Historical novels, science fiction, apologetics, plays, poems, children’s books: Robert Hugh Benson was both a versatile writer and a remarkably prolific one. His father was the Archbishop of Canterbury; in 1895, he ordained Hugh an Anglican priest, the year before Pope Leo XIII declared Anglican priestly orders “utterly null and void”. Soon after, Archbishop Benson died, and Hugh became drawn to Anglo-Catholic ritualism, which his father had fiercely opposed. In 1903, he became a Catholic, and then a Catholic priest. His conversion caused much shock; A City set on a Hill tries to explain his reasons.
These are exclusively cast in abstract theological terms; Benson does not appeal to his own experience. This makes his book very unlike most conversion stories written today. Benson’s contemporaries expected human discourse to be rational, and people to be convinced by reasons clearly presented. We have lost this confidence; but perhaps we have taken things too far the other way, and might benefit from a little argumentation.