Hilaire Belloc

The Four Men

Hilaire Belloc takes a pilgrimage across his beloved home English county of Sussex writing as four distinct personalities, with a wide variety of songs, stories, and digressions.

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A “Farrago” is a “confused mixture,” an apt subtitle for this 1911 semi-fictional travelogue and love song to Hilaire Belloc’s home County of Sussex. It is full to bursting with humor, songs (often including scores), speeches, drawings, fables, digressions, poetry, and legends, often partially or wholly invented, but all in service of Belloc’s deep belief in “the character of enduring things.”

During a period of five days in 1902, including All-Halloween, All-Hallows’ Day, and ending on the Day of the Dead, Belloc walks from the east end of the County of Sussex to the west, finally arriving at his boyhood home. “Four Men,” each an aspect of Belloc’s personality, travel together on this walk: Myself, Grizzlebeard, the Sailor, and the Poet. They tell tales, sermonize, versify, feast, and sing as they go, holding forth on subjects such as: St. Dunstan pulling the Devil by the nose; how all animals’ hides are covered in hair (and why Myself is glad that he is not); the Pelagian Heresy (as related in song); all the inns of the world and their ale (and how Alexander fought his way to Indus to seek a certain one); tales of each man’s first love (the Sailor has a bit of trouble with his); and finally ending in a fine piece of verse on “the way in which our land and we mix up together and are part of the same thing.”