Religion and Science in Robert Hugh Benson's The Dawn of All (1911)

M. Shadurski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The problematic of religious authority, of aesthetic and spiritual manifestations of faith dominates the literary output of Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914). Written after his conversion to Roman Catholicism, The Dawn of All (1911) offers a semi-apocalyptic vision of a late twentieth-century Catholic England. The protagonist's interaction with this emerging Catholic enterprise, whereby he eventually succumbs to miracle, mystery and authority, is premised on Christ's resistance to his triple temptation in the desert. Drawing on Fyodor Dostoyevsky's interpretation of Christ's experience, derived from the legend of the Grand Inquisitor, this article situates the religious and scientific aspects of Catholic England in relation to contemporary discussions of Englishness. Given Benson's tangible allegiance to the continuous progression of national life, the novel only partly transcends the gravity of Englishness associated with the notions of a practical science and a compromising religion. Benson's modern impulses enabling air travel appear more enticing than his religious concerns about universal Catholicism. The "dawn of all" inspired by scientific emancipation at least imaginatively surpasses the "twilight" of religious recuperation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)404-421
Number of pages18
JournalEnglish Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


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