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Hugh Memoirs of a Brother   By: (1862-1925)

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Memoirs of a Brother



Fifth Impression

But there is more than I can see, And what I see I leave unsaid, Nor speak it, knowing Death has made His darkness beautiful with thee.

[Illustration: From Copyrighted Photo by Sarony, Inc., New York ROBERT HUGH BENSON IN 1912. AGED 40 In the robes of a Papal Chamberlain.]

Longmans, Green, and Co. Fourth Avenue & 30th Street, New York 1916


This book was begun with no hope or intention of making a formal and finished biography, but only to place on record some of my brother's sayings and doings, to fix scenes and memories before they suffered from any dim obliteration of time, to catch, if I could, for my own comfort and delight, the tone and sense of that vivid and animated atmosphere which Hugh always created about him. His arrival upon any scene was never in the smallest degree uproarious, and still less was it in the least mild or serene; yet he came into a settled circle like a freshet of tumbling water into a still pool!

I knew all along that I could not attempt any account of what may be called his public life, which all happened since he became a Roman Catholic. He passed through many circles in England, in Rome, in America of which I knew nothing. I never heard him make a public speech, and I only once heard him preach since he ceased to be an Anglican. This was not because I thought he would convert me, nor because I shrank from hearing him preach a doctrine to which I did not adhere, nor for any sectarian reason. Indeed, I regret not having heard him preach and speak oftener; it would have interested me, and it would have been kinder and more brotherly; but one is apt not to do the things which one thinks one can always do, and the fact that I did not hear him was due to a mixture of shyness and laziness, which I now regret in vain.

But I think that his life as a Roman Catholic ought to be written fully and carefully, because there were many people who trusted and admired and loved him as a priest who would wish to have some record of his days. He left me, by a will, which we are carrying out, though it was not duly executed, all his letters, papers, and manuscripts, and we have arranged to have an official biography of him written, and have placed all his papers in the hands of a Catholic biographer, Father C. C. Martindale, S.J.

Since Hugh died I have read a good many notices of him, which have appeared mostly in Roman Catholic organs. These were, as a rule, written by people who had only known him as a Catholic, and gave an obviously incomplete view of his character and temperament. It could not well have been otherwise, but the result was that only one side of a very varied and full life was presented. He was depicted in a particular office and in a specific mood. This was certainly his most real and eager mood, and deserves to be emphasized. But he had other moods and other sides, and his life before he became a Catholic had a charm and vigour of its own.

Moreover, his family affection was very strong; when he became a Catholic, we all of us felt, including himself, that there might be a certain separation, not of affection, but of occupations and interests; and he himself took very great care to avoid this, with the happy result that we saw him, I truly believe, more often and more intimately than ever before. Indeed, my own close companionship with him really began when he came first as a Roman Catholic to Cambridge.

And so I have thought it well to draw in broad strokes and simple outlines a picture of his personality as we, his family, knew and loved it. It is only a study , so to speak, and is written very informally and directly. Formal biographies, as I know from experience, must emphasise a different aspect. They deal, as they are bound to do, with public work and official activities; and the personal atmosphere often vanishes in the process that subtle essence of quality, the effect of a man's talk and habits and prejudices and predispositions, which comes out freely in private life, and is even suspended in his public ministrations... Continue reading book >>

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