Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) was a prominent public figure and literary personality, larger than life, a brilliant debater, a lover of beer and wine (like G. K.Chesterton, who was his great friend) and physically very robust, muscular, an epic walker (he once walked from Paris to Rome, and across much of America) and legendary sailor (his Cruise of the “Nona”,1925, was a bestseller). Sadly, towards the end of his life, he became ill, lonely (beloved wife and two sons dead), and forced to churn out journalism and books for money.
He wrote candidly to Charlotte Balfour after what was probably a minor stroke:
“All my life I have been so strong in body and mind that with this weakness I feel like another person – like a sheep or a wet rag. I cannot recognize myself for being myself, but all misfortune has this good that it helps one to understand other people and their troubles…
But to tell you the truth I am more keen on salvation now, and ultimate repose than Fame… When we are young we are on an adventure and seeking new things and often discovering the right, but when we know how the world is made and what a doom there is on all and what mortality means, we are concerned rather with avoiding the things oppressive and difficult”.
Do you ever feel like this?
ps This didn’t stop him writing lives of William the Conqueror and Charles I in the next few months.