A. C. Benson
Arthur Christopher Benson (circa 1899)
28th Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge
In office
Preceded byStuart Alexander Donaldson
Succeeded byAllen Beville Ramsay
Personal details
Arthur Christopher Benson

24 April 1862
Died17 June 1925(1925-06-17) (aged 63)
Cambridge, England
EducationTemple Grove School
Eton College
Alma materKing's College, Cambridge

Arthur Christopher Benson, FRSL (24 April 1862 – 17 June 1925) was an English essayist, poet and academic,[1] and the 28th Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge. He wrote the lyrics of Edward Elgar’s Coronation Ode, including the words of the patriotic song "Land of Hope and Glory" (1902). His literary criticism, poems, and volumes of essays were highly regarded. He was also noted as an author of ghost stories.

Early life and family

Benson was born on 24 April 1862 at Wellington College, Berkshire, as one of six children of Edward White Benson (1829–1896), the first headmaster of the college, who would later be Archbishop of Canterbury from 1883 to 1896. His mother, Mary Sidgwick Benson, was a sister of the philosopher Henry Sidgwick.

Benson's literary family included his brothers Edward Frederic Benson, best remembered for his Mapp and Lucia novels, and Robert Hugh Benson, a priest of the Church of England before converting to Roman Catholicism, who wrote many popular novels. Their sister Margaret Benson was an artist, author, and amateur Egyptologist.

Though exceptionally accomplished, the Benson family met tragic times: a son and daughter died young, while another daughter and Arthur himself suffered from a mental condition that may have been bipolar disorder[2] or manic-depressive psychosis, seemingly inherited from their father. None of the children married.[3]

Despite his illness, Arthur was to become a distinguished academic and a prolific author. From the ages of 10 to 21, he lived in cathedral closes, first at Lincoln where his father was Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral, and then at Truro, where his father was the first Bishop of Truro. He retained a love of church music and ceremony.

In 1874 he won a scholarship to Eton from Temple Grove School, a preparatory school in East Sheen. In 1881 he went up to King's College, Cambridge, where he was a scholar (King's College had closed scholarships for which only Etonians were eligible) and achieved first-class honours in the Classical tripos in 1884.[4]


From 1885 to 1903 Benson taught at Eton, but returned to Cambridge in 1904 as a Fellow of Magdalene College to lecture in English Literature. He became president of the college (the Master's deputy) in 1912, and he was Master of Magdalene (head of the college) from December 1915 until his death in 1925. From 1906, he was a governor of Gresham's School.[5]

"Fasti Etonenses", Benson caricatured by Spy for Vanity Fair, 1903.

The modern development of Magdalene was shaped by Benson,[4] as a generous benefactor with a marked impact on the appearance of the college grounds; he appears in at least 20 inscriptions around the college.[6] In 1930, the new Benson Court was named after him.[7]

Benson worked with Lord Esher in editing the correspondence of Queen Victoria, which appeared in 1907.[8][9] His poems and essay volumes, such as From a College Window and The Upton Letters (essays in the form of letters) were famous in his time; and he left one of the longest diaries ever written: some four million words.[10] His literary criticisms of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward FitzGerald, Walter Pater and John Ruskin rank among his best work.

Benson wrote the lyrics of the Coronation Ode, set to music by Edward Elgar for the 1902 coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. It has as its finale one of Britain's best-known patriotic songs, "Land of Hope and Glory".

Ghost stories

Like his brothers Edward Frederic and Robert Hugh, Benson was noted as an author of ghost stories. The bulk of them, in two volumes, The Hill of Trouble and Other Stories (1903) and The Isles of Sunset (1904), were written for his pupils as moral allegories. After Arthur's death, Fred Benson found a collection of unpublished ghost stories and included two in a book, Basil Netherby (1927). The title story was renamed "House at Treheale" and the volume completed by a long piece, "The Uttermost Farthing",[11] but the fate of the other stories is unknown.

Paul the Minstrel and Other Stories (1911, reprinted 1977) collects the contents of The Hill of Trouble and Other Stories and The Isles of Sunset.[12] Nine of Arthur's ghost stories are included in David Stuart Davies (ed.), The Temple of Death: The Ghost Stories of A. C. & R. H. Benson (Wordsworth, 2007), together with seven by his brother R. H. Benson, while nine of Arthur's and ten of Robert's appear in Ghosts in the House (Ash-Tree, 1996) – the contents of the joint collections are similar but not identical.


In The Schoolmaster, Benson summarised his views on education after 18 years' experience at Eton. He criticised a trend he found prevalent in English public schools, to "make the boys good and to make them healthy" to the detriment of their intellectual development.[13]

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he founded the Benson Medal in 1916 "in respect of meritorious works in poetry, fiction, history and belles lettres".[14]


Benson Court, Magdalene College, Cambridge

A. C. Benson died of cardiac arrest at Magdalene and was buried at St Giles's Cemetery in Cambridge.[15]

Critical reception

Horror critic R. S. Hadji included Benson's Basil Netherby on a list of "unjustly neglected" horror books.[16]

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch included Benson's poem "The Phoenix" in the first and second editions of The Oxford Book of English Verse.


"The Phoenix"

Reviews of Benson's poetry



  1. ^ "Benson, Arthur Christopher". Who's Who. 59: 136. 1907.
  2. ^ Ridley, Jane (9 July 2011). "The gay Lambeth way" (review of Rodney Bolt, As Good as God, as Clever as the Devil: The Impossible Life of Mary Benson)". The Spectator.
  3. ^ a b "Selected Poetry of Arthur Christopher Benson, 1862–1925". Representative Poetry Online. University of Toronto.
  4. ^ a b "Benson, Arthur Christopher (BN881AC)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  5. ^ The Times newspaper, 22 October 1906, p. 6, col. C.
  6. ^ "Twentieth Century". Magdalene College. Archived from the original on 1 March 2004. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  7. ^ The colleges and halls - Magdalene - British History Online. Retrieved 30 March 2010.
  8. ^ Ward, Yvonne M. (2014). Censoring Queen Victoria: how two gentlemen edited a queen and created an icon. Oneworld. ISBN 9781780743639.
  9. ^ "Review of The Letters of Queen Victoria edited by A. C. Benson and Viscount Esher, 3 vols". The Athenaeum (4174): 509–510. 26 October 1907.
  10. ^ Extracts from the diaries are printed in Edwardian Excursions. From the Diaries of A. C. Benson, 1898–1904, ed. David Newsome, London: John Murray, 1981.
  11. ^ Mike Ashley, "The Essential Writers: Blood Brothers" (Profile of E. F., A. C. and R. H. Benson). Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, pp. 63–70, May/June 1984.
  12. ^ Jack Sullivan, ed., The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural. NY: Viking Penguin, 1986, p. 30.
  13. ^ Benson, A.C. (2011) [1902]. "Chapter 6, Intellect". The Schoolmaster. Peridot Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-1-908095-30-5.
  14. ^ "The Benson Medal". The Royal Society of Literature. Archived from the original on 5 April 2010. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
  15. ^ "Arthur Christopher Benson Biography: His life and Works". Victorian Era. Retrieved 9 February 2023.
  16. ^ R. S. Hadji, "13 Neglected Masterpieces of the Macabre", Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, July–August 1983 . TZ Publications, Inc., p. 62.
  17. ^ Men of Might: Studies of Great Characters. Arnold. 1899 – via Google Books.
  18. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1892). Le Cahier Jaune: Poems. G. New – via Internet Archive.
  19. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1894). Genealogy of the Family of Benson of Banger House and Northwoods, in the Parish of Ripon and Chapelry of Pateley Bridge. New – via Internet Archive. Genealogy of the family of Benson
  20. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1895). Lyrics. John Lane – via Internet Archive.
  21. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1898). Ode in Memory of the Rt. Honble. William Ewart Gladstone. R. Ingalton Drake – via Google Books.
  22. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1895). Thomas Gray. Eton. hdl:2027/hvd.hwilqf.
  23. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1896). Essays. New York. hdl:2027/hvd.32044086675808.
  24. ^ "Review of Fasti Etonenses by A. C. Benson & A History of Eton College by Lionel Cust". The Athenæum (3767): 8–9. 6 January 1900.
  25. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1900). The Professor: And Other Poems. John Lane – via Internet Archive.
  26. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1908). The Schoolmaster: A Commentary Upon the Aims and Methods of an Assistant-master in a Public School. Putnam – via Internet Archive.
  27. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1903). The Hill of Trouble and Other Stories. London. hdl:2027/inu.39000002156706.
  28. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1905). The Isles of Sunset. Ibister – via Internet Archive.
  29. ^ Cory, William (1905). Ionica with Biographical Introduction and Notes by Arthur C. Benson. G. Allen – via Internet Archive.
  30. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1905). Peace: And Other Poems. J. Lane – via Internet Archive.
  31. ^ a b c d e f g "Project Gutenberg".
  32. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1906). The Gate of Death: A Diary. G. P. Putnam's sons – via Google Books.
  33. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1906). Rossetti. English men of letters. S. Chand & Co. hdl:2027/njp.32101066385236.
  34. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1906). Walter Pater. Macmillan – via Internet Archive. A. C. Benson Walter Pater
  35. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1907). The Thread of Gold. Murray – via Internet Archive.
  36. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1907). The House of Quiet: An Autobiography. E. P. Dutton – via Internet Archive. The House of Quiet: an Autobiography
  37. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1908). Beside Still Waters. G.P. Putnam's Sons – via Internet Archive.
  38. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1907). Alfred Tennyson. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co. hdl:2027/uc1.b3742961.
  39. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1909). Until the Evening. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell & Co. hdl:2027/uc2.ark:/13960/t7fq9th3h.
  40. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1909). The Poems of A. C. Benson... J. Lane – via Google Books.
  41. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1912). The Child of the Dawn. G. P. Putnam's Sons – via Internet Archive.
  42. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1911). The Leaves of the Tree; Studies in Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. hdl:2027/uc2.ark:/13960/t5k93398t.
  43. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1911). Ruskin: A Study in Personality. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. hdl:2027/uiug.30112074811271.
  44. ^ "Review of Ruskin: A Study in Personality by Arthur Christopher Benson". The London Quarterly Review. 116: 166. 1911.
  45. ^ Victoria (1907). The Letters of Queen Victoria, a selection from Her Majesty's correspondence between the years 1837 and 1861, published by authority of His Majesty the king; Vol. I 1837–1843. London: John Murray. hdl:2027/umn.31951002171032u.
  46. ^ Victoria (1907). The Letters of Queen Victoria, a selection from Her Majesty's correspondence between the years 1837 and 1861, published by authority of His Majesty the king; Vol. II 1844–1853. New York: Longmans, Green & Co. hdl:2027/hvd.hx3v5u.
  47. ^ Victoria (1907). The Letters of Queen Victoria, a selection from Her Majesty's correspondence between the years 1837 and 1861, published by authority of His Majesty the king; Vol. III 1854–1861. London: John Murray. hdl:2027/osu.32435028626158.
  48. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1912). Thy Rod and Thy Staff. London: Smith, Elder & Co. hdl:2027/uc2.ark:/13960/t6154n414.
  49. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1912). The Beauty of Life: being selections from the writings of Arthur Christopher Benson. London, New York, Toronto: Hodder & Stoughton. hdl:2027/inu.39000002953664.
  50. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1913). Joyous Gard. New York and London: G.P. Putnam's. hdl:2027/uc1.$b682860.
  51. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1910). The Silent Isle. London: Smith, Elder & Co. hdl:2027/uc1.$b682863.
  52. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1913). Along the Road. London: James Nisbet & Co. hdl:2027/pst.000006729585.
  53. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1914). The Orchard Pavilion. New York and London: G.P. Putnam's Sons. hdl:2027/inu.30000118996788.
  54. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1915). Escape, and Other Essays. New York: The Century Co. hdl:2027/hvd.32044090316472.
  55. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1916). Meanwhile; A Packet of War Letters. London: John Murray. hdl:2027/uc1.b4078800.
  56. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1917). Father Payne. Putnam – via Internet Archive. Father Payne
  57. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1917). Life and Letters of Maggie Benson. J. Murray – via Internet Archive. Life and Letters of Maggie Benson
  58. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1913). Watersprings. Smith, Elder – via Internet Archive. Watersprings
  59. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1915). Hugh: Memoirs of a Brother. Longmans, Green – via Internet Archive. Hugh: Memoirs of a Brother
  60. ^ Benson, A. C. (1922). The Reed of Pan; English renderings of Greek epigrams and lyrics.
  61. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1923). Magdalene College, Cambridge; A little view of its buildings and history. Cambridge: Bowes & Bowes. hdl:2027/uc1.$b279316.
  62. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1905). Edward Fitzgerald. Macmillan – via Internet Archive. Edward Fitzgerald
  63. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1925). The House of Menerdue. London: William Heinemann. hdl:2027/uc1.$b682947.
  64. ^ Benson, Arthur Christopher (1926). Rambles and Reflections. London: John Murray. hdl:2027/uc1.$b682862.
  65. ^ The Sewanee Review. University of the South. 1906 – via Google Books.
  66. ^ a b The Speaker. 1897 – via Google Books.
  67. ^ The Literary World. 1893 – via Google Books.


  • David Newsome (1980), On the Edge of Paradise: A. C. Benson the Diarist, London: John Murray
  • Edward Hewish Ryle (1925), Arthur Christopher Benson as Seen by Some Friends, London: G. Bell and Sons
  • Tuck, Donald H. (1974). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Chicago, IL: Advent. p. 39. ISBN 0-911682-20-1.
  • Keith Wilson (1990), "A. C. Benson," Robert Beum, ed., Dictionary of Literary Biography: British Essayists, 1880–1960. Detroit: Gale, 192–204.
Academic offices Preceded byStuart Alexander Donaldson Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge 1915–1925 Succeeded byAllen Beville Ramsay