Robert Hugh Benson (18 November 1871 – 19 October 1914) was the youngest son of Edward White Benson (Archbishop of Canterbury) and his wife, Mary. He was also the younger brother of Edward Frederic Benson

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

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

Benson's father died suddenly in 1896 and he 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 Catholic Church. His own piety began to tend toward the High Church variety 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. But as he continued his studies and began writing, 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, Fred (Edward Fredrick/E.F.) Benson and Arthur (A.C.) Benson, Robert Hugh Benson wrote many ghost stories, collected in The Light Invisible (1903) and The Mirror of Shallott (1907). Seven of these stories are included in David Stuart Davies (ed) The Temple of Death: The Ghost Stories of A.C. and R.H. Benson (Wordsworth, 2007) along with nine by his brother A.C. Benson.

As a young man, he recalled, he had rejected the idea of marriage as “quite inconceivable.” Then in 1904, soon after his ordination as a Roman Catholic priest, he formed a passionate friendship with Frederick Rolfe. For two years this relationship involved letters “not only weekly, but at times daily, and of an intimate character, exhaustingly charged with emotion.” All letters were subsequently destroyed, probably by Benson’s brother[3].

He was made a monsignor in 1911.

Partial bibliography

Science fiction

A Mirror of Shalott
Lord of the World ([4] Complete text at Project Gutenberg.)
Dawn of All ([5] Complete text at Project Gutenberg.)

Historical fiction

By What Authority?
Come Rack! Come Rope! (Complete text at Project Gutenberg.)
Oddsfish!(Complete text at Project Gutenberg.)
The King's Achievement (Sir I. Pitman and sons, ltd., 1908) (Complete text at Project Gutenberg.)
The History of Richard Raynal, Solitary (Complete text at Project Gutenberg.)

Contemporary Fiction

The Light Invisible
The Sentimentalists
The Conventionalists
The Necromancers (B. Herder, 1909) (Complete text at Project Gutenberg.)
None Other Gods (Complete text at Project Gutenberg.)
The Winnowing

Children's Books

Alphabet of Saints, with Reginald Balfour and Charles Ritchie (Burns, Oates & Washbourne, 1905)
A Child's Rule of Life, illustrated by Gabriel Pippet
Old Testament Rhymes, illustrated by Gabriel Pippet

Devotional Works

Friendship of Christ
Life in the World unseen
More About Life in the World Unseen
More Light
Here and Hereafter

Apologetic Works

Confessions of a Convert
Religion of the Plain Man
Paradoxes of Catholicism (Complete text at Project Gutenberg.)
Papers of a Pariah
Christ in the Church: A Volume of Religious Essays


Cost of a Crown, a Story of Douay & Durham; a Sacred Drama in Three Acts
A Mystery Play in Honour of the Nativity of Our Lord (Longmans, Green, and Co., 1908)
The Upper Room, a drama of Christ's passion
The Maid of Orleans, a drama of the life of Joan of Arc