Summary of Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson

The Author: Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914) was the youngest son of Edward White Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury, and younger brother of Edward Frederic Benson. In 1895, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England by his father who was then Archbishop of Canterbury. After many years of questioning and soul-searching he was received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1903. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1904 and named a Monsignor in 1911. In his introduction to this novel, Benson remarks:

“I am perfectly aware that this is a terribly sensational book, and open to innumerable criticisms on that account, as well as on many others. But I did not know how else to express the principles I desired (and which I passionately believe to be true) except by producing their lines to a sensational point. I have tried, however, not to scream unduly loud, and to retain, so far as possible, reverence and consideration for the opinions of other people. Whether I have succeeded in that attempt is quite another matter.”

Summary: Lord of the World is a 1907 apocalyptic novel that describes a future where faith in God and religion has been replaced by advancement in technology (mass communication, rapid transport, air travel, weapons of mass destruction) & secular humanism (“Man = God”). Ruled by the Anti-Christ who becomes ‘Lord of the World’, the seeming end of Christianity ushers in the end of the world.

“The novel wonderfully conveys the flatness and boredom of a world without God. Boredom becomes a condition for recognizing our need for something more than this — a few more decades of life and then a total void.” – Ralph McInerny

“The world depicted in Lord of the World is one where creeping secularism and Godless humanism have triumphed over religion and traditional morality. It is a world where philosophical relativism has triumphed over objectivity; a world where, in the name of tolerance, religious doctrine is not tolerated. It is a world where euthanasia is practiced widely and religion hardly practiced at all. The lord of this nightmare world is a benign-looking politician intent on power in the name of “peace,” and intent on the destruction of religion in the name of “truth.” In such a world, only a small and defiant Church stands resolutely against the demonic “Lord of the World.” – Joseph Pearce (click here)

Characters:

Julian Felsenburgh: An American Senator from Vermont. No one quite knows who he is or where he is from, but his voice mesmerizes. Under his leadership, East and West join. War is abolished. Felsenburgh becomes the President of Europe, then of the world, by popular acclaim. Everyone is fascinated with him, yet still no one knows much about him. People are both riveted and frightened by the way he demands attention. Most follow without question.

  • Establishing universal peace without the need for God, Felsenburgh single-handedly becomes the “Lord of the World.”
  • As an anti-Christ figure, Felsenburgh is a parody of Jesus
  • Felsenburgh establishes a one-world “humanitarian” government & thus highlights the dangers of what Pope Benedict XVI called a “globalization of hegemonic uniformity.”

Percy Franklin: the hero of this book. An English priest who looks almost exactly like the mysterious Julian Felsenburgh. Although Fr. Percy tries his best to bolster his Catholic faithful, the rise of Julian Felsenburgh is too influential. The English priest is eventually called to Rome, since he has been an acute observer of the rise of Felsenburgh and his agenda. Percy inspires Pope John XXIV to form a new religious order,  the Order of Christ Crucified. Its members, including the pope, vow to die in the name of the faith. Many do.

  • After Percy is elected a cardinal, he leaves Rome with 2 other cardinals to head back home to England to try to prevent a plot to blow up an Abbey where all the politicians are meeting. In retaliation, Felsenburgh orders that Rome be destroyed, which it is, together with the pope and all the cardinals but the three not in Rome. These three quickly elect the younger Englishman as the new pope, Sylvester III.
  • Pope Sylvester III then goes to the Holy Land, to the places of the last days pictured in the New Testament. In a final act, Felsenburgh and all the world leaders fly in formation to destroy the remaining signs of faith on earth. In response, Sylvester and the remaining Catholics are at Mass. As they sing together the music of Benediction, the Tantum Ergo, the attack strikes. With that, the world ends.
  • The last words of the novel are: “Then this world passed, and the glory of it.”

The Ending:

  • “In concluding the novel with a Eucharistic procession accompanied by the singing of the Tantum ergo, Fr. Benson shows that true Lordship only comes from the transcendent; Felsenburgh, though he has overwhelming numbers and weapons of mass destruction at his service, does not have power in the face of the Almighty” (Colin O’Brien).
  • “Benson’s subtle vision conveys the truth of evil: Felsenburgh, the Humanist religion, and the secular one-world government can oppose, persecute, and attempt to eliminate the Church, but none have the metaphysical power of Christ and the Church” (Colin O’Brien).

Other Summaries & Posts:

Comments

  1. Msgr. Gregory Smith says:

    This summary should come with SPOILER ALERT attached!

    [cid:image001.png@01D74E53.9686FCC0]
    Msgr. Gregory N. Smith Pastor
    Christ the Redeemer Parish

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