Hilaire Belloc Biography


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc was born in 1870 in La Celle-Saint-Cloud, near Paris, of a French father and an English mother. He was called Hilaire after his grandfather, a celebrated painter. His father died when he was a baby. When he was eight years old, his mother suffered financial reverses, and they moved to England. His home in Sussex would become a major influence in his life. He wrote his first poem when he was eight years old. In 1882, he was sent to the Oratory School at Edgbaston, a boarding school. While he did not like school, he nevertheless learned the classics, took parts in Latin plays, and won a prize in his last year. After leaving school, he considered joining the French navy, since he loved sailing, but he studied for only a term at the Collège Stanislas at Paris before finding it too restrictive. He was then apprenticed to a farmer to learn to be a land agent, but that did not work out either. He then turned to journalism and edited a weekly paper called The Lamp, in which some of his early poems appeared. Other early poems appeared in The Irish Monthly and Merrie England.

In 1889, he fell in love with Elodie Hogan, an Irish American visiting Europe with her family and whom he met at his mother’s house. Belloc wanted to marry her, but she returned to California. He followed her to the United States in 1890 and made his way westward laboriously, often on foot, selling sketches to pay his way. Elodie’s mother did not favor the marriage, and Elodie considered becoming a nun. The young woman persuaded Belloc to take the military training required of all French citizens. When he returned east, she sent him a letter refusing his proposal. He did join the Battery of the...

(The entire section is 709 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

One of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century, Joseph Hilaire Pierre Belloc (BEHL-ahk) was the son of a French father and an English mother. After his early childhood in France, he was sent to Cardinal John Henry Newman’s Oratory School in England. After serving in the French military service, he entered Balliol College, Oxford, graduating in 1895 with first-class honors in history. He remained in England most of his life and became a British subject in 1903.

Belloc began writing poems and essays at an early age. His first two books, volumes of children’s poetry, Verses and Sonnets and The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts, were published in 1896, the same year he married Elodie Hogan. In 1899 he published the first of his biographies, Danton. Always interested in politics, he was elected to Parliament as a Liberal from South Salford in 1906 and again in 1910. He abandoned active politics to begin, with two lifelong friends, G. K. Chesterton and Cecil Chesterton, a new political review called Eye-Witness, which first appeared in 1911. In the review they attacked the English governmental system and promoted ideas for a unified Europe. (Belloc always revered Napoleon for his effort to create a unified Europe.)

Besides his ties to France and to the Continent, Belloc was an ardent Roman Catholic. For thirty years or more he and G. K. Chesterton worked to argue the merits of Roman Catholicism to the...

(The entire section is 525 words.)