In Justice To Belloc

  • A. L. Rowse


I have never done justice to Belloc in my mind: he did not really, as a writer, speak to me. That this was partly prejudice I readily admit: I was out of sympathy with his own Catholic préjugés. They were more than prejudices, it is true; as an historian he did not much care whether what he said was true or not. A professional historian has a vested interest in truth, and in my eyes Belloc’s blithe disregard of it was so obvious that, when I was young and innocent, I once described his variations on the Elizabethan age as ‘a farrago of lies’. This, of course, was libellous (G. M. Trevelyan, in conversation, roundly called him a liar). That it was all the same true, I knew from a mutual friend, Douglas Woodruff. Belloc was then having a controversy with that enragé Cambridge champion of truth, Dr Coulton; to close it Belloc came out with something devastating. Woodruff asked him, ‘But is it true?’ Belloc replied blithely, ‘Oh, not at all. But won’t it annoy Coulton?’ I thought, and still think, that rather wicked.


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© A. L. Rowse 1979

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  • A. L. Rowse

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