A. C. Benson on creating a life

Occasionally I wil pull something down from my shelves and open it at random to see if I can find some inspiration. How well I was rewarded today when I took down a book of sketches and observations from the Edwardian essayist A. C. Benson. It spoke to me in exactly the tone I needed:


"How few of us there are who make our lives into anything! We accept our limitations, we drift with them, while we indignantly assert the freedom of the will. The best sermon in the world is to hear of one who has struggled with life, bent or trained it to his will, plucked or rejected its fruit, but all upon some principle. It matters little what we do; it matters enormously how we do it. Considering how much has been said, and sung, and written, and recorded, and prated, and imagined, it is strange to think how little is ever told us directly about life; we see it in glimpses and flashes, through half-open doors, or as one sees it from a train gliding into town, and looks into back windows and yards sheltered from the street."

From At Large by A. C. Benson

What an exquisite observation, and one I felt keenly. How easily do I accept my limitations and build my life around them, instead of challenging myself and growing at a more rapid rate.
this passage also caused me to look up a word, something I do all-too-rarely. "Prated" is one that is not often used in the 21st century, and it means "spoken foolishly or at tedious length." Connected to "prattle," I suppose.

For those of you who don't know, A. C. Benson was the brother of comic novelist E. F. Benson, and part of that most luminous Benson clan. he was an enormous bestseller in his day, producing yearly a book of collected essays and observations gleaned from his life as a don. He was a lifelong depressive and a closeted homosexual. These days he is probably best remembered for providing the lyrics for the great British imperial anthem 'Land of Hope and Glory'.

Recently there has been a most excellent book written about him and his work collecting Queen Victoria's letters called Censoring Queen Victoria, and I recommend it highly.

There has also been a recent biography of his mother Mary called As Good as God, as Clever as the Devil. Also a great read.

Mary Benson - A.C.Benson's famous mother

A. C. Benson's books are all out of print, but they make for fascinating reading.


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