Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Chesterbelloc in 1066 And All That

I bought a second-hand copy of 1066 And All That by Sellar and Yeatman today. Having read it a couple of times before, I know it's not as funny as it seems from the excerpts that get into books of quotations. But still a Good Thing, if you can find it cheap, thus avoiding any danger of Political Economy.

I had no special interest in Chesterton last time I read it, so I didn't notice this (rather irrelevant, but then the whole thing is rather irrelevant) swipe at the Chesterbelloc:

Thomas A Belloc

It was at this time that Thomas a Belloc, the great religious leader, claimed that clergymen, whatever crimes they might commit, could not be punished at all; this privilege, which was for some reason known as Benefit of Clergy, was in full accord with the devout spirit of the age. Henry II, however, exclaimed to some of his knights one day, "Who will read me of this Chesterton beast?" Whereupon the Knights pursued Belloc and murdered him in the organ at Canterbury Cathedral.

The best and funniest passage in the book, though, is this one:

With the ascension of Charles I to the throne we come at last to the Central Period of English History (not to be confused with the Middle Ages, of course), consisting in the utterly memorable struggle between the Cavaliers (Wrong but Wromantic) and the Roundheads (Right but Repulsive).

Charles I was a Cavalier King and therefore had a small pointed beard, long flowing curls, a large, flat, flowing hat and gay attire. The Roundheads, on the other hand, were clean-shaven and wore tall, conical hats, white ties and sombre attire. Under these circumstances a civil war was inevitable.

(Recently I have begun to doubt that the Cavaliers really were more romantic than the Roundheads. Underneath all the poetry and flowing locks they were really just politicians, while the Puritans were idealists.)

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