Arthur Benson



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.

Essays by Arthur Benson

The art of the essayist

The essayist is really a lesser kind of poet, working in simpler and humbler materials, more in the glow of life perhaps than in the glory of it.


We sit in our quiet rooms, feeling safe, serene, even chilly, yet everywhere about us, peacefully confined in all our furniture and belongings, is a mass of inflammability.


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
Quotidiana by Patrick Madden

Quotidiana site founder Patrick Madden has just published a book of his own personal essays, including pieces formerly published in the Best American Spiritual Writing and Best Creative Nonfiction anthologies. If you enjoy the classical essays on this site, you'll enjoy these contemporary ruminations as well. Soon there'll be a web page here with further information, but for now, you can find out more (and perhaps purchase a copy) at

"Patrick Madden is an essayist of verve, passion, wit, and dependable moral compass. Quotidiana drew me in powerfully, from page to page and from pleasure to pleasure." —Ian Frazier

2011 Symposium on the Essay
Welcome Table Press Symposium on the Essay

Friend of Quotidiana Kim Dana Kupperman's Welcome Table Press is hosting a one-day symposium at Fordham University on Saturday, October 15th, 2011. In Praise of the Essay: Practice & Form will feature talks and discussions by Phillip Lopate, Robin Hemley, Barbara Hurd, and more.


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