Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Life In The World Unseen And More About Life In The World Unseen: Anthony Borgia

It's the 1950s but Monsignor Ronald Benson (brother of the novelist E.F. Benson) is still living in a sunny Edwardian middlie England- without movies or radio or TV or any of that nasty modern art or discordant modern music. There's a good reason for this; Monsignor Ronald Benson has been dead since October 1914.

Only not really dead. Actually more alive than ever. He has a house in the spirit realms, with a beautiful garden (everyone in his world has a beautiful garden) and a charming live-in companion called Ruth. Among his neighbours are a native American chief called Radiant Feather who wears a war bonnet (in the making of which no actual living bird was harmed) and the musicians Tchaikovsky and Haydn who go around together and are both still busily composing. Since making the transition Monsignor has learned a thing or two and is now highly critical of the church to which he devoted his life on earth.

One can smile, but if the spiritual world is a world of the imagination- called into existence by the power of thought- then this unchallenging, well-ordered, middlebrow environment is exactly the kind of eternal habitation a cultured but conservative and  intellectually incurious old Etonian might conjure for himself.  He remains comfortable and middle-class (just as he was in life); below him is an underworld of selfish and vicious souls who (like the Edwardian poor) need to be educated and assisted- and above him is a spiritual aristocracy of graciously condescending "masters" who live on a higher plane in palaces made of precious stones. Silly doesn't necessarily mean untrue.

Monsignor spends his time doing good, browsing in a library which contains every book ever written and indulging in harmless recreations like boating (yes really) and concert-going. Sometimes he attends the theatre. Plays on the astral omit anything coarse- because the dead have got beyond all that- and always point a moral. (They sound ghastly.) In the first book- where he tells of his own introduction to the spiritual world he's a pleasant enough companion, in the second- where he shows another more recently deceased person the ropes- he comes across as almost intolerably patronising and complacent.

Monsignor (as he still likes to be called in spite of renouncing the dogmas of his church) wrote his books through an amenuensis called Anthony Borgia- which sounds like a non-de-plume to me. Borgia is elusive. He says he knew Benson when he (Borgia) was a boy- and that's all the biography he seems to have.  I've found two photographs of him on the internet- one as a young man, one aged 90. He looks haggard and nervy.

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