The worst sorrows in life are not in its losses and misfortunes, but its fears…

Arthur Christopher Benson

Arthur Christopher Benson (24 April 1862 – 17 June 1925) was an English essayist, poet, and author and the 28th Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.

Benson was one of six children of Edward White Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1882-96. An uncle of the family was philosopher Henry Sidgwick. The Benson family was exceptionally literate and accomplished, but their history was somewhat tragic. A son and daughter died young; and another daughter, as well as Arthur himself, suffered badly from a mental condition that was probably manic-depressive psychosis, which they had inherited from their father. None of the children ever married. Arthur was homosexual, though his diaries suggest he had few or no sexual relationships.

Despite his illness, Arthur was a distinguished academic and a most prolific author. He was educated at Eton and King’s College, Cambridge. From 1885 to 1903 he taught at Eton, returning to Cambridge to lecture in English literature for Magdalene College. From 1915 to 1925, he was Master of Magdalene. From 1906, he was a governor of Gresham’s School.

His poems and volumes of essays, such as From a College Window, were famous in his day; and he left one of the longest diaries ever written, some four million words. Today, he is best remembered as the author of the words to one of Britain’s best-loved patriotic songs, Land of Hope and Glory, and as a brother to novelist E. F. Benson.

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he founded in 1916 the Benson Medal to be awarded ‘in respect of meritorious works in poetry, fiction, history and belles lettres’

He is buried at the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge.


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