3 July 2019


Since PF is reported to have enjoyed Mgr Benson's apocalyptic novel Lord of the World, I thought I had better read it ... truth to tell, His Holiness's ideology and strategy still leave me in a state of some incomprehension; if anything is going to help me, I thought, to acquire the key to his mind, perhaps this volume might; and so I ought to give it a try.

I don't know that it has helped. PF does quite often mention the Devil, and this novel certainly takes seriously the personal power of Evil. And, I think in future, I will keep my eyes open in case his utterances indicate a belief that the End is very imminent. But the novel's profound conviction is that, in the Final Apostasy, Mankind is to be divided very radically between those who fall for Satan and the Antichrist, and those who reject them and adhere to the Catholic Church; and I don't think this idea comes out in PF's utterances. Still, perhaps I have been careless and obtuse in failing to detect this subtext. I will examine what he says more carefully in future for signs of what, back in the 1960s, our lecturers used to call Unrealised and Imminent Eschatology.

Entertainingly, one can find a hint in Mgr Benson's oeuvre of the Ordinariates! In his world, Protestantism has evaporated, squeezed out, and all that is left facing the Antichrist is the Church. So, realignment has occurred: the 'Ritualists' went over from the Church of England when the Nicene Creed was abolished (no; Benson does not foresee the gender errors and dysfunctions symbolised by the Ordination of women) and, during the course of the narrative ... while clergy of the diocese of Westminster, and surviving old Recusant families, fall into apostasy and have to be excommunicated ... the Bishop of Carlisle and half-a-dozen of his clergy enter the Church. (It will be remembered that the Monsignore, God bless him, was an ex-Anglican ... one of us ...)

Benson did not foresee the rise of the Great Dictators and their passionate love-affairs with Death. His dystopia was written in 1907, and, true, his fantasy world is richly endowed with Euthanasia (which my OED indicates was first used in its modern sense of murder in 1869). But he could not know that Hitler was to give all that sort of thing a terribly bad name, and that it would be half a century or more after 1945 before the Death Movement fully got all its courage back.

I don't think this book is great literature, but it is a decided cut above most of what is offered for us to read nowadays. I'm extremely glad that PF enjoyed it. If he wants to enjoy more of our very fine English-language fiction, and thus acquire a taste for our rather specialised Anglo-Saxon sense of humour, I would recommend a Lenten retreat spent in the Close at Barchester and a tour around the Ireland of Miss Nugent and Castle Rackrent, followed by a sabbatical year or two in Shrewsbury College Oxford [co-educational since the death of Miss Hillyard in 1982] with long, lazy, bibulous vacations spent at Brideshead playing croquet, riding (side-saddle?) to hounds, and daily celebrating the Extraordinary Form in the Art Nouveau Chapel which Lord Melstead* has recently restored.

What would be your recommendations? (Comments nominating Blandings Castle will not be enabled; the current Lord Emsworth keeps delaying his entry into the Ordinariate.)
* Transpontine readers may welcome an explanation of who this gentleman is. Upon the extinction of the Hanoverian Marquisate of Marchmain and the Earldom of Brideshead, the 1415 Barony by writ of summons survived by having passed through a woman in a cadet (and Recusant) branch of the Flyte family. His Lordship is the 23rd Baron, and he inherited Brideshead (there being no entail) under the will of his fourth cousin twice removed, the Lady Julia Flyte. His grandfather had recouped the family's finances by marrying a Transpontine heiress and his own daughter has married a Russian oligarch. Consequently, there are no financial constraints to force the House to open to the Public, and its Lodges are manned by heavily armed Slavic security personnel, rendering it a safe and agreeable residence for any Sovereign Pontiff with a mind to avoid being troubled by common ordinary folk or Cardinals carrying Dubia or, especially, Archbishop Vigano.


Scribe said...

Dear Father,

May I recommend 'An Oxford Scandal'by Norman Russell? Published in 2017, it is the third in his Oxford series of detective novels. Centring on St Gabriel's College, it concerns the discovery of Becket's bones in a hidden vault, and the subsequent struggle over who has the greater moral claim to their possession. It features Cardinal Vaughan, who finds himself pitted against Archbishop Benson. Both prelates offer not too subtle inducements to the Provost of St Gabriels's to favour them, but there is also competition from an old English recusant family, who are decidedly not Ultramontane. It was very kindly reviewed in the last number of 'Mass of Ages'.

Dear Father, you may not want to accept this, as I am the author, quite shamelessly plugging one of my own novels. Incidentally, I am not the Anglican theologian Norman Russell, though we are frequently lumped together as one in various databases!

Kathleen1031 said...

I would recommend a novel that most surely have never heard of, "The Vision of Old Andrew the Weaver" by PJ Kennedy, as fine of an example of Catholic thought as ever could be found. A more visual description of Catholicism and supernatural realities would be hard to find, in my opinion, as would be the actual book, but worth looking for.
As far as Lord of the World and PF is concerned, I do wonder one thing, which side did he hope would win.

Christophorus said...

Having finished the dystopia, you might try his 1911 utopia Dawn of All

There are several internet sites providing electronic copies of these books whose copyright have expired.

erin said...

Dear Reverend Father,
Many thanks for another dose of strong commentary. Would that PF followed your blog - seeing as it is a bit on the peripheries of the all merciful synodal paths (aka roundabouts ?) from Rhine,Tiber,Amazon,Missouri etc etc. maybe if your blog was simultaneously translated into the “eloquently ambiguous “ and committee approved doublespeak (mother tongue) that dictates papal interviews, he would read.
Alas, this would compel one reader out of conscience, and fear of the Lord to abstain/fast from this oasis. My true intent is to make known my gratitude for your posts. God bless. (A transpontine Little One)

Evie said...

What is the most haunted house in England? I would invite PF to spend early November there, with a copy of The Collected Ghost Stories of M.R. James. Perhaps a good fright will stimulate belief in the supernatural order.

Tony V said...

I love the volors!

Liam Ronan said...

Perhaps PF might be sympatico with the characters of Somerset Maugham's "Of Human Bondage" or Graham Greene's "The Heart of the Matter".

motuproprio said...

Perhaps PF’s recent exuberant Phanaraphilia would benefit from an exploration of the Towers of Trebizond.

Dad29 said...

Windswept House, Malachi Martin. Not an English novel, but Martin claimed to be Irish, if that counts.