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None Other Gods   By: (1871-1914)

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To whom can I dedicate this book but to you who were, not only the best friend of the man I have written about, but one without whom the book could not have been written? It is to you that I owe practically all the materials necessary for the work: it was to you that Frank left the greater part of his diary, such as it was (and I hope I have observed your instructions properly as regards the use I have made of it); it was you who took such trouble to identify the places he passed through; and it was you, above all, who gave me so keen an impression of Frank himself, that it seems to me I must myself have somehow known him intimately, in spite of the fact that we never met.

I think I should say that it is this sense of intimacy, this extraordinary interior accessibility (so to speak) of Frank, that made him (as you and I both think) about the most lovable person we have ever known. They were very extraordinary changes that passed over him, of course (and I suppose we cannot improve, even with all our modern psychology, upon the old mystical names for such changes Purgation, Illumination and Union) but, as theologians themselves tell us, that mysterious thing which Catholics call the Grace of God does not obliterate, but rather emphasizes and transfigures the natural characteristics of every man upon whom it comes with power. It was the same element in Frank, as it seems to me the same root principle, at least that made him do those preposterous things connected with bread and butter and a railway train, that drove him from Cambridge in defiance of all common sense and sweet reasonableness; that held him still to that deplorable and lamentable journey with his two traveling companions, and that ultimately led him to his death. I mean, it was the same kind of unreasonable daring and purpose throughout, though it issued in very different kinds of actions, and was inspired by very different motives.

Well, it is not much good discussing Frank in public like this. The people who are kind enough to read his life or, rather, the six months of it with which this book deals must form their own opinion of him. Probably a good many will think him a fool. I daresay he was; but I think I like that kind of folly. Other people may think him simply obstinate and tiresome. Well, I like obstinacy of that sort, and I do not find him tiresome. Everyone must form their own views, and I have a perfect right to form mine, which I am glad to know coincide with your own. After all, you knew him better than anyone else.

I went to see Gertie Trustcott, as you suggested, but I didn't get any help from her. I think she is the most suburban person I have ever met. She could tell me nothing whatever new about him; she could only corroborate what you yourself had told me, and what the diaries and other papers contained. I did not stay long with Miss Trustcott.

And now, my dear friend, I must ask you to accept this book from me, and to make the best of it. Of course, I have had to conjecture a great deal, and to embroider even more; but it is no more than embroidery. I have not touched the fabric itself which you put into my hands; and anyone who cares to pull out the threads I have inserted can do so if they will, without any fear of the thing falling to pieces.

I have to thank you for many pleasurable and even emotional hours. The offering which I present to you now is the only return I can make.

I am, Ever yours sincerely, ROBERT HUGH BENSON.

P.S. We've paneled a new room since you were last at Hare Street. Come and see it soon and sleep in it. We want you badly. And I want to talk a great deal more about Frank.

P.P.S. I hear that her ladyship has gone back to live with her father; she tried the Dower House in Westmoreland, but seems to have found it lonely... Continue reading book >>

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