I’ve been reading “A Mirror of Shalott”, by Father Robert Hugh Benson. Fr. Benson, who passed away in 1914, was a former Anglican priest (his father was the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury) who converted to Catholicism and received Holy Orders. He was a popular author in the early 20th century, both for his apologetics works, his novels of historical fiction (such as “By What Authority?”), and what would today be classed as science fiction and horror.
He is perhaps best known for his 1908 SF novel “Lord of the World,” which details the rise to power of an anti-Catholic U.S. president who promotes a secular one-world government and may actually be the antichrist, a novel which has attracted new interest from Catholics these days. His futuristic novel “The Dawn of All” depicted a utopian government run on Catholic principles, with interesting results.
“A Mirror of Shallot” (1907) is one of several works that dealt with horror and the supernatural (His “The Necromancers” was a novel that warned of the dangers of the occult and spiritualism, as well as a compelling study of grief). In “Shallot,” a group of priests who meet each evening for dinner during a conclave each share their experiences of brushes with the supernatural while sitting in front of a fireplace, including a sophisticated young priest’s terrifying witness of the rite of exorcism in the third world; a man who offered to assume his brother’s lack of faith to save his soul; the haunting of a Spanish church by a fallen pagan “god”; the exactingly (and subtly) described experience of an attack on the soul of a young priest by something demonic; and much more.
All of these stories are written from a deeply Catholic perspective and theology, which made this especially interesting. There is nothing bloody or ghoulish in them, but they can be quite frightening in the sense of something subtle and malevolent that exists just outside of your field of vision, like the best of M.R. James’ ghost stories.
Highly recommended. I got a copy for 99 cents on Kindle.