18th June 1901: Belloc Almost Gives Up His Narrative

Belloc stepped out of the inn and into the rain. It rained all day.

LECTOR. It does not seem to me that this part of your book is very entertaining.

Hilaire Belloc The Path to Rome (Ignatius Press 2003), p.303

Here is a ‘friendship’ that I don’t think I have mentioned yet – that between AUCTOR and LECTOR. I shall do it now to stop this post being about five lines long: Belloc’s account of this day is dominated by the story of how a ‘Learned Man’ sold his soul to the devil only to outwit him and keep it, and then by Belloc’s musings on the subject of Germany. When these are finished, so is his day.

The AUCTOR (capitals as that is how Belloc writes it) is Belloc himself and the LECTOR supposedly his reader. In reality, of course, LECTOR is a rhetorical ploy that allows Belloc to banter with the us the readers and take the narrative in directions that would otherwise have been closed to it.

I was not quite correct to say that today’s entry ends after his ruminations concerning Germany. Belloc trudged through the rain and mud to Piacenza. There, he ate in a run down palace, now a hotel called the Moor’s Head, before resuming his journey. Let us tarry there a little longer though, for we have the inn keeper of the Moor’s Head to thank for stopping today being a total wash-out in terms of looking at friendships that Belloc made or experienced along the way to Rome. He writes,

He was a good man, the innkeeper of this palace. He warmed me at his fire in his enormous kitchen…

The Path to Rome, p.317

From Piacenza, Belloc walked to Firenzuola where he stayed the night. Tomorrow morning, he will wake up to find the weather ‘still cold, still heartless, and sodden’. The memory of both breaks his patience and he refuses to discuss either Firenzuola or the morning in the book.

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