Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson (1871–1914) was a Catholic priest, a convert from the Anglican Church, who wrote a series of popular short story collections and novels at the beginning of the 20th century.

Monsignor Benson wrote from an explicitly Catholic point of view. However, his works can be appreciated by believers from all religious and ethical systems as exploring man’s relationship to the eternal, and our individual response to it.

Consequently, any reader can find in Benson’s fiction an exploration of the ultimate questions: Why am I here? What does this all mean?  Through fiction, Benson explored these questions for himself, in a way calculated to inform others but not coerce. 

Does the reader need to be a Catholic to enjoy Benson?  Assuredly not, for his works have been popular with people of all faiths and from all walks of life.  No one need toddle 'round to the nearest Vestry to be baptized in order to enjoy or even understand Benson’s writing.  The reader only needs to bring an open mind and a willingness to be entertained.

We launched our “Benson-Unabridged” series with three of Hugh Benson’s most popular works and we've just added six more. These newly released, paperback editions present the complete unabridged texts, which Benson fans have discovered can be difficult to find. Each volume features a foreword written especially for the series to place it within the body of Benson’s works and to help create a context for the 21st century reader.

For safe and secure purchases, we are providing links to Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com that will take you directly to the ordering page. Your order should normally ship within 24 hours. You can also special order these editions through most local book stores.


HUGH: Memoirs of a Brother. Arthur C. Benson's touching tribute to his brother, Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914), the noted author and preacher, whose conversion from the Anglican communion to Catholicism in 1903 startled Edwardian England. Arthur's sketch of his brother, fondly known as "Hugh," in general avoids discussing religious issues, however, and paints a glowing portrait of a beloved brother, focusing on Father Benson's character, temperament, and personality, leaving discussion of his more "sensational" fiction to fans and critics. This book is invaluable for gaining insights to an author popular with both Catholic and Protestants, and gives an insightful portrait of the man, rather than an analysis of a writer's work. 160 pages. ISBN # 9781602100008. List price: $18.00 USD, £12.00 UK. Click to Order: Amazon or Barnes & Noble


The Light Invisible. Benson’s first published work is a collection of interconnected short stories often characterized as “supernatural fiction”.  Out of print for nearly a century, many authorities rate this as “recommended reading.”  The author’s brother, A. C. Benson (an author in his own right), remarked of the present volume, “The Light Invisible always seemed to me a beautiful book. It was the first book in which he spread his wings, and there is, I think, a fresh and ingenuous beauty about it, as of a delighted adventure among new faculties and powers.”  The Light Invisible is “specially recommended” in Rev. John Hardon’s Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan, one of the few works of fiction featured in that guide. 112 pages. ISBN # 9780972982167. List price: $18.00 USD, £12.00 UK
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Lord of the World. One of two science fiction titles Benson wrote, this is his most popular — and least understood — novel.  Today’s fans of this novel, unfamiliar with late Victorian science fiction, often mistake it for prophetic literature and completely miss its crushing satire of Edwardian society.  Benson took a popular sub-genre of science fiction at the time, the “future war novel,” and incorporated all the usual gimmicks: the coming war of 1914, flying machines, super-powerful explosives, the growth of totalitarianism — all of which happened to come true in one form or another.  Lord of the World is a bitingly satiric science fiction novel of a secularized world state.  Lord of the World is the only one of Benson’s novels to remain continually in print from its first publication in 1907 down to the present day.  Bishop Fulton Sheen characterized Lord of the World as one of “three great apocalyptic pieces of literature dealing with the advent of the satanic.”  Benedict XVI, as Cardinal Ratzinger before his election to the papacy, made positive references to the novel in some of his talks.  Lord of the World seems to have inspired Evelyn Waugh’s darkly humorous novella, Love Among the Ruins. 296 pages. ISBN # 9780972982140. List price: $20.00 USD, £14.00 UK.
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The Dawn of All.  The second of Benson’s two science fiction satires, The Dawn of All is a “counter-blast” to the terrifying Lord of the World.  Contradicting the notion that this novel presents a blueprint for an ideal society, C.C. Martindale, S.J. commented that “Benson wrote often and emphatically that he did not for a moment expect the pictured solution to realize itself, and that he even hoped it would not.  Neither Science, nor the State, nor Religion would ever, he was convinced, find themselves in such mutual relations as he had invented.” While Benson may have been inspired by Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward and other socialist utopian visions (including Louis-Sebastien Mercier’s Memoir of the Year 2440 from 1770), he gave a unique twist to the device of a man “unstuck” in time.  This novel probably inspired Evelyn Waugh’s short story, “Out of Depth,” which in turn seems to have had significant influence on Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Slaughterhouse Five. 268 pages. ISBN # 9780972982159. List price: $20.00 USD, £14.00 UK. Click to Order from: Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Amazon UK


By What Authority? This is Benson’s first published historical novel, covering the long years of the reign of Elizabeth I. He conceived this project to present in fictional form the story of the English Reformation from an alternate point of view.  This he achieved without the use of the stereotypes that characterized virtually all such productions in his day to the detriment of both sides (Catholic and Protestant) of the question.  Unlike other editions of this work that are usually abridged, ours contains the full text of the 1904 first edition. 556 pages. ISBN # 9780972982116. List price: $24.00 USD.
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The King’s Achievement.  This novel portrays the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII from the point of view of an ordinary English middle class family.  While chronologically taking place before the events in By What Authority?, this book was written later, filling in the histories of many of the characters appearing in the earlier novel.  Benson’s own achievement was thus the invention of the “family saga” quite a few decades before this genre became popular. 416 pages. ISBN # 9780972982124. List price: $22.00 USD.
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The Queen’s Tragedy.  The story of Queen Mary, elder daughter of Henry VIII Tudor, is related here with much sympathy for the woman (as opposed to the excoriated ruler), but without whitewash.  Next to the much-reworked Oddsfish!, this may have been Benson’s most difficult book to write, faced as he was with centuries of prejudice and stereotypes.  Benson’s biographer, the Rev. C. C. Martindale, hints that Benson’s hardest task was in presenting the unattractive human being behind the unpleasant myth.  In common with many of Benson’s works, the reader has to decide for himself the meaning of the title.  Of what does the “tragedy” of the title consist?  Was it misplaced religious zeal?  The failure to restore Catholicism to England permanently?  The inability to provide an heir for the stillborn Anglo-Spanish Empire?  A difficult question — and a complex book. 296 pages. ISBN # 9780972982132. List price: $20.00 USD, £14.00 UK.
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A Mirror of Shalott.  Benson’s second of his two collections of mystical short stories, this is probably better classified as “horror,” though not the splatter-and-thrill variety to which Hollywood has accustomed us.  We suspect that Taylor Caldwell’s underrated collection of interrelated short stories, Grandmother and the Priests, may have been inspired by this book.  Once-and-Future Books is particularly pleased to present this extremely rare volume, until now thought by some authorities to be apocryphal.  Beware — this book is truly creepy! 164 pages. ISBN # 9780972982183. List price: $18.00 USD, £12.00 UK.
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The Necromancers.  Some few of Benson’s novels have remained in print sporadically.  This is one of them — and, apparently, for all the wrong reasons.  Ostensibly a warning against the dangers of “Spiritism,” The Necromancers is actually an insightful psychological study of the effects of grief — and the problems that result from not dealing with it in a human manner. This novel should be considered a “horror classic,” but not in the usual vein. 248 pages. ISBN # 9780972982191. List price: $20.00 USD, £14.00 UK.
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The Sentimentalists.  What?  A Benson novel about ordinary people in ordinary situations?  Of course not.  This extraordinarily well-written novel examines the case of an egomaniac badly in need of a “reality check.”  Benson even titled an early draft of this work The Egomaniac, but chose instead a much more interesting and inviting title.  This is Benson’s only novel to have an “official” sequel, The Conventionalists, which was, incidentally, another early title for The Sentimentalists.  Based on an actual person and events, The Sentimentalists provoked a great deal of controversy — from everyone except the individual on whom it was based, who loved the book!  Despite Benson’s own misgivings about the “sensational” nature of this novel, it deserves to be ranked among modern classics of English literature. 252 pages. ISBN # 9780972982175. List price: $20.00 USD, £14.00 UK.
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Once and Future Books Special

In Defense of Human Dignity is a compilation of articles previously appearing in Social Justice Review, based on the Four Pillars of an Economically Just Society: 1) Limited economic role for the State, 2) Free and open markets, 3) Restoration of the rights of private property, and 4) Widespread direct ownership of the means of production. The Just Third Way is a holistic program developed by the Center for Economic and Social Justice ("CESJ") in Arlington, Virginia, USA, in response to the growing disparities of wealth and the failure of today's institutions to meet people's wants and needs in a manner consistent with their essential dignity as human beings. Analyzing the applications of natural law as expressed in Catholic social teaching, the articles demonstrate the universality of the principles underpinning the Just Third Way from the perspective of that particular faith tradition. 320 pages. ISBN # 978-0944997024. List price: $20.00 USD
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William Cobbett, considered by G. K. Chesterton as the "Apostle of Distributism," wrote THE EMIGRANT'S GUIDE in 1829 toward the end of a long and fruitful career as a journalist, traveler, economic commentator, and political activist. Frustrated with trying to change the system in England, Cobbett broke his rule against advising English men and women to stay in their own country, and urged them to go to the United States, where instead of working for others and being effective slaves of the English government and upper classes, they could obtain some small ownership of land or other capital and become independent -- owners instead of being owned themselves. THE EMIGRANT'S GUIDE includes the texts of letters written home to England by people considered useless in England, providing a valuable source of sociological and economic data of early 19th century America, as well as giving us an understanding why the United States was considered the "Land of Opportunity" for so long. As one recent immigrant expressed his enthusiasm for his new country, in which he had easily become a landowner, "America forever for me!" THE EMIGRANT'S GUIDE provides an incentive to modern politicians and policymakers to restore the greatness that was once America's, and begin to spread true economic democracy throughout the globe. 264 pages. ISBN # 978-0944997017.
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List price:
$18.00 USD

THE FOUR WINNERS is Knute Rockne’s only novel. It embodies his philosophy of the role of sports and moral values in building character — a "young adult" novel at least three touchdowns ahead of the competition. As Knute Rockne III states, "THE FOUR WINNERS was written by my grandfather for the expansion of the game of football, but most of all to show that it is a game of intelligence and not just pure muscle. I strongly recommend this book for anyone desiring an understanding of the game of football as played in the 1920s." Dr. Charles Rice, Professor Emeritus of Law at the University of Notre Dame is even more explicit: "This enjoyable little book, by a great teacher of youth, evokes a positive and clean morality that is not a curiosity of the past but our hope for the future." 184 pages. ISBN # 0972982108.
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Benson-Unabridged.com is a subsidiary of Once-and-Future Books, founded in 2004 and headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia. Our mission is to present to a new generation unavailable or undeservedly neglected literature that strives to embody universal moral values common to all religions and ethical traditions.

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