He died on 16 July 1953 in Guildford, Surrey, following a fall he had at King's Land. He is buried at the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation of West Grinstead, where he had regularly attended Mass as a parishioner. At his funeral Mass, homilist Monsignor Ronald Knox observed, "No man of his time fought so hard for the good things."

Recent biographies of Belloc have been written by A. N. Wilson and Joseph Pearce.

  • Burial site

  • Family Plot

  • Typo on inscription

  • Plaque commemorating his parish service

Church website

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