Friday, 7 July 2006

Robert Hugh Benson Country

Apologies for not updating the blog over the last few days - last night I had a social engagement and the previous two nights I was staying in Hertfordshire.
The picture above is of that great Westminster priest, Mgr Robert Hugh Benson - sadly remembered more by our American friends than by his own countrymen (and the same could be said about Knox, Belloc, Chesterton and Lewis). Benson was a convert (the son of Archbishop Benson of Canterbury) and author of many novels, including Come Rack! Come Rope! and Lord of the World. Buntingford is Benson country. A few miles down the road is his house at Hare Street, which was given by Benson on his death in 1914 to the Archbishops of Westminster for use as a country refuge (not a luxury but a necessity given the stresses of the job). Cardinal Hume was a big fan as were Bourne and Hinsley (the latter died there in 1943). Priests can also use it for their days-off or for support groups - not many do, though I've been there a few times. It's a real Georgian pile, largely untouched since Benson's day and complete with a resident ghost (and quite a few have experienced something in the house).
St Richard's church in nearby Buntingford was built from the royalties of Benson's books as a memorial to him after his early death at the age of 42. It's a very tranquil place and the photo shows the wonderful presbytery garden (with sundial). A good day off - now it's back to the coal face and time for me to say Mass at one of the local schools. Adieu!


Blogger Mary Jane said...

Thanks for the reminder of Robert Hugh Benson. Yes, his books are quite popular with conservative Catholics here in the USA. While his writing is a little uneven, "Lord of the World" is definitely a great piece of fantasy. Benson's brother, another successful writer himself, said Hugh never revised anything because he just wrote the novels to make money and he knew they would sell, no matter what.

I read virtually all of his novels back in the early 1990s because the New York Society Library (a private membership library) had never thrown out anything and they were all back there in the stacks available for interlibrary loan. Unfortunately, I believe they later hired more professional management and probably cleaned them out.

12:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm another American fan. His two volume biography is good too. Out of print but available from

9:29 pm  
Blogger Boeciana said...

Incidentally, thanks for the link, Father!

RH Benson is marvellous. I discovered him not long ago (and wasted several hours in the National Library reading his novels, as they didn't seem to be in any Edinburgh lending libraries). Very few men are able to write so convincingly (and edifyingly) about the interior life - in a fictional context, I mean.

3:59 pm  

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