Robert Hugh Benson: Comparison
Please note this is a comparison between Version 1 by Amina Yu and Version 2 by Amina Yu.
  • apologetics
  • devotional
  • monsignor

1. Introduction

Robert Hugh Benson AFSC KC*SG KGCHS (18 November 1871 – 19 October 1914) was an English Anglican priest who in 1903 was received into the Roman Catholic Church in which he was ordained priest in 1904. He was a prolific writer of fiction and wrote the notable dystopian novel Lord of the World (1907). His output encompassed historical, horror and science fiction, contemporary fiction, children's stories, plays, apologetics, devotional works and articles. He continued his writing career at the same time as he progressed through the hierarchy to become a Chamberlain to the Pope in 1911 and subsequently titled Monsignor.

2. Early Life

Benson was the youngest son of Edward White Benson (Archbishop of Canterbury) and his wife, Mary, and the younger brother of Edward Frederic Benson and A. C. Benson.[1]

Benson was educated at Eton College and then studied classics and theology at Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1890 to 1893.[2]

In 1895, Benson was ordained a priest in the Church of England by his father, who was the then Archbishop of Canterbury.

3. Career

After his father died suddenly in 1896, Benson was sent on a trip to the Middle East to recover his own health. While there he began to question the status of the Church of England and to consider the claims of the Roman Catholic Church. His own piety began to tend toward the High Church tradition, and he started exploring religious life in various Anglican communities, eventually obtaining permission to join the Community of the Resurrection.

Benson made his profession as a member of the community in 1901, at which time he had no thoughts of leaving the Church of England. As he continued his studies and began writing, however, he became more and more uneasy with his own doctrinal position and, on 11 September 1903, he was received into the Catholic Church. He was awarded the Dignitary of Honour of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

Benson was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1904 and sent to Cambridge. He continued his writing career along with his ministry as a priest.

32.1. Novelist

Like both his brothers, Edward Frederic Benson ("Fred") and Arthur Christopher Benson, Robert wrote many ghost and horror stories, as well as children's stories and historical fiction. His horror and ghost fiction are collected in The Light Invisible (1903) and A Mirror of Shallott (1907).[1] His novel, Lord of the World (1907), is generally regarded as one of the first modern dystopian novels (see List of dystopian literature).[1] The bibliography below reveals a prodigious output.

32.2. Vatican Chaplaincy

Benson was appointed a supernumerary private chamberlain to the Pope (Pius X) in 1911 and consequently styled as Monsignor.

4. Private Life

As a young man, Benson recalled, he had rejected the idea of marriage as "quite inconceivable".[3] He had a close friendship with "Baron Corvo", alias the notorious novelist Frederick Rolfe, with whom he had hoped to write a book on Thomas Becket, until Benson decided that he should not be associated (according to writer Brian Masters)[4] "with a Venetian pimp and procurer of boys". Nevertheless he maintained his friendship with Lord Alfred Douglas, the friend and lover of Oscar Wilde, and when an acquaintance who protested that the connection with Douglas was inappropriate for him, he replied: "Lord Alfred Douglas is my friend, and he'll come down when he likes!"[4]

5. Death and Legacy

Benson died in 1914 in Salford, where he had been preaching a mission. He was 42. At his request, he was buried in the orchard of Hare Street House, his house in the Hertfordshire village of Hare Street.[5] A chapel, dedicated to St Hugh, was built over the site. Benson bequeathed the house to the Catholic Church as a county retreat for the Archbishop of Westminster. The Roman Catholic church in the nearby town of Buntingford, which he helped finance, is dedicated to St Richard of Chichester, but also known as the Benson Memorial Church.[6]

6. Gallery

Colour Portrait of Robert Hugh Benson.

Birthplace of Robert Hugh Benson. From the book "Hugh, Memoirs of a Brother".

Robert Hugh Benson and Beth at the Chancery, Lincoln, in 1876, aged 5. From the book "Hugh, Memoirs of a Brother".

A. C. Benson, R. H. Benson, and E. F. Benson, 1882. From the book "Hugh, Memoirs of a Brother".

Robert Hugh Benson in 1889, aged 17. As Steerer in the St. George, at Eton. From the book "Hugh, Memoirs of a Brother".

7. Works

7.1. Science Fiction

  • A Mirror of Shalott, Benziger Brothers, 1907.
  • Lord of the World, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1908 [1st Pub. 1907].
  • The Dawn of All, B. Herder, 1911.[7]

7.2. Historical Fiction

  • By What Authority?, Isbister, 1904.
  • Come Rack! Come Rope!, Dodd, Mead & Co., 1913 [1st Pub. 1912].
  • Oddsfish!, Dodd, Mead & Co., 1914.
  • The King's Achievement, Burns Oates & Washbourne, Lrd., 1905.
  • The Queen's Tragedy, Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons Ltd., 1907.
  • The History of Richard Raynal, Solitary, Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons Ltd., 1912.
  • Initiation, Dodd, Mead & Co., 1914.[8]

7.3. Contemporary Fiction

  • The Light Invisible, Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons Ltd., 1906.
  • The Sentimentalists, Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons Ltd., 1906.
  • The Conventionalists, Hutchinson & Co., 1908.
  • The Necromancers, Hutchinson & Co., 1909.
  • The Winnowing, B. Herder, 1910.
  • None other gods, B. Herder, 1911.
  • The Coward, B. Herder, 1912.
  • An Average Man, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1913.
  • Loneliness?, Dodd, Mead & Co., 1915.

7.4. Children's Books

  • Alphabet of Saints, with Reginald Balfour and Charles Ritchie, illustraded by L. D. Symington, Oates & Washbourne, 1905.
  • A Child's Rule of Life, illustrated by Gabriel Pippet, digitized by Richard Mammana.
  • Old Testament Rhymes, illustrated by Gabriel Pippet.

7.5. Devotional Works

  • Vexilla Regis: A Book of Devotions and Intercessions, Longmans, Green & Co., 1915 [1st Pub. 1914].
  • A Book of the Love of Jesus: A Collection of Ancient English Devotions in Prose and Verse, Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1915.
  • The Friendship of Christ, Longmans, Green & Co., 1914 [1st Pub. 1912].

7.6. Apologetic Works

  • The Religion of the Plain Man, Burns & Oates, 1906.
  • Papers of a Pariah, Longmans, Green & Co., 1907.
  • Christ in the Church: A Volume of Religious Essays, Longmans, Green & Co., 1911.
  • Confessions of a Convert, Longmans, Green & Co., 1913.
  • Paradoxes of Catholicism, Longmans, Green & Co., 1913.
  • Lourdes, The Manresa Press, 1914.
  • Spiritual Letters of Monsignor R. Hugh Benson: to One of his Converts, Longmans, Green & Co., 1915.
  • A Book of Essays, Catholic Truth Society, 1916.
  • Sermon Notes, First Series: Anglican, Second Series: Catholic, Longmans, Green & Co., 1917.
  • Non-Catholic Denominations, Longmans, Green & Co., 1921.

7.7. Plays

  • The Cost of a Crown, a Story of Douay & Durham; a Sacred Drama in Three Acts, Longmans, Green & Co., 1910.
  • A Mystery Play in Honour of the Nativity of Our Lord, Longmans, Green, and Co., 1908.
  • The Maid of Orleans, a Drama of the Life of Joan of Arc, Longmans, Green & Co., 1911.
  • The Upper Room, a Drama of Christ's Passion, Longmans, Green & Co., 1914.

7.8. Selected Articles

  • "The Conversion of England," The American Ecclesiastical Review, Vol. XXXIV, 1906.
  • "The State of Religion in England," The Catholic World, Vol. LXXXIV, October 1906/March 1907.
  • "A Modern Theory of Human Personality," The Dublin Review, Vol. CXLI, 1907.
  • "The Dissolution of the Religious Houses." In: Renascence and Reformation (From The Cambridge History of English Literature, 15 Vols.), 1908.
  • "Letters of Queen Victoria, 1837-1861," The Dublin Review, Vol. CXLII, January/April 1908.
  • "Christian Science," The Dublin Review, Vol. CXLIII, No. 286, October 1908.
  • "Spiritualism," The Dublin Review, Vol. CXLV, No. 290-291, July/October, 1909.
  • "A Catholic Colony," The Dublin Review, Vol. CXLVI, January/April, 1910.
  • "Catholicism and the Future," The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. CVI, 1910.
  • "Phantasms of the Dead," The Dublin Review, Vol. CL, No. 300-301, January/April, 1912.
  • "Cosmopolitanism and Catholicism," The North American Review, September 1912.
  • "Cardinal Gasquet," The Dublin Review, Vol. CLV, July/October, 1914.

7.9. Other

  • The Holy Blissful Martyr Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Benziger Brothers, 1910.
  • The Life of Saint Teresa, Herbert & Daniel, 1912.
  • Poems, Burns & Oates, 1915.
  • Maxims from the Writings of Mgr. Benson, By the compiler of "Thoughts from Augustine Birrell," R. & T. Washbourne Ltd., 1915.


  1. Ashley, Mike (May–June 1984). "The Essential Writers: Blood Brothers (Profile of E.F., A.C. and R. H. Benson)". Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine: pp. 63–70. 
  2. "Benson, Robert Hugh (BN890RH)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  3. Benson, Robert Hugh (1913). Confessions of a Convert. Longmans, Green and Co.. 
  4. Howse, Christopher (3 February 2007). "Sacred mysteries". The Telegraph. 
  5. Benson, A.C.. Hugh: Memoirs of a Brother. Dodo Press. p. 210. ISBN 1406548197. 
  7. "The Dawn of All," The Bookman, September 1911.
  8. Cooper, Frederick Taber. "The Accustomed Manner and Some Recent Novels," The Bookman, May 1914.
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