Manuscript of Hilaire Belloc's The Unpleasant Room

Scope and Content

Original manuscript of the short story by Hilaire Belloc, The Unpleasant Room. The manuscript is signed H. Belloc, Calais, Dec. 3, 1928. The volume also includes three autograph letters from Belloc to Henry Guppy, Librarian of the John Rylands Library, 1909-1928. In the last letter Belloc comments that the manuscript is rare, as he usually dictated his work.

Administrative / Biographical History

Joseph Hilaire Pierre Belloc, poet and author, was born on 27 July 1870 at La Celle St Cloud near Paris. His birth coincided with the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, and the family fled to England. He attended the Oratory School, Birmingham, between 1880 and 1887. In 1891 he travelled across the United States and spent most of 1892 doing his military service in the French army. After he returned from France, Belloc was admitted to Balliol College, Oxford. He was awarded a first in modern history in 1895. In June 1896 Belloc married Elodie Agnes Hogan (1868-1914) at Napa, California.

In 1902, he published The Path to Rome, telling the story of his solitary walk from Toul in Lorraine, to Rome. In 1904 he published Emmanuel Burden, the first of a series of satirical novels about Edwardian political and social life. Belloc became known as a polemical apologist for the Roman Catholic Church, which he regarded as the only source of sanity and order in the world.

In 1906 Belloc entered politics as Liberal MP for South Salford, placing himself on the radical wing of the party. He left the House of Commons in 1910 and in 1911 founded a weekly journal, the Eye Witness (later the New Witness) in collaboration with Cecil Chesterton. In 1912 he published a critique of modern society, The Servile State, which attacks both capitalism and socialism. Of his poetry, the Bad Child's Book of Beasts (1899), and Cautionary Tales (1907), are among the best known works.

In 1920 Belloc published Europe and the Faith, which sets out a mythologized reading of European history. In 1922, in The Jews, Belloc argued that the Jews could not be successfully assimilated in Christian societies; yet he referred to Jews with respect and even admiration and denied that he was anti-semitic. The Unpleasant Room was published in the Christmas edition of Radio Times, 1928.

In 1942 Belloc suffered a stroke and his health declined. He became senile within a few years and died on 16 July 1953, at Guildford, Surrey.

Source: Bernard Bergonzi, 'Belloc, (Joseph) Hilaire Pierre René (1870-1953)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Conditions Governing Access

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Donated to the John Rylands Library by Hilaire Belloc in December 1928.


Description compiled by Jo Humpleby, project archivist, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Hilaire Belloc.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928 (English MS 508).