The Four Men: a Farrago


The Four Men: A Farrago is a 1911 novel by Hilaire Belloc that describes a 140-kilometre (90 mi) long journey on foot across the English county of Sussex from Robertsbridge in the east to Harting in the west. As a "secular pilgrimage" through Sussex, the book has parallels with his earlier work, the religious pilgrimage of The Path to Rome (1902). "The Four Men" describes four characters, Myself, Grizzlebeard, the Poet and the Sailor, each aspects of Belloc's personality, as they journey in a half-real, half-fictional allegory of life. Subtitled "a Farrago", meaning a 'confused mixture', the book contains a range of anecdotes, songs, reflections and miscellany. The book is also Belloc's homage to "this Eden which is Sussex still" and conveys Belloc's "love for the soil of his native land" of Sussex. Beginning on 29 October 1902, the characters set out from The George Inn at Robertsbridge, where Belloc was a regular customer. From Robertsbridge the characters walk via various public houses, through Heathfield, Uckfield, Ardingly, Ashurst and Amberley to South Harting. The story takes place over five continuous days from 29 October 1902, to 2 November. In the Western Christian calendar the period culminates in Hallowe'en or All Hallow's Eve (31 October), All Saints Day or All Hallow's Day (1 November) and All Souls Day (2 November). The book contains various poetry and songs, including the West Sussex Drinking Song. Belloc was also a lover of Sussex songs and wrote lyrics. Joseph Pearce argues that Belloc "knew every inch of the way" and "had evidently walked most of the route at various times, even if he had never walked the whole route at one time."Belloc envisaged calling the book "The County of Sussex". In 1909 Belloc told Maurice Baring that the three characters other than 'Myself' are really supernatural beings, a poet, a sailor and Grizzlebeard himself: they only turn out to be supernatural beings when they get to the village of Liss, which is just over the Hampshire border.
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language: English
date of publication: 1911
genre: novel


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