Two novel approaches to the Apocalypse

Jeremy Rowe, a retired lecturer in English and Drama and specialist in Catholic literature, examines how the apocalypse has been viewed by Catholic novelists. Their realistic treatments can illuminate the Revelation of John by humanising supernatural events.

Given the gravity of the warning in the Epilogue to Revelation, it is hardly surprising that writers of fiction have taken care not to stray too close to the scriptural account of the apocalypse. But two twentieth-century novelists, were bold enough to treat the subject. They attempted to describe how the final drama might play out in the world as we know it. In this article, we will reflect on Robert Hugh Benson (1871–1914) and Morris West (1916–1999).

A family concern

Margaret Benson, the first female Egyptologist, was the daughter of Edward White Benson, the Archbishop of Canterbury. She edited his treatment of The Apocalypse, which was ­published posthumously in 1900. She recalls that studying and writing about The Apocalypse was her father’s favourite pastime and his consuming passion.

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