By Guy Fraser-Sampson.
1. His father was Archbishop of Canterbury. Through this connection Benson gained privileged access to high society, including royalty and the aristocracy. He remained friends with some members of the royal family until his death in 1940.
2. He was the creator of Mapp and Lucia. Benson was a prolific writer. It is believed he may have written over one hundred books, including fiction, history, and biography. Today he is best known for his ghost stories, and the Mapp & Lucia books, which have just been filmed for television for the second time.
3. He, his mother and siblings were all gay. One of his sisters was prone to falling for her mother’s lovers, and attacking both them and her mother in fits of jealous rage. After one “murderous episode” too far she was finally committed to The Priory, which turned out unhappily for all concerned as she almost immediately conceived a morbid fear of nuns.
4. He represented England at figure skating. He was a pioneer of winter sports, and championed the building of ice rinks. He was also a great fan of cricket, a passion which he shared with his friends H.G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle.
5. He was three times Mayor of Rye. He lived in Rye for many years and adopted it as “Tilling”, the setting of the later Mapp and Lucia books. He endowed a lookout post, and also a stained window in the church.
Benson’s classic Mapp and Lucia has been reprinted recently – and we review it here.
E.F. Benson, Mapp and Lucia (Hesperus Press: London, 2014). 9781843915461, 311pp, paperback.