HILAIRE BELIA)C: A Memoir by J. B. Morton (Hollis and Carter, 12s. 6d.)
" THERE is no art," writes J. R. Morton, " by which a dead man may he so presented to the living that those who knew him will seem to have seen him once more as he was, and those who did not know him will receive the plenary effect of his personality. . . . The bust is dead matter. the portrait will not breathe. the words are only words.
" We cannot hear the tones of a voice stilled for ever. nor see the animation of the features, the swift changes of expression in the eyes, the play of emotion in the face. Yet always, if there is to be a memorial to the dead, something must he attempted."
Well, something has been attempted and rather more than "something" done; for here is a lively, living picture of a man who in his life time became something of a legend, by a writer who in his own right created a whole world of characters larger than life and twice as real.
But. most important. here is a picture of Fielloc by a friend. " In this brief memoir." he writes, " will he found some account of a great man who was also the greatest writer of his day. I was honoured with his friendship for a period of thirty years. Of his ilife before I knew him 1 have written little since that is a task for his biographers."
So. this is no cold. factual. detached evaluation and appreciation of one of the most significant writers and colourful peesonalities of our time, it is a warm and enthusiastic memory by one who is prepared to a eticipate posterity, or not prepared to wait for it. to call one of the most controversial figures of the century " a great man " and " the greatest writer of his times."
BEST then say, at once, what this enthralling hook is not. First. it is not all that brief. for a start; it runs to a satisfying 180 pages. even if there is from time to time repetition, as there is almost hound to he, given the kind of hook it is..
Then there is no attempt to set out Belloc's biography in an ordered. or chronological fashion; nor to gather the facts even of the thirty years of the friendship.
Next there is no attempt to detail and estimate the work of Belloe the poet; nor the much more controversial Belloe the historian; nor the hardly to he separated from the last Banc, the Catholic Apologist and Controversialist. Nor is there any attempt to settle a judgment, or even give any
account of Belloc, the essayist, the travel writer, the economist, the strategist.
But, of course, much that is valuable and will remain valuable to those who ultimately undertake these tasks emerges from the portrait which attempts to catch the man whole; and what a man. and how difficult to catch, anyway!
Morton first of all gives a brief portrait of Belloc, his family and background, noting the three strains. English. Irish and French. which mix in him, and saying something of his qualities, " his virtues and vices; " first his vast overwhelming. almost overpowering vitality. his humility. his pride without vanity, his courtesy; so on to his voice. manner, appearance and " oddities."
A more connected chapter follows which gives the story of Morton's meeting with the Belloc family and life at Rodmell.
Thereafter the chapter titles themselves give a good indication of what the author attempts: " Days at Sea," " In • London," " Days of Travel," " Increasing Strain," and finally " Breakdown." All are full of anecdote and story; all make clearer the vast image of the legendary hero of the youth of so many of us.
oNE chapter is given to debunking the story of the " tempestuous gaiety " of Belloc. " The Other Side of the Legend," the author calls it. " It was some time before I realised that Reline was an unhappy and disappointed man." writes Morton. " His habit of expressing his discontents in such an amusing way made it difficult to disentangle the genuine bitterness from the jests."
This is. perhaps. the least convincing of things that Morton has to say about his friend. Or. if one allows oneself to he convinced, then the hero shrinks in proportion to the extent to which the reader allows himself to be convinced.
Reline was disappointed of a legitimate hope of an Oxford Fellowship: he married young. had five children. the task of supporting them was enormous. four years in Parliament disgusted him with public life. he met hostility from those who should have supported him in his championship of the Church.
Al! this. with the early loss of a dear wife and a beloved son, made disappointments. trials, bitter, harsh and tearful, but in the great man. the deeply religious man, they do not make for " genuine bitterness "; his life is never " essentially unhappy."
BY COURTESY OF THE CRIMINAL. by C. A. Joyce (George Harrap, Ns, 6d.) TF we needed outside evidence of the fact that men matter more than methods in all departments of life, and in none more than in those connected with the training and education of the young. this hook would serve as first class ammunition.
For the pagan world around us the need for just such evidence is pressing. and therefore on two counts this hook is to be welcomed, noted, and spoken about.
It is the story of one man's efforts to reclaim young offenders. in prisons, Borstal Institutions, and Approved Schools. It is a stirring and convincing story. well told and well worth reading and pondering.
" If you were to ask me on what our training is based 1 should have no hesitation at all in saying that it is based entirely on the Christian religion." says the author.
Then he has to spring to prevent " misun(lerstanding:" so, too, does he when he makes the reasonable and Christian confession, " I believe in punishment. • • ." We Christians owe a debt to men like this, fighting sentiment. liberal dawnism. and mere humanism; at least the debt of reading what they have to say.
MED1TATIONS by the Rev. Dominic Phillips, C.M. DAYS OF JOY by William Stephenson. S.J. (Clonmore and Reynolds, 25s., && 6d.)
" MEDITATIONS " arranged for Daily Use is really two volumes in one book (34(1 pp.). and is intended chiefly for priests, seminarians and religious. Over thirty pages of this manual are devoted to detailed and very practical instruction on the art of mental prayer. A valuable addition to the Library of Prayer.
Fr. Stephenson's " Days of Joy " contains reflections, prayers, and brief meditations on the last days of Our Blessed Lord's life on earth. the 40 days between his resurrection and his Ascension. Fr. Stephenson. who ends with the Coming of the Holy Ghost. stresses the obligation on the Christian to rejoice, be glad