The Naughtier Victorians

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a very queer familyA Very Queer Family Indeed: Sex, Religion,
and the Bensons in Victorian England

by Simon Goldhill
Chicago. 337 pages, $35.

 

THE BENSONS were a family in Victorian England that produced an astonishing number of extraordinary individuals, starting with Edward, who became the Archbishop of Canterbury, his wife Minnie, who charmed a Prime Minister, and their six precocious children, notably E. F. Benson, who wrote the popular “Mapp and Lucia” series of novels, and Margaret Benson, an Egyptologist of great renown. But what makes the Benson clan so unusual is that collectively they embodied a range of the newly emerging sexual identities that we recognize today. Moreover, every member of the family had a passion to write—diaries, letters, biographies, memoirs, essays, and novels. In some 200 published works by the six Benson siblings, they analyzed their society and one another, revisited pivotal moments in family history, and commented privately upon each other’s self-delusions.

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