Lord of the World: A Novel by Robert Hugh Benson

(Notre Dame: Ave Maria, 1907), 318

I thought it was appropriate in 2020 to read some apocalyptic literature: Father Elijah, A Canticle for Leibowitz, and now Lord of the World. I started reading the kindle version of this a few years ago and didn't get very far—in a way I'm grateful since I know I appreciated it more now than I would have then. It was frightening seeing some of the parallels between Benson's view of the future and that future as it developed in the twentieth century and into today. His novel is a challenge to prepare our hearts for when the Church will see whatever form persecution takes next, and as Christians for the final judgment at the end of time.

Theological Reflection by Michael P. Murphy

  • read the essay Human Religion and the Religion of Jesus Christ by Balthasar

Bio by Martyn Sampson

  • this novel was a direct expression of Benson's Catholic conversion

Lord of the World


  • Father Percy Franklin (later Pope Silvester)
  • Father Francis (later an apostate and secular "priest")
  • Oliver Brand, MP
  • Mrs. Mabel Brand
  • Mr. Julian Felsenburgh, President of Europe and the anti-Christ

Notes & Quotes

  • "The religious people were practically all Catholics and Individualists; the irreligious people rejected the supernatural altogether, and were , to a man, Materialists and Communists." (6)
  • three religions remained: Catholicism, Humanitarianism, and the Eastern religions (9)
    • "Humanitarianism is becoming an actual religion itself, though anti-supernatural. It is Pantheism; it is developing a ritual under Free-masonry; is has a creed, 'God is Man', and the rest. It has therefore a real food of a sort to offer to religious cravings; it idealizes, and yet it makes no demand upon the spiritual faculties. Then, they have the use of all the churches except ours, and all the Cathedrals; and they are beginning at last to encourage sentiment. Then, they may display their symbols and we may not: I think that they will be established legally in another ten years at the latest." (10)
    • This is the modern Secular Creed:


    • Creed of Humanism on 35
  • "Catholicism will decrease rapidly now. It is perfectly true that Protestantism is dead...And it is also true that since the Catholic Church is the only institution that even claims supernatural authority, with all its merciless logic, she has again the allegiance of practically all Christians who have any supernatural belief left." (10)
  • failure of the universities: "the object of secular education is presumably the production of something visible—either character or competence; and it became quite impossible to prove that the Universities produced either" (11)
  • "I think we may expect something like persecution once more" (13)
  • "...only to a Communist the view was an inspiring one" (19)
  • "...people will believe anything if they begin early enough" (32)
  • a parody of what Christians believe at the bottom of 33
  • "How can he believe it? He looked quite intelligent." (34)
  • "In these searching days none but the humble and the pure could stand the test for long" (39)
  • Dismissing Christianity: "You say Christianity is absurd and impossible. Now, you know, it cannot be that! It may be untrue—I am not speaking of that now, even though I am perfectly certain that it is absolutely true—but it cannot be absurd so long as educated and virtuous people continue to hold it. To say that it is absurd is simple pride; it is to dismiss all who believe in it as not merely mistaken, but unintelligent as well—" (39-40)
  • his dark night (118)
  • "It had seemed to remind him that man was human and not divine ad the rest of the world proclaimed—human, and therefore careless and individualistic; human, and therefore occupied with interests other than those of speed, cleanliness, and precision." (121-122)
  • The beauty of simplicity: "life looked simpler here", and it was either "a stagnant backwater of life or else the very mid-current of it" (123)
  • "The object of the Church was to do glory to God by producing supernatural virtues in man" (126)
  • "persecution was not to be feared" with an enumeration of the reasons... (133)
  • "For prophecy, then, let us preach charity; for Royalty, let us reign on crosses. We must love and suffer..." (134)
  • Lord of the world (the Pope) (140)
  • Fr. Percy: "What in the world then did God want him to do?" (146)
  • Humanitarianism: "It was not man that was worshipped but the Idea of man...it was exactly as clever as the devil and as old as Cain." (175)
  • "As in the Roman and African persecutions of the first three centuries, so now, the greatest danger to the Catholic community lay not in the unjust measures of the Government but in the indiscreet zeal of the faithful themselves." (177)
  • "Beati mortui qui in Domino moriuntur!" Blessed are those who die in the Lord (193)
  • "The Catholic Religion, he knew well enough, gave the only adequate explanation of the universe; it did not unlock all mysteries, but it unlocked more than any other key known to man; He knew, too, perfectly well, that it was the only system of thought that satisfied man as a whole and accounted for him in his essential nature...Besides, he happened to believe it." (242)
  • Mabel's question to Father Francis (the apostate) about 'Why do Catholics believe in God?' and his response on 270+
    • "The Incarnation is really the point. Everything else flows from that. And, once a man believes that, I must confess that all the rest follows." (271)

Topic: Apocalyptic literature

Source: Dolores

New Words

  • invidious (98): Tending to rouse ill will, animosity, or resentment. Offensive and unfair.
  • peroration (130): The concluding part of an oration; especially, a final summing up and enforcement of an argument.
  • credence (256): a small table where the bread and wine rest before consecration
  • predella (257): the platform or step on which an altar stands

Created: 2020-11-27
Updated: 2023-01-23-Mon