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Lord of the World Paperback – September 1, 2006
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"Interesting it must be to all to whom the deepest convictions of a man's heart are of moment. And in the artistic balance and taste of Father Benson's literary power every reader will find delight." -- New York Times
"Mr. Benson sees the world, four or five generations hence [this review was written in 1906], free at last from all minor quarrels, and ranged against itself in two camps, Humanitarianism for those who believe in no divinity but that of man, Catholicism for those who believe in no divinity but that of God." -- London Times
"The book as art is beautiful, delicately balanced, deeply inspired, intelligently executed." --Putnam's
Can a timeless book become timely 100 years after its first appearance?
In this profound and prescient novel, Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson gives us an imaginative foretelling of the end of the world. All stories, Aristotle said, have a beginning, a middle, and an end, but most ends are relative, the terminus of this chain of acts or that. But what of the end that terminates all human action as we know it, the end of time itself, the Second Coming? Since this novel appeared in 1906, many others have been devoted to nuclear disaster, destructive comets, and other hair-raising possibilities. What sets Benson’s story apart and makes it as readable today as when it was written is the Catholic and biblical context that provides the ultimate meaning.
Robert Hugh Benson (1871–1914) was the son of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and his conversion to Catholicism caused a stir. He became a great apologist for the faith, in spiritual works as well as in works of the imagination. Lord of the World is first of all a tremendous “read,” but it is also spiritual food for thought.
The late Ralph McInerny contributed a fine preface to the work, and recently Fr. C. John McCloskey III, a specialist on the work of Robert Hugh Benson, added a fascinating introduction.
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Top Customer Reviews
It is the story of the future world from a turn of the century vantage point. Protestantism has fizzled, the Mason's have triumphed, and Catholicism is on the defensive. The world has divided into three parties, and a silver tongued savior comes to save the day. Benson believed that armageddon would more likely result from smooth talking and twisted ideologies than from naked evil.
Although Benson may have over estimated the Masons and underestimated Protestants, he makes many surprisingly accurate predictions. The rhetoric used by the Bolshevists in Russia, the Nazi's in Germany, and the parties of the Spanish civil war was foreseen by Benson. The great white line Hitler painted around the Vatican and the Atomic bomb were also not beyond Benson's imagination.
Unfortunately, only a small audience will appreciate this book, but that audience should include all Catholics who take ideas and the modern threat seriously. This book helps explain the beauty of pre-Vatican II ceremonies without siding against the changes of Vatican II.
I ordered this book from Amazon after reading Gwen Watkins' essay in Charles Williams: A Celebration (also available from Amazon) comparing Benson and Williams as writers. Williams being my favorite author, I was very excited to come upon a similarly gifted novelist. Benson wrote Lord of the World in 1907; it takes place in a future about a century later (around now). That's also around the time that Chesterton wrote his novels. Both he and Benson write so colorfully that it's sometimes hard to know what's going on. Whether people were more imaginative then or that was the style at the turn of the century I don't know. But having read GKC helps one read Benson, and vice versa.
Williams is often held to be obscure for his descriptions of supernatural and occultic ritual. Benson's obscurity lies in his pre-Vatican II Catholic vocabulary and bits of the Latin Mass, which will not be familiar to many readers. That aside, this is an absolutely gripping story. Having once started, I couldn't put the book down. Uncannily, in this 1907 novel, Benson prophesied a dark future that became reality, first in Germany and then in the USSR. Writing in the then new genre of science fiction, he envisioned a technologically advanced world nevertheless rushing headlong to destruction. It's amazing how contemporary he sounds as he looks forward in time to our present and his future.