Belloc’s ... claim to understand France was based mainly on the time he had spent in a French military college and in the French army. In fact, he left the Collège Stanislas after only a few months and the army after only one year of his three-year military service. He disliked both experiences intensely, taking from them little more than the anti-Semitism of the French Right, a prejudice which was to remain with him for the rest of his life. His knowledge of French political and cultural life amounted to little more than what he learned from a few months spent in northern France in the late 1890s, as Pall Mall magazine’s “Cycling Correspondent”.
Maurice Baring, then a young diplomat in Paris, met Belloc about this time. Baring, who was completely at home in continental Europe, thought the young Belloc was out of place. Significantly, he described him as “very un-French when seen in France. In fact his Gallicism is an untrained pose. His Catholicism is a political opinion: he is really brutally agnostic. His Gallicism too is a political opinion”.
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