Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1954. Later printing. Small octavo (8 inches tall), original green cloth, original dust jacket. Very minor wear to edges of bright, unfaded dust jacket. A beautiful copy. Item #716
"I WILL SLEEP ROUGH AND COVER THIRTY MILES A DAY, AND I WILL HEAR MASS EVERY MORNING; AND I WILL BE PRESENT AT HIGH MASS IN ST. PETER'S ON THE FEAST OF ST. PETER AND PAUL" Handsome edition of Hilaire Belloc's best book, an account of his 1902 pilgrimage on foot across the Alps, in search of the spirit of the ancient unity of Christendom. "Belloc’s lifelong appeal was to the pre-modern sensibility of the villages of the past, a cry against modernity, an angular, crotchety, dashing, ribald, outrageous and stubborn resistance to the bourgeoisie and all their works and pomps" (Michael Novak). The thirty-one-year-old Belloc set out from Toul and journeyed across the Alps to Rome, discovering "how Catholicism transcends differences of race, nation and class so that 'once all we Europeans understood each other.'" (Joseph Pearce, Literary Converts). The narrative is illustrated by Belloc himself with numerous sketches composed in his travels. Belloc wrote all kinds of books, usually for money, but The Path to Rome "'was the only book I wrote for love.' In marvelous irony, Path was the most financially successful of all his books." (Novak).
Regnery published this edition in its "A Thomas More Book to Live" series (a year after Belloc's death), reproducing the original captioned frontispiece and adding a lovely cartographic dust jacket designed by Patricia Watters. Belloc's preface is "justly famous, a preface to end all prefaces ('In Praise of This Book,' he calls it), a tour de force: it marches the English language as it has never been marched before. Belloc then records unforgettable scenes and characters now famous in the literary imagination: the Commercial Traveler; the Wine Merchant of Brule; the Hungry Student; the little church of Undervelier, where all the citizens of the town, one hundred percent (no pluralism there!), attended Vespers, in a decisive moment in Belloc’s self-definition. Hardly a local wine or ale from Toul to central Italy goes unremarked; Belloc is partial to drinks whose origins go back to the Catholic era. Cigars are often smoked, cheese and bread often munched in slow reflection. Evenings and mornings, dews and rains, cloud formations and road surfaces are vividly remembered" (Michael Novak, July's Child: Hilaire Belloc's Path to Rome, Crisis Magazine).