Arthur Benson was one of the most popular essayists of his day, publishing over seventy volumes of essays before his death in 1925. Educated at King’s College in Cambrige, Benson started his career as a schoolmaster at Eton. He remained involved in education for much of his life, eventually becoming president of Magdalene College, a position which he claimed suited him well as he enjoyed being involved with others while maintaining a relative degree of privacy. The essay suited Benson for similar reasons, and much of his writing comes from this period. While Benson attained much recognition for his writing, he also influenced a great many people through his teaching and administration at several schools as well as through his literary connections. He knew Queen Victoria personally and was royally commissioned to produce a number of works, including the lyrics to one of Britain’s most beloved patriotic songs, Land of Hope and Glory. Despite Benson’s involvement in education, he took issue with what he saw as problems in British culture which limited effective education, claiming British society to be one that “privileges action over contemplation” and thus supports achievement over intellectual and emotional development. Benson’s popularity declined rapidly after his death, largely due to shifts in literary fashion, yet his body of work stands as a collection of thoughtful, affectionate observations on what it means to be human and how the essay can increase the quality of life.
The strange thing about all these ideas is that we find them suddenly in the mind and soul; we do not seem to invent them, though we cannot trace them.
Patrick Madden's New Book
Join Us on Facebook
Quotidiana is an online anthology of "classical" essays, from antiquity to the early twentieth century. All essays and images are in the public domain. Commentaries are copyrighted, but may be used with proper attribution. Special thanks to the BYU College of Humanities and English Department for funding, and to Joey Franklin and Lara Burton, for tireless research assisting.