Image of Robert Hugh Benson


Lifetime: 1871 - 1914 Passed: ≈ 109 years ago


English Anglican Priest



Robert Hugh Benson

Robert Hugh Benson 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 Pope Pius X in 1911 and gain the title of Monsignor.

Benson was the youngest son of Edward White Benson (Archbishop of Canterbury) and his wife, Mary, and the younger brother of E. F. Benson, A. C. Benson, and Margaret Benson.

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

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. Benson was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1904. As the son of the late Archbishop of Canterbury, his conversion, and his subsequent ordination, caused a sensation

His first assignment was as a college chaplain. He had a stutter and is said to have had a 'reedy' voice. Benson was a popular preacher, attracting large audiences wherever he spoke. In 1914, he visited the University of Notre Dame and gave an address on the papacy. Both Confessions of a Convert (1913) and Lourdes (1914) were serialized in Notre Dame's Ave Maria magazine, before appearing as books.

He was awarded the Dignitary of Honour of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

Benson 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). His novel, Lord of the World (1907), is generally regarded as one of the first modern dystopian novels. In the speculative 2007 he predicted there, the Anglican Church and other Protestant denominations had crumbled and disappeared under a rising tide of secularism and atheism, leaving an embattled Catholic Church as the sole champion of Christian truth. Nations are armed with weapons which can destroy a whole city from the air within minutes.

As a young man, Benson recalled, he had rejected the idea of marriage as "quite inconceivable". He had a close friendship with "Baron Corvo", alias the novelist Frederick Rolfe, with whom he had hoped to write a book on St Thomas Becket, until Benson decided that he should not be associated (according to writer Brian Masters) "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 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!"

Benson died of pneumonia 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.

Books by Robert Hugh Benson

Lord of the World Cover image

Lord of the World

Dystopian Science Fiction Novel
Religious Fiction Antichrist

Lord of the World is a 1907 dystopian science fiction novel by Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson that centres upon the reign of the Antichrist and the end of the world. It has been called prophetic by Dale Ahlquist, Joseph Pearce, Pope Benedict XVI and Po...

Confessions of a Convert Cover image

Confessions of a Convert

Autobiography Journey Christianity Catholicism Confessions

This book is his personal story of his journey to the Catholic faith, containing comparisons between Catholicism and the Anglican religion.

The Necromancers Cover image

The Necromancers

Horror Novel
Love Classics Dark Magic Supernatural Fiction Experiments

It tells the story of a group of friends who experiment with occultism and unwittingly summon demonic forces. Benson's writing is atmospheric and eerie, drawing the reader into a world of dark magic and sinister forces. The characters in the book ar...

A Mirror Of Shalott Cover image

A Mirror Of Shalott

Horror Fiction Novel
Power Mystery Historical Fiction Struggle Spirituality Emotion Supernatural Fiction Empathy Secret Motivation Introspection

The book follows the life of a young woman named Shalott, who resides in a quaint village. Shalott possesses a mysterious mirror that reflects not only the physical world but also the emotional and spiritual aspects of people around her. Through this...

Initiation Cover image


Fiction Novel Religion
Morality Faith Self-Discovery Exploration Spirituality Beliefs Existence

It is a captivating novel that explores the spiritual journey of a young protagonist. The book delves into themes of faith, self-discovery, and the search for meaning in life. Set in the early 20th century, "Initiation" takes readers on a profound ex...

By What Authority? Cover image

By What Authority?

Fiction Novel
Nature Village Faith Culture Struggle Christianity Church Beliefs

In a world where faith is tested and authority is challenged, one man must find his own path. Robert Hugh Benson's classic novel By What Authority? is a story about faith, doubt, and the search for truth. Set in the Elizabethan era, the novel follow...

The Light Invisible Cover image

The Light Invisible

Horror Fiction
Divine Sin Faith Violence Forgiveness Dark Supernatural Fiction

In a world veiled by the ordinary, where the supernatural quietly weaves its threads into the fabric of reality, Father Benson takes us on a journey through the extraordinary, revealing the subtle glimpses of the divine that lie hidden amidst the mun...

Come Rack! Come Rope! Cover image

Come Rack! Come Rope!

Come Rack! Come Rope! is a historical novel by the English priest and writer Robert Hugh Benson, a convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism. Set in Derbyshire at the time of the Elizabethan persecution of Catholics, when being or harboring a priest w...

Friendship of Christ Cover image

Friendship of Christ

Robert Hugh Benson, who was educated at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge, was ordained an Anglican priest in 1895 by his father, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Eight years later, after weighty consideration, Robert Benson converted to Roman...

Dawn of All Cover image

Dawn of All

In a former book, called "Lord of the World," I attempted to sketch the kind of developments a hundred years hence which, I thought, might reasonably be expected if the present lines of what is called "modern thought" were only prolonged far enough;...

Mystery Play in Honor of the Nativity of Our Lord Cover image

Mystery Play in Honor of the Nativity of Our Lord

A beautiful play perfect for Christmas time by Robert Hugh Benson. (Summary by Mozartjr) Cast List Narrator: Mozartjr Narrator: Larry Wilson Abel: Inkell Balthazar / Uzziel: Greg Giordano Ben-Ezra / Appendix: Rapunzelina Choir Member: Gillian...