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Selected Poetry of Arthur Christopher Benson (1862-1925)


from Representative Poetry On-line
Prepared by members of the Department of English at the University of Toronto
from 1912 to the present and published by the University of Toronto Press from 1912 to 1967.
RPO Edited by Ian Lancashire
A UTEL (University of Toronto English Library) Edition
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries
© 2005, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto

Image of Arthur Christopher Benson

Index to poems

This is my chiefest torment, that behind
The brave and subtle spirit, the swift brain,
There sits and shivers, in a cell of pain,
A groping atom, melancholy, blind, Which is myself;
        (Self, 1-5)
  1. Courage
  2. "I am Small and of no Reputation; Yet do I not Forget thy Commandments"
  3. Land of Hope and Glory
  4. Self
  5. The Sparrow


Notes on Life and Works

Born April 24, 1862, to Mary Sidgwick and Edward White Benson, future archbishop of Canterbury (1882-1896), Arthur Christopher Benson became a popular essayist of Edwardian England, the librettist of England's beloved anthem, "Land of Hope and Glory," and the editor of Queen Victoria's letters. Benson received his education at Temple Grove School, East Sheen, at Eton 1874-81, and at King's College, Cambridge, 1881-84. He joined Eton in 1885 and until 1903, when he retired, was both well-liked schoolmaster and school historian. He published poetry from 1892 and essays from 1896. It was Benson's libretto for Elgar's "Coronation Ode" (1902), commissioned by the composer (perhaps at the instance of Edward VII), that brought the man of letters national fame. He left Eton in 1903 to co-edit Victoria's correspondence in 3 vols. (1907), for which he was made commander of the Royal Victorian Order. Benson then went to live in the Old Granary in Cambridge, in March 1906 to Hinton Hall at Haddenham, and last to Magdalene College, Cambridge, to which he was elected fellow in October 1904. Benson went on to become president of Magdalene in 1912 and Master in 1915. He suffered from hideous bouts of depression, first at Eton in 1882 and then in 1908-09, 1918, and 1922. In poems sometimes neglected in his later collections (such as "Courage"), Benson gave expression to this disabling trauma. He never married and was openly, if (it seems from his diaries) asexually, gay. On June 17, 1925, Benson died of a heart attack. He was remembered warmly every closing night of the London Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, which climaxed in a choric version of the patriotic "Land of Hope and Glory" -- audience joining in with performers -- until 2001, when it was withdrawn after objections from conscientious objectors to the Afghanistan war.

The photograph of A. C. Benson was taken by A. H. Fry in 1899 and is published in The Diary of Arthur Christopher Benson, edited by Percy Lubbock (London: Hutchinson, [1926]).

Biographical information

Given name: Arthur Christopher
Family name: Benson
Birth date: 24 April 1862
Death date: 17 June 1925
Nationality: English
Family relations
          father: Edward White Benson
          mother: Mary Sidgwick Benson
Education
          Temple Grove School, East Sheen, England
          Eton: 1874 to 1881
          King's College, Cambridge: 1881 to 1884
Religion: Anglican
Honour: Commander, Royal Victorian Order
Occupations
          Schoolmaster
          Man of Letters
          College President
Illness: Depression
Cause of death: Heart disease
Buried at: St. Giles's cemetery, Huntingdon Road, Cambridge
First RPO edition: 2001