Appeared in Summer 2003, Vol. XXVIII, No. 2
On 11 September 1903, for the first time ever, a son of an Anglican archbishop of Canterbury made his submission to Rome. The conversion of 1903 won immediate prominence in the religious press, where readers learned that this was a double defection: the subject was not only of a prominent Anglican family, he was also an ordained priest of the State church.
At the center of this furor was a slight man, of modest height, fair-haired, two months short of his thirty-second birthday. He was Robert Hugh Benson, soon to become the most prominent Catholic novelist of Edwardian England, indeed the best-selling author of explicitly Catholic literature in English of the first half of the twentieth century. Today, however, a century after his reception as a Roman Catholic, Benson is seldom read; his name is restricted to Catholic trivia games, and his life, once internationally lauded, is largely forgotten. Why is this? Why do people today no longer read Robert hugh Benson? There is indeed reason for this neglect, but there is also a compelling argument that he should continue to be read.
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