Hilaire Belloc-Elizabeth Belloc Correspondence
This collection contains the correspondence sent by Hilaire Belloc to his daughter Elizabeth over the period 1932-1944. Hilaire was 62 at the start of this correspondence and entering the final stages of his career. He was plagued increasingly with ill-health over the course of this correspondence, and there is frequent reference to his suffering from flus, fatigue, and difficulties with his handwriting. In 1942 he suffered a stroke, from which he would never completely regain his faculties. In his correspondence, the most visible effects of the stroke can be detected in the unsteadiness of his handwriting and in the less lucid expression of his thoughts.
Elizabeth was a young woman in her 30s, who can be described as having inherited the same restless spirit as her father. While Hilaire maintained a schedule of constant travel, his letters were written principally from the family home at King's Land or from his room at the Reform Club in London. The content of this correspondence is highly personal in nature, providing us with some insight into the father-daughter relationship shared between Hilaire and Elizabeth.
Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), as historian, biographer, and poet, stood as a dominant literary figure in the first half of twentieth-century England, producing more than 150 books and scores of articles. As a member of Parliament, he railed at the corruption and inequity he detected in the British political system. As a Catholic polemicist, he successfully challenged the Whig interpretation of history that had influenced how England viewed the role of the Catholic Church in its development as a nation and a people.
Hilaire's wife Elodie died in 1914 after a lingering illness, leaving him a widower with the care of their five children. It is said that Hilaire never recovered from his wife's death, using traditional black-trimmed stationary and dressing in the color of mourning until his own death in 1953. The feelings of grief and loss Hilaire felt at the passing of his wife were compounded by a tremendous sense of remorse for the neglect of his wife and children during the years of their marriage. The demands of his career, his fondness for travel, and a restless spirit often meant that he was on the road away from his family. With Elodie's death, Hilaire was forced to assume the parental responsibilities that she had shouldered during their seventeen-year marriage. While Hilaire willingly accepted his new position of providing emotional support and moral guidance to the family, he was clearly never comfortable with the day-to-day responsibilities of raising a family and grew dependent on his eldest daughter Eleanor for assistance.
We know little about Elizabeth's life. She was just thirteen when her mother died. She was educated at the Dominican convent at Stone in Staffordshire, where she showed talent in drawing and desired to be a painter. She also displayed some of the same literary talent held by her father. She was a published poet, with several of her poems appearing in the Jesuit monthly "America". Elizabeth had a very different relationship with her father than her sister Eleanor. Whereas Eleanor has been described as falling under the spell of her father's charismatic personality, Elizabeth is said to have kept her father at a distance, never wholly espousing the beliefs that made up his distinct world view.
Elizabeth appears to have led a troubled life. After having a falling out with Eleanor before her sister's marriage, she made the decision to live independently from her family. In the years that this correspondence was written, she does not appear to have settled anywhere, but was continually travelling around England and the Continent. It is said that while she visited London she lived on the street, appearing at the homes of family friends to ask for handouts of food. Hilaire's concerns with his daughter's living situation can be found in his correspondence to her. He frequently opened his letters with reference to money that he had enclosed for her and with queries regarding her current address.
a falling out with her sister Eleanor shortly before Eleanor's marriage to Reginald Jebb
BULK DATES: 1938 - 1942
SPAN DATES: 1934 - 1944
EXTENT: 1 box