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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.

The Reverend Monsignor
Robert Hugh Benson
Monsignor R. H. Benson in Oct. 1912, Aged 40.jpg
Photo of Benson by G. Jerrard, 1912
Born Robert Hugh Benson
(1871-11-18)18 November 1871
Wellington College, Berkshire
Died 19 October 1914(1914-10-19) (aged 42)
Bishop's house Salford Cathedral, Salford
Parent(s) Edward White Benson and Mary Sidgwick Benson
Church Roman Catholic
Ordained 1904


Early lifeEdit

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.


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.


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.

Vatican chaplaincyEdit

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

Private lifeEdit

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, until Benson decided that he should not be associated "with a Venetian pimp and procurer of boys"; nevertheless he maintained his friendship with Lord Alfred Douglas, the boyfriend of Oscar Wilde, raging to an acquaintance who protested that the connection was inappropriate that "Lord Alfred Douglas is my friend, and he'll [visit] when he likes!"[4] In his chapel he had "an indelicate St Sebastian", of which he said: "He came without even arrows, but I made them myself and stuck them in."[4] Writing in The Telegraph in 2007, Christopher Howse called him "a queer fish to be sure, but ... no doubt a chaste man", and pointed out that it was "the manner of his day" to "repress [one's] impulses".[4]

Death and legacyEdit

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]



Science fiction

Historical fiction

Contemporary Fiction

Children's Books

Devotional Works

Apologetic Works


Selected articles


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c 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. ^ a b c Howse, Christopher (3 February 2007). "Sacred mysteries". The Telegraph (opinion). 
  5. ^ Benson, A.C. Hugh: Memoirs of a Brother. Dodo Press. p. 210. ISBN 1406548197. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "The Dawn of All," The Bookman, September 1911.
  8. ^ Cooper, Frederick Taber. "The Accustomed Manner and Some Recent Novels," The Bookman, May 1914.


External linksEdit