Hilaire Belloc

(1870—1953) poet and author

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British author of half-French parentage.

Born in St Cloud, France, Belloc was brought by his widowed mother to England in 1872. He was educated at Cardinal Newman's Oratory School near Birmingham, and his Roman Catholic upbringing was a strong influence throughout his life. He travelled in France and the USA before going up to Oxford (1893), where he made many friends and gained a name as a speaker. He failed, however, to obtain a university teaching post. In 1896, the year of his marriage, he published the first of his popular books of light verse, The Bad Child's Book of Beasts.

In 1899 the Bellocs moved to London, where Belloc soon became prominent as a Liberal journalist and met his lifelong friend G. K. Chesterton. The Path to Rome (1902) proved to be Belloc's greatest success in the genre of travel writing, at which he excelled. He also published several novels, collections of essays, and historical works during this period. Another success of these years was Cautionary Tales for Children (1908). In addition to his extensive literary activities, Belloc became a Liberal MP.

In 1914 Belloc's wife died. Although this was a shattering blow, he continued writing to support his family. In the 1920s and 1930s he produced numerous historical and biographical studies, including an ambitious History of England (1925–31). Throughout this period he wrote increasingly from a Roman Catholic viewpoint. World War II brought personal tragedy to Belloc: he was deeply grieved by the fall of France (1940), his youngest son was killed in action (1941), and he himself suffered a severe stroke (1942) from which he never fully recovered.

Subjects: Literature.

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