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E.F. Benson was born in Berkshire, he was educated at Marlborough College where he wrote some of his earliest works, and upon which he based his novel David Blaize. He was the younger brother of A C Benson, author of several novels. He had two other brothers and two sisters. Benson's parents had in all six children and no grand-children. E. F. Benson never married, and is likely to have been gay. Certainly this reveals itself through the camp humour of his novels, the implicit language of his public school work, David Blaize (1916), his love of the company of handsome men, and his close friendships with other gay men such as John Ellingham Brooks. On Capri, Brooks developed a close relationship with Benson. Benson recalled in As We Were (1930):

For several years I had been out here for some weeks of the summer, sharing the quarters of a friend of mine resident on the island, but now we had taken between us the lease of the Villa Cercola, and my footing in Capri was on a more permanent basis. ... the house was much bigger than Brooks's last habitation. (p. 339)

These events took place in 1914, but Benson had clearly been visiting Capri since 1895 (see Robert Aldrich, The Seduction of the Mediterranean: Writing, Art and Homosexual Fantasies [London: Routledge, 1993], 126) as he had been part of the circle of Goddard, Maugham and Brooks. (http://bsahistory.blogspot.co.uk/2008/06/john-ellingham-brooks.html )

E. F. Benson was an excellent athlete, and represented England at skating. He was a precocious and prolific writer, publishing his first book while still a student. Nowadays he is principally known for his series about Emmeline "Lucia" Lucas and Elizabeth Mapp Flint but he wrote many fine books of various genres including thrillers, horror, non-fiction including sport and history and short stories, over 60 novels, 8 books of short stories and around 20 non fiction books

The principal setting of four of the Mapp and Lucia books is a town called Tilling, which is recognizably based on Rye, where Benson lived for many years and served as mayor from 1934 (he moved there in 1918). Benson's home, served as the model for Mallards, Mapp's -- and for a short while Lucia's -- home in some of the Tilling series. There really was a handsome 'Garden Room' adjoining the street but, unfortunately, it was destroyed by a bomb in the Second World War. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._F._Benson)

 

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This site is is an attempt to list all the UK first editions written by Benson with details of dates and publishers. For many the front board and occasionally Dust Jacket or title page will be shown. It is worth noting that very often the US editions of the books were published before the British and were sometimes more attractive in appearance, for example the US edition of 'Queen Victoria' (1934) has an attaractive red cover with a 'V' design and 8 illustrations all missing from the British edition. (see listing). I would like to thank Patrick Micel for help with the Tom Holt images.

 Click on images to enlarge.

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