Thursday, 5 December 2019

A Possible Source of Arthur C. Benson's Animus towards John Henry Cardinal Newman


It is interesting to trace the background of Benson’ animus towards Newman. In his attempt to deal with the first of his major depressions he sought the help of John Henry Cardinal Newman. This was in 1882 while he was still an undergraduate at King’s College Cambridge then the reserve of Etonians. With some others he had gone to a Mission in the town for the lols, to sneer at Evangelical enthusiasm. The preacher must have been effective for according to Benson those that came to mock stayed to pray.
David Newsome in the biography that relies on the diaries doubts this account and seems to consider it a self-deluding legend. You can cover your tracks from yourself too. Newsome finds in an early novel by Benson Arthur Hamilton the source of the malaise in homosexual panic. This book which was essentially biographical related the shock of finding low vice lurking beneath the surface of romantic friendship.

Members of the audience, even the cynical and carefree who had come to mock, began responding to the preacher’s invitation to join him on the platform. Arthur himself got up; but he moved against the press of the others, stumbling into the night, returning dazed and sickened to the privacy of his rooms. He slept only fitfully, waking in the middle of the night to the consciousness of self-hatred and abandonment. It was the prelude to weeks of agonising depression, bordering on madness. He sought to escape by relentless academic work, all to no avail. He consulted an eminent Roman Catholic priest, and received a hard remonstrance. He tried to pray. Eventually he made his way to the one person who seemed to be able to see lovingly into his soul, and through his gentle guidance, and the assurance that he was by no means the first to suffer so, he was nursed back into sanity, although he could never entirely heal the wounds.
(from On the Edge of Paradise by David Newsome pub.1980)

Certainly there were aesthetes of Grecian hue who carried the romance to the extent that would have cost them Athenian citizenship.

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