LORD OF THE WORLD
BY ROBERT HUGH BENSON
CLAVI DOMUS DAVID
I am perfectly
aware that this is a terriblysensational
book, and open
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
loud, and to retain, so far as possible, reverence
the opinions of other people. Whether I have succeeded in that attempt
is quite another matter.
Robert Hugh Benson.
Persons who do not like tiresome
prologues, need not read this one. It
only to the situation, not to the story.
"You must give me a moment," said the old man, leaning back.
Percy resettled himself in his chair and waited, chin on hand.
It was a very silent room in which the three men sat, furnished with the
extreme common sense of the period. It had neither window nor door; for
it was now sixty years since the world, recognising that space is not
confined to the surface of the globe, had begun to burrow
Old Mr. Templeton's house stood some forty feet below the level of the
Thames embankment, in what was considered a somewhat commodious
position, for he had only a hundred yards to walk before he reached the
station of the Second Central Motor-circle, and a quarter of a mile to
the volor-station at Blackfriars. He was over ninety years old, however,
and seldom left his house now. The room itself was lined throughout with
green jade-enamel prescribed by the Board of Health, and
was suffused with the artificialsunlight
discovered by the great Reuter
forty years before; it had the colour-tone of a spring wood, and was
warmed and ventilated through the classicalfriezegrating
to the exact
temperature of 18 degrees Centigrade. Mr. Templeton was a plain man,
content to live as his father had lived before him. The furniture, too,
was a little old-fashioned
in make and design, constructed however
according to the prevailingsystem
of soft asbestos enamel
iron, indestructible, pleasant to the touch, and resembling mahogany. A
couple of book-cases well filled ran on either side of the bronze
pedestal electric fire before which sat the three men; and in the
further corners stood the hydraulic lifts that gave entrance, the one to
the bedroom, the other to the corridor
fifty feet up which opened on to
Father Percy Franklin, the elder of the two priests, was rather a
remarkable-looking man, not more than thirty-five years old, but with
hair that was white throughout; his grey eyes, under black eyebrows,
bright and almost passionate; but his prominent
chin and the extreme
decisiveness of his mouth reassured the observer
to his will. Strangers usually looked twice at him.
Father Francis, however, sitting in his upright
chair on the other side
of the hearth, brought down the average; for, though his brown eyes were
pleasant and pathetic, there was no strength in his face; there was even
in the corners of his mouth and the
marked droop of his eyelids.
Mr. Templeton was just a very old man, with a strong face in folds,
clean-shaven like the rest of the world, and was now lying back on his
water-pillows with the quilt over his feet.
* * * * *
At last he spoke, glancing first at Percy, on his left.
"Well," he said, "it is a great business to remember exactly; but this
is how I put it to myself."
"In England our party was first seriously
alarmed at the Labour
Parliament of 1917. That showed us how deeply Herveism had impregnated
the whole social atmosphere. There had been Socialists before, but none
like Gustave Herve in his old age--at least no one of the same power.
He, perhaps you have read, taught absolute
Materialism and Socialism
developed to their logical
issues. Patriotism, he said, was a relic of
barbarism; and sensual enjoyment
was the only certain good. Of course,
every one laughed at him. It was said that without religion there could
be no adequatemotive
among the masses for even the simplest social
order. But he was right, it seemed. After the fall of the French Church
at the beginning
of the century and the massacres of 1914, the
bourgeoisie settled down to organise itself; and that extraordinary
movement began in earnest, pushed through by the middle classes, with no
patriotism, no class distinctions, practically no army. Of course,
Freemasonry directed it all. This spread to Germany, where the influence
of Karl Marx had already---"
"Yes, sir," put in Percy smoothly, "but what of England, if you don't
"Ah, yes; England. Well, in 1917 the Labour party gathered up the reins,
and Communism really began. That was long before I can remember, of
course, but my father used to date it from then. The only wonder was
that things did not go forward more quickly; but I suppose there was a
good deal of Tory leaven
left. Besides, centuries generally run slower
than is expected, especially after beginning
with an impulse. But the
new order began then; and the Communists have never suffered a serious
reverse since, except the little one in '25. Blenkin founded 'The New
People' then; and the 'Times' dropped out; but it was not, strangely
enough, till '35 that the House of Lords fell for the last time. The
Established Church had gone finally in '29."
"And the religious effect of that?" asked Percy swiftly, as the old man
paused to cough slightly, lifting his inhaler. The priest
keep to the point.
"It was an effect itself," said the other, "rather than a cause. You
see, the Ritualists, as they used to call them, after a desperate
attempt to get into the Labour swim, came into the Church after the
Convocation of '19, when the Nicene Creed dropped out; and there was no
except among them. But so far as there was an effect
from the final Disestablishment, I think it was that what was left of
the State Church melted into the Free Church, and the Free Church was,
after all, nothing more than a little sentiment. The Bible was
completely given up as an authority after the renewed German attacks in
the twenties; and the Divinity of our Lord, some think, had gone all but
in name by the beginning
of the century. The Kenotic theory had provided
for that. Then there was that strange little movement
among the Free
Churchmen even earlier; when ministers who did no more than follow the
swim--who were sensitive
to draughts, so to speak--broke off from their
old positions. It is curious to read in the history of the time how they
were hailed as independent thinkers. It was just exactly what they were
not.... Where was I? Oh, yes.... Well, that cleared the ground for us,
and the Church made extraordinary
progress for a while--extraordinary,
that is, under the circumstances, because you must remember, things were
very different from twenty, or even ten, years before. I mean that,
roughly speaking, the severing of the sheep and the goats had begun. The
religious people were practically all Catholics and Individualists; the
irreligious people rejected the supernatural altogether, and were, to a
man, Materialists and Communists. But we made progress because we had a
men--Delaney the philosopher, McArthur and Largent, the
philanthropists, and so on. It really seemed as if Delaney and his
disciples might carry everything before them. You remember his
'Analogy'? Oh, yes, it is all in the text-books....
"Well, then, at the close of the Vatican Council, which had been called
in the nineteenth century, and never dissolved, we lost a great number
through the final definitions. The 'Exodus of the Intellectuals' the
world called it---"
"The Biblical decisions," put in the younger priest.
"That partly; and the whole conflict
that began with the rise of
Modernism at the beginning
of the century but much more the condemnation
of Delaney, and of the New Transcendentalism generally, as it was then
understood. He died outside the Church, you know. Then there was the
condemnation of Sciotti's book on Comparative Religion.... After that
the Communists went on by strides, although by very slow ones. It seems
extraordinary to you, I dare say, but you cannot imagine the excitement
when the _Necessary Trades Bill_ became law in '60. People thought that
would stop when so many professions were nationalised;
but, you know, it didn't. Certainly the nation was behind it."
"What year was the _Two-Thirds Majority Bill_ passed?" asked Percy.
"Oh! long before--within a year or two of the fall of the House of
Lords. It was necessary, I think, or the Individualists would have gone
raving mad.... Well, the _Necessary Trades Bill_ was inevitable: people
had begun to see that even so far back as the time when the railways
were municipalised. For a while there was a burst of art; because all
the Individualists who could went in for it (it was then that the Toller
school was founded); but they soon drifted back into Government
employment; after all, the six-per-cent limit for all individual
enterprise was not much of a temptation; and Government paid well."
Percy shook his head.
"Yes; but I cannot understand the present state of affairs. You said
just now that things went slowly?"
"Yes," said the old man, "but you must remember the Poor Laws. That
established the Communists for ever. Certainly Braithwaite knew his
The younger priest
looked up inquiringly.
of the old workhouse system," said Mr. Templeton. "It is
all ancient history to you, of course; but I remember as if it was
yesterday. It was that which brought down what was still called the
Monarchy and the Universities."
"Ah," said Percy. "I should like to hear you talk about that, sir."
"Presently, father.... Well, this is what Braithwaite did. By the old
system all paupers were treated alike, and resented it. By the new
system there were the three grades that we have now, and the
enfranchisement of the two higher grades. Only the absolutely
were assigned to the third grade, and treated more or less as
criminals--of course after careful examination. Then there was the
reorganisation of the Old Age Pensions. Well, don't you see how strong
that made the Communists? The Individualists--they were still called
Tories when I was a boy--the Individualists have had no chance since.
They are no more than a worn-out drag now. The whole of the working
classes--and that meant ninety-nine of a hundred--were all against
Percy looked up; but the other went on.
"Then there was the Prison Reform Bill under Macpherson, and the
abolition of capital punishment; there was the final Education Act of
dogmatic secularism was established; the practical
abolition of inheritance
under the reformation of the Death Duties---"
"I forget what the old system
was," said Percy.
"Why, it seems incredible, but the old system
was that all paid alike.
First came the Heirloom Act, and then the change by which inherited
wealth paid three times the duty of earned wealth, leading up to the
acceptance of Karl Marx's doctrines in '89--but the former came in
'77.... Well, all these things kept England up to the level of the
Continent; she had only been just in time to join in with the final
scheme of Western Free Trade. That was the first effect, you remember,
of the Socialists' victory
"And how did we keep out of the Eastern War?" asked Percy anxiously.
"Oh! that's a long story; but, in a word, America stopped us; so we lost
India and Australia. I think that was the nearest to the downfall
Communists since '25. But Braithwaite got out of it very cleverly by
getting us the protectorate of South Africa once and for all. He was an
old man then, too."
Mr. Templeton stopped to cough again. Father Francis sighed and shifted
in his chair.
"And America?" asked Percy.
"Ah! all that is very complicated. But she knew her strength and annexed
Canada the same year. That was when we were at our weakest."
Percy stood up.
"Have you a Comparative Atlas, sir?" he asked.
The old man pointed
to a shelf.
"There," he said.
* * * * *
Percy looked at the sheets a minute or two in silence, spreading them on
"It is all much simpler, certainly," he murmured, glancing first at the
of the beginning
of the twentieth century, and
then at the three great washes of the twenty-first.
He moved his finger along Asia. The words EASTERN EMPIRE ran across the
pale yellow, from the Ural Mountains on the left to the Behring Straits
on the right, curling round in giant letters through India, Australia,
and New Zealand. He glanced at the red; it was considerably
still important enough, considering
that it covered not only Europe
proper, but all Russia up to the Ural Mountains, and Africa to the
south. The blue-labelled AMERICAN REPUBLIC swept over the whole of that
continent, and disappeared right round to the left of the Western
Hemisphere in a shower
of blue sparks on the white sea.
"Yes, it's simpler," said the old man drily.
Percy shut the book and set it by his chair.
"And what next, sir? What will happen?"
The old Tory statesman
"God knows," he said. "If the Eastern Empire chooses to move, we can do
nothing. I don't know why they have not moved. I suppose it is because
of religious differences."
"Europe will not split?" asked the priest.
"No, no. We know our danger now. And America would certainly help us.
But, all the same, God help us--or you, I should rather say--if the
Empire does move! She knows her strength at last."
There was silence for a moment or two. A faint vibration
through the deep-sunk room as some huge machine went past on the broad
"Prophesy, sir," said Percy suddenly. "I mean about religion."
Mr. Templeton inhaled another long breath
from his instrument. Then
again he took up his discourse.
"Briefly," he said, "there are three forces--Catholicism,
Humanitarianism, and the Eastern religions. About the third I cannot
prophesy, though I think the Sufis will be victorious. Anything may
happen; Esotericism is making enormous
strides--and that means
Pantheism; and the blending of the Chinese and Japanese dynasties throws
out all our calculations. But in Europe and America, there is no doubt
that the struggle lies between the other two. We can neglect
else. And, I think, if you wish me to say what I think, that, humanly
speaking, Catholicism will decrease
rapidly now. It is perfectly