If you’ve studied the work of G. K. Chesterton, you’ve probably also come across Hilaire Belloc. Both were Catholic (Chesterton converted, Belloc was raised Catholic), and lived in early 20th century England. They were good friends and worked on various projects together.

Though he is not as well known, Belloc lived an extraordinary life. In no particular order, here are 10 things about him that just might make him one of the coolest guys ever:

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1) He walked across the United States for love

While courting his future wife Elodie, he wanted to visit her in California (he lived in England). Because he was poor, he ended up walking a good part of the trip from the midwest to California. He stayed in stranger’s homes along the way and paid for his lodging by reciting poetry or offering them his sketches.

Suffice it to say, he successfully won her heart. They got married and had five kids.

2) He wrote hilariously awesome children’s stories

He wrote a collection of short stories for children called Cautionary Tales for Children. Story titles include “Jim: Who ran away from his Nurse, and was eaten by a Lion,” “Matilda: Who told Lies, and was Burned to Death,” and the particularly funny “Lord Lundy: Who was too Freely Moved to Tears, and thereby ruined his Political Career.”

3) While a student at Oxford, he won a public debate – from the audience

While attending his first debate as a student at the Oxford Union, he was dismayed to see that the position with which he agreed was poorly defended. At the end of the debate, he stood up in the audience and gave a vigorous defense of the position. Amazingly, the audience deemed him the winner of the debate.

He instantly gained fame as a great debater and eventually became president of the Oxford Union.

Burns Library, Boston College, Flickr
Burns Library, Boston College, Flickr

4) H. G. Wells once said of Belloc, “Debating Mr. Belloc is like arguing with a hailstorm.”

In the late 1910s and early 1920s, Wells published his controversial work Outline of HistoryBelloc thought the book had lots of problems and wrote a review in which he famously observed that Wells’ book was a powerful and well-written volume, “up until the appearance of Man, that is, somewhere around page seven.”

Wells took his objections seriously enough to write a small book in reply titled Mr. Belloc Objects. Not willing to leave the matter there, Belloc published a reply to Wells’ reply titled Mr. Belloc Still Objects.

5) He won political office in England after brilliantly responding to an anti-Catholic objection

During a campaign speech, a heckler asked him if he was a “papist” – a (sometimes) derogatory term for Catholics. Here was his response:

Sir, so far as possible I hear Mass each day and I go to my knees and tell these beads each night. If that offends you, then I pray God may spare me the indignity of representing you in Parliament.

The crowd cheered and he won the election.

6) He helped develop the economic system of Distributism

Inspired by the teachings of Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI, he and G. K. Chesterton articulated and defended an alternative economic system to both socialism and capitalism, which they called distributism.

Belloc (center) with George Bernard Shaw on the left and G. K. Chesterton on the right / Wikimedia Commons
Belloc (center) with George Bernard Shaw on the left and G. K. Chesterton on the right / Wikimedia Commons

7) He was a competitive yachtsman

As an older man, he acquired a yacht and competed on the French sailing team (he had been born in France), and apparently was good enough to win races.

8) He published over 150 books and pamphlets

He was an extremely prolific writer and continued to publish almost up until his death. Here’s an incomplete list of his works.

9) He coined the saying, “Wherever the Catholic sun does shine, there’s always laughter and good red wine.”

He was a strong Catholic who rejected Puritanism.

10) He wrote and performed his own songs

You can hear him sing some of them himself right here.

Isn’t this guy incredible? If we missed anything, let us know in the comments!

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