E.F. Benson was born at Wellington College in Berkshire, the fifth child of the headmaster, Edward White Benson (later Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral, Bishop of Truro and Archbishop of Canterbury), and Mary Sidgwick Benson ("Minnie"), who was described by Gladstone as the 'cleverest woman in Europe' and after her husband's death set up a lesbian household with Lucy Tait, daughter of the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, Archibald Campbell Tait.
Benson was the younger brother of Arthur Christopher Benson, who wrote the words to Land of Hope and Glory, Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, author of several novels and Roman Catholic apologetic works, and Margaret Benson (Maggie) an amateur Egyptologist. Two other siblings died young. Benson's parents had six children and no grand-children. E. F. Benson never married but there is no evidence that he was homosexual, though thought so by many people.
E. F. Benson was an excellent athlete, and represented England at figure skating. He was a precocious and prolific writer, publishing his first book while still a student. Nowadays he is principally known for his Mapp and Lucia series about Emmeline "Lucia" Lucas and Elizabeth Mapp.
The principal setting of four of the Mapp and Lucia books is a town called Tilling, which is recognizably based on Rye, East Sussex, where Benson lived for many years and served as mayor from 1934 (he moved there in 1918). Benson's home, Lamb House, served as the model for Mallards, Lucia's home in some of the Tilling series. There really was a handsome 'Garden Room' adjoining the street but, unfortunately, it was destroyed by a bomb in the Second World War. Lamb House attracted writers: it was earlier the home of Henry James, and later of Rumer Godden.
25 Brompton Square
102 Oakley Street
395 Oxford Street
In London, Benson also lived at 395 Oxford Street, W1 (now the branch of Russell & Bromley just west of Bond Street Underground Station), 102 Oakley Street, SW3, and 25 Brompton Square, SW3, where much of the action of Lucia in London takes place and where English Heritage placed a Blue Plaque in 1994.
Benson died in 1940 of throat cancer in University College Hospital, London.
Benson's first book was Sketches from Marlborough. He started his novel writing career with the (then) fashionably controversial Dodo (1893), and he followed it with a variety of satire and romantic melodrama. The Mapp and Lucia series, written relatively late in his career, consists of six novels and two short stories. The novels are: Queen Lucia, Lucia in London, Miss Mapp (including the short story The Male Impersonator), Mapp and Lucia, Lucia's Progress (published as The Worshipful Lucia in the U.S.) and Trouble for Lucia. The short stories are The Male Impersonator and Desirable Residences. Both appear in anthologies of Benson's short stories, and the former is also often appended to the end of the novel Miss Mapp.
The last three novels were serialized by London Weekend Television for the fledgling Channel 4 in 1985–6 under the series title Mapp and Lucia and starring Prunella Scales, Geraldine McEwan and Nigel Hawthorne; the first four have been adapted for BBC Radio 4 by both Aubrey Woods and (most recently) Ned Sherrin; the fifth, Lucia's Progress, was adapted for BBC Radio 4 in 2008 by John Peacock. During 2007, the television series has had reruns on the British digital channel ITV3.
Benson was also known as a writer of ghost stories, which frequently appear in collections, and of a series of biographies/autobiographies and memoirs, including one of Charlotte Brontë. His last book, delivered to his publisher ten days before his death, was an autobiography entitled Final Edition.
H. P. Lovecraft spoke highly of Benson's works in his Supernatural Horror in Literature, most notably of his story The Man Who Went Too Far.
A critical essay on Benson's ghost stories appears in S. T. Joshi's book The Evolution of the Weird Tale (2004).
Further Mapp and Lucia books have been written by Tom Holt and Guy Fraser-Sampson.
Mary Benson (née Sidgwick; 1841 - 1918) was an English hostess of the Victorian era. She was the wife of Revd. Edward Benson, who during their marriage became Archbishop of Canterbury, i.e. chief bishop of the Church of England and of the world-wide Anglican communion. Their children included several prolific authors and contributors to cultural life. During her marriage, she was involved with Lucy Tait, daughter of the previous Archbishop of Canterbury. She was described by Gladstone, the British Prime Minister, as the 'cleverest woman in Europe'.
Mary Sidgwick was born in Britain in 1841, at Skipton, Yorkshire, the daughter of William Sidgwick, a headmaster, and his wife, Mary (née Crofts). She was the youngest of six children, and was nicknamed Minnie. Among her older brothers was the philosopher, Henry Sidgwick.
She and Edward White Benson were married on 23 June 1859 at Rugby, Warwickshire, by Frederick Temple.
Between 1860 and 1871 they had six children. Their fifth child was the novelist, E. F. Benson, best remembered for the Mapp and Lucia novels. Another son was A. C. Benson, the author of the lyrics to Elgar's "Land of Hope and Glory" and master of Magdalene College, Cambridge. Their sixth and youngest child, Robert Hugh Benson, became a priestin the Church of England before converting to Roman Catholicism and writing many popular novels. Their daughter, Margaret Benson was an artist, author and amateur Egyptologist. None of the children married; and some of them appeared to suffer from mental illnesses, possibly bipolar disorder.
Mary Benson was the wife of Revd. Edward White Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury. Gladstone, the British Prime Minister, described her as the ‘cleverest woman in Europe’. After her husband's death in 1896 Mary set up household at Treemans, South of Horsted Keynes, Surrey, with Lucy Tait, daughter of the previous archbishop of Canterbury, Archibald Campbell Tait. Lucy had first moved in with the Bensons in 1889. They lived together until Mary’s death.
After her husband's death in 1896 Mary set up household with Lucy Tait, daughter of the previous archbishop of Canterbury, Archibald Campbell Tait, who had first moved in with the Bensons in 1889. They lived together until Mary’s death when Lucy moved to Ludwell, which had just been enlarged and restored by Mrs. C.B.O. Clarke, to live with her sister Edith, widow of Randall Davidson. Mary and Lucy are both buried at St Mary the Blessed Virgin Churchyard, Addington, England.
She died on 15 June 1918 in East Sussex.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=elimyrevandra-20
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=elimyrevandra-20
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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