Lord of the World
|Author||Robert Hugh Benson|
|Publisher||Dodd, Mead and Company|
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
Lord of the World is a 1907 novel by Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson. Despite focusing on the coming of the Anti-Christ, the Lord of the World is sometimes referred to as one of the first modern dystopias.
People have no history or hope so they often turn to euthanasia, which is legal. Further there is a global government that uses Esperanto for its language and ultimately becomes a servant of the anti-Christ. In brief: The Catholic Church has been suppressed by the rest of the world, which has turned to the religion of Humanity modelled on that of Auguste Comte. (A scene in which the Antichrist leads a massed congregation in the worship of a nude female statue in St. Paul's Cathedral is a more decorous version of the worship of the Goddess of Reason in Notre Dame de Paris in 1793.) Pope John XXIV has made an agreement with the Italian government: the Catholic Church can have all of Rome, while all other churches in Italy are surrendered to the government. The deposed royal houses of the world, including the Chinese imperial dynasty who have converted to Catholicism, are now resident in Rome. Rome and Ireland still remain staunchly Catholic, but otherwise only about one or two percent of the populations of most European countries remain so. Westminster Cathedral is the only church in London that is still Catholic, with the others having become Freemasonic temples. Protestantism is described as being virtually dead. The plot then follows the tale of a priest, Percy Franklin, who becomes Pope Silvester III near the end of the book, and an unknown man named Julian Felsenburgh (who is identical in looks to the priest) who becomes "Lord of the World".
The fictional world described in this novel (written prior to the First World War) predicts certain innovations such as interstate highways (trunk, main junction) and air travel using "volors", an advanced form of Zeppelin or Ornithopter. It also assumes the continuation of the British Empire and predominant travel by train.
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Where the novel is radically different from Evangelical Christian visions is that there is no Rapture and the only source of salvation, both societally and spiritually, is the Catholic Church, since the book is based on a Roman Catholic view of the Apocalypse, not an Evangelical one. Benson conceded other religions had parts of the truth, but he came to believe that only the Catholic Church had the full truth and the means of salvation. This coming to belief came from the author's conversion to Catholicism from the Protestant Church of England, wherein his father was the Archbishop of Canterbury.
When this novel was written, in 1908, Antipopes Alexander V and John XXIII were seen as real Popes (so, Benson's Pope John is "XXIV" and not "XXIII", like Roncalli will be) and Pope Silvester III was seen as an Antipope (so, Benson's Pope Silvester is "III" and not "IV").
Several contemporary reviewers stated that Felsenburgh is a Jew, although this is not explicitly stated in the novel.
Although it is not as well known as the distopian novels of Evgeny Zamyatin, George Orwell, or Aldous Huxley, Lord of the World continues to have admirers. Joseph Pearce and Dale Ahlquist have both praised it and have said that it deserves a wider audience. Also, Michael D. O'Brien's Apocalyptic series Children of the Last Days has much in common with Monsignor Benson's novel.
- Robert Hugh Benson, Lord of the World, London. Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons Ltd. 1907.
- Benson, Lord of the World, Saint Augustine's Press, 2011. Page 3.
- Pope Francis Denounces "Adolescent Progressivism" Calls "Lord of the World" Prophetic, Catholic News Service, November 19, 2013.
- Ahlquist, Dale (2012). "The End of the World," The American Chesterton Society, March 12.
- Bleiler, Everett (1948). The Checklist of Fantastic Literature. Chicago: Shasta Publishers. p. 48.
- Cuddy, Denis L. (2005). "Lord of the World," News with Views, April 20.
- McCloskey, Fr. John. "Introduction to Benson's 'Lord of the World'," Catholic City, [n.d.].
- Wood. Joseph (2009). "Lord of the World," The Catholic Thing, March 31.
- Rutler, Fr. George W. (2008). "The One We Were Waiting For," National Review, November 3.
- Schall, Rev. James V. (2012). "The Lord of the World," Crisis Magazine, July 10.
- "Lord of the World", St. Augustine's Press, 2001. ISBN 1-890318-38-8
- "Lord of the World" complete text online at Authorama.com - public domain books
- "Lord of the World" complete text from Project Gutenberg.
- "Lord of the World", Dood, Mead & Company, 1908 1917, from Internet Archive.
- "Lord of the World", Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1918, from Hathi Trust.