Family Group Sheet
Family Group Sheet
NameEdward Frederick BENSON
Birth1867
Death1940
FatherRt Rev Edward White BENSON (1829-1896)
MotherMary SIDGWICK (1841-1918)
Notes for Edward Frederick BENSON
Edward Frederic Benson (24 July 1867 – 29 February 1940) was an English novelist, biographer, memoirist and short story writer, known professionally as E.F. Benson. His friends called him Fred.

Life

E.F. Benson was born at Wellington College in Berkshire, the fifth child of the headmaster, Edward White Benson (later Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral, Bishop of Truro and Archbishop of Canterbury), and Mary Sidgwick Benson ("Minnie").

Benson was educated at Marlborough College where he wrote some of his earliest works, and upon which he based his novel David Blaize. He was the younger brother of Arthur Christopher Benson, who wrote the words to "Land of Hope and Glory", Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, author of several novels and Roman Catholic apologetic works, and Margaret Benson (Maggie) an amateur Egyptologist. Two other siblings died young. Benson's parents had six children and no grand-children. E. F. Benson never married, and is likely to have been homosexual.[1][2] Certainly this reveals itself through the camp humour of his novels, the implicit homoeroticism of his university works such as David Blaize (1916), his love of the company of handsome men, and his close friendships with known homosexuals such as John Ellingham Brooks with whom he shared a villa in Capri.[3] Prior to the First World War the island was extremely popular with wealthy gay men.

E. F. Benson was an excellent athlete, and represented England at figure skating. He was a precocious and prolific writer, publishing his first book while still a student. Nowadays he is principally known for his Mapp and Lucia series about Emmeline "Lucia" Lucas and Elizabeth Mapp.


Lamb House, home of E.F. Benson and model for "Mallards" in the Lucia series
The principal setting of four of the Mapp and Lucia books is a town called Tilling, which is recognizably based on Rye, East Sussex, where Benson lived for many years and served as mayor from 1934 (he moved there in 1918). Benson's home, Lamb House, served as the model for Mallards, Mapp's -- and for a short while Lucia's -- home in some of the Tilling series. There really was a handsome 'Garden Room' adjoining the street but, unfortunately, it was destroyed by a bomb in the Second World War. Lamb House attracted writers: it was earlier the home of Henry James, and later of Rumer Godden.

In London, Benson also lived at 395 Oxford Street, W1 (now the branch of Russell & Bromley just west of Bond Street Underground Station), 102 Oakley Street, SW3, and 25 Brompton Square, SW3, where much of the action of Lucia in London takes place and where English Heritage placed a Blue Plaque in 1994.

Benson died in 1940 of throat cancer in University College Hospital, London
.
Works

Benson's first book was Sketches from Marlborough. He started his novel writing career with the (then) fashionably controversial Dodo (1893), and he followed it with a variety of satire and romantic melodrama. He repeated the success of Dodo, which featured a portrait of composer and militant suffragette Ethel Smyth (which she "gleefully acknowledged", according to actress Prunella Scales), with the same cast of characters a generation later: Dodo the Second (1914), "a unique chronicle of the pre-1914 Bright Young Things" and Dodo Wonders (1921), "a first-hand social history of the Great War in Mayfair and the Shires".[4] The Mapp and Lucia series, written relatively late in his career, consists of six novels and two short stories. The novels are: Queen Lucia, Lucia in London, Miss Mapp (including the short story The Male Impersonator), Mapp and Lucia, Lucia's Progress (published as The Worshipful Lucia in the U.S.) and Trouble for Lucia. The short stories are "The Male Impersonator" and "Desirable Residences". Both appear in anthologies of Benson's short stories, and the former is also often appended to the end of the novel Miss Mapp.

The last three novels were serialized by London Weekend Television for the fledgling Channel 4 in 1985–6 under the series title Mapp and Lucia and starring Prunella Scales, Geraldine McEwan and Nigel Hawthorne; the first four have been adapted for BBC Radio 4 by both Aubrey Woods and (most recently) Ned Sherrin; the fifth, Lucia's Progress, was adapted for BBC Radio 4 in 2008 by John Peacock. During 2007, the television series was rerun on the British digital channel ITV3.

Benson was also known as a writer of (mainly grisly, though occasionally humorous) ghost stories, which frequently appear in collections. His 1906 short story, "The Bus-Conductor," a fatal-crash premonition tale about a person haunted by a hearse driver, has been adapted several times, notably in 1944 (in the film Dead of Night and as an anecdote in Bennett Cerf's Ghost Stories anthology published the same year) and in a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone. The catchphrase from the story, which even spawned an urban legend,[5] "Room for one more," also appears in in the 1986 Oingo Boingo song, "Dead Man's Party."

Benson is also known for a series of biographies/autobiographies and memoirs, including one of Charlotte Brontë. His last book, delivered to his publisher ten days before his death, was an autobiography entitled Final Edition.

H. P. Lovecraft spoke highly of Benson's works in his "Supernatural Horror in Literature," most notably of his story "The Man Who Went Too Far."

A critical essay on Benson's ghost stories appears in S. T. Joshi's book The Evolution of the Weird Tale (2004).

Further "Mapp and Lucia" books have been written by Tom Holt and Guy Fraser-Sampson.
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Last Modified 1 Jul 2012Created 28 Jan 2018 using Reunion for Macintosh